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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews Around the Republic of Mexico | March 2005 

Nigerian Dancers Take Mexico By Storm
email this pageprint this pageemail usRobert Kajo - All Africa

Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, Nigeria’s ambassador to Mexico

Mexico City - It was two weeks of thrilling and excitingly fulfilling arts and cultural dance extravaganza. For a lot of Mexicans, it was an unforgettable African experience. The memories are bound to linger on for a longtime to come.

Dramatic and emotion-tugging scenes of crying children being pulled away against their wish by their equally emotion-laden school teachers were characteristic fallouts from the enthralling performances of the Nigeria´s Benue State arts and cultural dance troupe. At the American School foundation on Bondojito 215, Mexico-city where the troupe performed their last act on March 1, the children could not hold -back the tears as they wailed openly and, in protest to the fact that it was time to go back to school work as the one-hour allotted for them to watch the troupe came to an end too soon.

While the self discipline and maturity of the children could not stand them in good stead when they needed it most, the adults on the other hand could not help but shout for more; "otra!, otra!!, otra!!!", Spanish for "more" as the Nigeria´s dance cultural troupe entertained the large Mexican crowd at the parque Mexico (Mexico Park) in colonia Roma, off Insurgentes avenue.

The arrival of the Nigeria cultural and dance troupe in Mexico City on Wednesday February 16, 2005 coincided with a period in which there was great discomfort and unease within the Nigerian Community here in Mexico. The source of discomfort and apprehension was due to the bad publicity suffered by the Nigeria in the local media. Prior to the arrival of the troupe, the local press in Mexico had reported a "Nigerian-type-of-fraud", committed by some negros from west Africa. While the arrested criminals and their nationalities could not be linked to Nigeria, the reference by the local press of a "Nigerian-type-fraud" (i.e. 419) angered a lot of Nigerians living decently here, in Mexico.

It was against this feeling of angst and discomfort amongst the Nigerian community and their host communities that the sensational Nigerias´s Benue dance and cultural troupe stormed the country.

There was great excitement at the Benito Juarez International Airport, Mexico-City, as the 25 man strong delegation arrived in their attire of green-white-green national colour´s with their large ensembles for the popular kwagh-hir puppet theatre.

The touch-down time was at about 5:15 pm Mexican time (12:15 midnight Nigerian time) and were received by the Nigerian community in Mexico led by Ambassador Iyorwuese Hagher, Nigeria´s Ambassador to Mexico with cun-current accreditation status to the republics of Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama.

The Nigeria dance and cultural troupe represented by the sensational and Internationally acclaimed Benue state cultural troupe was led by the deputy governor of Benue State Chief Ogiri Ajene. Other members of the delegation include Hon. Jacob Ogwuche, the Benue State commissioner for Arts and Tourism, Hon. Abutu, chairman, Committee on Arts and Tourism, Benue state House of Assembly, and Mr. Richard Tsevende, Director, Benue State Arts Council.

An initiative of the Nigerian Embassy in Mexico-city led by Ambassador Iyorwuese Hagher, the Nigeria dance and cultural troupe was in Mexico to participate in the Fiesta del Tambor, a three-nation dance and cultural festival extravaganza including the republics of Guinea, Ivory-Coast and Nigeria.

Whatever, was the aspersions cast on the image of Nigeria by the "unnecessary reference" in the local press was completely erased by the scintillating and captivating dance performances of the Nigeria Cultural troupe. At every performance, the people carved for more as shouts of "otra!!, otra!!" fills the air. One of the most memorable and historic performances of the troupe was at the popular wildlife reserve camp in the state of Puebla, known as the African Safari. History was made here as a joint-performance between the Nigerian and Mexican drummers took place, to the delight and cheering of the enthusiastic crowd. The fusion of the Mexican dance tunes and drumbeats with those of Nigeria and by extension Africa, created the symbolic yet, practical demonstration of the cultural diplomacy between Nigeria and Mexico. No, wonder, the local press had a field day as they struggle to capture this historic moments through the lens of their cameras.

The Director of African Safari, Mrs. Amy Camacho, at a dinner she hosted in honour of the dance and cultural troupe, expressed happiness "at the new relationship between African Safari and the Nigerian Embassy in Mexico on the one hand and between the Benue State government and African Safari on the other hand". According to Mrs. Camacho, African Safari was willing to "explore areas of management partnership with the Nigerian government particularly, in the areas of wild life and games reserves".

In his response, Chief Ogiri Ajene, the head of the delegation and deputy governor of Benue State praised the "vision" behind the African Safari and the "dynamism" of the management under the leadership of Mrs. Camacho in sustaining what her late father started decades ago after his sojourn into Africa. According to Ajene, the Nigerian government and particularly the Benue State government was willing to go into partnership with Africam Safari in the development of tourism in Benue.

At the Teatro de la Danza (Dance Theatre) in Mexico-city, where the troupe performed for the first time ever, on arrival in Mexico-city, the effect was so overwhelming on the audience that they spontaneously jumped onto the stage and joined in the swange dance that was being performed. For some, it was a lifetime opportunity to dance to live African music and they made quite a show of it to the delight of all present.

Some of the dances and puppetry masquerade performed at the Teatro de la Danza include the popular swange dance; Ange dance from Kwande local government area of Benue State; the Adiya dance from Igedde-speaking people of Benue State; the Obadaru dance from Ado area of Benue state; the Ishen dance; Division dance and over ten sketches of the popular Kwagh-hir dance puppetry.

The dance and cultural fiesta sponsored by the Benue state government, Embassy of Nigeria, Mexico-city, American Society of Mexico and African Safari in Puebla created a positive image for Nigeria here in Mexico even as the Nigerian community living in Mexico felt a great sense of relief from the apprehensions created by the local media of a reported " Nigerian-type-fraud", earlier in the month.

Speaking to Thisday in Mexico-city, Ambassador Iyorwuese Hagher said the tour for Mexico by the Nigerian dance and cultural troupe is aimed at introducing the "rich dance and cultural heritage of Nigeria and Benue state in particular, to the Mexican people and by extension the Latin-American hemisphere".

According to Ambassador Hagher, the federal government of Nigeria was determined to "foster closer cultural ties with the Mexican Government in order to create greater understanding and interaction between the people and to the mutual benefits of both countries".

He also, expressed gratitude to the Governor of Benue State Dr. George Akume for sponsoring the dance troupe to "undertake the tour of Mexico to showcase the rich cultural endowment and beauty for Nigeria".

Thisday learnt that in order to foster closer ties with Mexico, a student exchange programme is being planned by the Benue state government and is likely to commence in September this year with a scholarship scheme financed by the Benue state government. Over 20 (twenty) students shall be awarded scholarships in both the undergraduate and post-graduate categories to study in various universities in Mexico as part of the initial group to kick-off the scheme. According to sources close to government house Makurdi, Benue State, the sum of over N50 million is being earmarked for the scheme. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Dance Troupe has since March 3, left for home after a successful tour of Mexico.

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