In order to boost domestic tourism and put Annang cultural heritage on the front burner, Nto Annang Foundation (NAF) in Akwa Ibom is set to host this year’s edition of the festival, AFAC 2019 with the theme: “Harnessing Annang Cultural Assets for Economic Gains.” The event which holds between December 20 and 22 at Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium and Ibom Plaza in Uyo, in partnership with other Annang organisations, seeks to preserve Annang history, language and cultural heritage and also promote and market the arts, industry, crafts, including advancing the appreciation and understanding of its artistic production, and scholarship, through the yearly cultural event. Activities lined up to mark the festival, is according to the organisers, a reflection of the theme of the celebration, already endorsed by the National Council for Art and Culture, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation and Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and promises to be one of the biggest show stoppers in 2019.
Commenting, the national president of NAF, Abom Ephraim Okon, said arrangements have reached advanced stage for hosting of the event, now in its third year. According to him, it promises to be a colourful and exciting showpiece of the cultural wealth of the Annang people, with exhibitions of both the intangible and tangible heritage of the people and spiced by culinary offering, arts and craft as well as live performances by notable Nigerian musicians.
He assured that efforts were being made to ensure that every component of the festival display the vast and unique cultural assets of the people and how the Annang people can take advantage of the festival to enhance their living adding the three days event is also geared at developing and promoting travel business in the state.
‘‘The event will model strategy for effective travel trade business, cultural synergy and enduring unity through tourism as a special purpose vehicle. This model we intend to replicate for global peace efforts and to mark our cultural product at the international stage,’’ said Okon. He added that the festival has helped greatly in developing the tourism market of the state, as it has gone a long way in generating tourist traffic to the state and Ikot Ekpene in particular and hoping that the tourist traffic for this year will exceed 15, 000.
According to him, the rich and enlarged content of the festival include, colourful cultural display from over 5, 000 revelers; 800 masquerades display; Annang warriors trek, drum ensemble of over 5, 000 extinct African drums; art exhibition and a colloquium/cocktail party for VIP and foreign envoys. Others are a night of legends; Ujai beauty pageant; Annang language essay competition; hall of fame induction ceremonies; inauguration of children royal troupe; and festival theme song/Annang ballad.
Also speaking on the festival, the Executive Director of Akwa Tourism Development Company Ltd (ATDC), Mr. Ubong Ekpe, consultant for the festival, said it is informed by the need to promote Annang and re-enact its unique cultural heritage, stressing that it is aimed at exposing the Nigerian people to the city of raffia and its colourful and attractive heritage. According him, Annangland is host to the 500 year old Usaka virgin forest, custodian of 400- year-old ‘Iso Ekpo Nkwubia’ mask, the mythical blue river of Ukanafun, the Ibibid Abak traditional stool and the oldest raffia dunes in Africa.