On October 1, 1960, the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria officially became the Federal Republic of Nigeria, signalling independence from British rule. Since Independence, Nigeria has become the richest African country and has produced as many scholars as it has barrels of crude oil. This past Monday, the Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica Janet Olisa hosted an Independence Day celebration at her residence. And what a bash it was!
Upon entering the eye immediately darted from gele (traditional Nigerian headpieces worn by women) to Aso Oke hats (worn by men) to brightly coloured traditional garb to indigenous art — it was a visual feast. Nigeria is comprised of 250 ethnic groups including the more well-known Igbo, Yoruba, Fula, Hausa and Edo peoples. The event did its best to represent as many Nigerian ethnicities as possible by including ethnic group-specific dance performances, a buffet of what seemed like endless Nigerian dishes by Afrocentric Catering and a culturally respectful fashion showcase of traditional outfits produced by Saint International. Fun fact: In Igbo culture, coral beads are a symbol of royalty and chieftaincy, and an Igbo queen never shows her mouth in public.
The event was attended by members of the Nigerian community in Jamaica, local politicians, businesspersons and members of the diplomatic corps. Despite being a rainy evening, there was just enough space to navigate the crowd on the lawn of the Nigerian High Commissioner's residence. What a turnout. There in the audience, too, were individuals who traced their roots to Nigeria and came out to be surrounded by, we reckon, distant kin. As acclaimed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said: “Our histories cling to us. We are shaped by where we come from.”
Monday evening's event was a glorious celebration of Naija pride and a reminder that Jamaicans are indeed out of many, one people. Here are some highlights.