FESTAC 77 Not A Fetish Celebration – Lari Williams
“The Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77), held in 1977 was never a fetish celebration.
“It was to boost the nation’s tourism potential through its cultural heritage,’’ a theatre practitioner
“FESTAC 77 has continued to project the image of Nigeria positively to the international community 40 years after,’’ Lari Williams told NAN.
Williams said during a visit to the Lagos office of NAN that he had to return to Nigeria from London on receiving an invitation to participate in FESTACC 77 which he believed so much in.
NAN reports that the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) has commenced activities to commemorate 40 years of Nigeria’s hosting of FESTAC77.
Williams said that “Festac 77 was a show of our nation’s culture and heritage; and a celebration of our nation’s pride,’’ he said.
Wiliams said that the Nigerian entertainment industry could be likened to how man developed from the primitive age to contemporary time.
He said that the country’s entertainment industry had grown from “tales by the moonlight’’ to Nollywood films.
According to the poet, I returned to Lagos from London on the invitation by the organisers to participate in FESTAC 77.
There, I performed my poetry with my drum beats which is my unique style, he said.
“Today, international bodies still revere our sculptures exhibited during FESTAC77. They are noble; admirable show of our pride and not fetish.
“FESTAC 77 made it possible for me to hold hands with great men like Steve Wonder for hours. The festival created an atmosphere for artists to meet other artists from across the globe.
“We exchanged carvings, paintings, ideas and we all began to agree then that the world was gradually becoming a global village as we knew something about our individual cultures.’’
Williams, however, expressed worry that the National Theatre, where FESTAC 77 was staged had stopped being as lively as it used to be in years past.
“Forty years after, the place is underutilized by artists.
“Entertainers are making so much money from the theatre industry in developed world by organising shows regularly.
“Our National Theatre can achieve this if our artists are encouraged,” Williams who acted the role of “The man from Soweto” in “The Village Headmaster’’ Nigeria’s first soap opera told NAN.
Williams said that before now, past administrations should have established professional acting schools, to train up-and-coming practitioners.
“There are no schools for artists in the country besides Theatre Art Departments in some universities.
“There is the need for a school of theatre art where actors can be trained to acquire practical knowledge just as the law school where lawyers acquire practical knowledge after their university education.
“ If an actor does not go through this process, such an actor must not be regarded as a professional,” he said.
Williams said that the entertainment industry needed to be established on a solid foundation because of its educative and influential roles in reforming the society.
Williams, a pioneer lecturer at the then Centre for Cultural Studies, now Theatre Arts Department, University of Lagos, suggested that theatre art graduates should go to school of acting after graduating.
“They will be groomed on how to become good actors,” he said.