By Lizi Ben-Iheanacho –
Recently, the National Council for Arts Culture unveiled its compilation of the 37 Cultural Wonders of Nigeria. The 37 Cultural Wonders of Nigeria is a brand identity and marketing concept premised on peculiar tangible manifestations and intangible expressions unique to the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT.
Each of these constitutes the wonder of natural endowments or amazing evidence of human creative interactions. Together, they have evolved to become iconic emblems of Nigeria’s tourism destinations and technological processing.
The selection was determined by considerations of long acknowledge exposure of some of these wonders as well as a deliberate attempt to highlight some long ignored totemic representations.
Finally, it must be acknowledge that the 37 Wonders selected are in themselves beacons that map out even more of the untapped hidden treasures that collectively make up the rich variety of Nigeria’s cultural diversity.
In alphabetical order, the wonders are:
Ohafia War Dance (Ikpirikpi Ogu) of Abia State. The fierce dance of warriors performed by muscular men commemorates the valour of the Ohafia warrior tradition. It remains the fundamental identity of the people and has been performed at many national and international platforms.
Sukur Cultural Landscape, Adamawa State. A UNESCO World Heritage Site (Inscription 1999), the landscape features the palace of the Hidi on a hill dominating the villages below, as well as the terraced fields, sacred symbols and extensive remains of a once flourishing traditional iron smithing technology.
Ekpo Masquerade of Akwa Ibom State. Depicting the dualism of good and bad, evil and purity, these visual projections are representational of social correctional ethos of the people. The cultural wealth is embedded not only in its social function, but in the hand crafted masks and fascinating raffia adornments.
Ijele Masquerade of Anambra State. Renowned as the biggest masquerade in sub Saharan Africa, Ijele is listed in UNESCO Archives as an intangible cultural element requiring safeguarding. Its towering structure marks it out as the largest mask system in the world. A salute to craftsmanship and the embodiment of art and graceful gait, the Ijele epitomizes the philosophy of its host citizens.
Yankari National Park, Bauchi State. A large wildlife park originally created as a game reserve in 1956, it became designated Nigeria’s largest national park in 1991. It contains the largest surviving elephant population in Nigeria; one of the largest remaining in West Africa and a large population of lions, buffalo, hippo, roan and hartebeest.
Swange Dance of Benue State. A dance of undulating movements, rhythmic contortion in slow mode and vibrant, energetic forms in response to the traditional horn, Swange Dance enjoys continuing popularity as a tool for cultural diplomacy.
Bayelsa State Venerates the Shark. This is not only an acknowledgement of the aquatic splendor of the State, but the strength of the people. The motif also alludes to the sea faring instincts of the people of the State.
Zanna Cap of Borno State. A most ubiquitous traditional fashion item for men from Northern Nigeria, this classic woven cap is native to Maiduguri.
Ekombi Dancers of Cross River State. Traditionally performed by dazzlingly attired young Efik females to show their beauty and agility, this very colourful dance concentrates on the waistline in graceful mimicry of the ocean tides. Ekombi Dance is listed on the Top 5 Traditional Dances in Nigeria.
The Akwa-Ocha of Delta State. The dazzling white, traditional, woven fabric has transcended symbolic identity of the purity and social status of the users to becoming contemporary accessory of utility and functionality; a continuing success story in adaptation of traditional technology to modern challenges.
Nkwa-Umu-Agbogho of Ebonyi State. Historically a celebratory dance of maidens seeking suitors, this dance is integral to the maidens rites of maturity. Its social index ranking has elevated it beyond the realm of national appreciation as an exquisite form of entertainment.
Queen Idia head of Benin, Edo State. This miniature sculptural portrait, in ivory, of the powerful Queen Mother Idia represents the majestic splendor of Benin craftsmanship. The sculpture was also used as FESTAC 77 mask.
Ikogosi Warm Water Spring, Ekiti State. One of nature’s astonishing gifts to Nigeria. It is an enchanting tourist attraction wherein a cold spring flows abreast the warm, each maintaining its thermal properties until they meet at a confluence.
Odo Masquerade Festival of Enugu State. In a State renowned as host to the famous Mmanwu Festival, Enugu State boasts of many fascinating, ancient historical masquerades among which is the Odo/Omabe Masquerade, regarded as the spirits of the ancestors and famed for their mystical powers.
The Undisputed Herdsmen of the Savannah is Gombe State. The State prides herself on her traditional cattle herding expertise as a lifestyle.
Mbari Art of Imo State. A visual art from practiced as proprietary rite, Mbari consists of a scared house constructed as a museum of appeasement. Its notable life size mud sculptures present an elaborate tableau of varied art forms in honour of the Earth goddess.
Baturiya Bird Sanctuary of Jigawa State. A bird watcher’s dream, the natural wetland which attracts birds from across the globe has been recognized as a tourist location of international significance. It is reputed to be home to around 378 migratory bird species from as far away as Europe and Australia.
Nok Culture of Kaduna State. The terracotta sculptures of the maternal remains of an early Iron Age population first discovered in 1928 thrust Nigerian craftsmanship on the world stage. The ancient art continues to garner attention to the country as well as influx of tourists to the State.
Dye Pits of Kano State. Established in 1498, these pits are one of the earliest evidences of the sophisticated clothing production technology and art associated with the people of Kano. Often called the Pride of the North, the pits remain as much an iconic cultural landscape of Kano as a continuing source of technological process transcending time.
The Gobarau Minaret of Katsina State. Located in the center of the city of Katsina, the minaret which has become a symbol in Katsina, remains a salute to Muslim architecture as well as an acknowledgement of the city as a theological centre.
Argungu Fishing Festival of Kebbi State. Arguably the oldest and most widely attended festival of its kind, this pseudo-religious festival continues to expand its socio-economic relevance to the people as it constantly modifies to attract international patronage and participation.
The Itoguntoro of Kogi State. Symbolic of the traditional weaving heritage of Nigeria, the Oguntoro is reputed to be the frontline product in Nigerian loom products. In its colourful varieties, it continues to be innovated and adapted into contemporary forms. This exquisite craft remains one of Nigeria’s heritage and cultural item of note.
Dada Pottery of Kwara State. Boasting of the largest concentration of potters in the State, the pottery industry which is as old as the city of Ilorin, is exclusively managed by women. Most potters are engaged full time and are creative entrepreneurs of their products.
The Eyo Masquerade of Lagos State. Otherwise known as Adamu Orisha play, Eyo is symbolic of the spirit of the ancestors in Isale Eko mythology where the festival is symbolically celebrated. Its touristic potentials is projected into its exponential cultural relevance to the patrimony of the people.
Farin Ruwa Waterfall of Nasarawa State. A beautiful and magnificent waterfall, the purity of the cascading water evokes wonder and an acknowledgement of nature’s partialty to Nigeria.
Brassworks of Niger State. Niger State is home to a cluster of Nigeria’s creative engagements in diverse media, including pottery, glass, dyed clothes, raffia and, of course, brass. The production of traditional crafts and artefacts in brass and the communal attachment to the bellows continues to ensure the production and patronage of brass sourvenirs as well as traditional ornaments.
Olumo Rock of Ogun State. Beginning historical relevance as a fortress for the Egba people during intertribal wars, Olumo Rock has evolved to become not only a popular tourists attraction, but a symbol for its host city, and a solid reassurance of nature’s endowment to the people.
Obitun Dance of Ondo State. Traditionally a bridal dance of maidens, Obitun dance/festival has evolved from a commemorative rite of passage to a colourful, riveting entertainment package indicating class and beauty as dancers are decked in coral beads of different colours and worn in splendid style with decorative marks.
Osun Oshogbo Sacred Groove/Festival of Osun State. One of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that hosts the Osun Oshogbo festival, the festival is a sacred homecoming for worshipers, spectators and tourists from all walks of life. It continues to attract tourists to witness the many activities beginning with the ritual cleansing of the town and culminating in the lighting of the over 500 year old sixteen point lamp.
The Talking Drums of Oyo State. By far the king of the drums, the centrality of the talking drum in Oyo folklore, musical rendition and communication art cannot be overemphasized. It continues to resonate in contemporary musical performances of the nation and is celebrated beyond the shores of Nigeria as one of her iconic cultural gifts to the world.
Shere Hills of Plateau State. A range of undulating hills and rock formations, Shere hills is a massive sequence of rocky outgrowths and forest enclaves suitable for physical training, rock climbing and related endurance sports. It is one of the representational natural endowments defining the Nigerian cultural landscape.
The Boat Regatta Carnival of Rivers State. The regatta remains the finest expression of the riverine heritage of the aquatic culture of Rivers State. Showcasing the pre-colonial defence system, ceremonies and traditional religions, the regatta also offers thrilling encounters as gaily dressed men battle the raging sea in beautifully decorated boats in a show of mastery that speaks of proud artistry and craftsmanship
Sultan’s Palace, Sokoto State. The imposing and magnificent building that is home to the Sultan is a masterpiece of Muslim architecture. It displays royal grandeur from the multicoloured regalia of the palace guards to the robes of the Sultan’s famous praise singers and trumpeters. It is a centre of homage to the Sultan as well as a tourist attraction for many.
Gashaka Gumti National Part, Taraba State. Gashaka Gumti boasts of the highest peak in Nigeria as well as scenic and biological diversity. It encompasses ecodiversity, being home to savannah, forests, wetlands and motane habitats. It is one of Mother Nature’s spectacular ecosystem in transition.
Dawu Ngasho of Yobe State is the ubiquitous indigo/light and skyblue combination of colours on fabrics used mostly by men to sew the large gown. Originally restricted to royalty, the gown has become synonymous with the grandeur of personal style and fashion. Fully decorated, it showcases amazing craftsmanship art and grooming.
Kwartarkwashi Rock/Water Spring, Zamfara State. Traditionally a sanctuary for eagles which gave birth to a festival associated with the birds and rock climbing, the rock was central to feats of prowess and communal entertainment. The crystal clear spring adds beauty to the rock and is a foremost tourist attraction in the State.
The Gbagyi Woman of FCT, Abuja. The iconic totem for the FCT is the Gbagyi woman carrying her load on her shoulder instead of her head in reverence to the spiritual superiority of the head as the seat of human life, philosophies and associated values. The traditional image continues to capture contemporary imagery as the city plays host to Nigeria’s capital city.