On August 3, Nigerian-Canadians living in the prairie regions of Canada celebrated Igbo Day of Arts and Culture in style. Sponsored by the Igbo Cultural Association of Saskatchewan (ICAS), with support from the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS) and SaskTel, Igbo Day offered a blend of cultural and artistic displays, beautiful costumes and Nigerian cuisine.
According to Mr. Kevin Njoku, Secretary, Igbo Cultural Association of Saskatchewan, in attendance were more than 500 people from the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. From cities such as Calgary, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Regina, they all gathered for a night of exquisite cultural displays, performances, beautiful fashion, entertainment, dance and fun.
“Today, we are celebrating what it means to be Igbo in terms of how we dress, what we eat, our music, our art and how we live. That is our culture,” ICAS President Dr. Chidi Igwe said.
“We are proud to call ourselves the Igbo people of Canada,” Dr. Igwe said.
“We are grateful to Canada, the government and people of Saskatchewan for their appreciation of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism,” he said.
“This year’s theme, “Oganihu Igbo (Igbo Progress and Development),” provides an opportunity to increase awareness and use of the Igbo language, art and culture in Saskatchewan, as well as honour the contributions of the Nigerian-Canadian people of Igbo descent to the cultural, professional and economic development of Saskatchewan in particular and Canada as a whole,” Dr. Igwe said.
Addressing an audience of diverse backgrounds, including the First Nations and Métis communities of Canada, the Yoruba community, the Ghanaian community, the Kenyan community, the Chinese community, the Indian community, the Somali community of Saskatchewan, etc, Dr. Igwe said that “by the artistic displays, dance performances, such as Abigbo, Igba Eze, Ogene, Ikpirikpe Ogu, masquerade, beautiful costumes and delicious food that you enjoy here today, I hope that everyone will be inspired to learn more about one another.
“It was an amazing night of celebrations with Regina’s Mayor, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, provincial politicians, professors, bishop, doctors, lawyers, engineers, business people and professionals from all walks of life,” a Nigerian-Canadian Philip Taiwo wrote on his Facebook page.
In his message on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Hon Ralph Goodale said that by this event “we are practising in a very practical way, what the Canadian multiculturalism is all about.
“It is about inclusion and diversity over division and fear. It is about pluralism triumphing over populism,” Minister Goodale said.
The speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan Hon Mark Docherty, who was in attendance, said that “we are here to honour the contributions of Igbo Nigerian-Canadians. Saskatchewan is stronger because of all of you.”
Bringing greetings on behalf of Premier Scott Moe and the Government of Saskatchewan, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Saskatchewan representing Regina-Pasqua Constituency Muhammad Fiaz said that “this gathering represents the very true picture of Saskatchewan’s motto “From Many Peoples, Strength.”
“I am astounded by the colours, dance, music, food and diversity we see here. This makes me so proud as Mayor of Regina,” Mayor Michael Fougere said.
One of the major highlights of the colourful event was the public recognition of five individuals as Enyi Ndi Igbo (Friend of the Igbo) in Saskatchewan for their various contributions to the building of a vibrant Nigerian-Canadian community in Canada’s prairie regions.
The recipients of honour were the Speaker of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly Hon Mark Docherty, MLA for Regina-Rosemont Constituency and former Leader of the Opposition, Trent Wotherspoon, His Worship Mayor Michael Fougere of the City of Regina, a distinguished Nigerian-Canadian Neurosurgeon Dr. Chris Ekong, and the Executive Director of the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan Ms. Rhonda Rosenberg.
In his closing remarks, ICAS president thanked everyone in attendance and expressed appreciation to the three levels of government in Canada for their support.
Respectively, the Government of Saskatchewan and the City of Regina issued a proclamation designating August 3, 2019 as Igbo Day and enjoined Canadian citizens to recognise the day as proclaimed.
Dr. Igwe thanked all ICAS members and volunteers for a great event. He thanked the thousands of people who have sent good-will messages to the Igbo community of Saskatchewan from all parts of the world.
“Igbo Day is celebrated every two years in Saskatchewan. We look forward to seeing all of you again in 2021,” Dr. Igwe said.