Inaugural ceremony of Festival Eritrea 2011 is getting under way tonight here in Asmara under the theme “Perfect Harmony for National Dignity!”. Commenced in the days of struggle for liberation, the national festival, while being held annually here in the capital city, has evolved in the past 20 years of independence enough to make up an integral part of Eritrean culture. Seasonal festivals of diaspora Eritreans are also well under way in a number of countries.
Social consciousness constitutes an essential building block for nationhood and nationalism. Social consciousness is a defining quality of distinct identity, whereas identity per se is composed of culture and values. Thus, culture in its broader sense accounts for the real essence of any given society. Eritrean history stands witness to the integrity of this fact. The Eritrean people, whom annulment of nationhood from the world map has time and again been decided upon for geo-political interests of major powers, managed to prevail over such far-reaching ploys through preserving its own cultural heritages, values and languages, while at the same time warding off acculturation. Had the Eritrean people proven inadequate in preserving its culture and bringing national identity to the spotlight, the country would have not attained a sovereign state.
Culture, further than being a defining essence for nationhood, also assures the continuation of generations. To this end, societies need not only maintain the assurance for generations to come, but also give the posterity due grounding in culture. The major task of any society, therefore, ought to be cultivating children and the youth with national identity and pride, which is the most essential element of nationhood.
The matrix of culture has patently given rise to civilizations. Throughout history, no society has achieved civilization short of fostering its own culture. Culture underpins every past and modern-day civilization. Of all national assets, culture plays the greatest role in setting a common goal for building strong national unity and enlightenment, as well as in driving work ethic and ingenuity. In light of this fact, the task of cherishing cultural heritages and identity deserves due attention equal to endeavors exerted towards political consciousness and economic development. Cultural corrosion, facilitated by advances in information technology, has given way to compulsive identity crisis, thereby evoking yearnings for exile and bondage. It is thus a pressing assignment of the nation at large, but cultural anthropologists and artists in particular, to set a trend in the effort to steer clear from such cultural invasion.
Eritrea’s national festival that burgeoned in the days of liberation struggle has become central to the country’s community-based culture with which, amongst other yardsticks, the nation would appreciate the nation-building process as well as the endeavors to preserve values and identity. And hence, Eritrea’s cultural diversity amply demonstrates national unity, history and livelihood as well as the people’s joint effort for grand vision.