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Assessment of Eritrea’s Festivals of Yesterday, Today and Its Future Prospects Part I

The memories of Festival Eritrea 1992 has not still faded from my memories. Even though it was a gathering of people from all walks of life, I believe that children of that particular period still cherish in their minds fresh memories of the 1st festival. It was then a fist of its kind to all Eritreans. As it was held next to 1st Eritrea’s Independence Day anniversary it was a unique gathering which united all Eritreans in one platform in post-independence Eritrea. It has now been 21 years since then and a conference assessing national festivals has been opened yesterday in the Expo grounds in Asmara. How effective have the national festivals been is the major topic set for discussion in the conference. Papers that discuss about the impacts of festivals that continued to be held before and in the post-independence period are being presented.

Papers presented in the conference,  in which President Isaias Afworki, government officials, ministers,   army commanders, heads of national associations and invited guests are taking part, have so far discussed the role of festivals in nation-building process, role of arts and service rendering institutions in the promotion of national festivals, and historical background of Eritrean festivals  during the colonial times.

Festivals that were conducted prior to independence in particular have played significant role in strengthening the unity of nationals. Festivals that were held in the then liberated areas of Eritrea as well as in abroad were related to social sentiments such as yearning for independence and different virtues such as patriotism, as well as steadfastness. Thus cultural shows performed by EPLF cultural troupes were then sources of all-round national and cultural inspirations.

This conference is expected to assess the strengths and the weakness of the festivals that have been held to date. Mr. Solomon Tsehaye, chairman of the conference’s coordinating committee, disclosed that the conference is being conducted on the basis of an initiative taken 3 years ago targeting assessment of national festivals over the past 40 years and thus preparing for the necessary changes for better outcome.

Present on the occasion, President Isaias pointed out that Eritrean festivals have been witnessing unique characteristic features since the armed struggle for independence through the entire nation-building process, and that its significant role thereof attests to this. He went on to describe national festivals as groundwork for depicting and popularizing societal harmony, national resources, progress of various sectors, as well as national and cultural values, besides the steadfastness of the Eritrean people and their leadership.

The President further expressed appreciation for the cumulative and dynamic contribution of artists to this end, and said that the conference is expected to make significant impact in crystallizing ideas as regards ways and means of fostering the capacity of organizing future festivals.

Also in a paper he presented Mr. Dawit Yohannes discussed the historical back ground of Eritrean festivals with a particular reference to the festival of 1972 in which around 223 business firms took part.  As it was organized by colonial powers it was fully dominated by the culture of the colonizers and that of Eritrea’s culture marginalized.

The conference is still continuing today and the participants are discussing on different topics that are expected to strengthen national festivals in terms of scope as well as its organization.

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