Today in the morning hours of 18th August 2017 the annual Eritrean Festival officially opened under the theme of “Our Heritage the enlightenment of Our Identity”. The opening ceremony was conducted in the presence of President Isaias Afwerki, ministers, PFDJ officials, ambassadors and delegates.
The history of Eritrean festival goes back to the pre-independence period. Eritrean nationals abroad structured a yearly event aimed at bringing together compatriots in one arena.
What do you think made the Eritrean festival possible? What are the factors that make the Eritrean Festival a special event? Indeed, it all points back to the very peculiar culture of Eritreans. The sense of ‘togetherness’ doesn’t make as much sense anywhere else as it does in this land of these beautiful people. Primordially and now, this is the land of people which, within their cultural and religious diversity, unite in accord. Also the reason why the Eritrean history reverberates ‘harmony’ in every chapter. Be it for the nation’s independence, sovereignty or development, Eritreans stand together no matter where they are. Do not identify this people by their home village nor the religions they fallow; just refer to them as ‘Eritreans’ and that is who they really are.
The Eritrean Festival is the festival of the people; it plainly celebrates the society. Eritrean festivals are observed worldwide. Wherever Eritreans reside there is surely an annual gathering happening one way one another. Then in summer when the Eritrean diaspora flock back home to be blessed by the warmth of family, friends and compatriots in the rainy season, there is the National Eritrean Festival. A sort of pledging ceremony, a pact of the people to perpetually be together for better or for worst.
The festival takes place in the Expo grounds; under the Ethiopian rule, it used to be one of the brutal dungeons, where Eritreans were sentenced to torture and death for the sole crime of being born Eritrean.
Now the former piece of hell is a taste of heaven. Every year, for the Eritrean Festival, Eritreans from every corner of the country and the world gather in this big yard; a family of old and small rejoices in the pilgrimage to free Eritrea.
This year’s festival is different from the previous ones. Previously the National Eritrean Festival would normally run for some ten days featuring a variety of activities. There normally would be tents for segments ranging from children’s activities, youth inventions and innovations sections, segments depicting developmental undertakings, the ever loved cultural compound with exhibitions of the ethnic group’s cultural shows, an open flea market for enterprises to exhibit and sell their merchandises.
After almost twenty years of the same tradition, the National Holidays Coordinating Committee has decided to change things starting from now, so this one is only a transitional one. So for now like it used to be when it first started, a holistic focus is lit on the cultural heritages of Eritrea: its people and history.
Therefore, the major two components of the Eritrean Festival 2017 are cultural platforms depicting Eritrean demography, traditional richness as well as Asmara’s art deco, recently registered in the world UNESCO cultural heritage.
The festival is scheduled for a colorful weekend encompassing different cultural performances by troupes of all ages. Also renowned singers and comedians will perform. Last but not least, for young children’s and students’ amusement the arena of youth is set up featuring educational and entertainment platforms.
When women of all ethnic groups ululate, when Kunamas stomp the yard, when the Hidareb men jump in the air so high you’d think they’d be lost in the sun. When Tigrigna young ladies round up in the ring dance of ‘tihambele’, when Rashaida kids jiggle a couple of swords or maybe more from one hand to another, when Tigre ladies insist they must spray on you the bride’s perfume for good luck, when a couple of Nara men insist you have a taste of their traditional bitter coffee loaded with ginger, when Afar men flush their attractive bright smile to steal hearts, when Bilen girls sway their curves and figures showing God’s most beautiful creation, when Saho women lean back touching their limbs with their head –and their just dancing and when Eritreans are simply being busy being Eritreans, that is the Eritrean Festival.
Hooray for yet another national reunion!