With a history that goes back to decades, the Festival of Eritreans is renowned for being a hub of reunion. The get together, as it used to be, since its early days in Bologna, Italy, brought together Eritrean nationals from around Europe, America and the Middel East to share the ardor of patriotism.
After Independence, one of the biggest events in the Eritrean calendar is indeed the National Festival. Held at the premises of Expo the annual Festival grows year after year in principles of liberty and harmony.
Serving as an exhibition of Eritrean cultural diversity, its core values and principle, the Festival is the most awaited week of summer.
Habtom Frezghi, ERINA’s reporter talked to the Commissioner of Sport and Culture, Ambassador Zemede Tekle. Q&A presents you excerpts of the interview to give you a preview of the colorful Festival that started just yesterday!
- Commissioner of Sports and Culture, Ambassador Zemede Tekle, we thank you for your time. Generally, what is the aim of the National Festival? And how is this years’ Festival going to be held?
Festivals are normally conducted at specific moments, though the general purpose is quite well-known, the themes of festivals might differ from year to year. In our case, what is currently distinctive is the phase of peace we recently are entering. Therefore, in this years’ festival peace is to be highlighted in conjunction with the longstanding and cherished traditions of our festival which include cultural, social and artistic activities. The theme of the National Festival 2018 is ‘Peace for Sustainable Growth’.
- As the Festival is being celebrated with peace in the horizon, in what traits is it distinctive from festivals of previous years?
I wouldn’t want to say that anything extraordinary is to be seen in our festival. The customs of our Festival will be beautifully presented this year too. However, there will definitely be new talents as well as novelties from youngsters in different sectors of art and technology. We have reserved a great space in the Festival’s schedule for the youth to come forward and impress the public once again with their enthusiasm.
- Normally national celebrations are also joined by artists from abroad. We have seen several musical and cultural bands as well as singers from around the world participating in national celebrations. Are there any bands from abroad joining the Festival 2018?
What you said about bands and cultural troupes being invited and joining our celebration mostly refers to the celebrations of our Independence Day. In fact, in the past renowned cultural tropes, bands and orchestras have participated in the celebration of May 24th. When we talk about peace being our theme this year it is in relation to the peace accord Eritrea and Ethiopia have recently signed. Therefore, the expected visit of Ethiopian cultural troupes, and maybe singers, is dearly awaited to further celebrate the peace agreement between the two brotherly peoples.
- In the past the festival was being held in August but this year the festival is officially beginning on the last day of August and will be mostly held in September. What is the reason?
You are right. The decision to move the Festival to September was made because of comments we’ve received. Nationals from all corners of the country and abroad meet in Sawa every two years to celebrate the EriYouth Festival. This year, the EriYouth Festival was as attended by so many participants that flocked to Sawa. As such, the Commission of Sports and Culture accepted the comments and agreed that having two big festivals back to back is demanding. So, we decided to extend the break and move the National Festival from August to September.
Moreover, we needed more time to prepare and entertain activities reflecting the peace agreement and also more time to make arrangements to be able to host potential participants of the Festival from Ethiopia.
- Can you give us a hint of what these coming days of the Festival will be like?
What has always made our National Festival peculiar is the participation of all nationals. People from all corners of our country take part in preparing and showcasing our diversity, unity and strength geared towards shared strong national goals and visions. Therefore, the Festival will shine in the joint effort of the Eritrean people. Cultural shows will have a big impact as it is through them that we safeguard our heritage and display the harmony of the Eritrean People. For more entertainment competitions of several types are lined up. Competition on cultural songs, cultural instruments, construction of cultural houses and competition of cultural shows are the four categories as regards to culture. This, of course, will include all ethnic groups of the six regions, making the festival rich in content, entertainment and education. Furthermore, there will be competitions of paintings, comedies, poetry and much more. All the performances to be staged in the festival are instrumental in encouraging artists to bring the best of their aptitudes to the visitors of the National Festival 2018.
- Thank you Commissioner. Do you have any last notes?
Since 1984 Eritreans have strived to get together and unite at the same place and time in Bologna, Italy. The Festival of Bologna and its historic tribute is worth noting. After our country was freed, the National Festival began to prosper in the unity of the Eritrean people where all ethnic groups sparkle in coherence within their diversity. The Festival is a gala where principles of the Eritrean People and Government are reflected. The activities might differ from year to year but the sentiments of patriotism and the sense of rejoicing as one big family is what makes and has always made our Festival one of a kind.