Eritrean National Festival, which is inaugurated by President Isaias Afwerki, is the time of annual celebration.
Apart from creating an inclusive and meaningful recreational atmosphere, the Eritrean National Festival creates a venue where Eritrea’s cultural diversity, innovation and artistic excellence can be showcased and the society’s solidarity can be enhanced. During the event, the six regions of Eritrea demonstrate an extensive participation, cooperation and healthy competition.
Eritrean National Festival is a unique annual celebration that has a long history with its origin dating back to the liberation struggle. It draws people from all over Eritrea and the diaspora and affords them the opportunity to engage in pleasurable activities. The annual Eritrean National Festival, commonly known as Expo Festival, has various activities that bring happiness and peace to the participants. The Eritrean Festival used to be held in Bologna during the liberation struggle (Bologna Festival), which is the origin of the Eritrean National Festival that is now held in Asmara. Until 1991, the Bologna Festival was an important event and became a symbol of people’s unity and their participation in the struggle for independence. It was a platform of the Eritrean diaspora and provided ways to support the liberation struggle economically, socially and politically. Bologna festival played a great role in winning the struggle and was an effective strategy to solidify the Eritrean identity among the diaspora community.
Peace and unity are the two important pillars for the development of any country. Peace and unity are imperative especially in multi-cultural and multi-religious countries like Eritrea. Peace ensures harmony among people of different cultural and religious groups. Therefore, the Eritrean festival is one means that brings people together with a unifying purpose. The role of the Eritrean festivals in fostering unity and social cohesion in the society is uncontested. The Expo Festival, Sawa Youth Festival and Intercollege Festival are all filled with fun and entertainment and are designed to reinforce solidarity as well as strengthen ties among the diverse people of Eritrea. The festivals create space for exchange of experiences, with people enjoying and appreciating Eritrean food, music and dance from the various ethnic groups in Eritrea.
The Eritrean National Festival provides an opportunity for the nine ethnic groups of Eritrea to develop and share their culture. The programs of the festival, although recreational, have the potential to generate intellectual, social, political and spiritual growth of the participants.
The Eritrean National Festival is intended to boost the nationalistic feelings and commitments of Eritrean people. It also serves as a stage to showcase the beauty of diversity. It reminds Eritreans of their beauty and strength and simultaneously teaches them to overcome the sub-national feelings through solidarity and active participation in national affairs. The Eritrean national festival also brings the Eritrean people from all over the world to one place to celebrate and appreciate their unique national identity and their cultural diversity. It is an effective and constructive instrument of nation building and plays its role in strengthening the national unity, preserving sovereignty and development efforts of the country.
Festivals provide unique opportunities for visitors to participate in a distinct experience from everyday life (Getz and Frisby, 1988). A host community celebrates its culture and lifestyle, while its shares a variety of experiences with outside visitors. The Ministry of Tourism of Eritrea has plans to improve tourist attractions. Improvements for specific attractions have been identified in the national tourism development plan for Eritrea and the Eritrean National Festival was identified as a potential tourist attraction. In order for the Eritrean National Festival (Expo Festival) to be a tourist attraction, it must be further developed and promoted. Eritrean National Festival celebrates Eritrea’s own culture and can help minimize the negative economic, social, cultural impacts of globalization.
Eritrean national festivals, including the Expo Festival and Sawa Youth Festival, are public celebrations which are held regularly in Asmara and Sawa respectively to celebrate culture, art, national identity, innovation and achievements of the Eritrean people. They play a great role in social and cultural development, cultural awareness and the preservation of history and identity. Festivals in Eritrean are manifestations of a collective loyalty to the country and the government. Every year, since independence, the Eritrean government has organized the Eritrean National Festival. In addition to that, every Eritrean community, ‘mahberecom’, in the diaspora has a festival in the country of residence, which is used as an occasion to express the community’s affiliation and loyalty to Eritrea.
The value of the festival lies in its ability to bring together current and past generations and promote camaraderie among Eritreans. The festival creates an environment for the broad-minded, cultured and refined mind of the Eritrean youth to celebrate Eritrean culture and exhibit their creative faculty. I wish a cheerful festival to all participants of the Eritrean National Festival.