Students honor their roots, reveal misconceptions through Nigerian Cultural Festival
By Katie Karabasz
With more than 30 students, faculty and staff in attendance, a group of Lehigh students from Nigeria celebrated their heritage last week through the Nigerian Cultural Festival held at the Global Union. The event was designed to debunk stereotypes about Nigeria and educate the Lehigh audience about Nigerian lifestyle and customs through clothing, music and myth-busting information.
It is important for students to learn about the rich Nigerian culture beyond cliches, said Opeyemi Akinbamidele, ’12, one of the students involved in the festival. The main goal of our presentation was to clarify the facts and expose students to the truth of Nigeria, Akinbamidele said.
“People don’t know very much about Nigeria and most of (what they know) is negative,” she said.
Along with Akinbamidele, four other students, Temi Adekanei, ’12, Wonu Owoseni, ’13, Uchenna Nwogu, ’12 and Ekom Uko, ’14, were involved in the festival. All of the students who presented were either born in Nigeria or had lived there for at least part of their lives.
Adekanei said: “Lots of people left Nigeria for the United States around the same time because the governments had two dictators in succession.”
But coming to the United States was not easy, Adekanei explained. “It cost a lot of money to get to the U.S. so my family had to come one by one, rather than all together,” she added.
Even though many of the students had not been living in Nigeria since they were young, they said that they still feel a strong connection to their roots in Nigeria. “Most of us tend to feel really strongly about our Nigerian background and are very proud to be Nigerian, even if we haven’t been there since we were five,” Akinbamidele said.
Akinbamidele added that she feels that her Nigerian culture is a major factor that defines her. “I was born in New York but when I am asked, I say ‘I am Nigerian,’ ” she said.