Benue Revives Kwagh-hir Theatre, Redirects Attention To Creativity

The return of Kwagh-hir festival to Benue State has rekindled interest of teeming youths particularly from the Tiv speaking tribe of Benue State to one of its long forgotten intangible cultural heritage, with the capacity to bring the people together through entertainment as well as reposition the minds of the people through creativity.

This was evident at the just concluded 2016 Kwagh-hir Festival organized by the Benue State Ministry for Arts, Culture and Tourism from 11th-12th February at the Handball Court of the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi on the theme, “A Celebration of Creativity,” where seven (7) Kwagh-hir groups participated with amazing displays that depicted the creative ingenuity of the Tiv speaking people of the State.

According to the Honourable Commissioner, Benue State Ministry for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Hon. Sekav Dzua Iyortyom, after a long absence of such a very important festival, the state under the leadership of His Excellency, Dr. Samuel Ortom, has recognized economic benefits of the art form, hence its revival.

He expressed regrets that despite the economic potentials of the festival, successive governments had abandoned the once promoted art form, which had gained recognition, locally and internationally, saying there is urgent need to consistently encourage the sustenance of Kwagh-hir, especially now that the country is looking at alternative sources to diversify the economy.

“Kwagh-hir could be organized into a money spinner, especially if it is exported abroad to bring in the much needed dollars. Kwagh-hir shall be packaged to go on tour abroad and every impetus to do this is needed from government and private sector,” Hon. Iyortyom said.

In a goodwill message, immediate past Managing Director, Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM Bank), Mr. Roberts Orya, reiterated that the revived Kwagh-hir festival indeed is a celebration of creativity, which presents an avenue for entertainment and education, as well as a platform for the preservation of the rich cultural heritage of the Tiv nation.

He therefore called on the state government and indeed the good people of Benue State to seize the opportunity the festival has provided for the purposes of education, entertainment, as well as boost the economy of the state.

Of the seven groups that participated at the competitive event, Anande Chieshe group from Ushongu Local Government took the overall 1st position, Zaki Kende Kaase and Mhiive Aie both from Gboko Local Government got the 2nd and 3rd positions, respectively; while Zaki Kor Dodo took the 4th position. 

It is worthy to note that Kwagh-hir art form, which includes story-telling, poetry, puppetry, masquerade, music, dance and dramatization, is woven around the story-telling tradition of the Tiv nation and has since gone beyond the gathering of children by elders at home under the eaves in the moonlight to tell them stories that teach morals, give instructions and punishments of offenders to dramatizing the stories in a large arena in other to create lasting impressions on the audience.

The Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Associate Professor Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, who attended the festival, was accompanied by his Special Assistant, Mr. Law Ezeh, as well as other support staff.

Caleb Nor

Corporate Affairs Unit

NICO, Abuja