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A night of Korean culture

Lovers of culture and friends of Korea thronged the hall and there was no seat to spare. Many witnessed the three hours display on their…

Lovers of culture and friends of Korea thronged the hall and there was no seat to spare. Many witnessed the three hours display on their foot and still sighed with satisfaction at the close of the show. It was dubbed “Korean Culture Festival with Nigeria.” The Nigerian cultural troupe was there to dab the Nigerian flair.

The dances were inspiring, featuring entertaining and spiritual pieces. They were also vivid and left lasting impressions floating on the waves of resounding music on the minds of the audience. Somehow, the Koreans have managed an almost seamless blend of a culture that dates back thousands of years and the more recent pop culture.

The festival opened with some oriental drumming called Sogochum which was greeted with rapturous applause by the audience. The Nigerian cultural troupe responded with a drumming sequence of their own called “Dance of Harmony.”

For flair and a display of grace, the South Korean ladies enthralled the audience with Buchaechum or fan dance. It was a performance worth relishing as the colourfully decked ladies brandishing colourful oriental hand fans moved in choreographed harmony to moving music. They formed exotic patterns on the stage and tilted, folded and unfurled their fans to scintillating effects. They deserved the thunderous applause they got at the end.    

The Nigerian cultural troupe rolled out the colourful, Calabar maiden with her glittering hair combs, red attire and captivating dance steps. She strutted across the stage like a peacock, dancing to swooning music from members of the troupe.

She gave way to modernity when the Korean international award winning break dance group, Last for One, tumbled onto the stage. They quickly won over the audience with their daring head spins, foot walks and freezes that left the audience cheering. They were awesome.

Spirituality

For the Koreans, there is much attention paid to spirituality. Over the course of centuries, they have developed series of physical exercises that impact on the mind. One of such exercises is Taekwondo, the martial art form that is today an Olympic sport and is practiced all over the world. It all started in Korea, as the Koreans will proudly remind anyone who cares to listen.

They brought the K-Tigers, an internationally renowned taekwondo demonstration group. Their moves were dexterous, made lively with high horse kicks, spinning kicks and very, very high kicks. They impressed the audience with their choreography moves and displays of bravado as well.

Then the dance of peace and good harvest (Taepyeongmu) took centre stage. Korean ladies in colourful flowing robes swooned exotically to a rhythm emanating spirituality. Their dance was serene and regal. The Koreans performed this rite to pray for national peace and good harvest. It is a royal dance, the Koreans explained.

Nigeria also has spiritual dances as the national troupe demonstrated. They performed the Bori dance, an exorcist ritual practiced mostly in the north. It was more of a dance drama, depicting a man possessed by demons and the Bori dancers’ ability to expel the demons. They astounded the audience with their high jumps which resulted in them slamming their bottoms hard on the stage. It looked real and eerie and resulted in a little girl in the front row fleeing into her parents’ arms in fear.

Before the close of the festival, there was a battle between the K-Tigers and the Last for One, Taekwondo vs. break dance. An indication of how progressive the Koreans are – not afraid to pair up their culture against modern trends.

This was amply demonstrated by the closing performance by wHOOL, a Korean band that uses a mix of traditional and modern instruments to create forceful music. They ‘rocked’ the hall, blending oriental sounds with discotheque.

There was no doubt it was a Korean night. Mr George Ufot, Director of Culture at the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism had one word to describe the night; “Beautiful,” he said.

On his part, the Korean ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Park Young-Kuk described the festival as successful. “Great performances from the Korean troupes and also the Nigerian troupe. It is a wonderful night,” he said.

Mr. Ufot thinks the Korean move is worth emulating and said Nigeria has troupes performing in Brazil and other countries of the world. “We recognise the need for culture to be used for subtle cultural diplomacy; we recognise that culture has mutual benefit for countries. It’s an effective diplomacy for creating friendship among countries,” he said.

He could not have been more right as the merry faces of Nigerians and Koreans bubbled about as they held each other’s hands and danced out to the lobby.

The result of this ‘cultural diplomacy’ is obvious. “Korean culture is very famous now around Asia and [the] Middle East and even South America,” Ambassador Park Young-Kuk said.

With winning performances like these, there is no reason it should not be.


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