by Olatunji Saliu
ABUJA, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Colorful cultural performances, choreographed traditional dance, music, and art displays heralded the frenetic pace of activities at the opening of Africa's major arts and crafts expo in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja.
Ostensibly intended to show the strength and cultural diversity of Nigeria and Africa, the colorful opening session Tuesday was an all-comers affair.
Although for more than a week, the place had become a mecca of sorts for shoppers, mostly foreigners, the formal opening, held at the venue of the expo in the Abuja city center, was particularly ceremonious, attended by at least 17 African countries and 26 Nigerian states.
Tagged African Arts and Craft Expo 2017, the ongoing 20-day exhibition is said to be the largest in Nigeria.
It started a decade ago as a regional platform for the exchange of ideas and expertise in production, packaging, and marketing of indigenous arts and crafts.
Organized by the Nigerian Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC), the carnival-like opening session featured various art performances from different ethnic groups in Nigeria. It was attended by local officials, foreign diplomats, and exhibitors.
The expo, first held in 2008, usually attracts shoppers from all parts of the world to the most populous African country.
Shoppers at the expo are treated to various local and foreign music loudly oozing out of large sound systems planted in strategic locations of the expo venue.
Welcoming shoppers and dignitaries to the expo are a group of performers decked in the traditional Scottish Power Pipe Band costumes, donning the Nigerian national colors and dishing out traditional songs from their flutes.
Oluwatosin Nzube, a first-time shopper, said she was impressed with the local arts and crafts on display.
"Apart from that, I have made new local and international contacts here and I hope they will help my business to grow in future," Nzube said.
At least 20,000 to 30,000 arts and crafts enthusiasts from across the globeare expected to attend the expo.
So far, no fewer than 2,000 art lovers have been visiting the expo ground on a daily basis.
According to its organizers, the expo is expected to forge regional and continental exchanges, far-reaching economic activities, and people-to-people friendship and understanding.
Segun Runsewe, head of the NCAC, said the government agency was keen on reinventing the Nigerian economy far away from oil, its mainstay.
"We want to use culture to replace oil," Runsewe said.
He noted the colorful and well-attended exhibition would bring about adequate networking among art and culture enthusiasts, as well as open the window of Nigerian arts and craft to the world.
Exhibitors from Cameroon, Senegal, and The Gambia, among other African countries, displayed works of arts depicting their culture.
Antiques and other art works like painting, batik designs, woodworks, locally made shoes were richly displayed at the opening.