Saturday, March 14, 2009

The 165th good thing about Lagos: Celebrating the United States with fireworks in February

July is not a good month for celebrating with US citizens in Nigeria, because many of them have gone away for the summer, and also it's rainy season and a bad time for outdoor celebrations in Lagos. So the consulate here chooses February to have their National Day celebrations, and we were lucky enough to get an invitation to go to the consulate general's residence to a National Day party paid for by the US State Department (meaning, our taxes). The residence was decked out with red, white and blue bunting and they had chosen to feature cuisine and entertainment from New Orleans. So it was good food and good entertainment (more on that in my next post), and an opportunity to socialize with other Americans and get a glimpse at some Nigerian leaders of all sorts.
Nigeria has an interesting protocol of introducing dignitaries -- they have to be each mentioned individually with their long names and titles both by the "MC" of the event and then again by each speaker. There was quite a long list of chiefs and governors and princes and princessess at this event and their names and titles were stumbled through by several people at this event. I was relieved that the Ambassador, who was present and on the program to speak, ended up not speaking, because we undoubtedly would have had to hear her go through the whole list one more time. I guess it's a real slight for someone to get up and say "welcome everyone" without mentioning important people individually. And then even after the official program was over, the announcer continued to announce the presence of more dignitaries who had missed the official list and hadn't been mentioned previously.
And some chiefs or obas have their own protocol to maintain. I'm sorry I didn't get very good pictures in the low light of evening. But there was one particular oba who traveled with his umbrella. He had a bit of a problem going through the metal detector during the security check at the entrance to the residence. The security detail insisted that he had to go through the detector without his umbrella, but he had his umbrella carrier walk him up to the detector and then wait for him at the other side, so he wouldn't have to be uncovered for long. I remember from my docent preparation for giving tours of the African collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, that the umbrella is a symbol of the power of the king and also his recognition of his subservience to God. It would be unseemly for God to look down and see the uncovered head of the king, so his head must be shielded from the eye of God.
But possibly God doesn't look down at the oba at night, because when he and his entourage were departing that night right in front of us, the umbrella was down as they walked out.
The evening was capped off with a wonderful fireworks display over the water. I didn't get my camera going in time to film the grand finale, but here's a little snippet. Our flat is right next to the Indian embassy and during Indian holidays they sometimes set off fireworks, so whenever we are home and hear big bangs from outside, we question whether it's fireworks, a car backfiring, thunder, or gun shots. We've heard them all from our flat, but we always enjoy it most when the big bangs are caused by fireworks.

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