Some have dubbed culture as the cry of men in search of their identity; whereas others see it as a broadening of the mind and spirit. In the words of Albert Camus, “without culture and the related freedom it implies, society even when perfect is but a jungle”. It therefore surmises that a society and people that fail to promote its culture eventually loses its identity.
For the Manyu people, the authentic creation of culture is nothing but a gift to the future generation that must be preserved and protected by its stewards. As in every generation, ours is blessed to witness such a creation in the talents of Arrey Bate Nico whom some have titled the “Manyu Cultural Ambassador”.
On Saturday October 16, 2010, the star took Washington DC and its environs by storm. For over twenty years since the creation of MECA - with a primary goal of promoting our culture in the Diaspora, no event has captured such imagination, attention and anxiety of the community like the Bate Nico concert. It was a well planned cultural merriment, calling on the Manyu community at large to turn out, witness, celebrate and be part of a common destiny.
The curtains came tumbling down at midnight as Ekpe USA members dressed in custom designed regalia’s with elephant tusk made bracelets, necklaces and red/white embroidered hats - dancing in uniform motion, led the cultural icon to the lighted hall. It was a dazzling and eye watering spectacle as Bate Nico holding a microphone on one hand and dancing to the applause of spectators, led the troupe in a typical upbeat Ekpe rendition. As fans paraded the hall, the awe, beauty, pride and personification of the Manyu culture was finally on display. It was a rare spectacle that seems to crown the efforts of the founders of MECA in the Diaspora, a spectacle that reminds us of other struggles in human existence.
One song after another, the artist as a true cultural icon, and by displaying different dance moves was able to split “from the physical to the spiritual, from the body to the soul in dazzling fashion. As the mesmerizing Ngoh Njoh dancers of Washington joined him on stage, the tasteful acoustic guitar lines, drum beats of music, and uniform steps of the Ngoh Njoh dancers underscored tales about peace, family, faith and tradition. The highlight of the evening was when he majestically walked several Ekpe Chiefs to the dance floor. He had composed special songs for these Sesekous and was about to pay homage by singing and dancing in their honor. As a master artist, he taped his feet, tuned his soprano voice and took the audience as far back as anyone can trace the Manyu culture, reminding us that songs are handed down as part of oral tradition and that humans are better glorified in the midst of their peers.
In the final analysis, the Manyu culture can be referred to images. It is a reflection of who we are as a people, community and society with a common identity. There is nothing more that binds us together than our culture. It is a tradition that has passed on from one generation to another, uplifting our spirits and promoting not only our identity but self esteem. With a cultural ambassador like Bate Nico these images of us will never be extinct and forever the Manyu culture will remain a master piece of our intangible heritage of humanity.