A Senior Programmes Manager at the International Cultural Centre, Helsinki in Finland, Oge Oguejiofor-Eneh, seeks greater cooperation between that country and Nigeria in the arts and culture sector, writes CHUX OHAI
Sometime in 1985, at the peak of the brain drain that swept through Nigeria like a cyclone, Oge Oguejiofor-Eneh suddenly found herself in search of the proverbial greener pastures in Finland.
Unlike many Nigerians who had dreamt of living abroad at the time, she had set her mind on getting university education, which persistent strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities had denied her back home.
Oguejiofor-Eneh eventually studied at the University of Helsinki between 1985 and 1991 and graduated with a Masters degree in education.
Almost 20 years after she arrived in the Scandinavian country, she is currently spearheading a drive to open cultural relations between Finland and Nigeria at the International Cultural Centre in Helsinki, also known locally as CAISA, where she works at present.
In April, 2013, Oguejiofor-Eneh was part of CAISA’s first-ever production of a musical based on the life and works of the late Afrobeat creator, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, as well as an African Foods Festival that was also intended to draw attention to Africa’s exceptional cuisine and cultural heritage.
Titled Beats of a BArd’s Country and produced by Finland’s Marjo-Sisko Lindstedt, the musical has succeeded in raising awareness about Nigerian culture and music, as well as stimulated multicultural interactions to an appreciable degree in that country.
Apart from the two events, CAISA has hosted Nigerian musicians and Nollywood stars at different times in the past. It has screened Nollywood movies, especially the ones that are rooted in the culture of the country.
“CAISA promotes genuine ethnic and culture diversity dynamics of Helsinki. It provides possibilities for minority, and migrants to practice their culture and own language. We promote cultural understanding, collaboration and reduce prejudice through intercultural education workshops, where migrant artists are instructors.
We offer opportunities for everybody to connect with people of diverse cultural backgrounds. And we organise anti-racism campaigns through the arts and culture, debates, seminars, art exhibitions and workshops,” she says, in an interview with our correspondent.
Oguejiofor-Eneh speaks glowingly about her experience in Finland, with particular reference to the privileges that she enjoyed in that country, even as an immigrant.
“I love Finland so much. I attended university here without paying tuition fees up to a Masters degree level. I had access to the best modern facilities and infrastructure that any university would wish to have. I have made very good friends here. The Finnish people are very honest when you learn to know them. They can be friends for life when the foundation of the friendship is built slowly,” she says.
But she wishes that Nigerian artists and their contemporaries in Finland could collaborate on mutual projects in the near future.
Oguejiofor-Eneh believes that both countries stand to benefit immensely from a viable cultural exchange programme. But she thinks that the onus of responsibility lies on Nigerians living in Finland to enlighten their hosts about the advantages of ‘doing business’ with Africa.
Although there is hardly any evidence of cultural exchanges between Nigeria and Finland in recent time, she says both countries are currently collaborating on a number of projects, especially in the areas of higher education students and industrial investment.
Noting that the kind of reception accorded Finland’s entry in the 2013 European Film Festival in Abuja was enough indication of good things to come, she says the time is ripe for inter-cultural collaboration between the two countries.
“Nigeria is a possible market for Finland’s cultural products, such as rock music, theatre and film. But we need somebody to start the negotiation with cultural organisations in both countries. There are possibilities that could be exploited in those areas,” she says.