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And Kpakpando Ututu shines in National Light

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IT WAS all fun at the premises of Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC), publisher of National Light Group of Newspapers, on Saturday, as the corporation hosted members of Kpakpando Ututu Cultural Dance of the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO), St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, GRA, Awka, who came for the video recording of their prestigious dance for Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) television broadcast.

 The dance made its first outing on October 26, 2019, at the church premises in preparation for the church’s dedication on November 10, 2019.

  The women, adorned in their uniform of white blouse and yellow background wrappers, gracefully displayed various dance steps and styles for their five different songs to the admiration of all.

 According to Prof Obianuju Chiekezie (Ochiora), the leader of the group, the dance was initiated during the planning of the dedication of their church. “Women contribute a lot to the growth and development of the church and entire society. Nothing moves on well without women. So while planning for the dedication of Aquinas Church, last year, the women as the pillars of the church felt that they needed to do something very special and outstanding to entertain the bishops, the guests and themselves and to add glamour and color to the occasion. So they decide to go for this dance”. 

  On the choice of Kpakpando Ututu (Morning Star) as a name for the dance, Chiekezie said the name was one of the numerous names of the Virgin Mary, their role model so the name  glorifies Mary and at the same time reflects the joy and outlook of the women who equally shines like the morning star in their costumes and performances.

  She equally expressed the hope that with their trust and hope on the Virgin Mary, the dance will be sustained and commended the women for their support which contributed to the success the organisation has recorded so far.

 The Parish Priest, St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, G.R.A, Awka, Rev. Fr. Anthony Akabogu, who was visibly happy over the performance of the women and couldn’t help but join the women in their dance, said that as their spiritual director, he had to help them and support them in whatever good thing they were doing.

 Speaking on the aim of the dance, he said:”There is spirituality to music and part of that spirituality is that within the troupe, we have professors, doctors, artisans, etc. We want to create an environment where we realise that we are one in Christ, both the rich and the poor. And so we are here to reconcile with one another, dance and share our talents.”

  As for the dance becoming a distraction to the women as regards their spiritual lives and other church activities, he said, “how could there be a distraction when people who would have been at different poles are brought together? We are enhancing them. Let the rich recognise the graciousness in the poor and let the poor also recognise the contributions the rich make to the progress of the society and the church. We don’t see any distraction, rather, we unite people. That’s why Jesus came to reconcile people. We are one in Christ and that’s what we want to promote here.

  Fr. Akabogu observed that the dance is a way of promoting Igbo culture. “There is music for everything in Igbo tradition – music for farm work, harvesting, celebrations. This is part of it. Music is very vital in the life of the Igbo person. And so, when the women undertook the project, we saw it as a way of promoting the same culture of our people. Remember the church accepts everything good in a culture; what is not good enough, the church allows the light of the gospel to shine upon and to purify”.

 He advised those who regard everything about culture and tradition as evil and a way of worshipping idol to have a rethink as it is based on ignorance.”I want our people to be educated and know that there are so many things beautiful about our culture and we must use them to promote the gospel and those things that are not good like killing of twins is eradicated now because the light of the gospel was shone upon that. We want to encourage our people.

 “We congratulated the women for allowing themselves, both the rich and the poor, academic and non-academic to come together to perform. They should allow this spirit to continue to blosom within the parish and beyond.

 In his remarks, the second vicar of the parish, Rev. Fr. Blaize Chimezie described music as very good in every culture, adding that “if the church comes to a town , they adopt all good things in the church for the joy of all . Music is meant for happiness. It’s for consolation. In almost all ceremonies, Igbos dance; so, we brought it to the church for our joy and better service to God because God created everything. So, what they are doing is very good – showing the world, especially ndi Anambra the beautiful dance.

 For Rev. Sister Mary Galdensia Nwankwo of Immaculate Heart, who is the Sister Adviser of CWO, Aquinas Church, who was seen dancing with the women, “I help to organise the women for the progress of the church and society. When we are united in peace and love, we take it to the families. If the family is good, the society will be good and everything will be well. If there is love, all the problems of Nigeria will reduce. It’s that love that we want in the women so that the ‘star’ will keep shining.

 One of the patrons (Nnaegwu) of Kpakpando Ututu Dance Group and Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation,(ANPC), Sir Chuka Nnabuife, who among other patrons danced with the women expressed happiness over the outing and commended the women for their foresight.

 “The outing is mainly to put the Kpakpando Ututu Dance on record for larger public appreciation because technology has made things easier in the area of communication. Kpakpando Ututu is a very beautiful dance, very functional and a way of cultural emancipation by the women of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Awka.

But not many people will be able to savour and appreciate the dance by coming to the location where it is performed but by putting it in television through television record which in this case was done by producers and film makers from Anambra Broadcasting Service, Awka; by putting it in that recording form and having the opportunity to make it broadcast it, more people will appreciate it.

So by getting it recorded and getting things about it reported in the National Light Newspaper, more people are going to know about it and read about it. So it’s no longer just those who come to the location where the women perform their beautiful dance that will now know about it and appreciate it ,more people will know about it through other forms of communication. That is one major game in the outing that they had on Saturday, the 21th of February, 2020.

 “The other aspect of it is that it’ll also go far in the area of Christian evangelism in particular. It makes people know that being Christians doesn’t mean that we will throw away our culture. There is something we Catholics call enculturation – taking the culture and making the faith domiciled in our culture.

 “Egwu Kpakpando Ututu is an Igbo cultural dance but it is performed in the context of Catholic women, in the context of celebrating the beauties of the faith, context of evangelising through the acts. So that aspect of showing the world that even being a Christian, we also have some aspects of the traditions that you also buy into and help propagate , help to ensure that Igbo culture does not die .

It helps also to ensure that our culture is part of our faith- “Christianity. Most of the women that participate are senior civil servant, directors, permanent secretaries, commissioners and even some professors. Among the ladies dancing, we have academics with several doctoral degrees and also the market women, the young wives and the old wives.

It shows that the church is a community of everybody not just the high but both the high and the low. It also shows that there is no time you grow beyond your culture. Those civil servant directors, etc, that dance show that they know their culture and want to pass it on to their daughters. We, the nnaegwus and the nneegwus; that is the fathers or the patrons and matrons of the group, we also come to give them support that is needed in this kind of evangelism.

 On whether he would have preferred them organising prayer rallies and fellowships in place of the dance, he said, “Prayer rallies and fellowships are things that we do everywhere and every day. The Catholic Women of St Thomas Aquinas Parish also do it. It’s done regularly but there are other forms of evangelism beyond prayers and rallies. You evnangelise through your work; for example, we have groups that will tell you that work is part of evangelism. Acts is also another way of evangelism. That’s why we have saints like St Cecilia in the Catholic Church… Singing and dancing is part of the evangelism. Because they’re Catholic women doesn’t mean that you will go and see them folding their hands and not doing anything or not being part of the society. It’s not how Catholic Christians practice.  That’s why you even saw a Rev Sister dancing, and you saw the priests dancing…”

 Other father’s of the group, Sir Jonathan Ezeuchu, popularly known as Ayiligwe , who is the first vice chairman , Aquinas Parish, Sir Ben Okoye, Nnanyelugo of Nsugbe and Chief Joe Nwegwu, Onowu Enenebe  and expressed happiness over the success of the dance and advised the women to strive to bond better and be more united to achieve the aim of the dance.

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