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Nigerians to celebrate their culture

The opportunity to learn new words _ Owerri, Okorosha and Ekpe _ will be abundant today in the city as Nigerians and their American neighbors celebrate the African nation's 32nd Independence Day.

Two public celebrations are slated for tonight.

The first is sponsored by the Nigerian Women's Association and will be held at 6 p.m. at the East Lake Park Civic Center. The second is sponsored by the Nigerian Club of Tampa, beginning at 8:30 p.m. at the Centro Asturiano Hall.

Nigeria's 1960 independence from the British is a national holiday for the 89-million people in Africa's most populous country. Those who have come from the land in sub-Saharan Africa say they want to take the celebration and share their experiences and customs.

"We want to educate the public about African culture and encourage communication and involvement amongst all cultures," said Laeticia Adamma Muforo, president of the local Nigerian Women's Association.

Nigeria is a diverse community, she said. "There are many different languages, 250, each having different dialects. The dress is different in each region."

Drawing on this diversity, the group sponsoring the East Lake event hopes to inspire Americans to learn more.

For entertainment, artists will perform traditional dances called Owerri, Okorosha and Ekpe. A masquerade rain dance will feature masks hand-carved from ebony wood.

A fashion show also is planned with buba and Agbada sets. Buba sets, worn by women, and agbada sets, worn by men, are two-piece outfits of hand-woven colorful fabrics such as silk. Small colorful beads, called lyun, decorate everything from casual to formal dress.

On sale and display will be raffia mats made from dry grass, thorn carvings and all manner of ebony carvings including small elephants. Small drums made partly from animal skins and skeres, round wooden sticks covered with beads that sound like maracas, also will be on display.

Uwenzo Sudan, a production and promotion coordinator for Tampa Museum of African American Art, plans to tell stories _ myths and legends from Nigerian communities.

"Storytelling deals with our collective psyche, "our' meaning people of color, because we carry a lot of pain," Sudan said. The stories heal, confirm life and provide a sense of individuality, he said. "These stories show us how we can overcome obstacles in our life by having the faith to believe in what we are doing."

At the celebration sponsored by the Nigerian Club of Tampa, the festive mood will be highlighted by Afro-JuJu dancing and reggae music. A local band called the Elements will perform.

Alade Tokuta, a professor at the University of South Florida, will put in an appearance at both celebrations. At the Nigerian Club celebration, Tokuta will talk about the days when Nigeria was part of the British Empire.

Honoring Nigerian independence

Two celebrations in honor of Nigeria's independence from British rule will be held today. The first, sponsored by the Nigerian Women's Association, begins at 6 p.m. at the East Lake Park Civic Center, 7217 Kingsbury Circle. Donations will be accepted at the door. The second, sponsored by the Nigerian Club of Tampa, begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Centro Asturiano Hall, 1913 E Nebraska Ave. Tickets are $7 in advance and $9 at the door.