​© Chris Sam

Somewhere in Africa where the sun sets and rise, between the labours and commitments of determine and committed people, and where culture and traditions speaks a common language, is Betem, known for their hospitality and abundance of natural resources, a community where creativity is exhibited by her natives and strangers treated as brothers. Located in the central region of Cross River state In Nigeria, Betem becomes a spectacle of true African cultures and traditions as her people come together to celebrate their successful return as refugees during the Nigerian Civil war.

The Betem liberation festival which has become an annual event, celebrated from the 16th to 19th of January of every year, becomes an integral part of tourism in Cross River State, as people from across the country spend this 4 days enjoying the hospitality of the people, creating moments within the atmosphere of culture and friendship. 

It was indeed, a memorable experience as Sights and rhymes join thousands of tourists to enjoy this year’s epic display of culture.

Considering what festival means, as an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or traditions, often marked as a local or national holiday, we have come to understand that Festivals often serve to fulfill specific communal purposes, especially in regards to commemoration or thanksgiving. 

The celebrations offer a sense of belonging for religious, social, or geographical groups, contributing to group cohesiveness. They may also provide entertainment, which was particularly important to local communities before the advent of mass-produced entertainment. Festivals that focus on cultural or ethnic topics also seek to inform community members of their traditions; the involvement of elders sharing stories and experience provides a means for unity among families.

In modern times, festivals may be attended by strangers such as tourists, who are attracted to some of the more eccentric or historical ones.

There are numerous types of festivals in the world and most countries celebrate important events or traditions with traditional cultural events and activities. Most culminate in the consumption of specially prepared food (showing the connection to “feasting”) and they bring people together.

The Betem people, who’s culture and traditions embraces strangers and tourist alike every year, open up their arms of hospitality to welcome as many tourist or strangers, to the most significant and historical moments of the community. Sharing the history and also exhibiting their rich cultural heritage to the amazement of the crowd.

Sights and rhymes share this amazing moments with you through picAfric.

*(References – Wikipedia)


CALABAR, the tourism Haven of NIGERIA 

​© Chris Sam

Calabar which is also referred as “Canaan City”is a city in Cross River State, in south southern Nigeria. The original name for Calabar was Akwa Akpa, from the Efik language. The city is adjacent to the Calabar and Great Qua rivers and creeks of the Cross River (from its inland delta).

Calabar is the capital of Cross River State. Administratively, the city is divided into Calabar Municipal and Calabar South LGAs. It has an area of 406 square kilometres (157 sq mi) and had a population of 371,022 at the 2006 census.

Currently with an estimated population of over 1.4 Million residents, Calabar is truly the Tourism Haven of Nigeria. The ancient city which is watered by the Cross River and the Great Qua Rivers has a long history and a fascinating heritage. Nearly after a century of contact with European sailors, Calabar gained recognition as an International Sea Port in the 16th century. From 17th to 19th century, Calabar became a major slave trade port. Although Calabar seating in the Bight of Biafra does not have the impressive forts found in Ghana and Senegal because the estuary was a safe haven for slave traders and the people on its shoreline were cooperative and acted as trading agents to the slave merchants creating a buffer from inland attacks, the region accounted for approximately 30 percent of Africans carted away to the new world (America) as slaves from Africa, representing the largest exit of slaves from a single point in Africa

The ancient city of Calabar was the first to utilize money as means of mercantile in West Africa. This ancient money in Efik was called ‘Okpoho’. This money was later known as the manilas. With the abolition of slave trade in South Eastern Nigeria from 1820 – 1850, Calabar’s main export became palm oil.

Calabar is truly a city of firsts and the ancient city is credited with developing one of the first African alphabets and scripts for communication called the Nsibidi. It is a set of traditional ideographic symbols developed by the Ekpe Society a traditional association responsible for protecting and defending the kingdom against all foreign influence.  Nsibidi is still in use today by the Ekpe Society.

On the chronicle of the city’s firsts, is the fact that Calabar was the seat of the Government of the Oil River Protectorate and then the Southern Protectorate, the building that is today known as the Old Residency Museum was ordered by Consul Hewett in 1882 from Britain and it arrived Calabar in 1884 where it was assembled. It became the residence of the Consuls and High Commissioners that administered the Protectorate.

Most historical records indicates that Calabar gains prominence during the early part of the 17th century. This was largely due to the increasing trading relations between the African tribes like the Efik and Ibibio people. Calabar turned into a major port with fish, bananas and cassava being traded among the surrounding communities. However, the increasing trade eventually caught the attention of the colonial powers which were aggressively increasing their presence in Africa during this time.

Calabar has a great potential in hospitality & tourism. Its relative peace and tranquility, coupled with low crime rate, clean and natural environment, choice tourist attractions and second to none hospitality nature of the people has made it a tourism haven with vast potentials and opportunities.

BETEM LIBERATION FESTIVAL, a cultural view of the Betem people. 

© Chris Sam

sights and rhymes takes you across the vast cultural richness of Betem community in Cross River of Nigeria. 

Some aspects of traditional African cultures have become less practiced in recent years as a result of neglect and suppression by colonial and post-colonial regimes. For example, African customs were discouraged, and African languages were prohibited in mission schools, But due to freedom of expression there is now a resurgence in the attempts to rediscover and revalue African traditional cultures.

Focusing on Nigeria, an African country on the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is known for its natural landmarks and wildlife reserves. Safari destinations such as Cross River National Park and Yankari National Park showcase waterfalls, dense rainforest, savanna and rare primate habitats. One of its most recognizable sites is Zuma Rock, a 725m-tall monolith outside the capital of Abuja that’s pictured on the national currency. 

In this great country are cultural heritage spread across all the ethnic groups. With awesome tourist attractions ranging from the soaring plateaus of the mountain tops of Obanliku to the Rain forests of Afi, from the Waterfalls of Agbokim and Kwa to the spiralling ox-bow Calabar River which provides sights and images of the Tinapa Business Resort, Calabar Marina, Calabar Residency Museum and the Calabar Slave Park along its course, there is always a thrilling adventure awaiting the eco-tourist visiting Cross River State.

Cross River State epitomises the nation’s linguistic and cultural plurality and it is important to note that, in spite of the diversity of dialects, all the indigenous languages in the state have common linguistic roots.

The people of Nigeria still cherish their traditional languages, music, dance and literature. Nigeria comprises of three large ethnic groups, which are Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and Igbo. However there are other ethnic groups as well. Thus culture in Nigeria is most positively multi-ethnic.

Somewhere in Nigeria is Cross River State which is now the leading tourism state of Nigeria. Visitors from different parts of the country visit the states in large numbers all year around. Among this vast blessed landmarks are festivals, some of which date to the period before the arrival of the major religions in this ethnically and culturally diverse society. In our focus, is the Betem liberation day celebration. This festival or celebration started off with a popular festival called “Ëve dá”cultural festival, and is a popular festival that brings the Betem community around the world together. Its origin dates back to  centuries ago and it is acclaimed as a cultural community festival with strong heritage,  witnessed by many people on a yearly basis. In contemporary times this Ëve-dá festival which is now celebrated as Betem liberation day, celebrated on the 19th January of each year has witnessed an increase in grandeur, display, dance, sophistication and an all inclusive participation of all Betem people and friends. The festival is marked with colourful display of different masquerades, Onene dance, égbe dance, Ota mbe mbe, Akata, Obam, and the peoples favourite the Uwang display, prestigiously parading across the village square to the admiration of the public.

 The essence of the festival, which ranks among the best surviving traditional ceremonies of the biase people, is to celebrate the return of the Betem people from the Nigerian civil war. It serves to unify and foster ties among Betem people who are spread across the entire country and in diaspora and also a way of giving thanks to God for a safe return. It appeals to the entire Betem peoples both at home and in the Diaspora.

Betem liberation festival is a four-day festival of propitiation, thanksgiving and feasting which is held annually from the 16th -19th January, renowned for it carnival floats, sumptuous feasting, fascinating masquerades, pulsating rhythms, and colourful performances.


Betem is a community most loyal to friends, and loving to enemies. Always willing to help others in need. Peace loving even enough to share their ancestral home to a host of many rural dwellers from other states and communities, they live their lives without violence.

Blessed with natural, agricultural and a vast human and material resources, the people of Betem are predominantly subsistence farmers producing such crops as cassava, yam, banana, plantain, oil palm etc.
The major income generating occupation of the Betem people is palm oil production. “Palm oil is one of the most common products used by almost everybody in Nigeria. It is the most consumed edible oil worldwide, as it is a popular food ingredient in Africa and some parts of Asia (such as in Malaysia and Indonesia).

Apart from being a popular ingredient in African food (especially soups, stews and pottage), palm oil has one of the most versatile uses of any plant product.”

There is also a vast tract of reserved forest and gmelina and other pulp wood plantation, as well as privately owned, oil palm and cocoa plantations and other forest products that are essential for industrial development.

With abundance of granite rocks and other solid minerals like limestone kaolin and others yet to be exploited. Betem offers vast potentials for investment in agro-based industries, tourism, education and research into secondary uses of these products.