By Margot Garnier
This past June, 16-year-old Susan Nwanna won the inaugural Ada Ndi Igbo Ireland pageant, created to represent the culture and the values of the Igbo people in south-eastern Nigeria.
Next summer, the ‘daughter of the Igbo’ will leave her crown to another young woman. But for the moment, she is enjoying every moment of her reign.
“I decided to participate in this pageant to know more about my culture,” she tells Metro Éireann on what led to her coronation. “I had to practice the traditional dances and my mother helped me to improve my Igbo language level.”
Dressing in a traditional outfit and carrying an odu inwyinya – a horse tail – were also prerequisites for the pageant, but how she conducts herself off the stage is just as important.
“I have to be a role model for all the young people,” she says of what’s expected of her in the role. “Before the pageant, I was not so confident. Participating to it really helped me.
“I am attending events organised among the African community and I am also an ambassador raising mental health awareness among youths.”
Though Nwanna is clearly beautiful, Ada Ndi Igbo Ireland judge Penelope Aniuzu does not hesitate to point out that is not a beauty pageant.
“All women between 16 to 21 years of age can participate in the pageant. Being tall and skinny doesn’t matter because their physical appearance is not what the jury is going to judge,” she says.
“They only have to be from Igbo descendants, have some knowledge about the Igbo culture as well as speaking enough well the language of the Igbo people.
“Moreover, they have to show humility, respect, be well-mannered and know how to carry themselves.”
Organised by the four-person team at Black and Beautiful Events, this year’s debut pageant was intended to help preserve Igbo culture in Ireland, says Aniuzu.
“It is very easy for young people living and being raised in another country to forget about their culture. It is always very difficult to organise an event like this one and we are looking for more support.”
Aniuzu has already begun to organise next year’s pageant, including workshops for prospective particpiants.
“The prizes for the winners will be better and bigger and there will be lot of surprises,” she promises.
And Susan Nwanna will also be there to support the next winner.
“When I was crowned I was overwhelmed. I have never been so happy. At the same time, I knew that I had huge responsibilities to face now. But this is an absolutely amazing experience.”
The pageant is the brainchild of Stephanie Obijiaku, who has lived in Ireland for 13 years. Speaking to Metro Éireann, Obijiaku – from the South-South region of Nigeria and married to an Igboman – said: “The pageant was set up to promote and preserve the cultural heritage of the Igbo-speaking tribe in Ireland.”
She added that it is also a medium to promote “mental health in young adults within our ethnic minority community.”