For those who first read the series of interviews we have received during our project, let’s note that in this project you will find information about diaspora organizations operating in different parts of the world, as well as interviews with leaders from those organizations.
The fourth guest of our project is a person who has a special place in the Azerbaijani diaspora organizations. He is an active person engaged in promoting Azerbaijan in Nigeria. We present you an interview with Billura Bernard, Chairman of the Nigeria-based “Friends of Azerbaijan” organization:
– Dear Billura Bernard, please introduce yourself to our readers.
– Good day! My name is Billura, I was born in Lahic and live in Nigeria since 5 years with my husband and 3 young kids.
– How did you decide to create a organization in Nigeria which is promoting Azerbaijan?
– I’m married to a French man. We met in Baku and after marriage moved to France. My husband is an oil and gas engineer,. Life is full of surprises. I couldn’t imagine that one day I would be living in Africa. I have always been proud of my country, its culture, cuisine etc. So I decided to promote my country, to present a stand of Azerbaijan in various cultural and charity events. Here in Nigeria, locals and Expatriates do not know much about Azerbaijan. I could see how our culture, cuisine are interesting for others. So I decided first to open my own company called “Cuisine Chez Billura” to promote our cuisine & organise cooking classes. Later on, I created Friends of Azerbaijan Organisation in March 2018.
– Please tell us about events which is done by the organization that you are leading.
– Friends of Azerbaijan is a non for profit organization that I created and registered in Lagos. Its primary goal is to promote our country and its culture. A significant part of our activities is to represent Azerbaijan in 3rd party events organized in Lagos. This includes in particular putting up a stand at Nigeria’s biggest charity event « Small World ».
Another huge event is the “Banana Cultural Festival” , for which we also have a stand of Azerbaijan. As you know Lagos has 25 million inhabitants and the whole of Nigeria close to 200 million. That’s a lot of potential audience both at at the events and through social media broadcasting.
Along with my trustees and my 60 team members, we have also organized
three projects so far despite the young age of our organization!. Our maiden event was called “Flavours of Azerbaijan” – a culinary tour in Azerbaijan with a journalist & producer Gina Ehikodi, that wee filmed in Baku, Sheki, Lahic during 10 days. This gave material for her to feature in her cooking show in 13 episodes broadcast over 10 different channels in Nigeria. I have also been invited severally to cook live at her TV program where I could figure out that Azerbaijan cuisine was actually attractive for Nigerians.
Friends of Azerbaijan has also cooperated with another Nigerian TV program called “Lives of Expatriates in Diaspora” produced by Jounalist Jennifer Gentet. I have been invited as an active expat in her program to talk about my country, culture etc. We then organized a visit to Azerbaijan where Jennifer could show inside out lives of Nigerians in Azerbaijan.
Lastly and to celebrate the 100 years of Azerbaijan Democracy, Friends of Azerbaijan has organized an unprecedented event on 9 th June in Muson Music Center of Lagos named « Silk Road », a classical music concert followed by a dinner & an exhibition. To this event participated
the Azerbaijani talented pianist Saida ZULFUGAROVA & the Honorable artist Sahib PASHAZADE (Tar musician), playing together with Nigerian tenor Joseph OPARAMANUIKE , Swiss soprano Teuta NICOLET- DIT- FELIX. It was an amazing success and all were invited to reiterate their performance at another event in Lagos.
– How about Azerbaijanis in Nigeria? Are there a lot of Azerbaijanis there? What are they doing in
– When i arrived here, my kids and I were perhaps the only ones. Then over my years here, I met very few other Azerbaijan fellows, including a man who already left the country and two other ladies married to Nigerians. I did a bit investigation and today i believe we are at least 11. In the regretful absence of a consulate or an Embassy of Azerbaijan in Nigeria, it is difficult to figure out how many Azerbaijanis are living here.
– What is main problems or troubles of Azerbaijani population in Nigeria?
– From my perspective, we are definitely missing an embassy or a consulate of Azerbaijan in Nigeria. Considering the economic growth potential of Nigeria and its position as a leading Oil & Gas producer for worldwide market, our country would certainly be very wise to develop and strengthen closer relationships with Nigeria. It is actually a recurrent issue all over Africa, where Azerbaijan has not developed a network of representations. Africa is a land of opportunities which should not be missed from our foreign politics.
– Do Nigerians knows about Azerbaijan’s history, culture and tourism potential?
– We have to realize that most Nigerians have never even heard the name of our country. Our organisation is working actively at promoting Azerbaijan throughout the media scene. However, our organization has of course limited resources and despite all its efforts cannot efficiently promote Azerbaijan in a country the size of Nigeria. Our state and its organizations should deploy wider efforts in Africa to promote Azerbaijan a and I am personally ready to help at this.
– What about your future plans as an Organization?
– We have a lot to do. Organisation needs support from our diaspora committee, organizations, investors to do more for promotion of Azerbaijan!
One of our big project is coming soon. Two international food lovers and chefs explore the culinary stories and hospitality industry of the Silk Road , including the overlapping spice trade, that takes us from Azerbaijan to as far as East Africa and beyond. The spice trade of old has shaped the worlds international cuisines of today and tomorrow.
It is an ambitious and original project spearheaded by Freda Muyambo and co presented by Billura Bernard, designed to promote and celebrate international cultures through food. Together these two chefs and cultural exchange enthusiasts will bring together a new programme that explores the flavours of the Silk Road in a new way.
– And we will be more than happy to hear your wishes to Azerbaijani diaspora organizations.
– I wish we all work together, as one Diaspora in all over the world regardless of where we are located. We are one, we are Azerbaijan!
In our turn, as DiasporNews.Az, we wish you success in your activities!
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