Consolidating Africa’s Heritage and Identity through CBAAC

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Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the recently held international virtual conference by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation provided an avenue to dialogue extensively on how to consolidate Africa’s heritage and identity in the 21st Century

When the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) was established, it was on the premise that it would promote African heritage and culture. Strategically, as a foremost cultural agency, CBAAC has a key mandate and plays a crucial role in making Nigeria the arrowhead in the presentation, preservation, promotion and propagation of African cultural heritage.

According to the Director, Overseeing the Office of the Director General, Mrs. Osaro Osayande,

to achieve this, CBAAC preserves, utilises and augments materials, which represent the invaluable contributions made by intellectuals, writers and artists who were the moving spirit behind the execution of FESTAC ’77.

Meanwhile, to achieve several of its set goals, she said the centre holds conferences, seminars, workshops, public lectures, exhibitions and symposia periodically, adding that as a research centre, CBAAC is open to academic and research collaborations with the University of Benin and other allied institutions. In view of this, we have some requests which could foster a stronger tie between these two institutions.

“We also engage in other activities which project the overall image of Black and African Peoples and enable their cultures to be appreciated globally. Through all these programmes, CBAAC has continued to contribute to the pool of universal knowledge on Black and African Peoples”, she added.

Partnership with UNIBEN

This year, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Prof. Lilian Salami gave approval for the Faculty of Arts to collaborate with CBAAC and host the CBAAC 2020 International Conference on ‘Sharing Black and African Creative Energy: Consolidating Africa’s Heritage and Identity in the 21st Century’.

According to the acting Director of CBAAC, the collaboration is proof that CBAAC is building a strong synergy with prominent academic Institutions in Nigeria, adding that the feat necessitated the request for collaboration as an exposé into the salient aspects of our African heritage that can ease our process of development in all ramifications.

On the choice of Benin as the venue for this year’s conference, she said it was quite compelling in view of its richness in the tradition, arts, heritage and cultural aesthetics.

Push for Africa’s Heritage

In her welcome address, Osayande, while acknowledging the honour and privilege to host the CBAAC 2020 International Conference, also commended the efforts of the University of Benin, especially the Faculty of Arts in collaborating with them.

On the conference, she said it was borne out of the need to dialogue extensively on how to re-examine our Black and Creative energy to be positively channeled and re-positioned to consolidate Africa’s Heritage and Identity in the 21st Century.

“The world is evolving at a very fast pace and as a continent, it is consequential that we join the bandwagon in order not to be left behind in the new tech age where globalisation is taking over.

“By properly harnessing our creative energy which are imbedded in our literature, arts and crafts, music, textiles, cuisines and movies etc. to conform with the new digital age and technological advancements, it would afford us the opportunity to tell the African story in the sublime African way.

“On another note, this conference is expected to be an exposé into those aspects of our African heritage that can ease our process of development in all ramifications. This is important because we intend to explore the inherent capabilities in the use of our African heritage for socio-growth and development, while leveraging the creative energy of the African people viz a viz the continuous change in the new world order.”

Osayande further charged all attendees that the efforts made during the conference must not end at the expiration of this event, but “we must continually see to how the invaluable contributions to knowledge from this conference are practicalised to improve our economic growth as a continent”.

In his address, Chairman CBAAC Governing Board, Abom Tony Ibana Esu said he was particularly proud of CBAAC’s achievements in presenting, preserving and propagating African Culture in its entirety, adding that each year, the conference keeps improving with the caliber of erudite scholars they invite and the contemporary issues explored.

He continued, “the 21st Century has been described as the century of rapid economic growth and development for Africa. With indices from world view in the last few years, we have every reason to be optimistic that African renaissance is definitely around the corner.

“If indeed we aspire to achieve most of the laid out goals of the Agenda 2063, it is very important for us to have a crucial and critical exploration into the components of our cultural heritage and also harmonize our creative energy to conform to the dictates of the 21st Century.

“There’s a huge need for us to invest more in education (formal and informal), youth engagement in arts, crafts and designs, mechanized agriculture with improved data collation, accessible electricity, and developing infrastructure to foster trade and investment.

“Nigeria and indeed the whole continent of Africa possess the innate capability to achieve her full potential in development, culture and peace and to establish flourishing, inclusive and prosperous societies. This is possible if only the untapped resources enrooted in our cultural heritage are properly employed for sustainable growth and development.

“Our monuments and heritages are enough sources of social and economic transformation for the continent. It is my hope that this conference would come out with far reaching roadmap for the development of Africa’s creative sectors.”

In his keynote address, Executive Director, Observatory for Cultural Policies in Africa (OCPA), Maputo, Mozambique, Professor Lupwishi Mbuyamba, speaking on ‘The Implementation of Africa’s Creative and Cultural Industry: A Significant Contribution to Development Today’ said “the topic of Creative Economy was the title of an expert’s meeting organised by the UNCTAD in Geneva in January 2008, on the eve of its first general statutory conference held, for the first time, in Africa, in Accra, Ghana, six months later.

“The experts were invited to reflect on the main guidelines of the forthcoming gathering and harmonise understandings in statements and discussions on the topic, Creative Economy, traditional values and regional integration.

From the regional side, in the preparation of the African participation in this world conference, under the African Union guidance, a working team was requested to elaborate a conceptual note on the topic of a Creative Africa.

“The combination of an ideological option to sustain the purity and rigor of methods in an established scientific discipline and the evidence of the necessary particular field implications can impose, in human sciences, a revision of paradigms!

In essence, he said the memorable history of Africa, its environment marked by human resources material possessions and treasures offer opportunities for a spectacular development if Africans can recall their creativity demonstrated all along their itinerary.

He said, “A development guaranteed of sustainability because of being generated and supported by the human being and human aspirations. If Africans today are questioning the paradigms for happiness, tell them to refer to the history of their family, to interrogate them what, why and how they did and ask them to look at their own capacity to reduplicate and put in motion the potential logged in their creativity.

“The creativity strategy well explored will help them to rediscover, organise, produce and benefit and help others to benefit from the economic growth. They will then enjoy happiness.

In the context of anxiety and of the Sanitation Diplomacy as the world faces a terrifying pandemic situation, as the people of the world is horrified by public demonstrations of a growing racism in the Super Powers States, everyone is watching the neighbor, wondering if probably he can show the way out.

“Yes Africa can. The African potential miracle will emanate from its culture through its creativity. The only condition for it is to change the mentality and adopt a new way of thinking and acting.”

Speaking on “The African Identity in the Global Spaces: Glocalisation, Ascendency, and Slur’

Sati U. Fwatshak of the Department of History and International Studies, University of Jos said the African identity in the global spaces of the twenty-first century has so far been dominated by negative (mis)representation in the extant literature and in the media.

“From intellectual discourses to media (mis)representation of events on the continent; from police brutalities in non-African jurisdictions to racism outside and within the continent; the African image is not encouraging. This paper argues that the African identity in the global spaces is not just a negative one, it is also positive; as it manifests an opportunity and a pitfall.

“To wit, globalisation and Africa have mutually impacted one another, not at levels of equality, though. In furtherance of this argument, the paper identifies and discusses three attributes of the African identity in the continent’s encounter with globalisation within a domineering Nigerian sampler.

“The identity attributes discussed are glocalization, cultural ascendency, and slur. The first highlights how Africans, particularly Nigerians relate with or use non-African products. In this context, based on the concept of glocalisation, the paper discusses how Nigerians mix or combine foreign and local elements to create products and how they name foreign products.

“By acts of glocalisation, Nigerians impose their local cultural, political, and economic identities and contexts on foreign products and languages. Second, the paper highlights the penetration of African products into the global spaces, which promotes Africa’s identity in non-African cultural spaces. African products, such as Nollywood films, art, clothing, and food items, and African Christianity, among others, are used to illustrate this point.

“The third attribute is the slur associated with being African in non-African climes and also within Africa in the peoples’ encounter with policing and racism. In this context, Africans are rightly or wrongly associated with criminality and inferiority.”

Speaking on the topic ‘Africa’s Cultural and Creative Industries and the Transition to Digital Economy’, Mr. Victor S. Dugga of the

Department of Theatre and Media Arts, Federal University of Lafia, said the creative energy emanating from Africa is enormous.

“Historically known to be expressive, expansive, colourful and lively, Africa is widely regarded as a cradle of artistic creativity. From performing arts to plastic arts, the multifarious cultural expressions on the continent are diverse, multifaceted and even considered exotic.

“However, the continent is also home to many of the poorest countries in the world. With the global economy rapidly going digital, the enlarging markets for the arts provide a welcome opportunity to use the creative energies to change the fortunes of many people around the continent. To effectively take advantage of the digital economy, Africa has to overcome challenges that are philosophical, structural and infrastructural.

“This paper surveys the economic environment of the cultural and creative industries in Africa in the light of changes in information, computing and communications and makes suggestions like creating intermediary networks to reposition the arts for the mutual benefit of artists and national economies.”

In essence, he said the transition to a digital economy has shifted the ground in many aspects of human society. “The culture and creative industries cannot remain impervious to it. The nature of the engagement has been argued in this paper, has to be pro-active rather than forced upon it.

“The potential of this is that ‘Africa’s creative economy can trigger a value chain between artists, entrepreneurs, distributors and support services across multiple sectors to provide modern jobs’ (Lopes, 2015).

“For this to happen, there is a compelling case to reinvent institutional frameworks to ensure policy coherence whilst reinventing the content, structure and operations of the cultural and creative industries. The cultural sector in Africa would contribute to the economic and social development of the continent, and in a sustainable manner, if there is more collaboration across sectors of the economy.

“To be economically beneficial, greater effort needs to be devoted to protecting intellectual property rights of people in the creative industries. ‘Failing to properly reward creators is holding back growth. Legal frameworks that protect the rights of creators and secure fair remuneration for them is key…culture often transcends borders.

”Networking and collaboration are imperative for cross-fertilisation of ideas, leveraging new technologies and peer learning in the cultural and creative industries as it is for any economic sector. The role of higher education in bringing fresh ideas and integrating older arts through curriculum review has been stressed”, he added.