The Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation recently organised a two-day training programme for some selected students on African tradition that took place in Edo South. Precious Ugwuzor reports that the training was targeted at not just arresting cultural drift, but also educating and inculcating African culture and traditions into the youth
To tackle burgeoning moral decadence among the youths and equip them intellectually, the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) recently held a workshop/training on African tradition for some selected secondary school students numbering about 200.
Held Bishop Kelly Pastorial Centre, Benin City, Edo State, CBAAC said its overarching objective was to arrest cultural drift, educate, inculcate and curtail moral decadence among the youths and equip them intellectually.
Essentially, the training gave room to examine the concept of African tradition in the 2st century; interrogate the concept of African tradition as an index of development; inculcate in the youth the African traditional heritage; and provide a platform where the youths could express themselves and enrich their intellect on African tradition.
On the first day, the programme, which was conducted by Prof Stella Omonigho of the Department of Foreign Languages, University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State, was chaired by Hon Efosa Idugbue.
In his opening remark, the chairman of the occasion Hon Efosa Idugbue thanked the Director General of CBAAC, Hon Oluwabunmi Amao for facilitating and organising the workshop/training programme in Edo South.
He expressed delight on the choice of the theme for the workshop/training which is on African Tradition, and stated that tradition has to do with a set of believes relating to the past which can be expressed through different art forms – music, dance, sculpture, beads, etc.
“To raise responsible citizens, a workshop / training programme of the nature of the one we are having today is very important to inculcate a sense of history and our rich cultural heritage on the students,” he added.
He further expressed satisfaction on the calibre of resource persons invited as facilitators for the workshop/training and said that the event would include capacity enhancement programme that would enrich participants and make them better persons.
On his part, the representative of the Director – General of CBAAC, Mr Adesegun Dosumu (Deputy Director, Research and Publications), while delivering his address stated that the centre organised this programme for various reasons and one of which was the need to empower the youths who are no longer leaders of tomorrow but of today.
He noted that with the inexhaustible resources of culture, when you empower people with knowledge, they will live sustainably for life. “Hence, the students have to be empowered with our cultural nuances such that they will understand culturally acceptable practices within our environment; as society without culture is one filled with anarchy.
“So it is important we pass our culture and tradition to the younger ones, and particularly African cultures are very rich in encouraging young people to be responsible”.
He also said the event would enable participants to know the concepts of African culture and the elements of culture that brings development, and to inculcate the value of leadership in our young people.
Mr Dosumu further said the event provided a platform for young people to express themselves and share ideas.
Speaking on Values System of African Tradition and Culture in the 21st Century, Prof Stella Omonigho of the University of Benin started the lecture by first expressing gratitude to the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) for the opportunity to conduct the workshop/training for students on values of African tradition.
She said history makes us to know where we are coming from as a people such that we would be able to discern where we are heading to, and how to incorporate elements of the past in our today.
She added that when we talk about African tradition, people begin to think of fetishism, noting that African culture and tradition are values and norms that define who we are as a people and if people are well cultured, most of the negative things happening in our societies today would not have happened.
She said etymologically, the word tradition is derived from a Greek word tradicio – which means handing over from one generation to the other.
Thus, she stressed the need to embrace and imbibe our rich cultural heritage and expressed concern over the continued erosion of African culture and value system, and pointed out that western culture makes us to see our culture as barbaric and fetish.
“Whereas African tradition is our believe system; our culture, religion, norms, values, etc., that was passed down to us by our forebears. That because of westernization most youths have forgotten what are cultures are in helping us to build ourselves and become better persons of honesty and integrity in the society”.
As a way of driving down her point and making it clear to the students, Prof Stella explained that in time past, that it was difficult for someone to steal because it was a taboo to do so. “When someone steals for instance, and he or she is caught, that the person will be taken round the market and village square with the stolen object in his or her head. The fear and shame that comes with it keeps people away from stealing but these practices have changed.
“That the security situation then was also encouraging and cannot be compared to what is obtainable in our world today”.
This fallout, according to Prof Stella Omonigho, is as a result of the continued bastardisation of African culture and tradition. She further explained that language which is an element of culture is also affected by westernisation.
“Language is power; and Africa is rich in language. And African languages are rich in proverbs and they are not barbaric,” thus she encouraged participants to learn and teach their individual languages and shun some of the contemporary music that are not only meaningless but vulgar, adding that such songs do not add value to the youths but affect their morals.
Finally, she taught participants on how to be self employed by marketing cultural products like beads, tie and dye, basket weaving, etc. that these cultural products attract buyers across the globe. Participants only need to market them on social media through their phones.
The event for the first day ended with a question and answer session while the second day lecture was delivered and coordinated by Dr Daniel O. Ekhareafo of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Benin. His lecture on Contemporary Culture of African Tradition in the 21st Century was well received by the students.
The lecturer utilised the classroom technique of driving down his message and the students were quite enthused by his delivery. He started the talk by conceptual clarification of culture, tradition and the varied elements of culture that promote and inhibits development.
Accordingly, he stated that the greatest indices of development is human development; that culture helps to shape humans and make them responsible people. That when people are responsible, the effect is that such good nature impacts positively in the society.
He explained that vices such as corruption, kidnapping, criminality, dishonesty, immorality are all antithesis to responsible cultural behaviours and these inhibits growth and progress. And, further pointed out that values like respect for elders and constituted authorities, care of the needy in our society, sanctity of marriage and of life, hospitality are some of the key elements of African value system.
He expressed regret that these cherished values are gradually being eroded by forces that tries to truncate the foundation and basis of our cultural life. He urged participants especially the students to ensure that we bring back our lost values and uphold our culture.
“Through folktales, watching and participating in cultural oriented programmes, taking pride in our rich culture, etc., we can regain our lost value system. Folktales for instance is an education tool that could be deployed to re-orientate and inspire the youth to take pride in themselves and their culture”.
He warned against having interest in popular culture which influences our culture. That popular cultures is often times impacts on the local culture; that it leads to a form of hybrid culture that is often misleading. That young people are ambassadors of culture and they must live a life worthy of emulation.
On Festivals – Dr Ekhareafo explained that festivals are ways of celebrating our traditional heritage, culture and creativity, adding that festivals like the Igueh Festival in Benin also attracts tourists and this provides opportunity for the local to display and sell their cultural products.
This rise in tourism business has led to the commodification of culture; thereby enabling artisans to be gainfully employed, as they can generate income from participating at the festival.
Whilecertificates of participation were issued to participants, the most important aspect was the knowledge gained by the students as they pledged to adhere to the various elements of culture and tradition, especially aspects on how culture can be deployed to drive development.
History makes us to know where we are coming from as a people such that we would be able to discern where we are heading to, and how to incorporate elements of the past in our today…when we talk about African tradition, people begin to think of fetishism, but African culture and tradition are values and norms that define who we are as a people