Planting inspiration in the hearts of Nigerians to revive their native languages was not my goal when I sat at the registration table as a wide eyed, naiive freshman (fresher) with the first semester Yoruba language class schedule in front of me. Honestly, taking Yoruba for six college semesters with one summer of 5+ hours of class per day, all with the same group of 6 students was challenging. It was dulling at moments, wonderful at others. I persevered because my heart was in it. Nothing felt better than conveying a complex thought, like the dangers of nuclear weapon proliferation, in Yoruba. I am an adventurer, curious by nature and not afraid to take risks. Taking Yoruba was a risk but I knew that if I committed to it, I would see it through to the end. I consider currently living in Nigeria for 10 months the middle.
A film I just had the chance of viewing is bringing all of these thoughts to life. It was a fluke I actually made time to see it. A random guy at the Faculty of Arts invited me to the showing, saying he would really appreciate my input. “I will try to be there,” I said half-heartedly. I felt his pleas sincere so around 11:15 a.m. I moseyed through the wet, late morning heat to the Post-Graduate room in the Communications Language Arts department. Le Maletendu Colonial directed by Jean-Marie Terio is a documentary about mainly the German colonization of Namibia through the lens of Christian evangelism. It highlights the 1904 German genocide of the Herero people (something I had never even heard of before this film.) It talks about africa as a whole and how the colonial rulers destroyed the foundations of African culture in place of more “civilized” European methods. It left the impression that Africans need to do something to rediscover and develop their African-ness. I don’t think it took an Oyinbo from America speaking Yoruba to plant the idea in people’s heads that promoting Nigerians’ own roots and maintaining culture is important, but I am definitely a scare tactic.
Professors and teachers talk a lot about how Nigerian youths are not paying enough attention to their own cultures. Even your blog comments point to Nigerians’ widespread disregard towards speaking mother tongues. People say something needs to change, but what exactly and how? Is a blend of cultures bad? Descend the plane at Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos and you will immediately see that Nigeria is a hybrid society, a combination (amulumola) of Euro-American with African. This is not a bad thing. After all, we do live in a completely connected, globalized world. People wear jeans, suits and ties in every country on this earth. This is all well and good as long as Nigerians don’t forget about their own cultures.
I am worried though. Iro and buba, hair weaving and amala are dissolving and being replaced by jeggings, wigs and french fries. Students in UI only wear “native” clothing, the beautiful, bright outfits made out of ankara fabrics, on Fridays.
If a Nigerian revival is necessary, what does it need to look like? What is lost that has to be found?
In the discussion after the film, a Nigerian girl said, “I agree with the fact that we need to do something to support our own cultures, but what should I do? I need specifics.” I don’t think the key to awakening Nigerian cultures lies in ephemeral, materialistic things, politics, religion or economics. You cannot just denounce Christianity, start worshiping all the Yoruba deities and call it a day, o pari! I think the change needs to be individual, personal and deep. It should be a deep conviction of the heart to be proud, passionate and persuasive about Africa’s goodness. In other words, I think Nigerians need to remind themselves about the Yoruba concept of “Omoluabi”. An omoluabi is a child of good breeding, peaceful disposition, good behavior, educated in traditions and an overall good person. An omoluabi definitely knows his native language and can converse well. He has utmost respect for elders–like his culture dictates–is not selfish, knows stories about the Ijapa (turtle) and helps out with housework. It is a compliment for any child to receive this title, a complex, deep definition of a good African child. It will make the parents especially proud, a testament to their parenting. Respecting and striving for Omoluabi is a honorable goal and I think it can be a specific thing Nigerian youth look to when they think about reviving their culture. It is okay for an omoluabi to wear jeans and Ed-Hardy t-shirts, as long as the Nigerian personality is still there under the Euro-American veneer…
I have unintentionally propelled myself into the international Nigerian stage as a a catalyst of a Nigerian culture renaissance. I am happy to be here and hope I can help make real changes, whatever those changes might be.
What do you all think about the concept of Nigerians losing their cultures? Do you think it’s true? if it is, is it a problem? What can people do to retake their cultural roots?