A young boy, Sam Murray, while defining culture once said that “culture is one’s historical, spiritual, and ethnic backgrounds in which encompasses language and traditions. Culture is heritage and is commonly associated with race and religious ideologies. Personally, I feel that culture is merely a word that only exists to label and divide people by their differences. How is my culture form yours? Because I speak a different dialect and eat food in which you are not accustomed, are we so different that we must labels ourselves in such a way that invokes war? Culture is a fallacy held by individuals who wish to upset the order of equality, creating superiority and making bold the differences in our global race. We are all kith and kin and therefore are from the same origins, our culture is unanimous, well at least this is my belief.”
What language do you speak? What type of food do you have for breakfast? How do the women in your country dress? Answering some of these questions above is very easy. But coming from a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria, I always find myself thinking critically to ensure whatever I say clearly explain that my response is either unique to me as an individual, the environment I grew up or my State.
The other day, some of my colleagues wanted to know how we dance in Nigeria. What a huge responsibility it was to define the Nigerian dance culture. Luckily for me, we found a variety of videos of different traditional dance in Nigeria on the website, Youtube. We spent time analyzing how each tribe’s dance style was different yet similar to the other. “In Nigeria, there are over 250 languages” I said, trying to drive home the point that they should not define the Nigerian culture by only watching the cultural dance video of Yoruba,Igbo, Hausa and of course Edo people.
But why do we really define ourselves by culture, especially when the concept, “culture” is so diverse and ever evolving?
It is a popular notion that Nollywood legend, Tunde Kelani has his films are rooted in the Yoruba culture. I asked him once what culture means to him, he said, “Your total being is your culture. The Yoruba culture is essentially a moralistic one. You can apply this to any other culture but what we know in our culture was the importance of a good name and a good character, “Omo Oluwa bi”, you have to bring honor to the family…why we are having so many problems today is because there is a cultural vacuum. People are cut off from their culture, therefore resulting to short of moral.”
To elucidate further on the discourse, here is how our conversation went:
What is leading us to such cultural extinction?
Tunde Kelani: An open society, influence from other cultures. When I was growing up, there was only one TV station; this TV was the first in Africa. Today, Nigeria has over 100 TV stations, only God knows how many radio stations, and then we have Satellite TV, mobile phones, Youtube, etc. All these have devastating effect on our indigenous culture because some other cultures are so rich that they propagate their culture and seek to dominate other cultures. Unfortunately, in our society, we tend not to like our own, we seem to prefer those other culture to our own. This is a serious error because those other cultures that have preserved their own culture, like Asian countries, have developed while those accepting other cultures have remain undeveloped.
Any hope for redeeming our culture?
Tunde Kelani:That depends on the political will of our leaders… it depend on a conscious effort to start a process of re-orientation… On a personal level, I think families are compounding the problem…we are settling for self-colonization with the way the present generation of Yoruba people, especially women, are discouraging their children from speaking the Yoruba language. They are making them 2nd class citizens of other cultures…they are doing more harm than good. Without your culture, then you are nobody. That is why Yoruba define the culture of nation with the language. When Yoruba talk of a nation, they say “Orile ede”. This means a place with its own language. If you remove the “ede”, it becomes “Orile” which means nowhere. So without your language, you have no root, and without your root, you are nobody. Some people think it is civilized or fashionable by not allowing their children speak their language but this is the greatest level of ignorance, it is shameful, absolutely repulsive.
Now how do we start this process of reorientation to preserve culture which was earlier defined by young Sam Harvey as “a fallacy held by individuals who wish to upset the order of equality, creating superiority and making bold the differences in our global race.”?