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Nigerian Arts, Expression Of Diverse Culture, Tradition And Religion

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Arts, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, means “something that is created with imagination and skill that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings”. It could also mean methods and skills used for painting, sculpting, drawing etc.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines arts as “The use of imagination to express idea or feelings particularly in drawing or sculpture”.
While Njoku Moses of Affinity Art Gallery notes that the story of Art could be simply put as the story of civilisation and evolution of man. Most of the materials and clues employed by ethnographers and anthropologists in constructing the story of the early man are largely based on the artistic objects and instruments left behind by the early man.
In the pre-colonial era almost all over the 250 ethnic groups and languages that make up the entity named Nigeria by the British colonial masters, practised one form of art or the other. Like in most African countries including Nigeria, arts is inseparable from their religion. Arts is seen as the agency through which their religion is given expression.
Prior to the coming of the colonial masters, Nigeria was a melting pot of artistic explorations, Nigerians used their art to interpret their world as they see it as well as concretise saw their cosmological views on life and esoteric ideas. They employed art in the various cultural celebrations and ceremonies because of the pantheist nature of the traditional religion.
The early Nigerian society, produced a large collection of ancestral images and gods, spirit entities, natural elements and, forces such as wind, fire and water and land were given recognition as possessing spiritual authority and required reverence. They therefore made art object to represent the essence and attributes of these supposed forces. This they did with the hope of subduing or at least appeasing them in some cases, harness this power and by so doing be able to bring them under some sort of control or form some kind of pact with them.
A close study of the traditional art in Nigeria shows that most of the artifacts and cultural pieces produced by the different cultural group are largely grouped within the boundaries of these mediums, stones, Terracotta, woods, Bronze, paintings and crafts.
These include: Esie And Ikom Stone Sculpture.
Though Esie  is a predominantly Yoruba community, the origin and the identity of the makers of the stone sculptures have remained in obscurity, crystallising into different mythological stories by the community.
It has however been established that the Esie stone sculpture is a composition of about a thousand soup stone sculptures depicting both human and zoomorphic features. The human figures represent people engaged in various human daily activities. The stone sculptures represent a cosmopolitan collection of different cultures with features such as sophisticated hair styles dresses, tribal marks, necklaces and bracelets with multiple cultural traits that connect them with different ethic groups surrounding the area. The Esie stone works are also recognised as the largest collection of stone carving in Africa. The Ikom monoliths of Cross River State represent the second yet known largest collection of a handful stone sculptures the stone works are found in an area inhabited by the Ekoi people along the bank of Cross River. The Ikom figures are generally those of humans and are highly geometricalised measuring between 2 to 6ft. The appearance of beards in all figures clearly shows that most of them are males, scientific researches on this works dates them to around 200 AD
Terracotta Culture
In Nigeria, almost every cultural group possesses one form of terracotta art or the other. the Nok culture is dated to have flourished between the years 2000BC and 300AD making it the oldest form of traditional art not just in Nigeria, but West Africa. The following are the stylistic characters of Nok Art, complicated coiffure high geometricism with cylindrical heads, perforated eyes, nose, mouth and ears, semi circular and triangular eyes and lids etc.
Aside from the Nok culture, Ife Terracotta works are another notable ancient traditional art, emanating from south western Nigeria, dating as far back as 12-15 centuries AD. Ife Art is located at the heart of Yoruba ancestry
Wood Carvings
Scholars have also established that Nigeria possesses the largest collection of sculptural works in sub Saharan Africa; most of the artwork are on wood and are applied to different uses. This was possible due to the diversity in cultural abundance and most importantly as a result of the surplus abundance of timber made possible by the country’s location within the tropical rain forest region of Africa. Therefore almost all cultural groups in Nigeria possess one form of wood carving tradition with notable styles and characteristics to them
Ancestral Figures
Most ethnic groups in Nigeria have a tradition of carving ancestral figures. In Yoruba land, they have the Ibeji figures, these figures are done to celebrate the birth or death of twins in Yoruba tradition. It is backed by the people’s belief that twins are powerful spirits who are capable of bringing wealth to their families or misfortune to those who do not honour them.
In the Igbos of the South Eastern Nigeria, one of the most popular and ancestral figures come in the form of Ikenga wood carving. Ikenga is usually used to denote the power of a man’s right hand and his accomplishments, it is represented usually by a figure holding different things such as horns and swords. This practice of Ikenga carving has penetrated other cultures around the Igbo’s such as Edo who call it Ikengaobo and the Igala who call it Okega.
Doors And Wooden Posts
The Yorubas have a rich tradition of carved wooden posts and carved chip doors. This style of carving was so highly developed that guild of carvers and artists were developed around it. It was through this important system of traditional art society education that gave birth to 20th century artists like the famous Olowo of Ise, who many scholars have acclaimed as the most important Yoruba artists of the 20th century because of his virtuosity and dexterity in the niche of carved wooden doors and house posts.
Similarly, the Igbos also have a developed system of wood carving of doors and house posts. In the past, the houses of highly placed individuals and the affluent were embellished with these works. In fact, it was used to identify the extent of wealth and  social importance of individuals. The Awka guild of carvers was found in Anambra State.
Igbo Ukwu, Ife And Benin Bronze Tradition
The Igbo Ukwu bronze tradition is unarguably one of the most celebrated contributions of the Igbo race to African artistic and technological heritage. The origins and the technology and knowledge as displayed by the complicated and intrinsic design employed by Igbo Ukwu bronze finding still baffle scholars till date. The Igbo Ukwu art heritage is reputed to be the oldest bronze sculpture tradition in sub-Saharan Africa, dated to about 9th century AD.
The ancient city of Ife  is widely acclaimed by the Yoruba as the birthplace or the ancestral home of the Yoruba people. Many of the Ife ancient Ife artifacts today have been traced to the dynasty of the Ife King, Oba Obalufo 11, who is highly regarded as patron of the arts. One notable characteristics of the Ife art is the emphasises on the size of the head as being the centre of knowledge, symbol of Ego and destiny etc.
The Ife artists therefore do not observe the rules of proportion in producing their figures but rather usually are made a little larger than the rest of the body. Another notable characteristic of Ife art is in the use of small holes to indicate beards and hairline of masks and faces and the presence of prominent scarification lines running vertically across the whole face.
The Ife’s were also adept in their mastery of copper and its alloys and they produced a handful of works using the material. They also produced Terracotta works. They also produce art works that please the Oba. Great efforts were put into their production to achieve striking naturalism which is one of the most notable attributes of the Ife copper heads which have their facial features well articulated to true representation of the individuals depicted.
Of all the bronze casting traditions found in Nigeria, Benin ranks as the most famous for the great attention to details, mastery of craftsmanship and dexterity with which they were executed. The inventiveness of Benin civilisation and art were first brought to western public view through the infamous punitive British invasion of the kingdom in 1897 which saw a great number of Benin artifacts carried away by the British soldiers as booties.
The ancient Benin like their Yoruba counterpart placed great importance on the head as a chief part of the body. They therefore believe that the head is imbued with spiritual energy (Ehi) deposited by the creator, Osanobua and his eldest son, Olokun, this is probably the reason why the Benins have a massive repertoire of bronze heads of their Obas during their royal regalia.
Contemporary Nigerian Art
Following the dawn of independence in Nigeria, artistic foraging has continued to flourish, leading to the flowering of a multiplicity of the contemporary styles in art production. Though the acquisition of formal western education, Nigerian art scene has become individualised, detribalised and universal with little common traditional traits, still noticeable in the corpus of works addressed today as contemporary Nigerian Arts Globalisation influences and current sociocultural and political issues have contributed to a proliferation of styles and techniques.

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NHRC Seeks Prioritisation Of Children’s Rights In National, State Budgets

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The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, has called for the prioritisation of child rights issues in both the national and state budgets.
Ojukwu, represented by Abdulrahman Yakubu,  director, political and civil education rights in the commission made the call in Abuja at an event organised by the commission to commemorate the 2021 International Day for the African Child  (DAC), celebrated every June 16.
He also called for alignment of national implementation plans of the Child’s Rights Act with international action plans like the Agenda 2040 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda to ensure a more holistic and measurable implementation outcome
“While progress has been made on the implementation of the Child’s Rights Act and Laws across the   states that have adopted it, challenges bordering on non-prioritisation of child rights in the budget, poverty.
“Harmful traditional practices, inadequate access to educational and health services, armed conflicts and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to slow down process across all sectors.
“I call on all concerned Ministry , Departments and Agencies and child-focused organisations to explore  new tools and innovations like technology and social media to accelerate the implementation of child-based laws and policies in the country,” he said.
He also called for the adoption and implementation of measures to ensure universal health coverage, access to quality health-care services for all while closing all gender and vulnerability gaps.
Ojukwu also called for equal access to compulsory and quality education to all children, including children in rural communities, the girl child, children living with disabilities, children in conflict and humanity settings.
“We must address the root cause of conflict and engage early warning mechanisms to eliminate the impact of armed conflicts on children” he said.
The executive secretary said the DAC serves as a strong advocacy and sensitization tool for implementation of children’s rights.
“Beyond honouring the memory of the fallen heroes, the DAC celebration calls for introspection and self-assessment by the AU member states on the level of child rights implementation in respective countries.
The theme for the 2021 DAC celebration as selected by the African committee of Experts on the Rights and welfare of the child, he said, 30 years after the adoption of the charter: accelerate the implementation of the Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children.
In a goodwill message, the Country Representative of UN  Women Nigeria, Ms Comfort Lamptey called for education-in-emergencies in Borno,  Yobe and Adamawa.
The country representative, represented by Patience Ekeoba,  National Programme Officer,  UN Women Nigeria,  Lamptey said that children of these three conflict affected states need education -in-emergencies.
“ In the north east of Nigeria, 2. 8 million children need education -in-emergencies support. No fewer than 802 schools remained closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed with another 1, 392 damaged but repairable in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
“In addition to this,  the COVID-19,  insecurity and humanitarian crisis and other prevailing challenges have presented new and additional challenges,” she said
“A lot of countries in Africa have robust legal frameworks policies,  conventions and other frameworks that guarantee the rights of the child,” she added.

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Court Rejects EFCC’s Request To Amend Charge In Ex-NNPC GMD’s Trial

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has rejected an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to amend its charge in the $9.8million, £74,000 fraud trial of an ex-Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling, yesterday, held that granting the application by the EFCC would amount to varying a subsisting judgment given by the Court of Appeal, Abuja on April 24, 2020, where it, among others, ordered Yakubu to enter defence in relation to counts three and four of the six counts originally contained in the charge on which he was arraigned.
Justice Mohammed was emphatic that allowing the prosecution (the EFCC) to amend the charge was tantamount to disobeying the subsisting order made by the Court of Appeal in its judgment of April 24, 2020.
The EFCC claimed that its operatives, acting on a tip-off, raided Yakubu’s house located on Chikun Road, Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna South Local Government Area of Kaduna State on February 3, 2017, and recovered the $9,772,800 and £74,000 cash kept in a fire proof safe.
It arraigned Yakubu on March 16, 2017, on a six-count charge relating to money laundering offences.
He was among others, accused of failing to make full disclosure of assets, receiving cash without going through a financial institution, which borders on money laundering and intent to avoid a lawful transaction under law, transported at various times to Kaduna, the aggregate sum of $9,772,800 and £74,000.
The prosecution closed its case on October 17, 2018, after calling seven witnesses.
The seventh prosecution witness, an operative of the EFCC, Suleiman Mohammed, spoke about how his team recovered the $9,772,000 and £74,000 cash in Yabubu’s house in Kaduna, which was later deposited in CBN in Kano.
At the closure of the prosecution’s case, Yakubu made a no-case submission, which Justice Mohammed, in a ruling on May 16, 2019, partially upheld by striking out two of the six counts contained in the charge and ordered Yakubu to enter defence in relation to the remaining four counts.
The judge was of the view that the prosecution failed to prove counts five and six of the charge, which related to allegation of unlawful transportation of the money.
“Even though I am tempted to discharge the defendant on counts one to four, I am, however, constrained to ask the defendant to explain how he came about the monies recovered from his house.
“Fortified with my position, the defendant is hereby ordered to enter his defence in respect of counts one to four,” Justice Mohammed said in the May 16, 2019, ruling.
Dissatisfied, Yakubu challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which, in a ruling on April 24, 2020, upheld Justice Mohammed’s ruling and proceeded to strike out two more counts – one and two – in the charge.
The Court of Appeal, then, ordered Yakubu to enter his defence in respect of the remaining two counts – three and four.
Proceedings later resumed at the Federal High Court, with the defendant commencing his defence as ordered by the Court of Appeal.
But, on March 10 this year, the prosecution applied for leave to amend its charge, arguing among others, that the law allows the prosecution to amend charge at any stage of the proceedings before judgment.
The defence countered, arguing that the Court of Appeal, in its judgment of April 24, 2020, made an order to guide further proceedings in the trial.
It noted that the Court of Appeal ordered that the defendant was only to enter defence in relation to counts three and four in respect of which a prima facie case was established.
The defence urged the court to refuse the prosecution’s application for amendment and allow the defendant to continue with his defence, a prayer Justice Mohammed granted in his ruling, yesterday.
When the judge ended the ruling, yesterday, the defence indicated its intention to proceed with its case, but the court elected to adjourn till June 30 following plea by the prosecution for an adjournment on the grounds that the lead prosecuting lawyer was not immediately available.

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Economist Challenges W’Bank’s Prediction On Nigeria’s Inflation Rate

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An economist, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, has queried World Bank’s prediction that Nigeria’s inflation rate is expected to rise to fifth highest in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2021.
Ekpo, a professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, questioned the prediction in an interview with The Tide source yesterday in Lagos.
Recall the bank’s Lead Economist for Nigeria, Macro Hernandez while presenting its six-monthly update on development in Nigeria on Tuesday, said Nigeria was lagging the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, with food inflation.
Hernandez included heightened insecurity and stalled reforms as slowing growth and increasing poverty.
The professor said: “First of all, we need to examine the methodology the World Bank used to arrive at the conclusion because we know that inflation has declined slightly.”
Ekpo, also Chairman, Foundation for Economic Research and Training in Lagos, said, however, that if government could solve the insecurity problems limiting economic growth and increase Agricultural production, the prediction might not hold.
According to him, there are countries with double digits inflation and still doing well.
“This means you can have inflation and yet your GDP is growing, so, it’s when you have what we call run-away or hyper inflation that is when you get worried.
“Run-away inflation means that prices are increasing everyday or every month without control,” he said.
On predictions that the inflation would push seven million more Nigerians into poverty due to falling purchasing power, Ekpo gave a suggestion to the federal government to stem it.
He urged the Federal Government to seriously implement the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy Programme and the Economic Sustainability Plan documents.
“I cannot fault them on this one because already, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said about 85 million Nigerians are living in poverty.
“So, World Bank just saying that confirms what our own NBS has already said.
“Now, if the government implements the National Poverty Reduction initiative document as well as the Economic Sustainability plan seriously, then we can begin to reduce the poverty rate.

“Then the economy must grow double digits, that is, 10 per cent and above for us to see reduction in poverty and more jobs creation as well, because poverty is linked to unemployment,” he added.

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