A major constraint to the study of the visual arts as a school subject in Nigeria today is the dearth of art literature such as learned journals and textbooks. Several factors have also contributed to this problem.
The earliest literature on aspects of Nigerian art could be found in the books and other types of literature which were produced by early Western travellers, merchants, Muslim and Christian missionaries, and colonial administrators who had come to the area that is referred to today as Nigeria about a millennium ago.
Other examples of published works with references made to Nigerian arts are those of Captain Hugh Clapperton (1829) in which he commented on the elaborate ornaments which characterised the wooden sculptures that he saw in Oyo in 1926. Leo Frobenius (1913), a German ethnologist discussed Ife bronze sculptures in his account of the African cultures he saw during his trip to the continent at the beginning of the twentieth century A.D.
One of the earliest examples of works with references on aspects of Nigerian art was that of W.H Clarke, a Baptist missionary. It was an account of his exploration of Yorubaland in the late nineteenth century, which remained unpublished until 1972. Samuel Johnson’s (1921) book on the history of the Yoruba has a section devoted to the Yoruba people’s visual art. The work of Johnson, a black Anglican missionary like Ajayi Crowther, was the result of his attempt to document the oral history of the Yoruba which he feared may become lost as a result of the protracted Yoruba civil wars of the nineteenth century.
It is noteworthy that the views of aspects of Nigerian art documented in the published dairies of early travellers to country were not intended to be used as instructional materials in Nigerian educational institutions as these did not exist at that time, and were established some centuries or decades later. The works containing materials on Nigerian art like those of other African people were published at that time for Western readers many of whose curiosity about Africa’s prospects for trade and other imperialistic potentialities engendered the exploration of the country.
The Introduction of Books into Nigerian Schools
Books were not used in the informal education system which was practised in pre-colonial Nigeria. This was because book writing and reading were alien to the traditional Nigerians whose cultural history was oral before Muslims scholars and clergy men introduced the Quran and other Islamic books into northern Nigeria. This was done in their bid to facilitate their Islamisation of the indigenous people of Nigeria in the middle eleventh century A.D (Fayose and Madu 2001:16). Similarly, Christian missionaries introduced books such as the Bible, hymnals, catechisms and the Queen’s primer in their bid to ensure Christian evangelism and “civilize” Nigerians whom they first encountered in the southern part of the country. For instance, this phenomenon in Nigeria took place in the coastal towns of Warri, and the ancient Benin kingdom that was located at the mouth of River Gwatto in the fourteenth century A.D. (Kenny 1083:45-60).
However, art books did not appear in the Nigerian art education scene until sometime in the early twentieth century A.D. after the formal education system had been introduced into the country some eight decades back. Early art teachers in Nigeria such as Aina Onabolu and Kenneth Murray, both employed by the colonial government in 1922 and 1927, respectively used imported art textbooks to facilitate their teaching of visual arts in Nigerian schools, which were few and located in major towns like Lagos, Ibadan and Umuahia at the time. The source of the art books, like the ones which were used to teach other subjects such as English language, history, and mathematics, was mainly Europe where the teachers studied. Aside these points is the fact that publishers such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities presses which produced books abound in countries like Britain. It was not until much later in the twentieth century when printing and publishing began to thrive following the steady growth of journalism and commercial printing that the production and publication of textbooks began in Nigeria. Fayose and Madu (2001: 19-20) inform that the process was facilitated by foreign publishers, who opened branches of their companies in the country in the 1930s and 1940s.
It is, however, doubtful if the writing of art textbooks was included in the agenda of the text book committee which was set up in 1927 by the colonial government in Nigeria because the study of art which began only some five years earlier in 1923 was at its infant stage the text book committee which was charged with task of “seeking for manuscripts and authors that could suit Nigerians” was set up as the result of the insistence of the participants at the Imperial Education Conference in London in 1923 that school text books should be made relevant to the people.
The early text books which were imported from abroad and used in Nigerian schools were written by foreign art scholars. Art pupils in Nigerian schools in the era before and immediately after independence in 1960 will remember reading books like Art: Creative and Mental Growth (Lowenfeld 1947), Graphic Design (Lewies and Brinkley 1954) Art for African Schools (Stanfield 1956), A Concise History of Art (Bazin 1958), Art Teaching for Primary Schools in Africa (Mackenzie 1966), Aesthetics and Art Theory: an Historical Introduction (Osborne 1970), Art and Illusion (Gombrich 1971) and The Story of Art (Gombrich, 1972). General Art text books which were imported into Nigeria during the era in question include the ones written by Fleming (1955) Hoffman (1965) and Feldman (1967). These focused on Western art which they treated from the prehistoric art period, through the ancient Mediterranean and classical European traditions. They ended at the evolution of modern art era with slight mention made of the role of African arts in its dispensation.
Earlier in the 1920’s, a few expatriate artists of whom Kenneth Murray was typical, commenced writing articles on aspects of Nigerian arts. These they published in the Nigeria Magazine, a government journal on Nigeria, her people and culture that was launched in 1927 (Awe 1989: 28). The establishment of the Department of Antiquities with the Antiquities Act. No. 17 of 1953, which mandate was to discover, preserve and research into the diverse traditional cultures of the people of Nigeria provided more impetus for the publications of materials on Nigerian visual arts (Awe 1989: 28).
The results of the ethnographic and archaeological works of the likes of William and Bernard Fagg, Frank Willett, Sylvia Leith-Rosa and Thurston Shaw were not only featured in volumes of the journal but inadvertently became the subjects of books on Nigerian arts. Examples of these are Bernard Fagg’s (1977) Nok Terracottas, Willett’s (1967) Ife in the History of West African Sculpture, Leith-Rosa’s (1970) Nigerian Pottery and Shaw’s (1977) Unearthing Igbo Ukwu.
Experimental workshops on Yoruba art which were organized in Oye-Ekiti, Ijebu-Igbo and Ondo in the late 1940s with a view to using their products in Catholic churches as liturgical objects propelled Rev. Father Kelvin Carroll (1947) to write the book, Yoruba Religious Carving, Pagan and Christian Sculpture in Nigeria and Dahomey.
The seed of interest in traditional and contemporary Nigerian arts scholarship as well as that of a general interest in African arts, which had been sown in the early twentieth century due partly to the international interest in traditional African art and mainly to the fervour to search for and create a cultural identity for new independent African nations, grew immediately after independence in 1960. Ulli Beier (1960), Marshall Mount (1973) and Frank Willett (1971) blazed the trial with their books in this respect. Osa Egonwa (1994) and Kojo Fosu (1986) followed suit much later.
In writing about adult education in Nigeria, Onyenemezu (2012) acknowledged that the country is facing challenges in the 21st century. Recently youth and young adults have been restive in the Niger Delta region resulting in violence and youth militancy in militias. More recently, Boko Haram is wreaking havoc through bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations. Onyenemezu argued that examining adult education could help to alleviate the instability and increase political and economic development. Oddly, when Zuofa and Olori, (2015) recently researched adult learning methods in Nigeria, they did not include storytelling. Evidence suggests that it would be an effective method of adult education in Nigeria. Whether in formal, informal, or non-formal learning, telling the stories of historical facts and cultures are significant aspects of connecting adult learners with their cultural heritage.
Although Achebe first wrote of the impact of colonizers on Igbo clans in 1959, as recently as 2014, Nduka expressed concern that the Igbo culture will be lost. He lamented that when fathers do not know the history and stories of their own culture, it is a tragedy that they cannot answer the questions of their children about festivals, the indigenous calendar, the age-grade or age-group system, chieftancy within the community, or meanings of proverbs. Storytelling is useful for members of the African diaspora not just to remember their own history, but to adapt to their new homes. Tuwe (2016) studied African communities based in New Zealand and argued that the oral tradition of storytelling was useful when dealing with work-related challenges. 96 Decolonization involves challenging Western epistemologies and embracing an indigenous paradigm and traditional knowledge.
Recognizing the power and influence of native stories can assist decolonization and reverse the perception of colonizers being knowers and indigenous people as being ignorant. First, the legacy of the helping Western colonializing Other must be resisted…As agents of colonial power, Western scientists discovered, extracted, appropriated, commodified, and distributed knowledge about the indigenous other. (Denzin, Lincoln & Smith, 2008, p. 5) In order to undo western dominance and unravel colonialism, it is necessary to create knowledge based on African philosophy which includes “community-centred [sic] ways of knowing, the story-telling framework, [and] language as a bank of knowledge” (Chilisa & Preece, 2005, p. 49). Storytelling satisfies all three of those aspects. Since storytelling was a social practice and a participatory experience, it is community centered. The storytelling framework has been used for millennia in Nigeria in the oral tradition, which continues even with the evolution of written stories.
Finally, language is a bank of knowledge since proverbs and cultural history are included in both the oral and written tradition. Although European colonizers renamed lands, bodies of water, and other African assets by inflicting names related by the colonizers and missionaries, in stories, Nigerians could reclaim their indigenous knowledge and language by reclaiming the original names. In addition, storytelling as a motivational tool has the potential to expose learners to the path of success using inspirational stories that can foster strong connection. Denning (2011) noted that much of what we know is composed of stories, and many of them describe how circumstances and situations in the past have been successfully handled. In other words, through the application of stories, adult learners can gain knowledge that will be useful for undertaking life’s arduous tasks. For example, hearing stories about conflict resolution, one could learn how to resolve a conflict. A personal life story could culminate in learning transformation and new understanding (Pfahl & Wiessner, 2007).
When people organize their experiences into stories, the resulting narrative “may be an ideal process in that it characterizes movement of development toward some future end” (Weissner & Pfahl, 2007, p. 28). Dillard (2008) has capitalized on this notion by adopting the idea of using the term African ascendant rather than descendant to describe “the upward and forward moving nature of African people through the diaspora as well as on the African continent herself” (p. 291). This is itself a decolonizing perspective. When people examine their own stories, they can examine them in relation to larger cultural contexts (Rossiter, 2002, p. 4). Adults have the potential to make changes and rewrite their lives stories (Pfahl & Wiessner, 2007), reducing their colonized world views. Storytelling allows individuals to rewrite themselves, but it can also have a larger impact: indigenous peoples who are combatting the effects of colonialism can unite a group or community and rewrite communal memory (Weissner & Pfahl, 2007).
Chinua Achebe And Nigerian Literary Achievements As Nigeria Turns 50 – Politics
The news of African literary icon Chinua Achebe winning the 2010 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize is the buzz of the moment as Nigerians glow in the excitement of the 50th Independence Anniversary of the nation. The lionized writer’s celebrated novel Things Fall Apart was published in 1958, two years before the independence of Nigeria on October 1, 1960. And afterwards things really fell apart in the most populous country in Africa as incessant political crises plunged Nigeria into a catastrophic civil war after two horrifying coups. But Nigeria survived the civil war and other terrifying coups and barbaric religious and political conflicts and deserves the celebration of her Golden Jubilee this weekend.
Nigeria is famous for being the country of highly gifted writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, the first African winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Cyprian Ekwensi, T.M. Aluko, Flora Nwapa, Nkem Nwankwo, Christopher Okigbo, Gabriel Okara, John Pepper Clark and others who wrote great books before and after 1960. A new generation of young literary geniuses have emerged since 1960 to date. Festus Iyayi, Isidore Okpewo, Ken Saro-wiwa, Ben Okri , Chris Abani, Biyi Bandele-Thomas, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helon Habila, Helen Oyeyemi, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and others have won coveted prizes for their novels and this month Chibundu Onuzo, who is only 19, has become the youngest woman authior to sign a two-novel deal with the British publisher Faber.
Fosudo Emerges Winner Of 4th Beeta Playwright Competition
The grand finale of the 4th Beeta Playwright Competition organised by Beeta Universal Arts Foundation, ended last Wednesday, August 4, at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos with Temilolu Fosudo, son of veteran actor and academic, Prof. Sola Fosudo emerging the overall winner.
The Beeta Playwright Competition, BPC, initiated by Beeta Universal Arts Foundation, BUAF, which was founded by award-winning actress and producer, Bikiya Graham-Douglas in 2010, is an annual event that creates opportunities for budding Nigerian playwrights to hone their skills in creative writing. BUAF promotes arts through theatre production and education.
In addition to facilitating training workshops, the organisation has produced over 20 plays. About 538 entries were received for the 2021 edition of the competition.
The works of Nigerians in the Diaspora, including the United Kingdom and Canada, were part of the plays submitted.
Fosudo’s play titled: Black Dust which made the shortlist along with those of nine other contestants, earned him the first slot.
The winner also got the sum of N10 million as prize money from the sponsors. Kalayingi John-Africa’s Orchid, made her the first runner-up while the second runner-up was Ibukun Fasunhan who entered with the play, Beertanglement and like Fosudo, had reached the final stage of the competition in 2020.
Others in the shortlist include: Adesewa Akinyemi’s Your Nemesis, Chinazom Otubelu’s The Old Man Must Obey, Yemi Akande’s Flowers Will Smile Again, Gladys A. Nwaokoma’s Ya Gazie, Nyakno James’ Gaddo, Ifeoma Igwe’s Aye Wale and Olaide Mohammed’s The Indigent on the Throne.
Speaking at the prize-giving session of the event, the Founder and Curator of Beeta Universal Arts Foundation, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, revealed that it had indeed been a herculean task pruning the entries to the final list of 10, saying: “We received 538 entries from across the country and are thrilled that many young voices are taking this opportunity to share their stories with us.”
She also reiterated her resolve to ensure the sustainability of the project. “It can be daunting putting competitions and productions like these together, but we believe it is our responsibility and are committed to continuing to do so,” she remarked.
Explaining the possibilities the BPC holds for winners, she said: “Our past winners, Paul Ugbede, Abdul-Qudus
Ibrahim and Achalugo Chioma Ezeoke have since had their plays published and produced to audiences of over 30,000 in different parts of the country thereby introducing their work to the next generation.
“We have also seen tremendous success amongst our finalists with one of them, Dr Soji Cole going on to win the prestigious NLNG prize for Literature.”
Paul Ugbede had won the inaugural edition with his play, Our Son, the Minister while Abdul-Qudus Ibrahim emmerged the winner of the second edition out of 348 entries with the satirical play, Jagagba. Achalugo Chioma Ezeoke’s Daughters of the East won her the third edition.
Award-winning playwright and theatre arts guru, Prof. Ahmed Yerima led the distinguished panel of judges that decided the winners.
The other panelists include: filmmaker and creative industry veteran, Ms. Ego Boyo, book publisher, Ms. Ibiso Graham-Douglas, writer and producer, Ms. Ayo Jaiesimi and art journalist and critic, Dr. Shaibu Husseini.
It was an emotive moment for the Fosudos. Flanked by his joyous parents, Prof. Sola Fosudo and Mrs Yetunde Fosudo, the winner of the BPC4, Temilolu Fosudo enthused: “I feel overwhelmed.
“I was part of those that made the shortlist last year and I was the 2nd runner-up. I’m really grateful to the organisers for the opportunity.”
Speaking on the subject matter and dominant thematic preoccupation of his prize-winning play, the young Fosudo remarked: “I like to write about social issues. I’ve written about nine plays.
“My entry for this year, Black Dust, is about corruption and abuse of power. The protagonist is Oko Orin, husband of Music who is modelled after Fela and Malcolm X, two great revolutionaries I admire.”
Youths, History And National Day Celebration
Every 1st October is Nigeria’s official Independence Day National holiday.It marks Nigeria’s proclamation of independence from British rule on 1st October, 1960.
In 1914,the Southern Nigeria Protectorate was combined with the Northern Protectorate to create the colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.By the late 1950’s the call for independence led to the country being granted independence on 1st October, 1960 as the Federation of Nigeria.The country received it’s Freedom Charter on this day.
The holiday is celebrated annually by the government and people of Nigeria.There are also celebrations across all sectors in Nigeria including the Diaspora. It is a day of celebration for the old and the young.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria, also known as the “Giant of Africa”, is a West African country bordered by Niger,Chad,Cameroon and Benin.It enjoys direct access to the Atlantic Ocean on its Southern border.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and ranks seventh in the world with over 210 million inhabitants. It also has the third largest youth population in the world with almost half of the people being under the age of eighteen, thereby making the realisation of children rights a crucial point.
Nigeria’s uniqueness is due to having over 250 ethnic groups,speaking too distinct languages.Therefore, British legacy and practical considerations established “English” as the official language.
Nigeria which is on the Gulf of Guinea has many natural landmarks and wildlife reserves.Protected areas such as Cross River Natural Park,Port Harcourt, Bonny Nature Park and Yankari National Park,with dense rain,Savannah and rare primate habitats.One recognisable sites is the Zuma Rock,a 725m tall monolith outside the capital of Abuja.
The Nigerian economy is one of the largest in Africa. Since the 1960’s,it has been based primarily on the petroleum industry with 90% of Nigeria’s oil and gas from the Niger Delta region. A series of world oil price increased from 1973 produced rapid economic growth in transportation, construction, manufacturing and government services. This however, led to great influx of rural people into urban centres,thereby agricultural production stagnated to such a point that cash crops such as palm oil,groundnuts,cocoa,cotton were not longer export commodities. Although much of the population remained in farming, too little food was produced.
Environmental deterioration, inferior storage of facilities, poor transport system and lack of investment capital contributed to low productivity and general stagnation in agriculture.
Today,1st October, 2021 is another day of national celebration.The children and youths celebrate the day by performing ceremonial march past in their various state capitals and local government areas .
The question that agitates the mind is,what do our children and young people as future leaders of Nigeria know about their country?From investigation,most young people do not know the history of Nigeria.After reciting the Nigerian anthem and pledge,what else do our young people know about Nigeria?This is important because every Nigerian child should know the foundation of Nigeria ,our founding fathers,how Nigeria gained her indepedence,they should know our founding fathers laboured to liberate Nigeria from colonization,the consciousness behind the fight for freedom and later the love for our country Nigeria.This is important because they were born as Nigerians and they should love their country,despite the odds.
Educating and sharing basic knowledge about Nigeria to young people is key and crucial.With the world becoming a global village and the introduction of high technology,our children and young people seem to be losing touch with our history, culture and identity. Our young people now associate with western names,clothes,football etc. Our history and identity which our founding fathers fought for is gradually fading away. This is a problem that must be tackled now before it gets too late. It is a well known fact that history is an important gift which the older ones must give or pass on to the younger generation. Without history, a person may not understand his or her root. Ancient cultures had devoted much time and effort to teach their children family history . It was taught that the past helps a child understand who he or she is. However, modern trends in Nigeria has turned its back on the past,our culture and identity. We live in a time of “rush rush”.We prefer to think and embrace in terms of where we are going to, not where we come from. Our root and ancestors mean nothing to us. We see our past as outdated and meaningless.
This is worrisome because history matters. It will definitely help our young ones to understand why our society is the way It is and what can be done in future.
It is for this reason that the reintroduction of history as a teaching subject in schools by the federal government remains a welcome development . Removing history from the curriculum, was a misjudgement. it remains unthinkable why children would be raised in the dark without knowledge about their past.
A constellation of historical facts, concoetion of geography, civics (current affairs)in the name of social studies which came with the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 school system under a new National Policy in Education by the military government,lead to a gradual phasing out of history.
However,Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu , a few years ago, while addressing delegates of the 61st meeting of the National Council on Education Ministerial Session called for the disarticulation of social studies in the current curriculum of basic schools and reintroduction of history as a subject. This was as a result of persistent pressure from the Historical Society of Nigeria.
The reintroduction of history gave the Nigerian child self – identity of who he or she really is. It is only the study of history that can give meaning to our humanity. Without history,our future leaders are denied intial pieces of information and knowledge of the foundation of their country or state. This, perphaps explains why most young people ,especially from their discussions in social media show less affinity with their country. Young people can hardly defend a country they hardly know anything about .
It is believed that the experiences we are having today were likely shaped by past events we have been through. Looking at the past and working at it helps ensure that bad history does not repeat itself. The past must be looked at to learn from it.
In addition to our history,national identity and love for our nation must be symbolic in our children and young ones. From various studies,it was found that children are able to talk about their membership of their own national group by 5 years of age. Also,the importance which children attribute to their national identity increases significantly between 5 and 11 years of age,it is left for our teachers,parents and guardians to impact positively on the young ones concerning our national identity. According to Billing,1995,national identity is imbued in everyday family practice and as such is much more likely to be affiliative and centred in belonging rather than actively claimed. Barrett,2013,however argued that young people are intiated into their national identity by their parents. Through everyday activities, parents may indicate to their children what it meant to be a part of the National group. Therefore, the older Nigerians must teach the younger ones the country’s historical and cultural traditions, moral values,ideals and national soverngnity . These characteristics will help plan an important role in empowering the young ones to exercise their rights and responsibilities fairly and equitably in a modern society . The saying, “never forget where you come from ” should be the watch word for our future leaders to build on . Their origin is Nigerian,no two ways. They must love their country and make things right for the better.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
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