The Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC)’s aim of using its just-concluded international conference to expose and fully showcase the viability of culture and its immense potential for a country like Nigeria, in Africa, and by implication portray the sector’s capability to grow the nation’s economy if fully exploited, could be said to have been achieved going by the fallouts of the conference in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
Before now, experts have continually highlighted culture as possessing immense potential to grow the economies of the African countries, including Nigeria, against the backdrop of the product’s availability, self-sustenance and also its immense viability if properly explored.
As the four-day conference/festival rounded off, it became even more obvious that indeed, Nigeria’s economic planners need to take look the way of culture as an industry capable of repositioning the nation’s economic outlook, that is already over-dependent on crude oil and in heavy need of diversification in fast changing global economic terrain.
While many thumbed up the centre for platforming a forum for scholars from various disciplines and different climes to interact, analyze and exchange ideas on the centrality of culture to Africa and the African Diaspora socio-economic transformation, others commended CBAAC for exposing the marketability of culture at the conference through not just the displays and cultural showcase, but also the media presentations and research materials unfolded at the event.
The international conference which held from November 25 through to 28 at the Ijaw House and also at the Peace Park, all in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, introduced a new dimension to cultural expose, as scholars mixed it up with the practitioners to fully express the theme of the festival/colloquium, which was: Using Culture to Drive the Transformation of Africa and its Diaspora in a new Global Order.
Organized in collaboration with the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and the Bayelsa State Ministry of Culture and Ijaw National Affairs, the international conference could well have been likened to a cultural carnival, of sorts, going by the array of film stars who thronged the Peace Park, to add glamour and glitz to the opening ceremony which held earlier.
Featuring a festival, conference and colloquium, the event witnessed the presentation of nearly fifty papers including the Keynote address by Professor Sule Bello Suleimon, the chairman, Africa Research and Development Agency, Kano; in addition to the four Lead Papers by Professor Emeka Nwabueze of the Department of Theatre and Communication Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi of the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan,; Dr Oshotse Andrew Okwilagwe of the Department of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of Ibadan; as well as Dr Tony Ogbonna of the Enugu State Government House, Enugu.
The conference, which also provided an auspicious occasion for participants to interrogate and question the concepts of culture as it relates to the experiences of Nigerians, African peoples and institutions; offered a platform for historians, academics, pan-Africanists, activists and other experts within Africa and Diaspora from various disciplines and different climes to interact, analyze and exchange ideas on the centrality of culture to Africa and the African Diaspora socio-economic transformation; explore ways of restoring Africa’s traditional values by rebuilding families and communities in order to enhance our potentials for self-reliance; as well as strengthen historical and cultural ties between Africa and the Diaspora.
Contained in the 10-point communiqué issued at the end deliberations therefore, participants expectedly, urged the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), to intensify its efforts in the preservation of African Culture most importantly, the re-introduction of the teaching of History in Nigerian Schools;
They also implored the centre to canvass for the de-colonization of the already colonized African cultures, as this is a challenge to all Africans. This is to be done in partnership with the intelligentsia, artists, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and all allied agencies in Africa. This will make for self-reliance, in socio-economic and cultural affairs of African State.
Other key points in the resolution include: That CBAAC develop a pathway through which the BOOK can be used for new value-system development, since the values of the past are continuously being eroded; That a national policy be established for use of Bibliotherapy in value-system re-orientation for behaviour modification, and change within the society; That the National Censors Board, in collaboration with CBAAC and allied agencies, aim at censoring music dramatization to ensure nudity is reduced at production – editing stage, before public viewing on air; That CBAAC should canvass the establishment of a Department of African Studies that would cater for a purely African Culture and the handling of African Traditional Affairs;
In addition, the experts called on the CBAAC to explore the possibility of incorporating traditional models of conflicts resolution devoid of modern adulteration, and institutionalizing these for use, in Africa.
“Gender must emphatically, not be a determinant in apportioning responsibilities. When men and women render services from their natural areas of responsibilities without discrimination, development results, borne out of the exploration of potentials inherent in synergy” the experts noted.
Lastly, the participants stressed that films are capable of being used as instrument for making peace, and managing conflicts when scriptwriter, actor and director chose to make films that espouse pure culture, and ignore money-making, just as they also called on all, especially the academia to continue to give CBAAC their unalloyed support to ensure the actualization of all set objectives of the Centre.
In his keynote address, Professor Suleiman, noted that the Festival of Black and African Culture (FESTAC) remarkably inspired the greatest writings on Africa by Africans in history, just as he posited that these writings ought to serve as light to present day African to know their culture.
“If you cannot fight for or defend your independence, there are other people who will help you to use it,” Prof Suleimon stressed.
Opening ceremony which was coloured by a procession of Nollywood stars including notable figures like Pete Edochie (the festival king), Patience Ozokwor (the festival queen), Chinedu Ikedieze (Aki), Charles Inojie, Keppy Ekpeyong, Ejike Asiegbu, Francis Duru, Alex Usifo, Ejiro Okurame, also featured processions by the University of Port Harcourt Alumni, Enugu State Cultural troupe, University of Port Harcourt Choral/Music department, and select schools in the state.
Remarking at the ceremony, Director General of CBAAC, Sir Ferdinand Anikwe, noted that because culture presents itself as both the foundation and the root of human development, whether as individuals or groups, ‘it then becomes the case that culture provides a holistic orientation for humans, in the sense that culture as the totality of the vital system of ideas of a people constitutes the value orientation upon which such a people organizes their whole affair in search of happiness.’
“This is the reason why the defence and sustenance of culture, marks the whole essence of what is called civilization. If the defence and sustenance of culture marks the essence and goal of civilization, it means that it (culture) ultimately, is the very source of fountain from which the power of any people derives and revolves. Put differently, culture is the power base from which the sum total of the existence of a people derives. However, culture has two sides to it.
“These are the non-physical and the physical aspects of culture. The non-physical aspect of culture is the same as the spirit of culture, while the physical aspect of culture is the material aspect of culture. The material aspect of culture can and does need to undergo modification, but the spirit of culture must and should never be lost. The point to note here is that in the spirit of culture lays the power that upholds culture,” the director stressed.
Continuing, Anikwe maintained that art and the performing arts in particular present that veritable platform for the development and viable repositioning of culture as a whole.
“African artists and actors have become the vehicles through which African cultural genres are internationalized. Nigerian home videos for instance have become popular and a reference point of cultural and social influence all over the world. Through the home videos, Africans and the rest of the world are picking up vocabulary of Nigerian languages. The same can be said of Nigerian musicians, especially with icons such as, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Chief Osita Osadebe, Sir Rex Lawson, Ebenezer Obey (Chief Commander, Juju music), King Sunny Ade, Kolington, Ayinde Barrister, Salawa Abeni, Onyeka Onwenu, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Sunny Okosu, Lagbaja, Asa, Femi Kuti, Flavor, 2Face, Nice to mention just a few. These musicians have helped in no small measure to internationalize African culture and civilization.
“The relevance of the submissions made above lays in the seeming wave of cultural realization among African artists and actors alike that have impacted tremendously on world civilization.
“While it is true that African artists and actors, and creative writers alike have strived to internationalize African cultures, the point must be made that such lofty attempts by such artists, actors and creative writers need to be institutionalized and strengthened for more effect internationally.
“African States must continue to harp and invest on our artists and actors that have become the Continent’s great cultural ambassadors. Please permit me to state unequivocally that we can only underrate our culture at our own peril. We are witnesses to the impact that western culture has had on the minds of our youths through music, movies, novels, football, religion, internet activities, costumes and fashions. It is in this wise that we must remain eternally indebted to the fathers of African Literature such as Chinua Achebe. Wole Soyinka, J. P. Clark, Ngugu Wa Thiongo, Chimamanda Adichie, and a host of others for pioneering African writers series with its robust cultural background, that capture the minds and attention of our youths.
“It is of great significance that the Western world has started showing enormous interest in studying and promoting African culture and history. It was in pursuance of such interest that we have European Conference on African Studies, which is a bi-annual event.
“The last one was in Lisbon, Portugal 2013 and the next will be in Paris, France, in July, 2015. In the same enthusiasm is the Association of African Studies in Italy; the latest with the theme “African on the Move” was held in Macerata, Italy, between September 17-20, 2014. In United States of America, there is Southern Roundtable on African Studies that holds annually in Frankfort, Kentucky. These are indications of renewed and sustained foreign interests on African and Black studies.
“There is thus the need for Africans to recognize its cultural uniqueness and potentialities, package it properly, with the conscious objective of using it to influence the ways of lives of other peoples. This will ultimately lead to more recognition and economic benefit for the continent. African States need to evolve both policies and programmes for the internationalization of her cultures through art, music, science and technology, education, tourism and diplomacy.
“Achieving this requires doing all it takes to revamp the spirit of our various cultures. It is in African cultures that the oneness of her peoples could be found. We therefore appreciate that the task before CBAAC and other sister parastatals is to pursue the sustained and possibly, the aggressive promotion and preservation of African culture,”Anikwe submitted.
On his part, Chairman, CBAAC Governing Board, Senator Brimmo Yusuf explained that the choice of theme for the confab was informed by the need to give ‘further credence to the success of the administration’s policy. It represents a call to African leaders to borrow a leaf from the transformation agenda of His Excellency President Jonathan.’
The opening ceremony which was chaired by His Royal Highness, King Amalate Johnnie Turner, Obigbo Mikimiki 1, Obanema of Opume Kingdom, Ogbia LGA, Bayelsa State, was graced by Chief Alfred Diette-Spiff, one–time military administrator of Old Rivers State, and other traditional monarchs drawn from parts of the South East and South South geo-political zones of the country.
In addition, the CBAAC’s directors including; Mrs. Funmi Ladele, Dr. Tony Onwumah, Dr. Mrs. Chuma-Ibe, Mrs. Osaro Osayande, Ndidi Aimienwauu and others were present at the event which traditionally rounds off the centre’s calendar of activities for the year.