Author laments the gradual extinction of Nigeria culture

Celebrated writer and Noma Award winner, Professor Niyi Osundare outlines the importance of culture and tradition in modern Nigeria

Prof. Niyi Osundare

At the fifth edition of the Literary event christened 'Artmosphere" held at the NuStreams Conference Center on Iyaganku Road, off Alalubosa GRA, Ibadan. Celebrated writer and Noma Award winner, Professor Niyi Osundare.while echoing the importance of culture and tradition , in his opening statements, said: "People like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and other great writers in Nigeria "would not have been where they are today without the knowledge of their culture and tradition. Anyone who reads Soyinka's books would notice the rich blend of Yoruba culture. A child is christened based on the culture of his or her parents. The foundation of our culture must be firmly rooted in us before we start imbibing other people's culture.

"If I was not conversant with Ikere culture, with the way Nigeria is today, I wouldn't have been where I'm today. We were proud of our culture in my days. It was well embraced by the community. We were taught in Yoruba Language. We read Daniel Fagunwa books. My father didn't go to school, but he gave us sound cultural upbringing," he recalled.

Remedying Nigeria's educational woes might seem daunting now, but, not for Osundare, who said government should go back to the blueprint of the past, when emphasis was placed on teaching in vernacular.

Osundare, who reviewed some works of the up-and-coming poets, yearned for more of such events in Nigeria. He noted, "Time was when we had something like this in Ibadan -it was in 1960, and it was called Mbari culture. Chinua Achebe, J.P Clark, Wole Soyinka, Demas Nwoko and Igho (from the publishers) side made Ibadan rock.

"This is why one cannot talk about the history of literature today without referring to Ibadan. Mbari idea came from the Igbo heartland. When it was brought to Ibadan, it went through a dramatic linguistic and etymological transformation. People thought it was Yoruba idea, and it became Mbari Mbayo, which means 'If I see, I'll rejoice.' There was Mbari Mbayo in Ibadan, Ede, and Oshogbo.

"We are talking about national unity, how can we talk about that without such cultural participation? Political unity is organic. It is important we have more of that in our environment. I'm trying to translate one of Achebe's poetry poems in Igbo, but I don't speak Igbo language. But the idea is very fascinating: the similarities of Igbo and Yoruba syntax,even though the words are different. I have no problems negotiating the syntax," he added.

As a young boy growing up in a multi cultural and linguistic environment in Ikere, he used to speak Igbo, but the civil war scattered everybody, "and if one does not use a language often, one losses it. That was how I lost Igbo language and a little bit of Egbira' but I still remember some part of Igbo language.

Also present was the 2013 NLNG laureate, Tade Ipadeola, in his remarks, said, "This kind of event should hold more regularly in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the only place we meet happens to be in the churches and mosques. We should also meet in artistic environment so that our culture can grow, and people can understand each other better and do the right thing at all times."

The poet, who believes in grassroots participation in culture, restated that the root of Mbari culture was from the east and involved every member of the community. "We should identify with what ever cultural project is going on in our community. It should not be an elitist affair, but opened to every body," he added.

The fifth edition of the literary event christened Artmosphere, was packaged by the duo of Femi Morgan and Servio Gbadamosi, two youngsters making waves in the literary city of Ibadan.

One of the honchos of the Whitehouse Collective, Servio Gbadamosi, said that the literary convocation started out as a passion with his friend Femi Morgan, adding that they had been independently involved in arts event before meeting face-to-face to form the group in 2010, which dovetailed later to distribution and publishing.

"We really wanted to position ourselves at every stage in the value chain where we have developed writers coming to make their books available to a wider audience, and, when it comes to giving the emerging writers publishing platforms, we are also there for them," he said.

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