Often times, people talk about passing down cultural traits, behaviours and traditions to the next generation. Most are of the school of thought that westernisation is in the process of completely wiping out our cultures and in years to come it would almost be impossible to retain these traditions. In my opinion, I would say I do agree that a lot of things have changed as generations evolved and my generation being more receptive and accommodating to these changes may have lost touch with where we truly came from. But like many other things in this life, I choose to believe that there is a ray of hope for us to stay in touch with our culture.
Majorly, everyone dwells on these two proofs that a person is in tune with their background; language and food. And not just identifying these things either, you must be able to speak and cook. I am 100 percent in support of this as a matter of fact and these are the things that amaze me about being from a particular place you know, it feels like a secret club sometimes but at the same time, media enthusiast as I am, it bothers me because I feel some things are greatly overlooked. Where are our folk tales? Where are the songs? The stories of old have been replaced with modern history. Where do we learn about Jaja of Opobo and Oduduwa and all the other great legends, fictional and non-fictional?
Growing up, I looked forward to my mum teaching me songs in my local dialect just because she would read stories, folklores to me and my cousins at night and we still talk about some of those things till date. These songs and the stories behind them made us laugh, cry, scared and brought out our emotions and they made us feel good. Once you are able to relate with your culture on such a level, you won’t ever lose it. In these stories we learnt about our states geography, how many rivers are there, we learnt about our villagers, who and who grew up together etc. The mind of a child is highly creative so tapping into that aspect was like hitting a gold mine.
In school also, I loved to dance but I was intrigued mostly by the traditional dances majorly because of the different attires. My cultural dance especially still remains one of my favourite; we had the bright beads on our ankles and arms that jingled when you moved, the strapless crop tops that showed a lot of skin, the short skirts made from beautiful George laces that weighed a ton. We were taught to move in sync with the beat of the drum and the soulful voices of the singers and the lead dancer got to be the masquerade with the huge skirt with mesh wiring under making it shoot out in all directions. And the hair, oh my God! The beautiful hairstyles with combs in it sometimes or just in buns throughout or head made everything complete. Then to top it all, our faces are painted with white or black designs.
But I digress. My point is, teach kids from Calabar and Akwa Ibom Ekombi, Yoruba’s Bata, Ibo’s Atilogwu, etc and they will forever be drawn to their culture. Offer them something that entices them and they will ask you for more. Which brings me to my initial point, where do kids get these things? From their parents who work full time most of the time? I don’t think so. We should incorporate this into what they see on the television, the internet etc. How many educational apps are Nigerian and promote learning of Nigerian traditions? How many Nigerian cartoons talk about the tortoise and how he broke its back?
We should not blame evolution of technology or modernisation for losing touch with our traditions, instead we should leverage on that and use it as a tool to reach the generations who are the most influenced by this change. Please can we stop being referred to as the lost generation, instead of the condemnation for not trying hard enough and conforming to the vices of things we had no control over, everyone needs to remember that the children of the soil need to be helped and given lots of assistance to grow. Let us see ‘how to dance Ekombi’ videos on YouTube, or even ‘different ways of cooking Ofe Owerri Soup’. That is the effort that is seriously lacking and when the adults slack in reaching out, they forget people from other parts of the world are reaching out as well. And now I know how to make lasagne and brownies and chicken curry and pasta all from scratch and someone takes offense but literally these things are at my finger tips, you can’t blame me. I have to eat!
At some point in my life I loved country music. Thinking about it now, I realise that is someone else’ culture. We need our songs to play more on the radio. Well produced, mixed and mastered to because, no shade to anyone but if it’s not done in a way we would like then it’s just a waste. But let’s have truly African, Nigerian content on the airwaves and on TV screens and you will get kids around amazing you with how well they are in tune with their culture. It’s not just about the language. Tradition is embedded in technology too, we just have to find it.
I do not think I have to say more than this, but I am sure I speak for a great number of Nigerian children.