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Black History Month: The Nigerian Perspective

Seye Fakinlede

The Black History Month which began as a way of remembering all the black heroes and heroines and their struggles towards the emancipation of African Americans in the United States of America (USA) at that time, is a celebration of black cultural heritage, music, and arts, as well as a means of immortalizing the African American stars responsible for their emancipation.

Birthed by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, as a struggle for a relinquishing identity, and a fight for the recognition of blacks in America, the annual Afro American holiday, since its birth, in 1929 is being celebrated annually every month of February.

However, Nigeria being the most populous black nation in the world, the “Black History month” is an “unofficial” celebration in Nigeria except by the Afro American literary scholars in the country, the American Embassy in Nigeria, and also at the Center for the American Studies in Nsukka.

Thus, the idea of immortalizing our heritage and a constant celebration of them has not been fully tapped into.

Out of the many facets of life, is the world of Art, of which Nigerian art creators, have stood tall to contribute their own quota to promote, re-shape, correct, the Western Nigerian narratives, most especially by re telling our own stories, fighting our own battles as against the idea of Africa’s voicelessness.

In view of this, in no order of importance we take a peek into those black curators whose ideology, resonates the liberation of black freedom and empowerment.

In a move to constantly promote, the African culture is Tola Wewe‘s whose contribution to the preservation of the Yoruba culture, especially in regards to shedding more light on the ways and tradition of the highly esteemed water goddess, Yemoja. Tola. Also, a frequent collaborator with Nike Davies-Okundaye, he was a founding member of the Ona movement in art.

Bernard Olabinjo Benson is another Nigerian entertainer and musician who had considerable influence on the Nigerian music scene. His music changed the West African music narratives, and this is evident in the introduction of big band and Caribbean idioms to the High-life style of popular West African Music.

Taking a peep into the world of Arts and crafts is Ladi Kwali, OON, MBE, a Nigerian potter. Kwali’s work projected Nigeria as a creative country as opposed the notion of it being a dark country with no creative capacity. According to history, Kwali with little formal education was a teacher of teachers when it came to pottery.

Also, taking a look at Nigerian Stars in diaspora is to celebrate the Lijadu Sisters, Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu. The duo amazons are Nigerian identical twin sisters whose musical success and influence has become a house hold name both home and abroad. They have been described as the “Nigerian twins who fought elites with funk” by an American Journalist. Sadly, Kehinde passed on to the next world last year at age 71.

Another is Aina Onabolu, famously known for being a pioneer of modern arts teacher and painter, and an important figure whose work caused a revolution for the inclusion of arts in the Nigerian Secondary Schools. Also is Victor Ehikhamenor whose work is influenced by his attempt to sustain the traditional African motifs and religious cosmology.

Another whose celebration should be sung in the promotion of Nigerian Art is Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye, who is the founder of Nike Art Gallery, the largest in West Africa. As an artist and textile designer, she is famous for her batik weaving and dyeing workshops and her elaborate and intricately designed art.

Fela Anikulapo‘s music, life and ideology are a similitude spirit to the Black History month, as we celebrate Fela every first week of October, during a festival called, Felabration. This yearly music festival is a remembrance of Fela’s ideology, and its immortalization in the minds of every participant.

The idea behind the “Black History Month” is to yearly preserve the Afro-American consciousness in the minds of the African-Americans in Diaspora, by immortalizing their black celebrities and every event that mattered to them, which is only made possible through the documentation of their history.

Similarly in Nigeria, as part of the Black race, we all resonate with the idea of the black month most especially in the areas of our arts, craft and music for their revolutionary power in preserving our culture, and arts in a contemporary world of cultural conflict, and a quest for the African identity among many identities.

Although Nigeria has an endless list of personalities who have contributed immensely to the nation, however, to remember some of the aforementioned is to remember what our blackness stands for such as, resilience, determination, creativity, ubiquity, spirituality, and expressiveness.

 

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Lifestyle

A Colorful Rich Heritage of the Benin Kingdom

A Rich, Colorful Heritage of the Benin Kingdom

Oluseye Fakinlede

“He, who knows not the Oba, let me show him, he has piled a throne upon a throne…”

The lines of this panegyric revealed the underlined drama, a recount of history and entertainment during the 40th Coronation of the Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Apolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, gallery exhibition at The Thought Pyramid Norman Avenue, Ikoyi Lagos.

Like a time traveler on April 29, 2018, I metamorphosed to become a participant in the coronation of the Oba as he makes his way from Benin, after the transition rites of the late Oba to Uselu, Eko Ehae, Usama Palace, Use Village and back to Benin even as Omoregie Osakpolor, the gallery exhibitionist and a Nigerian Documentary Photojournalist became my eyes and a raconteur telling me all about the coronation and explaining every detail, reason for the crowned prince’s movement at the gallery.

Thought Pyramid, Lagos, Nigeria

Participants of the royal occasion were art admirers; renowned photojournalists; and a writer who loves writing and telling entertaining African visual stories, whilst the colorful and epical avalanche pictures also re-affirmed my earliest beliefs in regards to how Benin is culturally endowed and why the Oba is greatly referenced.

The Ediaken (the crowned prince) leaves Benin for Uselu, after the transition rites are over, to Uselu, a symbolic place in the Benin history.

Asides form the other things he does at Uselu is the climbing of the symbolic palm tree which fed his fore-father, Ewuare, during a time of self-exile. He moves to Eko Ehae, Bachelors Camp, which is another symbolic place the crowned prince goes to for some ritual rites.

Next, he moves to the Usama Palace to Use Village where he plays the Akhue-a game that he played to get his addressed title and he is proclaimed by the Usama as the Oba of Benin with the title. It is noteworthy to know that the crowned prince spends three or seven days in these places to complete his ritual rites of 21 days.

Asides from the beauty and the scenery at the gallery, the coronation pictures, the costume, the improvisation, plot and setting have some underlining elements of drama, re-enactment, entertainment and mysticism.

Thought Pyramid, Lagos , Nigeria

According to my guide, at Uselu, the Ediaken, symbolically climbs the palm tree known as Udin ama meieson, to re-enact the suffering of Oba Ewuare; all crowned princes must go through this rite as a norms for their coronation.

Additional dramatic aspect of the coronation is the re-enactment of the crossing of the bridge at the Omi River which is followed by a mock battle between Oba Ewedo and Ogiamen with his followers.

From the coronation pictures of the Oba, placed on the wall, I could deduce that the whole process has a large percentage of music, songs and dancing as the Ekassa Dancers, are known for the symbolic spiritual cleansing dance.

The mysticism dancers are mostly male, wrapped in their white wrappers. The dance is only performed at the demise of an Oba and the coronation of a new Oba. Asides the Ekassas are the Ikppakohen, Isienmwenro amongst others. The beauties of these dancers are accompanied with songs and various dance steps as captured by the decisive shots of Osakpolor.

Lastly, the coronation pictures also revealed a rich referenced culture. African monarchs are highly referenced and the coronation pictures confirmed this. My raconteur revealed that trading activities in Benin was practically short down during the Oba’s coronation most especially on his way back to Benin after the completion of his 21-days coronation rites.

The gallery exhibition was an avenue to learn about art, history and entertainment even as they accompanied the coronation rites of the Oba of Benin. . . Long live the Oba, long live our traditions.

@theparakeetshow