Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Innovating Culture through the Telling of Stories and Fables

Growing up was fun for me because I loved listening to stories and often learnt vital lessons from them. I remember the interesting fables of ijapa (the tortoise), that illustrated how cunning, tricky and dishonest the shelled animal is. His wife too, Yanibo, added a measure of diversity to the stories. Many times, she would support her husband, Mr Ijapa, in the dubious endeavours, and at other times, expose his secret schemes to the victimised parties. In one of the funny stories I remember, Ijapa stole some money from friends and was planning to buy a horse from his loot. So, he informed his wife, Yanibo, about his intention. Yanibo did not care to know how her husband had gotten the money to buy a horse but she was overjoyed. 
While rejoicing, she frolicked around the bedroom to demonstrate how she would tirelessly ride an imaginary horse. She began by saying, “I will ride it like this and like this and like this and like this and like this…” Angered, Ijapa shouted, “Do you want to kill the horse? Don’t you know it will die if you ride it like that?” But Yanibo deafened her ears to her husband’s queries and continued gambolling. After a while, Ijapa’s fury heightened and he grabbed a stool and hit it on his wife’s head. Yanibo cried out sharply and died suddenly. Eventually, the village guards captured Ijapa. He was brought before the King and judged in the presence of his previous theft victims (the dog and elephant). A few morals from the story would be that: one should not steal; when angry, one should not make a decision or take an action but instead leave the environment; one should not be as talkative as Yanibo and one should not take what belongs to others without their consent.

Most of the fables I loved were those aired on the local television (children’s shows and story time programmes) and tales told by grandma at the appearance of moonlight. Others were read to me from the many storybooks my father bought for me and my siblings. Grandma’s stories were usually family-inclined, complicated and almost unending. She told us stories about the incidents and people that existed before even our mother was born. She would ask us for the meanings of some Yoruba proverbs and smiled at our ridiculous interpretations before providing the right meanings. That was what happened in my childhood and early teenage years. Today, technological advancement and the invasion of our homes by foreign media have sent story-telling behind closed curtains.

These days, children observe foreign culture on TV and adopt it as their own. An instance is seen in the new taste of fashion in urban Nigeria. Fashionable mini-skirts did not walk into Nigeria in one day; they were first seen on TV, liked on foreign fashion shows before Nigerians began importing and selling them in boutiques. Guys who wear ear rings learnt it from the hip hop stars and ghetto shows aired on American television. Unless you were a member of the ancient sango family in Nigeria, the wearing of earrings was generally perceived as a poor behaviour and wearers were treated as outcasts. Well, human rights cover all that today and the path-paving factor is that you can wear what you like. These days, almost nobody defines the dressing ethics in many exposed societies. It’s legal. It’s your right. You can wear what you like. A hybrid of foreign cultures have been embraced in Nigeria and are somewhat diminishing the sustainability of Nigerian cultures.

The use of local languages is banned in several primary and secondary schools. Native greeting patterns are discouraged in some parts of the corporate environment...

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