…Says no nation grows without its culture
Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, apart from being a renowned Ifa Priest, is also a cultural enthusiast, globally recognise. In this interview, he spoke about the Yoruba nation losing its identity.
How will you describe the place of identity in culture?
Culture itself is the identity of a people or race, it defines who they are, their history, the food they eat and how their houses were constructed.
Does the Yoruba race has architectural identity?
Yes, Yoruba used to have architectural identity. In the early days, when you got to any part of Yoruba land, you would know just by the design of the buildings that this is Yorubaland. But modernity has decimated or even completely phased out that aspect of our culture.
Are you blaming colonialism for the problem?
No. The major blame is that of the academia. When the colonialists left, we still had a lot of architecture that reflected our culture, but the 20th century architects in their designs did not bother to consider our culture. This is where the academia comes into the scene.
When you train students in such field, you must always consider that the culture of the environment where you teach or practice should be integrated into your research work in order not to lose your identity. No serious race or nation would allow its culture to be completely encroached, but in our case, even with the high number of elites, we seem to be culturally acculturated.
Are you saying we should not embrace modern architectural designs?
No. What I am talking about is to embrace modern architectural design imbued with our culture. For instance in Nigeria at a time when you get to the Northern part, the architectural design portrays northern culture, same with the East and West, but today, to a large extent, the north still retains its identity, especially the palace of the emirs. How many palaces retain such identity in the Southwest, everyone, is after modern architectural designs at the detriment of our culture.
Do you maintain cultural identity in buildings?
Of course I do, a major problem is that when you ask architects to bring designs, none of them include culture in their works. So, most of the time I had to condemn the design and insist on some cultural aspects. In most cases I would insist on creating what was known as ‘Gobi’ (Arcs) on my buildings and I had even asked them to demolish parts of the structure to pave way for the curves which are associated with traditional Yoruba structure. The traditional Yoruba family builds large houses linked by arcs and also ‘aruru’, (Court House) where everyone gathered for important meetings or celebrations. So if you get to my house, known as House of Culture in Osogbo, it still has the ingredients of Yoruba cultural heritage.
Let’s look at the issue of tribal mark and its importance
Tribal mark is an integral part of culture in most African tribes including Yoruba. In Nigeria, almost all the ethnic groups have tribal marks with which you can identify them. But in Yorubaland, tribal mark, especially in the olden days is a source of pride and a sort of class in the society. Different families have various marks that helped differentiate them from another. Today, tribal mark is no longer in vogue. But the tattoo that is in vogue now is a form of tribal mark in Yorubaland for centuries.
People only understand marks on the face as tribal mark but some families do not inscribe marks on the face but on other parts of the body, like the stomach, arms, shoulder, back and so on. What they do now is to replace the marks with inks in form of tattoo.
Only few of your children had tribal marks, why is it so?
(Smiles)..Well, the reason is that to keep tribal mark clean, hygienic and beautiful requires a lot of dexterity. Initially, my first wife lived with other women in the family house, so it was easy to watch over her prepare the necessary ingredients to ensure that it is not infected. So, when we relocated to my house located at the outskirts of the town and she was the only one, I knew it would be tedious to let her face all the stress on her own since I was always traveling abroad for cultural performance and there was no one to be with her. What made it more complex was that she had a twin then and I had to imagine the stress she would be going through and I also considered the consequences of not taking care of the sore diligently. So I decided I would have to stop inscribing marks on my children’s face.
How do you think the Yoruba nation could develop?
We must embrace our culture, no nation in the world jettison its culture for anything. When you get to any European country their architecture speaks volume of their identity. When you get London, Rome, Paris, Moscow and even Asian countries their architectural designs differentiate one city from another. So also is their technological development. As a nation, we must embrace our culture, each ethnic group must do so to engender home made technological advancement.