By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor
“Arts and Crafts can both serve the purposes of violence/war or peace/development. Arts and Crafts are the elixirs for joy, happiness, peace, unity, longevity, growth and development of any human society. The priority and relevance you give to your Art and Craft sector will to a large extent determines the level of peace and development you are likely to enjoy in your society.
“No human society can exist without a viable Arts and Crafts culture; the viability of Arts and Crafts is an ultimate decider for national development. Therefore, Arts and Crafts which are inherent in our culture and define the ways of our lives and death cannot and should never be left in the hands of the ill-informed, roguish and conflict merchants in our society.”
The text above which is an excerpt from the keynote address by Dr. Bakut Tswah, Director-General, the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the investment forum of the 2022 INAC, could have as well been lifted from this writer’s unpublished PhD thesis which propounded a new concept in cultural studies called rhythmic renaissance. The study, based on the findings, and relying on exhaustive literature, expanded the concept of rhythm to encompass the social, political and economic, thus midwifing the concept of rhythmic renaissance – a clarion call for Africans to return to the roots.
Africans had lost out in most international competitions because they had competed outside their cultural milieu. Is it possible, for instance, for an African, bred and nurtured in African culture, to play classical music or other Western music styles, better than a European or an American?
Africans should therefore employ African rhythms (culture) when competing in music, art, politics, economy and other aspects of human endeavors. Even in competitions like football, Africans need to adapt it to the African culture. Clemens Westerhof was arguably the best national coach of Super Eagles ever, and the first foreign national coach to take Nigeria to the World Cup, in 1994. Westerhof, for instance, had associated the football prowess of Igbo boys with their skills in the dance of Atilogwu, Eji-Onu and Nkpokiti traditional music: “Those boys are natural football players, for it is in their culture. The way they dance Atilogwu, Eji-Onu, and Nkpokiti is the way they play football.” (see https://newlive.vanguardngr.com/2018/06/super-eagles-gives-arts-culture-confidence-russia-2018/).
So, when Otunba Segun Runsewe, the D-G, National Council for Arts & Culture, continues to sound like a broken record in saying that “culture is Nigeria’s new oil”, his assertion has a base in cultural and communication theories – no people can make any meaningful progress competing outside their cultural milieu. Within every people’s culture lies the wealth and resources for their progress and development. Africa is suffering today and lagging behind because Africans had abandoned their positive cultures (economically, socially, politically, etc.) and took on other people’s cultures and have been trying to excel in them. But each time Africans return to their culture (even slightly), they experience success and excellence. We are seeing this in the current Nigerian popular music revolution that has made Nigerian popular music the preferred brand globally. The Nigerian popular music revolution was spurred by the return of Nigerian youth musicians to the original ‘konkolo’ or African timeline rhythm.
What Runsewe has done in INAC is to provide a forum for different countries to network their arts, crafts and cultures to one another, hence the theme, Networking Nigerian Crafts to the World. “This is in recognition of the fact that no nation is an Island,” says Runsewe in his welcome address. “For us to take full advantage of the diverse Arts and Crafts products in Nigeria, we must open ourselves to international audience and engage with industry players and global stakeholders in Arts and Crafts in order to showcase our unique cultural manifestations and tap into the global best practices. In fact, the whole essence of the exposition is to provide a platform for all stakeholders to exhibit their products, interact and network for business partners as well as foster international unity, understanding and partnership.
Runsewe urged all participants at this Expo to “see it as a unique platform not only for showcasing the best of their respective countries and states but also as a veritable medium for socio-economic networking and for building lasting friendship across states, countries and continents of the world.” Runsewe’s innovation is in line with the UNESCO’s concept of Cultural Diversity which posits that “together the cultures of the world create a rich and varied tapestry. The resulting cultural diversity expands choices, nurtures a variety of skills, human values and worldviews and provides wisdom from the past to inform the future. Cultural diversity is a mainspring for sustainable development for individuals, communities and countries.”
Otunba Runsewe seems to have discovered the secret that pooling the cultures of different countries together will work like Nigerian-US-based Philip Emeagwali’s Connection Machine which utilizes 65,000 computers linked in parallel to form the fastest computer on Earth – a computer that can perform 3.1 billion calculations per second, which is today used by all search engines like Google and Yahoo or search.com!
Given the prevailing insecurity in Nigeria and some other parts of the world, Runsewe has tailored the 2022 INAC to meet that need: “There is therefore the compelling need for those of us in the Arts and Culture sector to use our various cultures and cultural manifestations to engender sustainable peace and social harmony. Culture, with all its manifestations is a very strong vehicle for propagating and promoting peace. We must continue to use culture in dousing tension, suppressing violent uprising and propagating peace in our land,” Runsewe said.
Today, our country is bleeding at all fronts – economically, politically, socially, educationally, security, etc. Otunba Segun Runsewe, through the 2022 INAC, is telling us that deep down our culture lies the solutions to these myriads of problems. For thousands of years, Africans have lived peacefully amongst themselves through deployment of appropriate cultural practices designed for peaceful co-existence. Those cultural practices still lie within us, and they still work. All we need to do is to return to them. That is the concept of rhythmic renaissance.