Re- discovering Africa’s lost traditions through arts
By: KOFI YEBOAH
HE forces of modernity and globalization have colluded to strip Africa of its cherished traditions, the very last legacy left for a continent described as a “a scar on the conscience of the world”.
Traditions that give Africans an identity as people and underpin their unity and strength have been scattered by the strong influence of modernity and globalization.
The exciting adowa dance, sweet fontomfrom drum beat, beautiful kaba and slit dress exhilarating homowo festival, sumptuous fufu and soup and a highly respectable chieftaincy institution have all succumb to the dictates of foreign traditions and cultures.
Although these foreign traditions and cultures are, in the African context ludicrous, to say the least, it is amazing how some people in the continent, especially the youth, have become obsessed with the white man’s world.
They believe eating cholesterol-laden fried rice is a sign of good living; wearing dresses that expose their underwear and some vital parts of their body is a mark of trendiness; wearing coat and tie and walking in the scorchy sun is a show of nobility and civilization, and celebrating Valentine’s Day with an immeasurable erotic passion is a show of love.
The new generation of Africa is, indeed, at the brink of lost identity and the clarion call to salvage the situation is reverberating across the continent.
In the heart of Ouagadougou, a young Burkinabe artiste echoes such clarion call rather loudly in an art work that inspires a great deal of encouragement in the quest to rediscover Africa’s lost traditions.
Even in the midst of equally enchanting arts exhibits at the ‘Ecole de Danse Edit’in Ouagadougou, Kasimir Bationo’s impressive art work beckons for appreciation from visitors.
Using different colours to produce good effect, the 28-year old artist captures the very essence of Africa’s tradition that gives a unique identity to its people. One of such impressions in the work is an African personality wearing a mask and beads necklace to depict the dressing of some Africans during festive occasions.
The personality sits behind two huge drums, which depict one of the most cherished traditions in Africa, considering the importance of drums to the people of the continent.
In western culture, the drum is invariably associated with entertainment, but in Africa drums hold a deeper symbolic and historical meaning. They are regular features for all manner of ceremonies including births, deaths and marriages.
Sometimes, the ferocious sound of drums as they are pounded together is employed to stir up emotions for battle or war, or to inspire excitement and passion.
The rhythm of the djembe drum, for instance, was originally created as a sacred drum to be used in healing ceremonies, rites of passage, ancestral worship, warrior rituals and social dances.
In some parts of Africa some drums symbolize and protect royalty and are often kept in sacred places. In some instances, drums are used for communication even between tribes miles apart. Such is the rich legacy of tradition and culture Africa is losing in the stead of foreign cultures, and same is what Bationo wants to re-establish through arts.
With 12 years experience on the job, Bationo displays a deep sense of creativity in his concept when he captures on a structure some sentences written in a very unconventional manner- from right to left, and not left to right as convention dictates.
The message in there is simple; the traditions of Africa are heading towards the wrong direction. And the import is clear; there is the need to redeem Africa’s lost traditions.
Bationo’s strong interest in rediscovering Africa’s lost traditions does not only belie his age; it also seems rather bizarre, especially at a time when many Africans of his generation find such traditions rooted in antiquity, and are warmly embracing foreign lifestyle.
Inasmuch as Bationo’s work is captivating, his presentation of personality with a very scary face in his art work is a confrontation against the very goal he seeks to achieve – promoting Africa’s traditions.
That is because the countenance of that personality gives the impression that Africa’s traditions are scary, for which reason the youth in particular would want to flee from them.
The implication is that although Africa’s traditions are very important and Africa’s traditions are very important and useful, there are some aspects of them that need to be discarded because they lack relevance today, and new generation away from African traditions and culture.
Again, while promoting African culture and traditions, Bationo fails to appreciate the relevance and influence of the new world order of globalization, and for that matter, he does not fathom how best to fuse the two interest.
He could, for instance, capture something that gives a message to effect that Africans can keep their traditions even as they indulge in globalization, that will be more encouraging, to keep to the traditions of Africa.
Bationo is, however, not perturbed in his conviction. He believes with his strong passion in ad commitment to promoting African traditions, the clarion call be heeded. With similar commitment from all and sundry, Africa will surely re-discover its lost traditions and culture.
Daily Graphic Page: 10 Tuesday, November 30, 2010