THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH AND SUSTAINABILITY OF CULTURE
PREPARED BY EDWARD KABUYE
DISCRIPTION OF CULTURE
One of the best ways to understand culture is to learn how something began and how it grows. It is not known precisely how this planet on which we live originated. In the beginning may be all was inorganic matter; these inorganic materials may be underwent changes due to the influences of gases, changing temperature, pressures, and contacts of various chemical agents. In the long span of time, life appeared. Culture placed its origin with the coming of man, the most frequent definition of culture is that is a complex which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society. Also culture is an organized body of conventional understandings manifest in art and artifacts, which, persisting through tradition, characterizes a human group.
For certain purposes of analysis it is desirable to make a distinctive between the material and non-material culture, it is also important to note that they are interrelated parts of a larger cultural unit, social institutions. When material and non material culture are elaborated around fundamental human functions, we have social institutions. Men live by such functions as sex, work, worship, and play. On these are built the family, economic, religion, and recreational institutions.
THE UNIVERSAL CULTURAL PATTERN
An interesting question about these different parts of culture is whether there are any people in existence today whose culture does not posses all these parts. The study shows the list below as the parts found in all preliterate societies: (1) Speech, (2) material traits, objects and skills pertaining to them, (3) art, (4) mythology and scientific knowledge, (5) religious beliefs, (6) the family and social structures, (7) property, (8) government, and (9) war.
These nine divisions represent an irreducible minimum of culture and comprise of what we could call the “the universal pattern” of culture. But this minimum can be ascribed as to all existing peoples only if the interpretations of some of the categories are quite elastic.
The different parts of culture are inseparable; the parts of culture are thus interlocked one with another with varying degree of closeness.
Once we have grasped the importance of culture (life), we focus on the African, his Art, which then becomes so much easier to explain and understand. Birth and rebirth are the key words on the simplest cycles. For example-Music is born with each child and accompanies him throughout life. Music helps the child triumph in his first encounter with death; the symbolize death that precedes initiation; it is reborn with the child who is now a man and it directs his steps along the path of law and order that has been laid down by the community.
ON THE PATH
On the path, music and truth become one; order and rhythm become another one. Musicality is no longer a mere word, but become a series of acts. Hence, the real disappointment of the foreigner arises when he vainly tries to grasp a melody, chord or movement without seeing music in its entirety. No matter, for African music goes blithely on its way with all of its vices and virtues and a total lack of concern for its own future.
Many seminars and festivals have been organized during the past fourty four years with the aim and bringing African (Negro) art to the attention of a wider public. These symposiums have given Africanists from all over the world an opportunity to discuss many aspects for Negro Art./ Both present and future problems have been examined by specialists who are fully aware of the potential role of African Art in a world that is constantly in search of artistic renovation.
It could be naïve to imagine that the major themes that have been touched on in meetings of this kind could instantly solve all the problems of African Arts and Artists, and the research into different spheres of this art are all still very much live issues. Infact, the festivals reveal the artistic splendours of the past and enable a comparison to be made with present day productions, these issues can now be seen in an even wider context.
This comparison between the past and the present provokes a number of differing reactions. The most general of these is that as things stand at present, modern African Art is qualitatively and quantitatively inferior to that of earlier times.
The exhibition of traditional African Art that was held in Dakar in 1966- and which was subsequently shown in Paris the following summer-ranged from the fifteenth to the sixteenth centuries up to the first few decades of the twentieth century. Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the so-called ancient output proved to be qualitative very superior to what is classified as modern-a term that barely covers no specific period.
As far as quality is concerned, we would be lacking in objectivity if we fail to recognize that in recent years African art has been in quest of its own identity. The enormous amount of foreign influences that has been infiltrated Africa since the beginning of the colonial era has in non way been counter balance by any sign of encouragement for the indigenous Art. Black Africa is evolving, birth rebirth remain the eternal watch words, the colonial period is forgotten on a much wider scale the time for the new initiation is now, a traditional period when the future initiates leave their villages and their old customs for several weeks and cloister themselves in the forest, in huts surrounded by high fences. During this retreat, they learn all that they need to know in order to take their rightful positions in the adult society. Sometimes, they are expected to give up certain of their former customs entirely, but often past experiences and present reality are welded together into a new philosophy of life. The new attitude is definitely more propitious to the flowering or expansion of new human qualities and regenerated way of thinking.
I firmly believe that such welding and regenerations will be the pattern for African Art. Many of the many foreign influences that have penetrated Africa will be incorporated into a form of black African Art. His form of initiation may be deplored by those with deep-seated conservative or racialist tendencies, but far from resulting in bastardized and damaging modernization, I believe this mutation will breathe new life into African art and will demonstrate the triumph of humanism and universality over esoteric sterility.
However African Art has completely no future if we continue to ignore the artist who creates the Art. The artist needs to be constantly reminded that his art is essential and to be encouraged not to reject it. The most vital step is to assist him the task of cherishing his art and spreading it around him. He is the teacher to whom the new African “arts schools” must turn to if African Art is to be safe guarded. He must be encouraged to renew his ideas. It is the Artist alone who can protect or rediscover the mystic force of his art, only he can imbue it with all its vitality and dynamism, it brutality or tenderness – in short, its soul. He is the sole one who can perpetuate the communal aspect of culture in Africa by inviting his people together around and participate in his Art.
The crux of the matter is to reach the people through the artist and to arouse public opinion by demonstrating the importance of the artist and his art. This is the best means of approaching the dual aims of sustainability and development. Neither can be achieved without the support of all people. The participation of all communities is the only way to guarantee the authenticity of the art whose preservation and development is at stake. Thus, the artist has an extremely important coordinating role to play, not only as far as production and evolution are concerned, but also in the use of his art and in integration into modern African life.
People must be inspired with the urge to express themselves often, in an artistic language that account of their evolution but they must be increased and coordinated if African art is to develop and be sustained.
Among the practical in which this could be achieved, I suggest the following-:
1. The organization of artistic competitions and other cultural events that could bring together traditional artists and modern artists.
2. the creation of companies of folk artists to present genuine traditional art forms with special emphasis on music and dance,
3. the formation of traditional orchestras that would receive financial assistance in order to enable them to remain in close contact with their ancestral art forms and to maintain a purity of expression,
4. the payment of all artists who record for TVs and Radio stations,
5. the promotion of traditional art products by recording and film companies on a scale comparable with that used to pop art productions
6. the establishment of subsidized ethno musicological research centres, African instrument making centre and conservatories of African art,
7. the broadcasting by African radios and TV stations of as much African Art as possible with explanation and commentaries,
There has to be a price to pay in order to enable the African mind to make a universal impact upon the non-African wor