2014 DAY OF AFRICAN CHILD Organized by Irene Menakaya School and Igbo Ga Adi Foundation
PREAMBLE: Language and Culture are the light and salt of every nation, and when the light goes off and the salt loses its taste, then the nation is dead and vanishes from the face of the earth1. It is clear that our Igbo nation is vanishing from planet earth. We “The Igbos” are traced to be the Pillars of development in different parts of the globe, yet we are lost as a nation. We perpetually push forward other people’s traditions and norms, while ours suffer extinction. A language said to be spoken by 18 million people with approximately 30 different dialects (UCLA) is at the verge of extinction, what an irony? This article tries to understand the importance of Language and Culture and consider safeguarding them so as to have an Intangible Cultural Heritage to depend and look unto. Key Words: ‘Language’, ‘Culture’, and ‘Intangible Cultural Her-itage’.
TRACING THE ORIGIN: Ndi Igbo, Kedu ebe mmiri malitere wee mawa anyi? The state of our condition can be traced back to the nineteenth centuries when the wind of European civilization started blowing across the African continent and we started embracing it without first understanding its meaning and how best to integrate it into our various cultures; when our men stopped being the defenders of our culture; when we ignorantly started denigrating our culture in exchange for western civiliza-tion. It was at this early stage that Chinua Achebe our literary Icon of blessed memory foresaw the danger of our actions and wrote his award winning literary text “Things Fall Apart.” We all took it as a mere literary fiction without thinking deeply to understand the reason behind such a great work. The then prophecy is still manifesting and yet, we continue folding our arms watching our race and identity to vanish just like that. Umunne m, what has happened to our core na-ture as a nation, the nature of “Igboness”?
ANALYSIS: Language and culture are two different concepts that are inseparable. Language is very important because it is viewed as an ‘identity maker’. No culture is made without language, that is why UNESCO (2009, p.13) says that it has a signifi-cant boundary-making function between different social groups; and when it is lost, its recovery becomes more difficult than other identity makers.
Currently, there is great awareness creation for the promotion and protection of vernacular languages in the UNESCO because; it has been proven to create a great impact on global communication and in exchange of information (2009, p.13). In a time when local languages are recognized and being pushed forward, the Igbo language is nowhere to be found, yet ‘IGBOS’ remain major actors in various fields of the world. Where then lies our identity if our language is lost? What are we trying to present if we cannot uphold and preserve our very own Language that identifies us as a people. What are a people without heritage? Why have we decided to abandon our own unique heritage in pursuit of another? Can’t we ask ourselves why some countries develop more than others? Developed countries grow deeper and faster because they value their own.
Two factors responsible for language endangerment according to UNESCO (2009, p.13) are: 1. The external (globalization, political pressure, economic advantage, etc). 2. Internal which is a community’s or peoples negative atti-tude towards their language. I think that our problem is the “Internal” factor. Ndi Igbo despise their language to the core with no just cause; it’s high time we as a people have to reassert our cultural identity.
Moreover, we are about losing if not lost them already our valued customs and traditions handed over to us by our an-cestors like: “Ime Udara, Iru Mgbede, Iwa Akwa, Igba Mgba, Egwu Onwa”etc. How many of our youths know these cul-tural practices?
RECOMMENDATIONS: The question we are asking is how do Ndi Igbo begin to recover and re-appreciate their culture and language? I recom-mend that our parents (home and abroad) and especially our mothers should take it upon themselves to teach and communicate this language of ours to their children.
Ndi Igbo should try and have love and respect for their language because no language is superior or better than another. “æ kwa ihe onye kporo nkita ya ka o na-aza”.
Our government should also give preference to our indigenous languages and try including them in the educational curriculum of all levels. As a spoken and a written language, Igbo will always be regenerated and remain a living lan-guage preserving a living culture.
NGOs should promote Igbo Language by creating awareness and organizing Igbo Lectures, quizzes and debates at all levels of education. Thanks to few that has started practicing what they preach like Centre for Igbo Arts and Culture Abuja (CIAC) and Women and Family Affairs Committee (WFAC) Germany branch. I plead that others should follow suit.
CONCLUSION: Ndi Igbo, why can’t we wake up from our slumber and enkindle the fire of our heritage which is about extinguishing? Let us not allow the recent UNESCO prediction of Igbo Language going into extinction to materialize; because if it hap-pens, our generation and race are damned and doomed forever just as our proverb goes: “O metu Imi, O metu Onu”.
While International Organizations like UNESCO are busy preaching and creating awareness for the safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of humanity, we are busy neglecting and condemning ours to death. Does it mean that we (Ndi Ig-bo) are acting as a result of ignorance? Now that it has been brought to light, I challenge us to stand our ground and exhibit the unique nature of “Igboness” in us which made us who we are. Umunne m, bikonu ka anyi fee asaa n’ anya banyere asusu na omenaala anyi n’ ihi na “Ukpana Okpoko gburu, Nti chiri ya.”
Anyaegbu Chidimma Queendaline,
Chair, UNESCO Club for Global Education Curriculum Handbook on Nigeria Cultural Education for Nigerian Schools
UCGE Department of Global Education First Initiative Series M.A. (In View) World Heritage Studies, BTU, Cottbus Germany.