“Things may start getting a fare shape if in my country, my culture, on which I pride on, that I am free to celebrate my own religious or tribal festivals; I am praised and appreciated in my native dress and religious jewelries and my food is respected even when it is salty and watery; my religion that squats or kneels while praying and reciting Holy Book is not taunted; when the news of yesterday tears will heal so fast with news of unity; when my village will sleep long in their huts protected; when our women will pride in their being mothers without harassment or fear and children enjoys being young out of fear; with no fear, my tribal music is played and danced with pride by children and minors and tribal marks does not place me as one walking the street with odor in his body and that my style of greeting and waving is seen as not being archaic and that my younger brother is allowed to go to school freely in the school of his choice. That is when I will say that we have got it right”.
That sounds like a dream. I am afraid to say the least truth: We have lost the chance. The worst time to live is now. Today, many ongoing internal struggles of race, religion and politics seem to put a frightening look to the hearts of both the young and old. Wars and threats of terrorism, rise in border insecurity, political tensions, high profile of religious prejudice, racism, corruption, heightened mistrust, conflicts, hunger and anxiety about the future are all threatening the world peace. Some religions and minor races still face systematic discrimination and stigmatizations. Ideally, religion should have been a force that binds us together as global family, but it is dividing us more than ever. Cultures of all should have been designed, as a tool to transmit the message of oneness and unity, but they have suddenly become archaic. Now we are tired of the culture wars all over.
Many sectarian groups and culture groups have emerged in recent years to put to a stop the many organic cultures and hacked many innocent souls down to death in the name of religion. These are the offshoot of those who absurdly pursue the insane agenda of separatism and violence in their recourse! Gombe state. 22nd March, 2007. Muslim pupils killed their Christian teacher, Mrs Oluwatoyin Olusesan. The pupils claimed that their teacher desecrated the Qur’an while attempting to stop a student from cheating in an examination hall. I am confused.
We have seen replication of such stories in Jos ,Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna etc, where innocent citizens mainly women and children were mass-buried amidst tears. If it was an isolated case and things improved after, I would have settled to the believe that these victims became Jesus Christ who dies to save mankind. But it has continued.
In the eyes of fellow countrymen, we have become illegal aliens and are seen as nuisance and threat. At best we are viewed as cheap labor, just waiting to be ruthlessly exploited. It is either you are something they defined you to be and which you must accept or nothing. We have lost the honor to continue living. So, bigotry has become a cancer to our world. It uses God, it uses religion, it uses culture, it uses education and it possesses politics and politicians. We pay a terrible price for this as it breeds increased lack of knowledge of others and their ways of life. As a result we suffer cultural stigma; we hide our identity because we want to be accepted not for who we are but what we are asked to accept. This is a culture price and if it continues, we will be running a slim chance of survival and that is to say that humanity is not going to find a way to survive if they do not find a way to live together. We need not give up. All we need is to keep thinking and working out solutions. Maybe something different needs to be introduced. Our common humanity flourishes in the arena of art and culture. No one can dispute that. Arts and culture are key ingredients of a healthy society, helping people to interpret the world and each other more better. The relationship between art and culture should be emphasized. How?
Art and culture when put together, have the ability to generate empathy and values, unite interests, stir up dialogue, induce reflection and introduce new relationships and ideas. They help humanity in their quest to explore inner capabilities and provide insight on how they imagine and use different means to relate with each other. Culture is humanity’s living link and art evolves humanity. Powerful tools!
Of course, what we are as individuals does not depend on just our cultural background. Within every culture there are variations among people. Who we are is also determined by genetics, our experiences in life, and a host of other factors. Cultures are more than language, dress and food customs. Cultural groups may share race, ethnicity or nationality, but they also arise from cleavages of generation, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, ability and disability, political and religious affiliations, language and gender. Those are strong uniting factors.
Another interesting thing about culture is that it is embedded in every conflict because conflicts arise in human relationships and art douses it positively. It affect the way we name, frame, blame and attempt to tame conflicts. It forms a strong connections that will be seen as solutions to those conflicts. Culture is always a factor in conflict, whether it plays a central role or influences it subtly and gently, it is an asset. For any conflict that touches us where it matters, where we make meaning and hold our identities, there is always a cultural component.
The fact that culture is characterized by the vital ideals of humankind, individuals, society and in general is an indication that it has a morally sanctioned goal – to unite humanity. No culture is too important and no culture is not important. So, it is central.
All we need is familiarity with different starting points where culture matters. This I know is true. There is no one size fits all approach to solving the huge problems and gap created by this ignorance in display in our today’s world. In the light of these, I make these recommendations;
– Youths as the brain box of every society should without fear or recourse conduct analysis and understanding of people’s cultural life, cultural values and cultural needs and expectations and evolve with art
– Honest affirmation of the authentic cultural values and cultural heritage should be harnessed and preserved for better advantage.
– Building up of a national cultural identity and apparel affirmation of cultural identifies of different ethnic groups, understanding them considering that we live in a homogenous society and share our boundary with people who do not speak our language or practice the same system of worship
– Development of cultural infrastructure and introduction of new technologies in cultural activities by harnessing our artistic skill and priding them to others
– Establishment of links between culture and education, as well as between education and different cultural industries, particularly mass media
– Ask close-ended questions which often eliminate confusion on a particular aspect of culture
– Openness to cultural differences, the desire from mutually beneficial relationships, a willingness to engage in effective dialogue to resolve conflict and the ability and commitment to use an agreement as the basis for future action.
– The use of culture to entertain as well as educate must come to the fore and be made to serve as a catalyst for socio-economic and political emancipation from the shackles of ignorance, bigotry and hatred
Love for other people’s culture has sustained civilizations, promoted cultures, calmed frayed nerves and mitigated conflicts. Besides, it connects the past with the present with a view to preempting the future for a habitable society. With culture, misconceptions shall be erased, challenges met, institutions rebuilt and threats curbed in such a way that many will heave a comforting sigh of relief.
Finally, with the above, culture are lens through which we see the world; a time tested solution to many problems of our time. It is a tool for resolving some sophisticated pressures of a turbulent society, improve relations between people, and help them find hidden creativity while encouraging collective action against adverse challenges threatening our lives and barriers separating us. In as much as we can, we work to transform the life of every individual that walks though our doors, leaving a lasting impression in their memories forever. By showing love and reciprocity, understanding and solidarity, we join hands in support of one another. There is hope.