By Rev. Fr. Angelo Chidi Unegbu ([email protected]) 24 April 2021
1) Since the beginning of human history, humans have at every age directly or indirectly, knowing or unknowingly documented or preserved their beliefs, fears, abilities, weaknesses, failures, breakthroughs, experiences, joys, sorrows, migrations, opportunities, discoveries and successes. At no point did they not document their history.
2) Before the advent of the conventional way of ink and paper documentation, ancient people preserved their history through their arts, sculpture, painting, drawings, customs, festivals, food, proverbs, language, vocabularies, music, idioms, poems, lullabies, folktales, religious beliefs and so on.
3) More still, they did so through their laws and taboos – show me your laws and taboos and I will tell you your history because laws are products of past events. Unlike today that we copy other people’s laws, our forefathers made their own laws from their own experiences.
4) Their most cherished documents were preserved in their most secret archives, particularly shrines, where they believed that these would never be tampered with, and would be preserved for generations yet unborn.
5) Generally, artifacts reveal to us the tools used in producing them. The tools in turn tell us about the technological advancement of the people at a given time. Furthermore, from the similarities among works of art across regions and languages, one can reconstruct the relationships that existed among these nations.
6) The paintings of two prominent Italian artists, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, tell us that sculptors and artists are story tellers. In fact, scholars have been able to link Michelangelo’s art of the 16th Century AD to the Belvedere Torso of the 1st Century BC, uncovering stories behind the sculptor and some traits of the people of that ancient world (watch, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N50NWTv9INg). In that clip, you will also notice how the Church has preserved the memory of the ancient world – one of the things that make Rome very attractive today.
7) Just like their European counterparts, Igbo artists and sculptors documented their own stories or events through carvings, sculpture, paintings, music and so on. To preserve most of the important “documents”, they kept them in their most secured places and with the most secured laws and taboos.
8) The preservation of these ‘documents’ has moved from one generation to the other. Unfortunately, when it reached our turn, we saw nothing in them but idolatry, paganism, packs of curses, filth and ignorance. Consequently, we consigned them to the flames.
9) Today, when our children ask us about our history, we lie to them that our forefathers were idol worshippers and illiterates who wrote nothing. Why are we not bold enough to tell them the truth, namely, that we ignorantly destroyed what they wrote because we were unable to read and interpret them?
10) Any education that does not awaken in us the desire to appreciate our history, roots, identity and the environment in which God has planted us, that education is fake, destructive and ungodly. Such education is, in fact, the real idolatry because it is impossible to discover and worship God if we cannot discover ourselves.
11) It is very strange that one would graduate from our secondary school without knowing the meaning and symbolisms of Ikenga, ofo-na-ogu, nzu, and oji, to mention but a few. It is sad to see our young people feel so disconnected from their land because they no longer know the meaning and significance of our cultural festivals, customs and even language. But how would they know if nobody teaches them?
12) Without cultural embeddedness, there is no complete self-esteem. Without self-esteem there is little or no dignity. Without dignity there can never be freedom or authentic progress.