Explain what role we can all play to highlight African art, music and culture to a new generation. How do we remove that innate fear of traditional art objects?
It’s so difficult because you’re dealing with centuries of repression, we are dealing with centuries of negativity. We are dealing with centuries of misinformation, of being told we have no value and the things we were doing in the past were wrong or evil. When a superior conquering force not only enslaves you and colonizes you, he also expropriates your culture, questions your humanity and shreds your history, this is in our recent past. It remains for us in this new era to confront our own demons, to see the truth around us, to understand who we are, and to understand why these narratives persist. I find that many of our people cannot move past what they consider to be ‘juju’ or ‘idolatry’ of our original faith and belief systems.
I hope to open the Iba Ajie Asika Centre in my hometown in Onitsha in a few months. The centre will be an innovation hub, cultural centre, library and gallery. We will focus on the narrative of who we are, where we’re from and where we’re going. This’ll all be underpinned by music, entertainment and art, really to make it accessible to the younger generation. The centre will house over 30 thousand images, 20 thousand books, and 500 pieces of African Art. The plan is to enable study, research and appreciation of our heritage and culture, and to provide a space where innovation can happen.
I don’t believe you can beat people over the head in terms of wider acceptance of our culture. In Nigeria, we are lucky because we still live our culture to some extent, but, we have to let people come to it in their own natural way. I personally make connections with concepts people can understand and relate to. So when I mention Sango, but also mention Thor they get it. It doesn’t sound so crazy because in pop culture, they can work out Thor as the Nordic god of thunder and relate that back to Sango, the Yoruba god of thunder.
But when I say “what is the difference between Sango & Thor”, all my Yoruba and Nigerian friends shout that it’s the same thing! However I always say no, there is about a 10 billion dollar difference. The Nordic version has been franchised while over 75 million Yoruba people have totally abandoned their own original mythology, their gods, their original ethos.