IGBO TRADITION AND THE 21ST CENTURY A NEED FOR REDIRECTION NDIGBO – THE DILEMMA OF THE PAST AND THE PRESENT (Being Paper delivered at the Igbo Cultural week at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Osun State)

Thank you very much. It’s really a privilege for me to be here and celebrate with you on this truly traditional Igbo day in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. I also wish my grandmother was here to see what I was doing today because I still have to convince her, that her grandson was Abiriba through and through and Igbo also, even though I often tried, like most of you here today to respond to her numerous entreaties in English language, which I felt then was cool.
I’m honoured to be here because I also, as an Igbo man, who grew up under several cultural influences, can feel the joy and pride you and your friends who are here today feel about being Igbo. As an Igbo person, I remember my first encounter with the conflict, amusement and wonder of being Igbo and I can tell you, that it was funny. The year was 1974. The place was Enugu. We got into a street fight, with kids our age from the next street. It was not anything serious, but a few of us got overboard and an elder had to separate the fight. When asked what the matter was, one of us, in pure poetic, yet undecipherable vernacular tried to explain what the matter was. I heard no jack, and most of my peers didn’t; we broke out in laughter and called him names, which years later I was to be given the same name, when i broke out in anger in Abiriba dialect. Well, the language he spoke was a dialect of Igbo language called Izza and this I found out later. Was it poetic then, off course not, but that was my first experience with the rather unique diversity of our race and ever since then, I have been on a personal journey to understand not just what was spoken, but the driving culture that created the dialects. There are about 120 distinct dialects in Igbo Language, and all these come with a mixed baggage of cultural diversity and amazing uniqueness. And that’s an illustration of what I call the relativity principle of cultural wealth. The older you get, the faster time seems to go by, and the more you become subjective in your assessments; mine in this case is that in the course of this lecture, I would forget some of my weaknesses about my attitudes years ago towards Igbo culture and accuse you of not doing enough to sustain and preserve it as well. But, you know, you are the legacy of several centuries, if not millenniums of Igbo Traditional evolution, and you all deserve our heartfelt recognition for doing such a good job, of being Igbo, knowing so, acting it out today, as you have been doing in the course of a week, and I’d like all that are gathered here to rise, if you don’t mind, to give a round of applause to our sons, daughters, friends of theirs and all present who have come to witness this journey towards renaissance!
We live in a multicultural world today. We all are multicultural and the world as we know it is fast becoming a “Global Village”. When one sets out to face the world as we know it today, it is a challenging task indeed, so when one takes upon the task of interpreting our traditions and attitudes towards it, my friends, it is more daunting. And such is my predicament today
40 years after the end of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, Ndigbo have entered a period of momentous change. For Ndigbo, 40 years following the Civil war, we have groped and searched for meaning and a rediscovery of our identity, but all these have so far as we can see proved abortive. We struggle with a marginal mindset, face multiple challenges in the areas of education, leadership and communal affinity. Though also we have grown faster than expected of a people and region that has just come out of a war, we still face enormous challenges.
We have come a long way as a people, culture and community (by community here and all through the paper, I would mean, any settlement of Ndigbo within or outside our ancestral home, comprising of more than I family unit). We have had to walk, sometimes run and most often crawl away, often very far away from home, but we still retain in our minds that deep acknowledgement of our Igboness. However as the theme of my speech today testifies, we are faced awkwardly with a sad taste of all these movements, migrations and progresses. The spiritual foundation of our Igboness, eroded as it were by our excessive dependence on borrowed and acquired cultures, mostly western, has affected our own traditions and cultural base and injected confusion, trepidation and sometimes anomie into our National consciousness, consequently blurring our collective goals and leading to a loss of dignity, for a people once proud, venerable and culturally rich and diverse.

Traditional culture, if understood in a broad sense, indicates all human activities such as religion, philosophy, moral standards, laws, politics, economics, society, history, literature and art, such as have been preserved, learned and transmitted in a given community or group over a long period of time.
In this paper I shall direct my attention to a variety of traditions of Ndigbo. Focusing upon our diverse experiences, I shall mention several factors which have supported modernization, while frowning at westernization, in Igboland, and also try to point out some of the adverse effects brought about by that same modernization and westernization.
By way of definition, Traditions serve to preserve a wide range of culturally and ethnically significant ideas, specific practices and the various methods used by distinct cultures, to pursue and preserve their heritage. The word tradition comes from the Latin traditionem which is the accusative case of traditio which means “handing over, passing on”. What has become of us? What is the Igbo tradition that we so eagerly want to understand, improve, preserve and pass on in the second decade of the 21st Century? For me they are fundamentally:
• Excellence as the foundation and measurement of all that we have done, we do and hope to become.
• Leadership as a moral stand, upon which we renew our selves and community; and these must be claimed—in all spheres, through Festivals, Language, Politics, Morals, Cuisines, Costumes and Names.
• Community is what we are—for though there is but one Igboland; there has emerged, and would still emerge in the future communities of Ndigbo all over the world and with strong roots, physical and spiritual to the ancestral soil.
Tradition does not stand, and must not stand for social decadence and backwardness, as long as it is humane, and within modern law and morality. Just as the modern anti- traditionalist approach doesn’t mean that we are shallow, culture-less souls, but rather less confined to tradition in our ability to embrace change. Igboland is a fast changing nation with a large educated population, which still clings dearly to lots of its ancient traditions. Our faith, customs and traditions form an inseparable part of the identity of every Igbo Person. Are we decadent as a result of our pride and attachment to our various cultural behaviours? No, history proves our sacrifice, and festive splendour is nothing to be ashamed of. Pride and identity is but a step forward in social cohesion and evolution.
Our Journey today would start with the arrival of the missionaries. The missionaries in coming to the South coast of Nigeria, found a willing and rather too fertile mind in the Eastern sub region of which no better could be found for both religious indoctrination and intellectual education. At one go, we afforded them both the needed attitude and drive to achieve both in so short a time. From the time they came in, it was a question of a mere three decades before the whole of Eastern Nigeria was, like with a belt, girded with the knowledge of “God” and “Man”. Pushing us to Church on Sundays, to “save our souls”, they drove us through the rest of the days to “educate our minds”, while not forgetting to exploit our hearths and hands. The habit came to stay. With the overzealousness characteristic of Ndigbo, “we over saved” and “over educated” ourselves to the present frenzied and often comical state. Our Landmarks, language, creative, even if primitive totems and festivals were thus destroyed; we have staggered since then from one tree to another seeking to regain that lost vibrancy, focus and personality. What has made this search painful though is that the character of the people took a great knock and thus added to that search the dire question of identity. Unlike other cultures which equally came in contact with the West, like India and China, Ethiopia and Japan, and still retained its inner vortex and creativity, we simply lost ours.

Taking into consideration the constantly changing fate of Ndigbo as a race, it is important that we go beyond the questions of cultural or traditional gains and defeats as presently debated and discussed everywhere, to really gain an insight into what happened and what we have become. It was the moment Ndigbo asserted themselves as great merchants, both of wares and ideas that they broke unto the surface of this country as a group worth respecting, and it was also from then that they intensively started interacting with several cultures, which in the end all have left indelible marks on us. Like the British Empire, our mercantilism spread us wide, and most times thin, in search of success, but unlike them we failed to manage and adapt the various cultural information’s we were gathering into a mould that would function with or alongside our native culture. With time though, we emerged as that one group capable of holding our own in the face of adversity, despair and upheavals. We maintained through this desire to travel and migrate, a position, which guaranteed that from the inception we managed both men and resources in a scale never known and experienced by any Blackman till then. The presence of some of our brethren from outside the University community testifies to that here in Ife. With time “If you go anywhere and you do not see an Igbo man, please run” became an acceptable cliché.

Though we came into the race for knowledge latter than the Yoruba’s, our inquisitiveness assured that in a space of twenty years, we were both able to become the most sought after civil servants, but the most meticulous servants and protectors of the public good. I have elsewhere, in another paper, shared the information that the Igbo mind was counted sophisticated enough to understand the intricate workings of the English man and in so doing became a great assets and influence in the penetration of the English culture and manners into the interior of the North of this country and beyond; where we quickly learnt the language, manners and customs of the indigenes; we borrowed a lot from these interactions, but there are limited records or evidence that we left marks on those cultures. We were in place and better trained through sacrifice and craft to light the nationalist torch, but this came at a disgustingly high price for our culture and tradition. The most iconic photographs of the early Igbo nationalists were clearly in Yoruba or Hausa-Fulani attires! How did these affect our collective consciousness, our values and culture and what influence did it have on the present mentality of our people?

Bearing in mind the remarkable success they were able to achieve in the Nigerian political turf one would have hoped that the anchor for that success would have been the Igbo heartland. But recent indications point otherwise. The pace was wrong and the paradigm shifted not in our favor but in that of our protagonist. At the time I am talking about and long afterwards, national feelings amongst Ndigbo did not exist as we know it today, the men who then spoke for us were taken on the merit of their assumed education. This can’t be good for us; all that was then necessary and still remains very necessary today, to put the various aspects of our Igbo world together was an organization rooted in our soil that appeals to our psyche, and that was capable of galvanizing the very best of our traditions within and around us. This failed to happen, and we lost that first conflict to stand as one within the emerging ethnic concept of politics and social organization in the country. By no conscious choice of ours did we drive our nature to such purposeless position; I am of the opinion that we were only paying particular respect, or is it over respect, to the freedom of purpose and spirit as we learnt from our colonizing masters and in terms of lessons we drove it to absurdity.

What were our values: cultural, social, political and economic, like at the time in focus? The geo-political landscape called Igboland was still very rustic and in-cohesive in terms of a universal knowledge of our common destiny as at the beginning of our modern history, which I place to be from the beginning of the 1920’s. We were still at most pockets of primitive villages with limited knowledge of the place and position ethnicity was to later play in our future history. Inter communal interaction was limited; exchanges were limited and sparse. We had no knowledge as we have today of any literal national cultural consciousness that unified us; and interactions were interfered with by the excesses of tribal wars and conflicts. We were not in any way divested from the drive to improve or learn from the imperfect circumstances that we found ourselves. From a long time past, we have always exhibited some curious attitude, which is still observed even in our lifestyles today; the variations in cultural and linguistic spread testify to our extensive migratory ability and the agility of mind to marry diverse cultural values within our ethos. The names we give to children and the events we hold dear as part of our cultural heritage are interesting to note; they relate a deep sense of mystical pathos, which culminates in our search for meaning both in this world and in the one beyond.

In most Igbo folklores and mythology death predicates living; living depicts the continuum of the soul, an endless journey through many lifetimes and comings, in-between is the allotted time to produce and this attitude of production (Manufacture, Making, Construction, Creation, Invention, Fabrication, Assembly) “in-between” is what marks the Igbo mind with that unalloyed approach towards work and a deep disgust towards loafing or indolence. Somewhat, Chinua Achebe best captured this, in his dramatization of Okonkwo’s feelings towards his Father Unoka and his son Nwoye’s apparent slothfulness, in his famous classic “Things fall Apart”. The world of the Igbo mind is one that reacts to motion; by motion here one reads a proactive migration towards that fate that is ensconced in each individual’s “Chi”. Our present distress both individual and collective reflects this loss of focus and patterned understanding of this proactive migration depicted in our fates and “Chi”!

Ndigbo, having evolved a strange cosmology, in many aspects as complicated, if not more complicated and deeper than most Semitic and Greco-Roman cosmology, baffled both themselves and outsiders by their inability to etch out of this a socio-political organization to unify the various pockets of villages and tribes. Unlike the early Romans or Greeks, we failed to find that common or manifold mythology that would have singly unified us into a strong political and social unit. Early loss of that marked the haphazard pattern in which our history and lifestyle have evolved. (Ibini Ukpabi, Kamalu Nde Ebe, Idoto and many more awaits new studies, unraveling and understanding)
Certain social factors also continue to exist that are despicable and do not often transcend our national boundaries. These include the continual existence of the OSU caste system and the humiliating transgression against women, child labour and abuse, in the name of discipline or helping an unfortunate relative. Acknowledgment of these controversial issues does not make them acceptable, but offers an understanding that the Igbo world, which towers high in its championing of democracy, freedom and justice elsewhere, and condones such traditional social ills at home, often works in shades of gray. As the Igbo nation grapples with these, a signal of its incompleteness is evident in the form of new social castes we are forming today, which reflects a society where thieves and men and women of questionable characters become the holders and keepers of our OFO… Tu fia Kwa!
While new changes progressively take place all over Igbo communities in the South East (Our ancestral home) and elsewhere in the Diaspora, most of our people still live in countryside and commemorate traditions and festivals profoundly steeped within the natural world. These rural, animistic and mystical mind-sets strongly embody an affectionate sense of nature, which has a very ancient history, while inculcating a deeper understanding for the surroundings. It also provides a very rich natural mural for future studies and documentation. As our tradition mingles with and struggles with 21st century pulp and counter cultures, it is these primordial customs and festivals, which would best help us, preserve our identities and secure our future as a people.
Inquiring into the circumstances of our history, one is strained to ponder a lot about our present and the terrible dilemma we are in. We are not without a past that is worth being proud of, as most are making believe. What is evident in my various inquiries is the shocking dilemma between modernization and westernization, complicated by the dearth of serious studies on us and aspects of our cultures and the inconclusive nature of our “uncollected” modern history; here is where the lack lies. The stories, recollections, diaries, the papers, the letters and notes, poems, arts and mementoes of our old and passing breeds, leaders, academics, poets and public figures are unwritten, unpublished and uncirculated; and where we see biographies and autobiographies, they are either not analytical or very economical with the truth; what most represent to me is a collection of fables made true by their falsehood, even those that are historically accurate are only limited to issues that eulogizes them, and most often intellectually irritate rather than effectively portray the two sides of which it takes to have a full intellectual coin.

Our tribal innuendos are bitter reminders of the hazy traditional folklores that remind us in times of distress that the place of onye Igbo in this world lies more in his ability to capture in a matter of defined time and space the essence of life and death in a limited lifetime, without the feeling of loss marked by either shame, pride or joy. This aspect is what makes the present “Sophistication” of this generation of Ndigbo smack of immaturity or even lack cleverness. Also the inability of the present generation to make sense of their culture and identity and to live simple within these marked parallels of realities and illusion places them in the unquestionable sad predicament they find themselves today.

Progress is often born in pains. However our historical burden is weighed and our failures and successes measured, the issue still remains our adaptability and strength of character which after all is said and done, is what helps define and balance our communal historical experiences and shapes our perspectives in a fast changing yet challenging world. Herein lies the parameter through which our Igbo world as it stands today must be measured. That we indeed are pitied is a case everyone knows, but the degree of that varies from one level or class to another, and what we do about it is the challenge before you all here today.

I am of the opinion that in whatever form one wants to capture the varying problems facing us as a people, the tendency to exaggerate must be checked principally and the improper over usage of maxims and proverbs to discuss or describe our fortunes or misfortunes checked. We are fast becoming a historical corpse at least that is the metaphoric supposition deduced from the negating over zealousness of our present predicament. Nevertheless, what lies ahead and what can be achieved is enormous and doable. Whither we go from here should not be steeped in invocative propaganda that belie the reality.

I proceed then from all these, to state that Character has been the missing link in our pursuit of an Igbo Cultural renaissance. The education we get today is not an end; it becomes only an added tool in our respective search for that lost Igbo, that lost other, which has become engrossed in the politics of self and denial. For reasons hardly unfathomable, the “educated” Igbo person, steeped in western education and manners began to question, reject, and in some cases destroy much of what it had inherited. I like to believe that our mission as the 21st century enters its second decade is to fit together fragments of the rich humanistic Igbo tradition so that we might chip in meaningful additions that will inspire future generations to cherish their Igboness and all the rich tapestries of our culture. I feel the success of the Chinese and Indians in borrowing and later acculturating the western traditions, and incorporating it into their vision of themselves and the pioneering works of F C Ogbalu, Adiele Afigbo, Ben Enweonwu, Chinua Achebe, and recently Chimamanda Adichie, who never tired of reflecting and proposing new ways of being Igbo, without losing the common touch, is a useful lesson and proof that we are on the road to doing that.

If our acquired cultural traits cannot find sticking points in our roots, we have then to find a way to assimilate them. Any discussion of Igbo tradition without firsthand knowledge about Igbo land and its mores are bound to fail. Travels within Igboland are a good place to start. Igbo society awaits a new collection of proverbs, folklores, stories and poems; you all here are fertile soils upon which the future tradition of this race can start its rebirth. Again, we must be sincere in our desire to belong; which brings me now to the question of names and identity… I do not consider the loss of our language as I know it today to be the biggest threat to our future existence (Our language is evolving, it has evolved for centuries and would certainly survive); it is in the loss of our names that I see the biggest threat. When Brenda’s, Joes, PSquare’s, Jennifer’s dot our landscapes, we can at most expect a failure too colossal to remedy by language! Lose your name, and you’ve lost that most sacred thing that makes you unique and gives your identity meaning, and it only becomes a matter of time before the language is gone. To my rather crude mind, Amaka sounds more poetic and romantic than Amanda and I would rather stick with an Okoro any day rather than an Akon! (And as I typed this lecture, the computer kept accepting Amanda and underlining in red Amaka, which challenges me further to challange you all here, to use your skills to add to the very many jobs done already along that line, of making Igbo language, the acceptable computer language, at least, starting from Igboland, in the next decade. On this note i applaud the works of Prof. Edochie here with us, Prof. Echeruo and Mrs. Ubosi, who have all stuck to the challange, albeit without any material gains… Chi Ndigbo Gozie Unu)

I’m not the most traditional by any means, and I’m a multi cultural person, just as majority of Ndigbo today, who embraces both the Igbo ideal and other cultural ideals, I see tradition and custom as a vital and thus inseparable factor of culture. Africans have a tendency to look down on their traditions and choose instead to embrace that which intrudes from outside. This defeatist outlook has driven some Africans, and in our case Ndigbo, to brand their culture, tradition and way of life as “primitive” and “backward” this might be true about 100 years ago, when twin killings, human sacrifices and the evil forests, were still serious component of our daily life’s.

Though I am not fanatical about the religious, I love the religious traditions and rites that molded the Igbo culture. To me religion and its numerous rites, orders and observances, are just an aspect of our traditions that allow us to carry on customs that preserve our cultural identity. It’s all down to cultural preservation and retaining the core cultural identity and thus the legacy that comes with it. When a nation derives its soul, pride and identity from a time long ago, as Ndigbo do, traditionalist culture is the only way to preserve that identity, and the meaning and emotion that comes with that identity. Nobody in the world can ever judge the things that matter most to my people, and no western influence can ever validate itself as a worthy model by which my people are judged or ought to be judged by. Ndigbo are bound by their history- Primeval, colonial and modern. Christian faiths, Animistic rituals and the Gordian faith and belief are all in themselves attempts and aspects of our inner spiritual search for meaning, and each complements the other. That said, ala Igbo is a nation struggling with its past and modernity with a large diverse population of dual believers. The faith, customs and traditions form an inseparable part of the identity of each and every Igbo that breathes earth’s air. Our goal is to pursue our visions of ourselves with an understanding that is practical and simple without being frivolous.

As future guardians of Igbo Customs and heritage, and overseers and custodians of our OFO na OGU, you must recognize your responsibilities towards the development of a new strategic perspective and vision that will shape the role of Ndigbo in the 21st Century. A blueprint for that future and the role of our Customs, Traditions, Values and Myths should embody all your ambitious aspirations and yet be balanced by pragmatism. The challenges are many: the globalization of virtually everything means that those aspects of human creativity anchored in traditional values would triumph. As you move from here to other locations of the world, strive to blend so as to survive, but the traditions and values you bring there would ensure your continued existence and give you meaning. The development of Igboland which has otherwise proved abortive within an increasingly complex new governance challenges can be better tackled if you study a bit of how Igboland of yore and Okpara’s Igboland was organized and ran, this too is tradition and must be studied so it can be enhanced.

Equally, the opportunities for bold, proactive and innovative responses are just as numerous: a global Igbo network, presently been created and integrated through the internet; better management of information and various cultural changes across the vast Igbo global community; a strategic framework with globally beneficial objectives; a deepening of our understanding of global cultural trends and their application; leveraging on new technology; and the strengthening of social partnerships, within and amongst varying Igbo communities would strengthen our traditions and ensure a future for us. Ekwe, Ogene, Opi, Nsibidi, Ikprikpe, were means of communications in the not too distant past; today, phones, laptops, internet and a wide variety of “senor toys” are our means of communication, and must be applied to the utmost
I started by saying that my understanding of Igbo traditions are encapsulated in these, (and consider it the highpoint of our entire 21st century endeavor):-
• Excellence as the foundation and measurement of all that we have done, we do and hope to become.
• Leadership as a moral stand, upon which we renew our selves and community; and these must be claimed—in all spheres, through Festivals, Language, Politics, Morals, Cuisines, Costumes and Names.
• Community is what we are—for though there is but one Igboland; there has emerged, and would still emerge in the future communities of Ndigbo all over the world and with strong roots, physical and spiritual to the ancestral soil.
Under these circumstances, I have drawn three basic frameworks for Ndigbo as it should be now and in the future—a vision of our national identity—to be presented domestically and worldwide. In this framework, the following matters are of particular emphasis.

Rebuild our national identity and convey a unique Igbo message

Following the new wave of ethnic nationalism spreading in Nigeria today, a time of bewilderment has ensued, and from it Ndigbo must rediscover and reappraise the value of its history, tradition, and culture and reconstruct its national identity. Igbo culture, with a deep mysticism characterized by a respect for peace and harmony and living compatibly with nature and man, has been underpinned by cultural plurality (Created and sustained over many centuries of migration and interaction with various peoples) supported by our open-mindedness toward other cultures. The 21st century, many critical observers have posited, faces risk of conflict stemming from increased tension involving such factors as race, religion, and the nation state. In this environment, a uniquely Igbo message originating from our traditional cultural pluralism should be crafted and relayed to the rest of the country and the world with the aim of achieving mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence.

Formulate principles to foster collaboration within the family, local Community and throughout Igbo society as a whole

In modern Igboland, what is worrisome is that the family, local community and groups are being ravaged by the shift away from the traditional concept of the community as a collective entity to a society in which money is the prevailing measure of success. In addition, as a consequence of lack of work and growing poverty, opportunities to spend time in the conventional sphere of the individual, namely in the home or community, have decreased, leading to a lack of appreciation for the social collective and an inability to build mutually supportive relationships with others. For people to deepen family ties as well as further their involvement in the community, it is essential to create a society where opportunities are available to enable people to engage in activities outside of work. In this regard, a stable, secure economic and political hub in Igboland that promotes and permits diverse forms of employment and encourages a balance between work and private life is important. As we try to urge our society to shift to a direction in which governments and businesses acknowledge the importance of home and family, a mechanism should be created to evaluate the way families encourage friendliness and love of Igbo values and culture. Furthermore, revival of local communities, through festivals, ceremonies and healthy competitions is crucial in terms of securing the needed and necessary push, thus creating an environment conducive to raising children steeped in cultural lore and traditions without hindrance, and providing opportunities for people of various talents to participate in society. Local citizens and strangers should be encouraged to participate in this cultural regeneration, through administrative affairs of the community, by for example putting up parallel street sings, in Igbo Language, renaming centres and places in Igbo language. Toward this end, it is necessary to let localities do what they are capable of doing themselves for example making our various market days resonate by marking them out for celebrations and other activities that can help add support to the mind.

Provide education, rooted in our rich cultural heritage that encourages development of the individual capability of the Igbo Person, which is the bedrock of the Igbo nation

Faced with the spectre of a shrinking population within the Igbo heartland, maximizing the abilities of each and every individual while fostering a highly competent pool of human resources with advanced technical skills will prove pivotal in cultivating the underlying power of our people’s next generation. To accomplish this, an attitude rooted in the acceptance of and respect for our values and diverse other life enhancing values is required. At the same time, ensuring that all Igbo youths are equipped with the requisite scholastic skills via a compulsory Igbo language, culture, traditional education is critical to securing the needed foundation, upon which a competitive cultural world view and society is premised.

To achieve this, we should aim to promote individuality as we had always done in the past; independence, and diversity starting from primary education and vigorously deemphasize the other culture’s superiority to ours and also abolish the present education system that places more emphasis on foreign rather than local content. We must place responsibility for improvement in education with local government authorities and schools. Moreover, with regard to the three pillars of education—intellectual, physical and moral—it is important to recognize that moral education forms the foundation of individual character and that begins at home, and that families, communities, and schools should work together to develop a solid educational environment.

Furthermore, for future development of Igbo economy, strengthening higher education is indispensable to producing individuals capable of shouldering the work in knowledge-based industries. Similarly, boosting competitiveness through specialized research and education is required.

Issuing from these then, we need to create new iconic images and imageries to define and accentuate ourselves. Protecting our environment and its rich but fast disappearing landscapes is equally as challenging and important a task for us today, if we are to preserve our homelands and secure our future, as protecting and promoting our language, festivals, cuisines and costumes. There are new vistas to open, new songs to be written, new stories to be told, and all these are embedded in our shared history and traditions.
Igbo habits must be reinterpreted with new sets of tools. This cannot be done abstractly; here is where the emergence of new Okigbo’s, Edochie’s, Uche Okeke’s, Obiora Udechukwu and Mike Ejiagha’s is required; people with a new vision to reinterpret our Igboness and give new meaning to our identity. You all gathered here are the new warriors; warriors in search of our lost ways and in search of new ones. Your weapons and goals have changed though- technology, science, archeology, art, literature and music are your new weapons and the goals are to push the frontiers of Igbo civilization into the world consciousness and take it to the next level.
What makes a place great? What makes a people unique? What makes one think fondly of a town or city, and want to return there? What makes a place uniquely characteristic of the land and the people who live on it? Why don’t we seem to grasp that sense, that feeling anymore in Igboland and within Igbo Communities? And how might a new “Igbo Person” emerge and become our 21st century future? Only by looking at the traditions that have thrived in the past can we hope to derive new rules to allow us to resolve the conflicts of identity and value erosion, as against the growth of undiluted and aggressive pulp cultural problems of the 21st century. The challenges for building quality, proudly Igbo personas and communities, capable of managing our vast socio-cultural heritage and taking ownership of the Igbo Spirit are enormous. And the twin challenges of global cultural meltdown and global counter culture makes it imperative that the present crop of Ndigbo, the world over attempt this uneasy task of Igbo Renaissance.

Thank You.

Kalu Onuma, I.A.
Copyright © 2010

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