Black History Month: The Nigerian Perspective

Seye Fakinlede

The Black History Month which began as a way of remembering all the black heroes and heroines and their struggles towards the emancipation of African Americans in the United States of America (USA) at that time, is a celebration of black cultural heritage, music, and arts, as well as a means of immortalizing the African American stars responsible for their emancipation.

Birthed by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, as a struggle for a relinquishing identity, and a fight for the recognition of blacks in America, the annual Afro American holiday, since its birth, in 1929 is being celebrated annually every month of February.

However, Nigeria being the most populous black nation in the world, the “Black History month” is an “unofficial” celebration in Nigeria except by the Afro American literary scholars in the country, the American Embassy in Nigeria, and also at the Center for the American Studies in Nsukka.

Thus, the idea of immortalizing our heritage and a constant celebration of them has not been fully tapped into.

Out of the many facets of life, is the world of Art, of which Nigerian art creators, have stood tall to contribute their own quota to promote, re-shape, correct, the Western Nigerian narratives, most especially by re telling our own stories, fighting our own battles as against the idea of Africa’s voicelessness.

In view of this, in no order of importance we take a peek into those black curators whose ideology, resonates the liberation of black freedom and empowerment.

In a move to constantly promote, the African culture is Tola Wewe‘s whose contribution to the preservation of the Yoruba culture, especially in regards to shedding more light on the ways and tradition of the highly esteemed water goddess, Yemoja. Tola. Also, a frequent collaborator with Nike Davies-Okundaye, he was a founding member of the Ona movement in art.

Bernard Olabinjo Benson is another Nigerian entertainer and musician who had considerable influence on the Nigerian music scene. His music changed the West African music narratives, and this is evident in the introduction of big band and Caribbean idioms to the High-life style of popular West African Music.

Taking a peep into the world of Arts and crafts is Ladi Kwali, OON, MBE, a Nigerian potter. Kwali’s work projected Nigeria as a creative country as opposed the notion of it being a dark country with no creative capacity. According to history, Kwali with little formal education was a teacher of teachers when it came to pottery.

Also, taking a look at Nigerian Stars in diaspora is to celebrate the Lijadu Sisters, Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu. The duo amazons are Nigerian identical twin sisters whose musical success and influence has become a house hold name both home and abroad. They have been described as the “Nigerian twins who fought elites with funk” by an American Journalist. Sadly, Kehinde passed on to the next world last year at age 71.

Another is Aina Onabolu, famously known for being a pioneer of modern arts teacher and painter, and an important figure whose work caused a revolution for the inclusion of arts in the Nigerian Secondary Schools. Also is Victor Ehikhamenor whose work is influenced by his attempt to sustain the traditional African motifs and religious cosmology.

Another whose celebration should be sung in the promotion of Nigerian Art is Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye, who is the founder of Nike Art Gallery, the largest in West Africa. As an artist and textile designer, she is famous for her batik weaving and dyeing workshops and her elaborate and intricately designed art.

Fela Anikulapo‘s music, life and ideology are a similitude spirit to the Black History month, as we celebrate Fela every first week of October, during a festival called, Felabration. This yearly music festival is a remembrance of Fela’s ideology, and its immortalization in the minds of every participant.

The idea behind the “Black History Month” is to yearly preserve the Afro-American consciousness in the minds of the African-Americans in Diaspora, by immortalizing their black celebrities and every event that mattered to them, which is only made possible through the documentation of their history.

Similarly in Nigeria, as part of the Black race, we all resonate with the idea of the black month most especially in the areas of our arts, craft and music for their revolutionary power in preserving our culture, and arts in a contemporary world of cultural conflict, and a quest for the African identity among many identities.

Although Nigeria has an endless list of personalities who have contributed immensely to the nation, however, to remember some of the aforementioned is to remember what our blackness stands for such as, resilience, determination, creativity, ubiquity, spirituality, and expressiveness.

 

Photo Credit: nikeart.com

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