Society and Culture

Stop Destroying Africa with Your Own Hands

“…those that order the destruction of African religion and culture are true advocates of mental closure, fanatics and agents of terrorism…,” reported of Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, yesterday, 17 December, 2010.

Reason: “an army of Nigerian believers, the United Congress of Mbaise Christians is on its mission to raze some 1,000 shrines in Imo State, eastern Nigeria, all to set their community free.

“Shrines were destroyed in Umuhu-okwuato, Mbutu, Lorji, Uvuru and Lagwa. It will not end there, it’s a continous thing. We are getting good responds from the worshippers of these shrines and very soon, the over 1,000 shrines in Mbaise land would be destroyed completely…,” the Nigerian Arts and Culture Directory quoted one of the local evangelists in the article: “Mbaise Destroys 100 Shrines to Cleanse Land”.

Believe me; I have nothing against you or your faith. You are a Christian and you have secured your way to heaven, fine. But, how does that permit you to destroy the community shrines, which neither belong to you or the member of your faith?  Where is the justice and equity?

I don’t want to know how much you have been fed with, but remember that this is how the conflicts usually start.

We are sometimes carried away by the fantasies in our heads and we easily outreach our bordering, and when the trouble comes we would recoil and begin to claim innocence.

Imagine that some people from other faiths invade your church and destroy it, only to confidently tell you that they are setting you free. If as I’m well sure of that you will never treat such invaders as friends, why then are you destroying the cultural relics of a people just because they cannot fight you; just because they will be called horrible names if they ever react to protect their heritage and identity?

See the following extract; you might be convinced that you have no right to do this.

“Till date, many Africans still have not realised the importance of the thousands of sculptures they have destroyed in the name of Christianity. They have not realised that those sculptures are some of the most reliable evidence of their own civilization, their own identities and heritage as a people. Yes, sculptures are mere pieces of woods and earthen materials, but they actually work wonders over a passage of time. They talk and explain the civilisation they once belonged. So they are the windows to their past, the reason we can better understand our own history.


Born in Berlin, 1873 and died in Biganzolo Italy, 1938, Leo Viktor Frobenius was a German authority in prehistoric art, ethnologist and archaeologist. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica online, Frobenius was one of the originators of the culture-historical approach to ethnology. He led 12 expeditions to Africa between 1904 and 1935 and had explored centres of prehistoric art in the Alps, Norway, Spain Northern and Southern Africa. Not without saying a word about some cultural icons in West Africa.

“In 1911, Frobenius claimed that he had found proof of the existence of the lost continent of Atlantis. This was based on some sculptures, which he discovered in the area of Ile-Ife in Southwestern Nigeria. The statues were made in bronze and terra cotta, and were so naturalistic that Frobenius concluded that they could not have been made by Africans, but rather by some unknown civilization. He believed that a great civilization existed in the heart of Africa, and that it gradually disappeared. He saw evidence for his claims in local vegetation, architecture, and even local myths and fairytales. Later, archaeologists, however, attributed the artefacts found by Frobenius as belonging to the Yoruba culture”

Without repeating the previous part of this discussion, I think it is important that the aforementioned group of Africans realised a simple fact; that under any guise, rejecting what civilisation has rewarded them, in the form of culture and cultural relics are irreparable lost and a shameful thing to do.

Just to throw a little more light on the above extract from the New World Encyclopaedia. It should be noted that before Viktor ever came to Ile-Ife, that the created school of thought about Africa and Africans had already been widespread among many Europeans. Putting that into consideration when he saw the sculptures of bronze and terra cotta, only two main arguments could have been triggered in his mind.

One could have been that the sculptures had nothing valuable in them and so could be regarded as the works of Africans in their savagery display. The other, a rather easier one, based on the sophistication of the works of art was to claim that the works were done by other people, other than the Africans. And if anything has to be added here, either of the above views was fully in line with the already cooked up ideas. That Africans generally have a limited ability to creativity; that they cannot express themselves in such an aesthetic manner, as to have a profound interpretation of their own culture, if indeed they should be considered to have any. These were the arguments, so it cannot be more unfortunate if Africans do not hold these cultural icons dearly and use them to tell the world that their history did not start with slavery.

Below are two terra cotta sculptures, one from Ile-Ife and the other from the Nok culture, Central Nigeria. The accompanying extract is about the Nok culture, and it’s equally about the connection between these works of art and the people who made them.

“Comparatively little is known of the Nok culture, which is defined largely on the basis of its superb terracotta artworks. Flourishing between 900 BC and 200 AD, the Nok style is a tradition, a style of manufacture that was adopted by different Iron-Age agriculturally-based communities that in fact had widely varying cultures in all other respects. What does unite the trends, however, is a series of outstanding ceramic sculptures, which constitute the most sophisticated and formalised early African artistic tradition outside Egypt.

It should be noted that the sophistication of these terracottas makes some scholars believe that they sprang from a hitherto undiscovered ceramic tradition. Technically, they are very unusual because of the manner in which coiled and subtractive sculpting methods were used to capture likenesses. Aesthetically, they are both naturalistic and expressionist, with highly distinctive elongated forms, triangular eyes, pierced pupils/nostrils and elaborate hairstyles…,” page 155 to 160, “Indoctrination Of The Local People”. From the research, UNDERDEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA: My Hands Are Clean, as was published on the 10th of November, 2010. Images and footnotes are omitted; see the book for more on the argument.

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