Does Igbo Day Festivities in Diaspora Carry Significant Weight?

By Ikenga Chronicles July 17, 2016

Does Igbo Day Festivities in Diaspora Carry Significant Weight?

–Philip Odoemena

Ndi-Igbo in Dallas, Texas under the umbrella association fondly called ICAN (Igbo Community Association of Nigeria) on its bi-monthly meeting held on the 16th of July 2016 briefed its parochial on the final preparations for the 2016 Igbo Day festivities coming up on July 30th 2016. While most of us are happy to meet every year for the activities, the question still remains whether or not the festivities actually reflect or resonate the depth of Igbo culture and cultural preservations among the Igbo people in Diaspora, especially, to the new generations begat in Diaspora.

Cultural activities are organized to promote cultural heritage whether it is organized at Aba in Abia State or in Dallas, Texas. Every year, across USA, Ndi-Igbo and other Nigerian communities embark on extravagant cultural activities in an effort to display the rich and varied cultures of Nigeria.

In Dallas, Texas, Igbo Community Association of Nigeria (ICAN), a recognizable Igbo organization in Diaspora will be hosting this year’s cultural and heritage (Igbo day) activities from July 29 to 30, 2016. From all indications, there will be plenty of family fun, entertainment and activities from the Young Igbo Community Association of Nigeria (YICAN), the youth segment of ICAN.

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As the Igbo community and other Nigerian ethnic communities celebrate their annual cultural and heritage activities in Diaspora, it is worthy to note and recognize that culture and cultural preservation are not mutually exclusive. It is also noteworthy to bear in mind that traditional culture has its unique way of extending an invitation to members of specific community to immerse themselves in the life style of the “Old”. Nigerians in general and Igbo people in particular have deep pride in their culture based on a society distinctly different from any surrounding cultures in the world.

In recent times, significant changes in all aspect of life have had effect in various areas of Nigerian cultures, more so with Ndi-Igbo, including, but not limited to the Igbo language which in some extent is gradually been extinguished. The gradual dousing of the Igbo language which is more evident among the Igbos in Diaspora has a very troubling effect to the culture. It is even more disturbing when in Igbo villages in Nigeria; Ndi-Igbo embark on using English or broken English language for their everyday conversations. Question is what is culture without the inherent ethnic language?

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It is good to know that all is not completely lost. Most ethnic groups elsewhere in Nigeria are very protective of their culture. For instance, the Yorubas and the Hausas, and few minority groups in Nigeria are still using their respective languages when engaged in conversations among themselves. For the Igbos, their language and culture are gradually eroding away and rapidly been replaced by foreign influence. When organizations, such as the Igbo Community Associations of Nigeria in Dallas, Texas is celebrating “Igbo Day” a call should be made for a union between historical preservation and the future growth of Igbo culture.

It is not enough for Igbo organizations to dub a day “Igbo Day” without planning adequately the programs that would reflect the uniqueness of Igbo culture, its values, and its relationship to social development of Igbo people. Ndi-Igbo, has unique history of culture, rich with tradition and art, deeply ingrained from the hills of Coal City to the eardrums of Enyimba City. Preserving it ought to be the business of every Igbo person.

One of the most pervasive aspects of the characters of the Igbo heritage is a sense of place, a sense of home, and a sense of community that is almost unequaled. Whatever the reason, that sense of identity and distinct culture should be carried on. In most societies, cultural preservation is of utmost importance. Even UNESCO has four major programs in the field of cultural heritage and its preservation. In one of those programs, UNESCO put a lot of emphasis on the need to transmit cultural heritage from generation to generation.

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Generational transfer or awareness of a culture should have constant recreation of cultural elements as they relate to one’s environment and historical conditions of existence. When these elements are properly undertaken, they usher cultural gratification. Recreated community by way of its culture provides people with a sense of identity and continuity, it is safeguarding, it promotes, sustains, and develops cultural diversity and human creativity.

Every individual, including the government should be proud to play a vital role in the cultural life of a community in which they belong. Governments should be committed to the development of cultural activities, undertake responsibilities for its preservation and promotion.

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And so, as Dallas celebrates its 2016 Igbo Day on July 30th, it is noteworthy to remind everyone that culture should not be celebrated just for one day or two. The strength, the creativity, the vitality of cultural heritage should always provide a window through which other communities can look upon one’s community, share, enjoy, and perhaps understand a little of the very rich and varied culture that lies beneath the Igbo people in particular while embracing Nigeria in general.

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