Why Africans must preserve their culture, religion -Babawale
…. as Isese Day opens August 20 in Lagos
By SOLA BALOGUN
Thursday, April 26, 2012

The age-long marginalisation of African traditional religion was condemned recently when members of African Traditional Religion in Nigeria and Overseas paid a courtesy visit to the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) in Lagos.
While receiving the executives of the association in his office, Prof. Tunde Babawale, Director General of the centre, commended the association for upholding and promoting the cultural relics of our forefathers.

He bemoaned how European colonialists invaded Africa not only to destroy African traditional religion but also to cart away the continent’s cultural patrimony. The DG regretted how Western colonialists referred to Africans as idol worshipers, only to end up stealing cultural products, belonging to Africans and to exhibit them in their own lands for the world to appreciate.This ironic implication of the colonial experience in Africa was revisited during the meeting as members of the association expressed their satisfaction with what CBAAC has been doing over the years to revive and preserve African cultural values.

Meanwhile, the duo of Chief Samuel Folorunso Shodiya and Chief Lekan Ajirotutu spoke extensively on the gains and benefits of preserving African culture. While Ajirotutu noted that the association represented diverse groups such as the adherents of Ogun, Sango, Oya, Igunnuko and others, Shodiya hinted that the government must correct the marginalisation of traditionalists in Nigeria.

In the words of Ajirotutu, there was no basis to divorce religion from culture since both are closely related. He argued further that religion should not be a cause for conflict in Africa because every religion, be it Christianity, Islam or traditional worship has intermediaries through which the Supreme Being (God) is met or consulted. He cited Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed as intermediaries for Christians and Muslims respectively and concluded that deities such as Ogun (god of iron), Esu (devil), Ifa, Oya and others are intermediaries between traditional religion worshipers and Eledumare (God).

Ajirotutu stressed the need for collaboration between the association and CBAAC), noting that the two bodies are working together towards the same goal of protecting the cultural heritage of Africa.He observed that the mode of worship adopted by either Christians or Muslims is closely related to the climatic conditions of the areas from where the religion originated. For example, the Moslems are fond of cleaning their faces and legs with sparse water largely because Islam originated from the Sahara (Arab) where water is scarce to come by.

Also Christians are used to wearing suits because of cold that is prevalent in Europe from where Christianity originated. He reasoned that Africans too should consider worshipping their creator in their own way and that it would be wrong for Africans to quarrel on the basis of religion or cultural differences. In his own words, Chief Sodiya called on CBAAC to help agitate for public holidays in favour of African traditional religious worshippers, noting that both Christians and Moslems benefit from public holidays declared by the Federal Government.

In response, Prof. Babawale urged members of the association to start from the grassroots by involving their members and relations in political issues. After commending his visitors for their efforts and commitment to the good of African cultural values, Babawale urged all members of the Association of African traditional Religion (Nigeria and Overseas) to involve their children and youths in the practice to enable them acknowledge and appreciate their cultural identity.

“CBAAC was established after World Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77) to serve as custodian of the materials and relics of African origin that were showcased during the festival” explained Babawale, who expressed CBAAC’s support for the proposed Isese Day slated for August 20 in Lagos.

Also present at the meeting were senior officials of CBAAC and other key members of the association.

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