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Lesson Plans

Re: RE: PRIMITIVE ART: Myths About Nigeria

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MegaSept (MegaSept)
Fri, 19 Dec 1997 13:25:19 EST

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To all interested:

Of course what denotes culture is usually decided by some elite, hence the
wonderful exception of popular music. These elites can be enlightened
intellectuals, or narrow minded priests or no-nothing corporate executives.

There is no "Nigerian culture." There are several hundred distinct tribal
groups in Nigeria, each with its own traditions, and its own dialect, and
often its own language. Much culture is not physical, such as language,
music, and religious society. Being hard to measure or transmit to outsiders
hardly makes one form of culture less important than another. Why must we be
tourists always in such a rush? Slow down and learn something. Stop talking
and start listening.

If we are going to be seriously "multicultural" , or worse, "Afro-centric,"
let us stop talking about African culture like it was a homogenous monolith.
Respect requires a little study.

Batik is not Nigerian! Yoruba Tie-die is! There is no indigenous tradition
of murals or frescoes, hence the only "painting" that exists is in the
application of color to carved masks, ceremonial objects, twentieth century
sign painting, etc.. The cast figures of Benin are among the finest bronzes
in the world. Woven cloth in Oyo is very rich tradition. I expect few
scholars would make blanket statements covering "2,000 years" of "Nigerian
culture." Not enough is known yet. These are just a few clarifications.

If "educators" are going to use examples to make a point, then there exists an
obligation to get the facts right. Let no one who complains of facile
American culture commit a similar offense against another culture, largely
foreign to our own!

Steven Dornbusch, artist, Los Angeles

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