Sustaining Cultural Heritage Through Literature

Culture is defined as the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group: African, American, European etc. In the prehistoric period many cultural values of the indigenous people of Nigeria, especially the people of Niger Delta went into extinction. This is because they were not documented. All the ethnic or tribal groups have cultures that depict their long existence. Literature has defined by Longman Dictionary is known as the pieces of writing that are valued as work of art, especially novels, plays and poems. In the view of Emu Ogumor, Egypt known as the mother of ancient civilization started their art in 4000BC. The famous Gizeh built and named after the pharaohs who built them. The Great Pyramid of Cheops which was completed in about 2570BC, the Great Pyramid of Chephren, which was completed in about 2530BC, and the Great Pyramid of Mykerinus was built about 2500BC.

The custom of the Egyptians in the distant past was that, when a powerful man died, his servants and slaves were made to accompany him into the grave. This was done to enable him to arrive in the great beyond with a suitable train.

Thus, unavailability of written document of culture and lineage of kingship of the distant past has given room to usurpers to ascend

throne illegally. Nigeria has been in the forefront of art in Africa. She is to Africa what Greece was to the development of art in the

Mediterranean world. This is because the oldest art works in Africa, apart from the Egyptians, are found in Nigeria. The works are also the most important and the most outstanding in Africa such works are found in Nok, Ife and Benin. Nok is a village in the old Zaria province. It has a long established culture which stemmed from the types of art works that have been found in the area. The works are sculptures done in terracotta, dating back to between 500BC and 300BC.

The famous Benin works started about 1400AD, Ife art works between 1 100AD and 1400AD while Igbo-Ukwu Art works in Anambra State have an important bronze — working tradition which prospered about the middle of the 9th Century AD.

The tradition was brought to light by Professor Thustan Shaw who did excavations in the area.

In the Nigerian localities it is hard to get literature on culture, kingship, artworks and customs etc. The absence of documented evidence or written document has created room for unnecessary rivalry and squabbles of who becomes the traditional or paramount ruler of a community. Time has come for communities in Nigeria in general and in Rivers in particular to have genuine literature about their existence, culture, customs and art works.

If this is done, most of the legal tussles of who becomes this or that would be minimized. Depending on oral evidence some time gives room to fictitious claims. To avoid unnecessary imbroglio in this jet age, there is need for documentation of the beliefs, tradition, and custom of the people.

The importance of literature in the modern society about cultural heritage cannot be over emphasized. It will go a long in preserving the language, tradition customs and culture of the people. Today many young people cannot speak the language of their mother tongue. Apart from the failure on the home front there is no literature to fall back to.

Today in Rivers State, the Obolo people, known as Andoni have Bible and literature texts in their dialect. This uncommon vision would fight extinction of Obolo language in the future. It is worthy to note that some years ago some Nigerians were taught how to speak Latin and German in schools. In sustaining cultural heritage of the people there is need for the development of literature on culture and language. Sustainability of cultural heritage through literature is an integral part of nation building.

Hence, government should empower communities or ethnic group to develop documented facts about their origin and culture to avoid unwarranted litigations and rancor of who is the rightful heir to any throne. This will preclude intra and inter communal crises often observed in the country. ###

Frank Eneawaji Ogwuonuonu

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