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The traditional art of africa plays a major part in the african society

Since culture is often seen as the sum total of the peculiarities shared by a people, a people's values can be seen as part of their culture.

In discussing African culture and values, we are not presupposing that all African societies have the same explanation s for events, the same language, and same mode of dressing and so on. Rather, there are underlying similarities shared by many African societies which, when contrasted with other cultures, reveal a wide gap of difference. In this paper, we try to show the relevance of African culture and values to the contemporary society but maintain that these values be critically assessed, and those found to be inimical to the well-being and holistic development of the society, be discarded.

In this way, African culture and values can be revaluated, their relevance established and sustained in order to give credence to authentic African identity.

  1. For instance, we can rightly speak of religious, political, social, aesthetic, moral, cultural and even personal values.
  2. West African masquerades, in particular, belie the generalization that in traditional African cultures there is no such thing as art for art's sake.
  3. The basic meaning of the horn symbolism derives from the assimilation of these organs to the growth of grain and the human liver - Bambara farmers say that animal horns are to animals what the liver is to humans and what vegetable shoots are to the earth.
  4. A look at the African reveals that marital rites and practices are usually carried out in line with the custom of the society concerned.
  5. In 2007 Swiss scientists excavating a site in Central Mali uncovered sherds of ancient pottery dating back to 9500 BCE, making it the oldest known ceramic ware in Africa.

The full study of culture in all its vastness and dimensions belongs to the discipline known as anthropology, which studies human beings and takes time to examine their characteristics and their relationship to their environments.

Culture, as it is usually understood, entails a totality of traits and characters that are peculiar to a people to the extent that it marks them out from other peoples or societies. These peculiar traits go on to include the people's language, dressing, music, work, arts, religion, dancing and so on. It also goes on to include a people's social norms, taboos and values.

Values here are to be understood as beliefs that are held about what is right and wrong and what is important in life.

A fuller study of values rightly belongs to the discipline of philosophy. Axiology as a branch of philosophy deals with values embracing both ethics and aesthetics. This is why philosophical appraisal of African culture and values is not only apt and timely, but also appropriate. Moreover, the centrality of the place of values in African culture as a heritage that is passed down from one generation to another, will be highlighted.

We shall try to illustrate that African culture and values can be appraised from many dimensions in addition to examining the method of change and the problem of adjustment in culture. Here we hope to show that while positive dimensions of our culture ought to be practised and passed on to succeeding generations, negative dimensions of our culture have to be dropped in order to promote a more progressive and dynamic society.

Before we can have an appraisal of African culture and values, it is necessary for us to have an understanding of the concept of culture and its meaning. This will help us grapple with the issues we will be dealing with in this paper.

Let us now look at the concept and meaning of culture, as this is fundamental to our understanding of what African culture is. Taylor is reputed as the scholar who first coined and defined culture in his work Primitive Culture 1871 and reprinted in 1958. Taylor saw culture as that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs or any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

This definition captures the exhaustive nature of culture. One would have expected that this definition would be a univocal one - but this is not so. In fact, there are as many definitions of culture as there are scholars who are interested in the phenomenon. Culture embraces a wide range of human phenomena, material achievements and norms, beliefs, feelings, manners, morals and so on. It is the patterned way of life shared by a particular group of people that claim to share a single origin or descent.

In an attempt to capture the exhaustive nature of culture, Bello 1991: Culture serves to distinguish a people from others, and Aziza 2001: It includes everything that makes them distinct from any other group of people for instance, their greeting habits, dressing, social norms and taboos, food, songs and dance patterns, rites of passages from birth, through marriage to death, traditional occupations, religious as well as philosophical beliefs.

Culture is passed on from generation to generation. The acquisition of culture is a result of the socialisation process. Explaining how culture is passed on as a generational heritage, Fafunwa 1974: The child just grows into and within the cultural heritage of his people. Culture, in traditional society, is not taught; it is caught. The child observes, imbibes and mimics the action of his elders and siblings. He watches the naming ceremonies, religious services, marriage rituals, funeral obsequies.

He witnesses the coronation of a king or chief, the annual yam festival, the annual dance and acrobatic displays of guilds and age groups or his relations in the activities. The child in a traditional society cannot escape his cultural and physical environments. This shows that every human being who grows up in a particular society is likely to become infused with the culture of that society, whether knowingly or unknowingly during the process of social interaction.

We do not need to have all the definitions of culture and its defining characteristics for us to understand the concept and meaning of culture. Even though there are as many the traditional art of africa plays a major part in the african society of culture as there are writers, there is an element of similarity that runs through them all. This singular underlying characteristic is the attempt to portray and capture culture as the entire or total way of life of a particular group of people.

It can be safely stated that there can be no culture without a society. It can also be said that culture is uniquely human and shared with other people in a society. Culture is selective in what it absorbs or accepts from other people who do not belong to a particular cultural group. Culture is to be understood as the way of life the traditional art of africa plays a major part in the african society a people.

  1. The site proved to be a repository for elaborately decorated objects - vessels, mace-heads, a belt, and other items of ceremonial wear.
  2. The chiefs themselves wear splendid cloths and ornaments, sit on high, ornate stools, and sleep on elaborately carved beds. Thus, few inventions which could profoundly alter the culture could take place.
  3. Though the artists did not follow stylistic guidelines blindly and each added his own creativity and individuality to the objects he made, the artists generally worked within defined parameters of acceptability within the culture.

This presupposes the fact that there can be no people without a culture. To claim that there is no society without a culture would, by implication, mean that such a society has continued to survive without any form of social organisation or institutions, norms, beliefs and taboos, and so on; and this kind of assertion is quite untrue.

African Art Museum

That is why even some Western scholars who may be tempted to use their cultural categories in judging other distinctively different people as "primitive", often deny that such people have history, religion and even philosophy; but cannot say that they have no culture.

In this paper, we shall be dealing with African culture and drawing examples from Nigerian culture. It is true that based on the consideration of culture as that which marks a people out from others, groups one can rightly say that there are many cultures in Africa. Africa is inhabited by various ethnic nationalities with their different languages, modes of dressing, eating, dancing and even greeting habits.

But in spite of their various cultures, Africans do share some dominant traits in the traditional art of africa plays a major part in the african society belief systems and have similar values that mark them out from other peoples of the world. A Nigerian culture, for instance, would be closer to, say, a Ghanaian culture on certain cultural parameters than it would be to the Oriental culture of the Eastern world, or the Western culture of Europe.

It is true that culture is universal and that each local or regional manifestation of it is unique. This element of uniqueness in every culture is often described as cultural variation.

The cultures of traditional African societies, together with their value systems and beliefs are close, even though they vary slightly from one another. These slight variations only exist when we compare an African culture with others. Certainly African cultures differ vastly from the cultures of other regions or continents. And we believe there is no need to over-labour this point since there are sufficient similarities to justify our usage of the term "African culture".

Here we would be sure to find a world of differences and diversity in beliefs, values and culture generally. Using Nigerian culture for instance, Antia 2005: Culture has been classified into its material and non-material aspects.

While material culture refers to the visible tactile objects which man is able to manufacture for the purposes of human survival; non-material culture comprises of the norms and mores of the people. While material culture is concrete and takes the form of artefacts and crafts, non-material culture is abstract but has a very pervasive influence on the lives of the people of a particular culture.

Hence beliefs about what is good and what is bad, together with norms and taboos, are all good examples of non-material culture. From the foregoing, it is obvious that culture is shared since it consists of cherished values or beliefs that are shared by a group, lineage, and religious sect and so on. Apart from this, culture is dynamic in the sense that it is continually changing.

Culture is not static. We are not alone in this observation as Antia 2005: It is always changed and modified by man through contacts with and absorption of other peoples' cultures, a process known as assimilation".

Indeed culture needs to change; which wants to remain static and resistant to change would not be a living culture". We can see that since culture is carried by people and people do change their social patterns and institutions, beliefs and values and even skills and tools of work, then culture cannot but be an adaptive system.

Once an aspect of culture adjusts or shifts in response to changes from within or outside the environment, then other aspects of the culture are affected, whether directly or indirectly.

It is necessary to know that each element of a culture such as material procedures, food processing or greeting patterns is related to the whole system. It is in this respect that we can see that even a people's technology is part of their culture. Such misconceptions can and often lead some persons to have a negative perception of 'culture' and all that it stands for. Such persons raise their eyebrows and suddenly frown at the word 'culture' as they in their minds' eyes visualise masquerades, idol worshipping, traditional jamborees and other activities they consider bizarre that go with culture".

This "misconception", we believe, does not appear to be widespread but the posture may have arisen from a partial understanding of the meaning of culture because as we shall see, culture generally, and African culture in particular, is like a two-sided coin.

It has soullifting, glamorous and positive dimensions even though it is not completely immune from some negative outcomes. African culture, as Ezedike 2009: It can be conceived as a continuous, cumulative reservoir containing both material and non-material elements that are socially transmitted from one generation to another.

African culture, therefore, refers to the whole lot of African heritage. We could see that African culture embraces the totality of the African way of life in all its forms and ramifications.

Just as an object is seen to be of a high value that is treasured, our beliefs about what is right or wrong that are worth being held are equally treasured. A value can be seen as some point of view or conviction which we can live with, live by and can even die for.

This is why it seems that values actually permeate every aspect of human life. For instance, we can rightly speak of religious, political, social, aesthetic, moral, cultural and even personal values.

We have observed elsewhere that there are many types and classifications of values. As people differ in their conception of reality, then the values of one individual may be different from those of another.

Life seems to force people to make choices, or to rate things as better or worse as well as formulate some scale or standard of values. Depending on the way we perceive things we can praise and blame, declare actions right or wrong or even declare the scene or objects before us as either beautiful or ugly. Each person, as we could see, has some sense of values and there is no society without some value system Idang 2007: Whether we are aware of it or the traditional art of africa plays a major part in the african society, the society we live in has ways of daily forcing its values on us about what is good, right and acceptable.

We go on in our daily lives trying to conform to acceptable ways of behaviour and conduct. Persons who do not conform to their immediate society's values are somehow called to order by the members of that society. If a man, for instance, did not think it wise to make honesty a personal value, and it is widely held by his immediate society that truth telling is a non-negotiable virtue, it would not be long before such an individual gets into trouble with other members of his society.

This shows that values occupy a central place in a people's culture. It forms the major bulwark that sustains a people's culture, making it more down-to-earth and real.