Usman: Cartoons shown on Nigerian TV should reflect local environment

From April 29 through May 2, 2018, the Nigerian Folklore Society (NFS) will hold its yearly conference at the Bayero University, Kano, in conjunction with the university’s Centre for Research in Nigerian Languages and Folklore. President of the society, historian and writer, DR. BUKAR USMAN, spoke with ANOTE AJELUOROU about the relevance of the conference and other issues related to folklore

What is the significance of Nigerian Folklore Society in harnessing the country’s oral traditions? The society appears more of an academic society than a grassroots one that should permeate every nook and cranny to deepen the value of folklore among the people, is it?

Oral tradition is only one aspect of folklore. Experience from field research has shown that oral tradition had been the first school of the child. It was the basis for a child’s upbringing and the vehicle for transmission of the history and culture of the people.

Oral tradition is thus the foundation of societies. It is therefore necessary for the Nigerian Folklore Society (NFS) to continually revisit the societal foundation so as to draw valuable lessons for the construction of the future. It should be appreciated that in years to come the present time will also go down in history and be of interest to oral tradition.

How much threat does globalization/western lifestyle pose to Nigeria’s folklore? And what can be done to reverse this trend?

Globalisation is a threat to not only Nigeria folklore but to nearly folklores of all societies. Globalisation tends to harmonise all cultures leading to the death of some.

However, globalisation has its positive sides as shared advanced technology can be used to preserve and promote folklore and societal identity.
While the written medium (literary) has made efforts to preserve the country’s folklore, it appears the film medium (be it so-called Nollywood, Kaniwood or Yorubawood) is lagging behind in this respect. Why is this so and how can filmmakers be galvanised to act like America’s Hollywood through comics to expose the abundant folklores from different communities?

This is quite a relevant question that reflects the current situation in the film industry of Nigeria. One would like to see that some of the cartoons shown in the media, which have caught the attention of the young ones, are based on Nigerian folktales reflecting the local environment.

The home video filmmakers are trying. However, they need to do more by acquiring the necessary techniques and technology, especially in the production of films and animations based on our culture and tradition.

Your recent collection of folklores, The Bride Without Scars and Other Stories is outstanding in its scope. Are writers doing enough for this special genre of children’s literature?

From the results of folktale research works on which The Bride Without Scars and Other Stories is based, the field of folktales research is unlimited. It is hoped that writers would draw their attentions to collection of folklores on which to base their writings for the benefit of our children. It is remarkable that books published based on tales collected in Nigeria over the last six years were well received by educational institutions.

Is the society considering establishing a special prize for folklore stories as a way of stimulating writers in the genre?

Instituting a prize for folklore stories as a way of stimulating writers’ imagination is a welcome idea to be considered by the NFS in its programmes. This will hopefully complement the effort of some of the notable prize awarding organizations for literature, in the country.

Is there a difference between folklore and oral literature? If there’s none, why is there another body, Nigerian Oral Literature Association (NOLA)? Are the two bodies serving the same or different purposes? Why not harmonise/synergise and work together for the common good of the genre?

Oral literature is an aspect of folklore. As for the existence of the Nigerian Oral Literature Association (NOLA) and the NFS, it should be noted that the establishment of the latter predates the former.

An examination of the objectives of the two bodies may reveal the differences, if any. However, from their names their activities are more likely to be complementary. Indeed, some members associate with both orgnisations.

In a country of Nigeria’s size and diversity, the existence of one organisation should not preclude the existence of another. What normally obtains is to ensure that organsations do not bear identical names so as to avoid conflict in identification.

Is the society making efforts to reprint Oral Poetry in Nigeria [1982), edited by Uchegbulam et al and make it available at the conference?

Surely, the Oral Poetry in Nigeria (Uchegbulam 1982), being such an important book in the establishment of NFS, it would be worthwhile and indeed due for a reprint.

Apart from being a professor of English, what other specialty exactly recommends the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, as keynote speaker of the conference?

Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, the current Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, has been an active member of NFS.

During his tenure as the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University Kano, NFS was boosted with the establishment of the Centre for Research in Nigerian Languages and Folklore where the NFS secretariat is situated.

Some of the sub-themes are particularly interesting like ‘Folklore and Traditional Medicine.’ The science in folklore seems in dire need of revival for its social and economic benefits, is it?

This is indeed quite a valid observation. Orthodox medicine tends to neglect traditional medical practice. However, of late there have been revival of interest and rightly so in traditional medicine. Traditional bone-setting and treatment of sickle cell disease have made appreciable achievements.

For example, it is reported in Nigeria that about 90 per cent of sickle cell patients responded positively to treatment administered by a traditional medicine practitioner.

Are there efforts to bring folk performers in music, dance, storytelling, healers to be part of the conference?

NFS conferences are organised theme by theme; as such, all branches of folklore, which take interest in any of the themes may attend.
What would lay guests, who are not in the academia, take away from the conference?

Lay guests who are literate and could communicate with participants can benefit through the free interaction with participants, as the guests would have the opportunity to ask questions relating to the themes. Several educative publications on display during the conference could also be procured.

In this article:
Dr. Bukar Usman


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