A Study Commissioned by ADF
In the closing decades of the last century, voices from the academia, the Media, and a host of social commentators seemed to have found a buzzword with which to rationalize and interpret every manifestation of confrontation between differing or competing worldviews and ideologies across the world, this was the phrase “clash of civilizations”, introduced by Samuel P. Huntington, and the haste by many intellectuals and journalists to apply it to fault-lines and tensions between several opposing communities led by and to numbers of both correct and incorrect judgments over hostilities.
Across Igbo land, South-East Nigeria today, there is a current upsurge and crusade of attacks perpetuated by a movement of adherents to a belief-system against the material artifacts, symbols, and consequently body of values representing another system of belief. In actions and events the tendency of which to be broadly labeled a “clash of civilizations” should be wisely restrained, this situation alluded to is, to state in explicit terms, the recent and gradually intensifying spate of demolition of Igbo cultural relics by an increasingly bold army of Christian fundamentalists, mostly of a zealous Pentecostal bent, who judge a host of sacred and historical Igbo objects, monuments and sites all as items of idol worship, and hence worthy of destruction by fire, sledge-hammers, machetes, or any other instrument that could reduce them to ruins.
Responding with reasoned awareness of the several nuances and points of dialogue and even agreement between the Christian and Igbo civilizations, an enlightened perspective will give that this is not another classic case of that rather simplistic phrase “clash of civilizations”, instead, a closer attention should be paid to the notion of one culture, in this case a zealous religious movement acting under the justification of some subjective interpretation of Scripture, gradually impinging a deleterious act of cultural genocide on the traditional materials, shrines and practices of another. This crusade, fuelled both by a questionable interpretation of Holy writ and a misunderstanding of traditional belief systems, carries with it an invitation of resistance from the culture at the receiving end of the assault, hence, the inevitability of cultural conflict. This is the context in which we shall attempt to comprehend the interplay of forces currently unfolding in Igbo land, as a sort of battle of gods, and one that cuts to the heart and soul of Igbo land. In this maze, a pathway must be sought, and the first step towards this is a call for cross-cultural understanding and dialogue.
The advent of the Christian religion no doubt showed a threat to the existing traditional religion. Like a hurricane fire in harmattan, the so-called ‘imported religion’ displaced, or as it were threatened to displace the traditional religion with impunity. This it does in a brazen manner by pitching the ‘host religion’ against the ‘imported’ one. This trend has continued almost unabated to the shock of most people.
The Western civilization came in two folds, slavery and colonialism. While the people were been carted away, their land was been looted. When the Whiteman returned to evangelize the Africans, he equally came along with policies that has further impoverish and reduced the humanity of their host community. It was then a case of double tragedy.
There wouldn’t have been any cultural conflict if religion was abstracted in the whole discourse. As noted by Mbiti, the “African man is notoriously religious”, and he is enthusiastic to find a new enterprise in religious activities even if is for fun. The wave of Pentecostalism which came into the Igbo land in the late 60’s/70’s radicalized some of the converts, and made them antagonistic to the traditional belief system of their people. They were taught to regard the fetishes as unholy, and abhor any form of homage to the traditional institutions. Alas, they have been told, ‘you cannot serve God and Mammon’.
While the moderate Christians will want to hold on to the biblical dictum that says, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to Him”, others will maintain, “come out of them, and be thou separate”. The different interpretations that some had given to the biblical statements had equally shown that from the same pot can come sweet, and not-so-sweet taste, depending on which part of the pot had more contact with the fire.
Different reasons are adduced as to why traditional and cultural paraphernalia, objects and artifacts must be discarded. Some maintain that these objects are instruments through which satanic stronghold is used to keep the people under attack, bringing to them all manner of ill lucks, misfortune, and even untimely death. A story was told of how a man who kept an object from a Buddhist temple in his house was immediately subjected into a severe health condition. It took revelation for the source of his ailment to be discovered. On discovering it, the object was destroyed and the man regained his old self again. Such testimonies give credence and justification to the outright destruction of any object which is considered diabolical or from an idolatrous temple. It is equally believed that one who has denounced a religious sect or cult should also endeavor to abandon or disassociate himself from any further entangling with such group or organization, as the Igbos say, ‘onye juu ekwensu, oju oru ya n’ile’. This is because, according to the belief, when one leaves the ‘property of the devil’ in his house, the devil will keep coming to harass such a fellow. It then behooves on whoever is keeping such to discard it to avoid the satanic harassment.
In as much as the above may suffice in argument, it will be a different ball game altogether when people get themselves in groups and begin to dismantle and dismember cultural relics and preservations in their campaign to get rid of the devil at all cost. Such exercises are counterproductive as the posterity is denied a sense of history. The rampaging of the youths and some elders, and the new found enthusiasm in destroying historical preservations in forms of forest, caves and covens, collections, shrines and temples has socio-economic consequences. In some climes in the western world, such places are turned into tourist attractions and are used as a means of revenue generation for the state. But in Igbo land, the reverse is the case. People now attribute their misfortunes to the big and tall tree, which has been in existence even before they were born. Such careless categorization is catastrophic in the long run. For the most part, there is no sound social logic in it. How come others from the same community are doing well, and others are not? Are those who are doing well not ‘nailed’ on the tree with those who are being overwhelmed with misfortune?
Cutting down the big trees for an example, as a means of exorcising the devil is a crime to the environment. The Igbo proverb that says, “when a huge tree is cut down, the birds are rendered homeless” is very true in this case. When the birds which have been dispossessed of their abode come flying down their roof, they will interpret it as ‘witches’ invasion. The rest is better imagined.
This report will aim at providing a historical, psychological, scientific and philosophical and metaphysical exposition on these current cultural crises in Igboland, diagnose the causes and symptoms of the problem, point to potential spiritual and historical grounds where cultural similarities, or at least understandings could be bridged, and provide recommendations on the way out and forward for Igboland and way of life.
The Root Cause of this Cultural Genocide:
In the late sixties and seventies when radical Pentecostalism, Evangelical and Charismatic Churches began to take root in Igbo land, the practice then was not to ‘gang up’ and burn a collectively owned property in the name of raiding the devil. The practice rather was to privately approach the new convert and convince him/her of the need to get rid of any satanic object in his possession in order to make his deliverance complete. In most cases, it is the new convert that will approach the evangelist or pastor, as the case may be for such confiscation of the said ‘devils property’.
Down the line, exorcism was gaining momentum as visible results were reported. People were hitherto after the exorcist for one deliverance performance to the other. Then, as with any success story, it was hijacked by charlatans. Voodoo was introduced into the prayers by these self-styled evangelists and prophets, as they began to prophesy, and see visions. You will hear things like, ‘in so, so and so corner of your village compound is buried a bottle tied in scarlet rope that is the object buried by your uncle to stop you from making it in life’. Mysteriously, the ‘prophets’ prediction comes true as the place is dug and the said object is retrieved. Since ‘seeing is believing’ for some, such man is taken seriously in matters of such nature. This made proliferations of prayer houses a common issue in Igbo land of late.
Real Life Experience:
To really drive home the point we are trying to discuss above, it is pertinent to narrate a real life situation in the home community of one of the writer of this piece in Abia state. Between 2004-2006, there was a man known as Utu. Utu claimed to have being a former wizard, having renounced his membership of as a prominent member of a secret sect. He therefore found a new vocation in confessing his sins from village to village. In each village, he would mention people whom he claimed are his members, and telling the willing crowd how they devastated the lives of people in that particular village. In each instance, he would mention some locations that served as their meeting points in the nocturnal hours. This ‘revelation’ irked the youths, and prompted them to embark on massive destruction of places regarded by Utu as real or potential places of mysterious and wicked meetings. Such places included, but not limited to forests, trees, market and village squares, etc. The irate youths also carried out their crusades to the houses of people mentioned, vandalizing their property, maiming and in some cases killing out rightly the implicated person.
The drama seems to have been taken too far when a popular Igbo gospel artiste known as Paul Nwokocha was also implicated. Utu was quoted to have said, “there is this Paul Nwokocha who is also our member”. The already irate youths couldn’t wait to do any background checks, to verify if the Nwokocha in Utu’s confession is the same with the popular gospel singer, they went and destroyed his investments in Aba and elsewhere! This was even at a time that Paul Nwokocha was in South Africa for a business engagement, else, he would have been a dead man by now.
Ever since Utu’s emergence, the eyes of many people seemed to have been opened on the realities of the activities of the wicked world, hence the monstrous undertaking to destroy whatever they see in sight. This is the immediate cause of the reckless demolition, vandalism and outright destruction of historical sites in Igbo land, especially in the areas where such confessions are made.
How Credible was Utu’s Testimony?
Utu reigned for over two years, almost covering all parts of Ngwa land, as people kept inviting him for town and family deliverance. When Paul Nwokocha returned, a meeting was organized so that he could identify if the Nwokocha he knew was the same as the gospel singer. Utu on sighting Nwokocha said he doesn’t know him, according to the story. Already, damage had been done.
In the passage of time, people began to realize that the said Utu who goes about confessing and exorcising may not have really repented, and could as well be an impostor. This singular consideration made many to begin to distance themselves from him. As we write this, no one knows the whereabouts of Utu, as nothing about him is in public knowledge. However, the impression he created still lingers. A lot of people now see how cheap and easy popularity can be, and as a result many people went into the ‘business’ of seeing visions, prophesying and confessing what they hardly know in order to remain relevant.
On the other hand also, the faithfuls of these new found religious movements find comfort in a new school of fire-brand preachers/evangelists many of whom are said to tell their followers that the ancient African religious artifacts represent “curses and covenants” linked to various gods. Among this class, a notable figure has even boasted of overseeing the destruction of over 100 shrines in one District of the South-East in December 2005 alone, according to reports. Hence to “break the covenant” with what they call “ancestral idols”, Pentecostal Christian Nigerians destroy ancient artifacts, and to this, costumes, bronzes, carvings, groves, forests, etc., have been targeted. The proliferation of preachers and the mushrooming of poorly-informed Charismatic churches across the area saw to much of the masses joining the bandwagon of Christian Warriors enlisting in what they describe as a “Holy War” against “Idols”, armed with holy water, anointing oil, and materials for arson. Poverty, misconstrued Christianity, and ignorance of culture therefore make up fundamental sources for the demolition movement against the heritage of Igbo peoples
A Spate of Cultural Assaults
Achina, a town 40 kilometers south of the Anambra state capital, Awka, is another example, according to investigations. As typical of towns and villages in the ethnic Igbo-dominated belt of Southeastern Nigeria where this new Christian fundamentalism is evident, in Achina the old gods are being linked to the devil, and preachers are urging not only their rejection, but their destruction. The Ezeokolo, the main shrine of Achina is said to have been repeatedly looted of its carved god figures and assorted masks, and while no one has been caught, suspects range from people acting on Christian impulses to treasure thieves. Since 2008 a traditionalist from Achina who goes by the name Ezenwa (according to online blog), has been pursuing the criminal prosecution of three Catholic priests and several congregation members for their alleged involvement in burning and destroying the Ezeokolo shrine. In one narration of such incidence, the account gives that the attack was preceded by a three-day revival meeting, with the destruction taking place on the final day. The outcome was the destruction of very precious artifacts that were hundreds of years old, and the looting of many others.
These are just but a few instances to convey a sense of the larger picture of destructions and “culture cleansing” currently going on across Igbo land, and according to Emeka Uzoatu, a researcher affiliated to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in the South-East, more than 500 traditional worship sites have been burned down in the past decade, along with artifacts that are often hundreds of years old and of historical significance, and worshippers have handed over art worth about $500m to pastors.
Over time, however, resistance and retaliation have been the response of some adherents of the traditional religion in Igbo land in the face of such assaults on their sacred objects and sites. Churches have been attacked as a consequence in some cases, in retaliation of the damages that the extremist Christians are doing to the culture of the land. One such notable conflict in Igbo land was the incidence which saw to the setting ablaze and complete destruction of a local church building in a community known as Nsirimo Village in Umuahia Town, Abia State of Nigeria. Provoked by members of the Pentecostal church going by the name Charismatic Renewal Movement (according to online reports), who had gone on rampage against the culture of the land, and recording casualties which included a couple of peculiar, ancient trees that had already been approved by the State government for Tourist Attraction development project, according to reports. The overzealous born-again Christians decided and succeeded to fell the trees, along with the destruction of the village shrines. In retaliation, irate youths simply marched to the local church on December 1, 2007 and burned it down. The message from the youths, as some have phrased it, was very clear:
‘You destroy our culture; and we destroy what you claim to be your culture”, according to the story.
Adherents of the traditional religion across Igbo land, a number of whom have decided no longer to fold their arms and watch these assaults continue, have in some instances put up some form of resistance and retaliation, resulting in a battle between the Christian and the Indigenous Gods, herein lies the cultural conflict. On the other hand, the argument between the progressive-minded, reformist Christian groups who advocate for tolerate and reform of the culture and the extremist set about the demolition crusade is also provoking yet another internal conflict within Christianity, and Christian youths on both sides of the divide in Igbo land find themselves poised for confrontations from one point to the next.
To be sure, not every Christian in Igbo land is in support of this culture destruction campaign, for there are some pro-culture Christians who still argue either for the preservation or reform of these cultural symbols, rather than their destruction thereof. This attitude has also led to a split among Christians themselves across Igbo land, a split between the pro-Culture and the anti-Culture Igbo Christians, and hostilities resulting from this dilemma within the groups are not altogether impossible.
We must also note, however, that not all the destructions of cultural artifacts across the land are carried out only with an extremist Christian motive, for it is indeed a reality that some unscrupulous elements masking under the guise either of Pentecostals, youth vigilante groups, village masquerade societies, the community police, etc., seize the opportunity of campaigns against cultural symbols to loot precious artifacts which they sell through agents to art dealers for the sake of making financial profits. Others of such hue join the crusades to destroy cultural materials as a way of meting out vengeance over a grudge held against someone to whom such materials are prized possessions. These are the shades and nuances that must be taken cognizance of in order not to apply brush strokes and generalizing the entire phenomenon under the sweeping view of Christianity-versus-Culture War.
This campaign of destruction, according to a unanimous online blogger has resulted in yet another ugly trend in Igbo land and across Nigeria—Nigerians are now selling off all the artifacts of our culture, the cultural heritage that we are supposed to pass on to the next generations for the preservation of history, the story of our sojourn on earth. Some people, rather than being persuaded by quack brainwashing pastors, or forced by their converted and “zombified” brethren in the village to destroy the artifacts, choose to sell them off to foreigners who have great values for them. In Igbo land, looting of these cultural artifacts has thus further wrecked much havoc in the worsening rape of the culture of the people. International Art dealers get some priceless bronze carvings and sculpture either through pastors who get these pieces surrendered to them by converts or directly through looters of various shrines who make money through the culture black market.
In Nigeria, looted items are often illegally trafficked to Europe and the U.S. where they are bought by art collectors, according to the Abuja-based National Commission for Museums and Monuments. This agency, set up to protect Nigeria’s cultural heritage, estimates the country’s artifacts in circulation in the global market are worth about 310 billion naira ($1.6 billion). The Archaeological Association of Nigeria also estimates that people have been persuaded by pastors and churches to hand over ancestral objects worth at least $500 million in the past decade to prove they no longer practice traditional worship. Hence, while Museums in the western world are graced with artifacts of the African Culture, back home in Africa, New-Wave Born-Again Christians and other greedy Art criminals are busy destroying what is left of the culture, all in the name of Christ and money, according to reports.
This is reminiscent of the plot in Okey Ndibe’s book, “Foreign Gods, Inc.”, where a gallery in New York that specializes in the sale of cultural figures such as Ngene to rich collectors was discussed. Ike, the protagonist, and a stranded Igbo man in New York, sees this as the best way out of his situation of poverty, he will make a fortune by returning home to steal the Ngene in his family compound and selling it to the gallery. “In a postmodern world,” the gallery owner is quoted as saying, “even gods and sacred objects travel or lose their vitality; any deity that remained stuck in its place and original purpose would soon become moribund.” By that logic, Ike’s “liberation” of the god will be a way of restoring its relevance, so he convinced himself to rationalize his plan to steal and sell an ancestral symbol in Igbo land to foreigners, according to the reviewers excerpt.
Therefore for purposes both of religious fanaticism, profit-making, or settling of scores, costumes, bronzes, carvings, masks, forests, and several other sacred sites of precious historical and cultural significance are steadily and increasingly being wiped away over recent decades in one of the worst episodes of “culture cleansing” that Igbo land has ever witnessed.
However, the traditionalists, on their part too, do share some part of the blame, for in their sense of sticking to “tradition”, many have failed to introduce any element of innovation into the artifacts of their practice, thereby leaving the materials stale and stagnant without any acquaintance with contemporary changes in society. This form of “neglect” in a sense have rendered the objects unappealing and irrelevant to the minds and senses of the younger generation, a cause to view them as “symbols of stagnation” and an “antithesis to progress”, and hence a justification for their rejection and removal from public spaces and social life. It is imperative that the traditionalists in Igbo land marry their efforts of preservation with innovation, for this approach of renewal and continuity will keep the objects dynamic and relevant to contemporary times, thus addressing notions viewing them as “primitive”. Culture itself is an ever dynamic thing, keep it static and it faces the threat of extinction.
Consequences of the Ongoing “Culture Cleansing”
The ongoing culture cleansing across Igbo land comes with the perilous possibility of wiping out the collective memory of the people of the land. The attacks on heritage across Igbo land are reminiscent of the acts of the extremist Islamic group ISIS on several cultural and historical monuments across the Middle East and North Africa in the name of destroying what they label symbols of “idol and pagan worship”. Described as a “war crime” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), this deliberate destruction of cultural heritage as perpetrated by Islamist groups like ISIS, the Taliban, Boko Haram, etc., is now finding an equivalent in the acts of Christian extremists in South-East Nigeria to the detriment of the traditional history of the land. A new generation of children is thereby to grow without “a pointer” to the knowledge of their history, a gross denial of their cultural rights.
The consequences are dire, for apart from eroding on the Identity of the people, robbing them off the pride of a rich way of life passed down through generations of ancestors, the effect on language is also corrosive, for in the destruction of the material aspects of a culture, words employed in description of those objects lose usage and significance, thereby resulting in the withering of the vocabulary of that culture, and an impoverishment of language and heritage.
Still there is an economic dimension to the whole matter, and this has to do mainly with the losses incurred by the land in what could have been translated into gains through tourist opportunities. Much of the cultural artifacts being destroyed are elements of art and history which are in other climes promoted as tourist attractions for the cultural education and entertainment for visitors. As stated earlier, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments estimates that Nigeria’s artifacts in circulation in the global market are worth about 310 billion naira ($1.6 billion). A good number of these trafficked artifacts are as looted and smuggled from the South-East, with many others worth millions of US Dollars being destroyed. One can only imagine the huge financial loss being suffered by the tourism sector in Igbo land due to this onslaught on its cultural heritage by a band of crusaders consisting of a curious mix of Christian fanatics, looters and smugglers.
Education, information and enlightenment are surely needed to tackle this scourge, especially in the dialogue between cultural advocates and the anti-culture Christians. In this track, for instance, it is reported that the National Commission for Museums and Monuments is currently conducting a campaign to explain to Christians that “they can’t detach themselves from their past, that there is a beginning to their history”. The relevance of such awareness cannot be over-emphasized in the effort to arrest the ongoing plague of “culture cleansing” across Igbo land.
A Violation of Rights
Aside the matter of the aesthetic and spiritual annihilation that accrues as consequences of this “culture cleansing”, it must be noted, moreover, that the acts of destruction of cultural artifacts constitute a Constitutional violation of the rights of some persons and groups in the country Nigeria. It is very important to note that the Christian Warriors do violate the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when they go on their destruction rampage. They actually forcibly dispossess villagers of their cultural artifacts and burn them amidst protest by the owners. There is a law against willful, wanton destruction of another person’s property. The law does not exempt anybody, with or without a Holy Bible in hand. The Nigerian constitution also clearly guarantees every citizen the right to freely associate with other citizens of choice for whatever interest that they may share. This means that one also has the right not to belong to a church, and, nobody has the right to force another to obey the tenets of a religion that he or she does not agree with. This, in turn means, for instance, that a Christian may destroy all the cultural artifacts that belong to him or her personally, but he or she definitely has no right to destroy another citizen’s property. This matter must no longer be overlooked, and advocacy should be intensified for mechanisms to be put in place for the prosecution of those found offending this law.
A Tale of Two Regions: Contrasting the Cultural Experience of the South-East with Conditions in the South-West of Nigeria
The worrying cultural experience of the South-East comes into even sharper focus when contrasted with the conditions of cultural preservation and continuity in the South-West of the country. Across the South-Western part of the country, a region dominated mainly by the Yoruba ethnic group, there is still this retention, despite widespread practices of Christianity and Islam, of traditional religious practices and materials of worship that accompany their observances. Sacred sites, shrines, objects, sculptures, ritual masks, forests and groves, cults and priesthoods, rituals and festivals, all deriving from the worship of the Orisa (as the pantheon of local Yoruba deities is called), are either being upheld for extant religious practice or as elements of cultural heritage. Perhaps most popular among these is the Osun Oshogbo grove (a UNESCO world heritage site), and the Osun Oshogbo festival, both of which have become international tourist attractions accruing substantial revenue for Osun State on a year to year basis. It is also worthy of note that priesthoods and shrines still thrive inside the grove, and statues designed there by artists dating back to the 1960s under the leadership of the late Susanna Wenger are still being preserved and perennially innovated upon by contemporary artists working under the aegis of the Susan Wenger Trust.
The Ifa divination system, with its symbolic Ifa tray, is another example of a laboriously preserved cultural artifact by the Yoruba, an effort that was crowned by the recognition of the system as among the UNESCO List of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. The support of the Yoruba intelligentsia towards aspects of the Yoruba religion is furthermore critical to state of things, for over the decades the likes of D.O. Fagunwa, Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan, Funso Aiyejina, Yinka Shonibare, etc., have lent their intellectual authority and credence to the practices and objects from their Yoruba religion and culture, often reworking and incorporating them as themes in their works of art, and interpreting their significance for society with contemporaneous twists. Igbo land needs more of such intellectuals to speak up for their culture.
Keepers of precious cultural objects from Africa should open up vaults across Europe, America and Asia, and by all possible means make effort to have traditional African relics returned to their sources. It is curious to consider why many anti-culture Africans never bother to question either why these artifacts are so valuable to these non-Africans, or why the presence of these “growth-retarding pagan idols” have not stalled the progress in the civilization of these Western and Asian societies where thousands of them are currently being kept and even exhibited. In Wole Soyinka’s memoir, You Must Set Forth at Dawn, there is a section in which he instigates an audacious plot to steal back “Ori Olokun”, the bronze head of the sea god Olokun, a lost Yoruba archaeological treasure believed to be in the hands of a Brazilian collector, a sacred object for which Soyinka was zealous to achieve repatriation back to its original home. Contrast this cultural ambition of a Yoruba intellectual with Ike’s plot to steal the Ngene and sell to foreign collectors in Okey Ndibe’s “Foreign Gods, Inc.”, or broadly, with the destruction by Christian extremists and the acts of looters and smugglers of cultural artifacts across Igbo land, and you get a sense of the position of culture between the two regions.
The Need for Action: which way forward?
The condition of culture in Igbo land calls for action, and the question “which way for Igbo land?” in terms of this cultural conflict must be treated as an urgent and ultimately important one. A call has to be made for more effective dialogue between Christian leaders/groups and traditionalists, and also between the different pro-culture/anti-culture Christian groups themselves. Intellectuals from Igbo land need to enter into series of conferences with the Igbo Christian clergy both from the Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal, Methodist, and other denominations, in order to facilitate a reformist, anthropologically-minded interpretation of Scripture as well as to promote mutual tolerance and cross-cultural understanding between Christianity and the Igbo Culture. The Reformist Theory, which maintains that Reformation, and not Destruction, is the answer to the ongoing dispute over supremacy and legitimacy between Christianity and Culture in Nigeria, must be upheld, and educational methods to persuade traditionalists to willingly relinquish aspects of culture, e.g., human sacrifice, considered harmful to social life. Education, not confrontation, should be the key in all these.
Another approach could be through the institution and observation of purification ceremonies, where possessors of traditional religious items who willingly have a change of heart from the practice, rather than having items from the practice destroyed, present them instead for an act of purification and demystification as conducted by credible and respectable Christian clergy, and by which the items are to be disengaged from their spiritual significance to be treated thenceforth only with respect to their cultural and aesthetic values. It must be noted that these symbolic ceremonies should apply to converts alone, for whom there is justification in the symbolism of transforming the items from a ritual and spiritual object to an object of sheer cultural, historic and aesthetic significance. For those who desire to retain such personal objects in their possession for sacred purposes, this resolve must be respected. In any case, what undergoes a change through the purification act is a perspective on the functionalism of the object, and this change in perspective is to enter the heart and mind of an individual or a people through the power of symbolism and without any form of coercion.
Still, community museums should be built as collection points for sacred objects that have been denounced by erstwhile users who convert from Igbo traditional religion to Christianity or any other religion. These local museums are to serve as storehouses and alternatives to the destruction of traditional artifacts now rejected by the convert who no longer want them in their possession for any reason whatever, spiritual, cultural, historic, aesthetic, etc.. Rather than forceful destructions, these artifacts are to be deposited willingly by converts in the museums, for by so doing, a history is preserved, and a stage in the evolution of the people’s civilization is saved as a memory and story for the information and education of generations to come.
As for the looters and smugglers who involve in the raids for purposes of stealing and selling cultural artifacts to foreign dealers in order to make profit, culture advocates across Igbo land must increasingly lobby organs of government to articulate and implement laws and measures for the apprehension and prosecution of such offenders, and the penalties need be stiff to serve as deterrent to would be violators. Also, state governments across Igbo land need to step up security measures to designate and protect sacred sites, monuments and objects across the area, and if possible create a Corps of “Culture Rangers” to guard such protected sites and relics.
A people without culture is a people without identity, and a people with no memory of where they are coming from will never have a clear vision of where they are going to. The destruction of the Igbo cultural heritage in the name either of an adopted religion, the settling of disputes, or for profit-making ventures must be put to a stop. Let the Gods fight for themselves, and may the best God win, or better still, reconcile the others to His/Herself. Our duty as humans is to treat, engage and persuade one another with tolerance, compassion and understanding.
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