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Published On: Fri, Jun 8th, 2018

Reviving Urhobo Cultural Festival hrough Modern Technology (Part 11)

By Young Erhuirhobo
LAGOS JUNE 8TH (URHOBOTODAY)-This is the second and concluding part of my first article on the above topic. The first part of the article was devoted to highlighting about the general importance of culture and cultural festivals in Urhobo land. In this article, we shall unravel how modern technology, for example, the print media, social media, radio, television, recording studios, etc can be used to revive and promote our cultural festivals that are almost at extinction.
Today, modern technology has made the world a global village and the Urhobo as an ethnic group cannot be left out. We must run when others are running. Without doubt, radio and television are the most important media gadgets that have popularized and promoted sports like football and boxing even in ancient times. During local and national football competitions in Nigeria especially in the 70s and 80s, when so many people had no economic power to afford going to the National Stadium at Lagos to watch live matches, the radio and television relieved them and also made them live spectators of those events. Even those around Lagos city and its environs, were not so privileged to afford the ticket, let alone those in villages far away from Lagos as a federal capital territory then.
However, the only opportunity such people especially average people and below average people could also be part of those sporting activities was having access to radio and television sets. In those days, any person who have a television set in his living room was a wealthy man. In many villages across the Urhobo land in the 60s and 70s, it was hard to see one or two persons that have television sets. But the most important thing we want to point out here is that, even though many of the less-privileged could not go to stadia to watch live matches but they were able to catch the glimpse of the game through the power of technology.
In modern times, so many things have tremendously improved through advancement in technology. In short, the world is computerized and digitalized. With the introduction of digitalized broadcasting houses, internet based mobile phones and computers, we do not need to even stress ourselves again to travel to host countries before we can now watch any sporting event we wish to watch. You can watch any cultural event or festival taking place in any part of Nigeria, Africa or around the world with these modern media gadgets or facilities.
In Nigeria, like what I have observed, the three major tribes of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo have been exposed to the use of these modern facilities to promote their different cultural festivals long time ago. In most cases, the national television station and other television stations (both public and private) usually feature or show live cultural events from these three ethnic groups in their routine cultural programmes. However, among the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Igbos are highest in cultural promotion. It is undisputed fact that over seventy percent of Nigeria indigenous movies are created with Igbo cultural settings. This in no small way has helped to popularized the Igbo culture all over Nigeria and other countries in Africa and Europe. In almost every primary and secondary school in Nigeria today, the Igbo dressing styles have become the dressing patterns for our children during cultural day celebrations in schools. In short, the story is not different in schools across Urhobo land. Not quite long, I attended a cultural day celebration of a particular private school in Ughelli metropolis and what I saw glaringly shown that Urhobo is behind the scene. The worst part of this story is that , the proprietor of the said private school is a bona-fide indigene of Urhobo. Where do we go from here?
In answering the above question, we must say that UPU, as umbrella body of the Urhobo people, the mouth piece of the Urhobo nation has failed in its responsibilities of protecting and promoting the Urhobo culture. In the same way, all the leaderships of our various kingdoms across Urhobo land also failed. The Urhobo leadership is too porous and this has made so many foreign ways of life crept in. These foreign ways of life have therefore driven away our original and traditional ways of life. Today, many Urhobo people detest and hate speaking the language in their homes. They also see Urhobo cultural festivals as evil, dirty and archaic in practice. They prefer to eat Igbo food, wear Igbo clothes, watch Igbo cultural festivals than to participate in the Urhobo cultural heritage.
More importantly, this is where the Urhobo leadership of UPU will come in and also our traditional rulers of the different kingdoms. They have to take pragmatic steps in protecting and promoting the Urhobo culture. In doing this, they need the services of the media houses especially radio and television operating in Urhobo land. Whenever the different kingdoms or communities are celebrating their yearly cultural festivals, these media networks must make it as point of duty and their community/social responsibility to video and show such events in their various stations. In another development, it is even an economic venture or opportunity for such media houses to make more money. They can organize such cultural events with the state of the art facilities by seeking permission or partnering with the traditional institutions of such kingdom. In fact, the financial benefits are uncountable and enormous.
Secondly, the UPU, as the socio-political organization of the Urhobo people can organize a yearly cultural show of the different cultural festivals across the ethnic region. They can do this by a form of annual competition in the Urhobo cultural centre or any other venue by making all the different kingdoms to showcase their cultural festivals. Prizes should be attached to winners of the cultural competition just to encourage them especially our youths to participate every year. In another way too, it is a possible medium for UPU to garner money through registration of participating groups and selling of tickets to spectators. On the other hand, if UPU cannot organize it, they can allow private media companies to bid for the license of organizing it. In this way, the body would be having money to run its core responsibilities to the Urhobo people.
To conclude this discourse, I want to implore the Delta state government through the ministry of culture and tourism to provide an enabling environment for this project to thrive. The ministry should support cultural promotion across the state by establishing cultural centres with modern facilities in our different communities. The ministry should also mandate the state television and radio stations to always create cultural programme where cultural events are featured from time to time. As point of service, they should partner with Urhobo communities in presenting our culture to the world.
Young Erhiurhoro; Kjc, is reporter and a member of the Urhobo Historical Society.

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