Centre for Igbo Page 2
There has also been the attempt by some scholars of Igbo language to equate the subject of Igbo Studies only in the context of Igbo language studies. But the fact remains that any proper study of any group of people like the Igbo must not only be holistic in structure but should be dynamic. The Igbo as a people ethnically defined today face diverse challenges which require instinctive, audacious, creative and where necessary pragmatic solutions. The Igbo have played and continue to play central roles in economic, political, religious, cultural and social trends of the Nigerian nation State as well as on the international landscape. Instinctively global in their pattern of economic enterprise yet curiously attached to the fundamental basis of their identity and Value orientation, the Igbo present an enigma of an African personality whose presence in any socio- economic, political or religious setting often evokes reverberating effects.
Studying the Igbo experience thus provides an invaluable window into the fascinating evolution of a people so defamed, misunderstood, unappreciated, besieged, viewed with domineering suspicion, and most tragically subjected to all kinds of uncanny descriptions and attacks by their hosts and neighbours alike, yet remain adored by some as agents of positive change and sources of inspiration.
The subject matter of Igbo Studies makes it acutely relevant to every facet of human knowledge and development. Its structure and depth are quite extensive, resting on the foundational intellectual pedestals of history, language and culture, and connecting with other aspects of human knowledge in both arts and the sciences. Above all, it provides the needed intellectual platform for those people, both prospective students and the public who are keen in exploring in in-depth form and structure those propelling historical forces that have through the ages shaped what became the enigmatic Igbo personality, identity and characteristic enterprising spirit.
Taking archaeological and ethno-linguistic evidence into consideration, the Igbo are said to have been occupying their present homeland since approximately 4,000 years ago. The Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade dislocated millions of them from their homeland and unceremoniously dispatched them to the Americas and Europe.
This again raises the nostalgic question of how do we approach the trending surge in the discovery of primordial ethnic identities by some African-Americans and their counter-parts in the Caribbean, Brazil and Europe, of which a sizeable number are those who have already identified their remote ethnic ancestors as Igbo?
The same question equally applies to the state of the unsung Igbo presence in Sierra Leone whose fathers pioneered protestant missionary activities in Igboland, as well as Equatorial Guinea where a sizeable proportion of the population of the Island of Fernando Po trace their roots to the Igbo ethnic mainland beginning from the era of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the Colonial period.
Then appeared the European colonial experience that saw the gradual erosion of quite a sizeable proportion of some cardinal facets of Igbo culture and value orientation, in which the Igbo language in being the major casualty,Â is gradually being divested of much of its rich material vocabulary, poetic structure and proverbial forms. ThisÂ subsequently poses the painful consequence of seeing quite a sizeable number of Igbo families presently use the English language as their lingua franca in their homes instead of their mother-tongue. This further raises the palpable fear of a fast-growing generation of non-Igbo-speaking members of the Igbo ethnic nationality, which invidiously put the Igbo language in the non- excusable danger of extinction.
Igbo Studies cannot also be divorced from the Nigerian Civil War experience, the pogroms,Â the stint of scientific and technological break-through and the associated yet to be resolved refugee question that saw many Igbo children, most of whom were orphaned by the raging civil war and could barely speak, much more tracing their parents and hometowns, air-lifted to Gabon and Cote Dâ€™Ivoire, as well as Europe, where they remained scattered and adopted by humanitarian families, without streams of Igbo identity and connection to the land of their ancestors.
When we remember that these children who today are adults wherever they might be are forever disconnected from their ancestral land without traces of direct kinsmen or a place that could be called their hometowns, Local Government Area or State of origin, then we come to realize that even though the civil war might have ended in the physical form, to these people it mains an unending mental trauma that goes at the very root of their identity and personality, which they know and see but are powerless to explore. What then can be most demanding in the current definition of â€œIgbo Diasporaâ€ than to develop a programme of â€œhome-comingâ€ for these people, as the Jews do today I connection with Eretz Israel, if only to provide them with the needed platform to reclaim their shattered identity.
The dimension and pattern of the exposition of Igbo Culture and values in the fast-growing Nollywood film industry will also be of great interest for the Centre. It is hoped that the Centre for Igbo Studies will in future develop a working relationship with the Igbo section of the film industry based on training, re-training and consultancy with the wider objective of turning Nollywood from being a mere entertainment industry, to being an ambassadorial platform for expressing and promoting of Igbo culture, mind and values.
The foregoing may seem to summarize the wider objectives and structural framework of the Centre for Igbo Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in a form that tends to put the past in greater focus, but they go further to raise fundamental questions about the present, with the tendency to project the future. All these make the establishment of the Centre for Igbo Studies imperative for a functional understanding of the Igbo mind, body and spirit in their inevitable confrontation with the present national and global socio-political and economic challenges.
At the Centre for Igbo Studies, we dedicate ourselves to cutting-edge research initiatives, which provides us the audacious willingness to venture into hitherto unexplored zones of knowledge, re-examine the veracity of commonly-held theories, and ensure that intellectual honesty laced with the creams of true knowledge and integrity in scholarship remain our guiding principle.
Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, Ph.D