Iniobong Obinna-Onunkwo’s Uphill Task to Salvage Nigerian Culture

- Funke Olaode

What inspired you to start the Heritage Education for Youth?

My father is a diplomat and I moved around with him a lot. When you travel, you see monuments and edifices commemorat­ing events that happened in those countries. We don’t have such in Nigeria and I’m wondering how do you educate Nigerian children? The youths are not grounded in culture. Our culture is fast eroding as children can’t speak their languages. When I’m expressing myself, I do that first as a Nigerian and then as an African. Coming back home, I thought I should do something to salvage the situation. How do we collate all these and let young people know we have a history and that we have an identity?

How do you convince the Nigerian child to embrace all things Nigerian?

There are so many things we plan to address with this campaign. Our objective is to educate and empower. In this regard, parents will have a lot to do to change that perception. I started off wanting my children to speak proper English. I realised that when we travel and I want to say something to my kids privately, I can’t. You see Arabs, Indians, they all speak their language. Your language becomes a thing of pride when you are outside Nigeria. I think we should do a proper reorientat­ion and embrace what we have. We did a short documentar­y on Ogbunike cave in Anambra state just to show that something like this exists. When we talk about tourists places in this country, I’m not impressed. In other lands, they build shrines, people come and pay money to go see it and take photograph­s. Our own mini shrine is the Ogbunike cave. Why have they not set up hotels and mini markets around it? We got there and the whole place looked dead. But when we toured the place, it was fun.

How do you hope to finance this?

I need a lot of help and support from people who truly believe that our culture is eroding. I’m just a lone voice trying to call us back to our heritage. Where are those places that remind us of our history? I think it is time for us to begin to appreciate and celebrate our culture.

At what stage did you develop passion for fashion particular­ly for children?

As a designer, I specialise in children’s clothes and I have done a couple of shows. When I get young models to wear my designs during shows, after the show, they don’t want to take it off. We need to build the confidence of our children that they can wear Afrocentri­c clothes and still look good.

As a designer and culture advocate, what outfit projects our culture better?

It is the Ankara. There is something about Ankara and a denim. When they wear that simple up and down outfit in Ankara and you travel, people look at you like an African prince or a senator. You don’t look ordinary and people want to associate with you.

Cultures of the world really project what you trying to promote now?

The Arabs. I like their simple white regalia and the way the women dress. I like their kaftans, the designs and the hijab.

And for language?

I think the Yorubas are better with their language than any other tribe. Every where they go, they speak their language and see what they have done with ‘ aso ebi’ in Nigeria. That culture has been exported to other tribes in this country and even abroad. Non- Yorubas where ‘ aso oke’ and look happy in it.

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