Saturday, January 13, 2007

UNESCO/Japanese govt act to preserve the IFA divination system

Got this from the Yoruba Affairs mailing list:

AS part of efforts to support the preservation and promotion of the cultural heritage of Nigeria, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Japanese Government yesterday signed Trust-in-Fund for the safeguarding of Ifa Divination System.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Prof. Babalola Borishade, stated that it was under the programme of UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of humanity in November 2005 that the Ifa Divination system was proclaimed.

The minister said: "According to UNESCO, the Ifa Divination System which makes use of an extensive corpus of text and mathematical formula, is practised among Yoruba communities and by the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean. "The word Ifa or Orumila, the mystical figure is regarded by the Yoruba as the deity of wisdom and intellectual development. Indeed, the Ifa Divination System rightly belongs to the universal heritage of mankind."

Borishade praised UNESCO and the Japanese Government for the project, promising that they would find the Trust-in-Fund a worthwhile venture.

The Japanese ambassador said his home government would make effort to keep and transfer the culture treasure of Nigeria to the next generation.

Speaking earlier, the UNESCO Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Abhimanju Singh, said: "I'm extremely grateful for the support of the Japanese government so that UNESCO's expatriates could support the proposal and initiative of Nigerian government. "We would try and implement it to the best of our abilities under the leadership of the minister and in partnership with the Japanese government and we hope that we will be able to get more support as we demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach in this particular project."

Of course, while (almost) everyone would want the IFA corpus and divination system to be preserved lots of questions are begged. What exactly is going to be done under this project to preserve it? Given that Nigeria has so few museums, and those that it does are by and large in a parlous state, what safeguards are there going to be that this work will be undertaken seriously? One idea: that IFA is introduced as part of the school curriculum, at least in Yoruba areas. Somehow I get the immediate feeling that ethnic sensitivities being what they are, this one is dead in water. In the battle of cultures in Nigeria, all babies must be thrown out of all bathwaters.


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