THE SOURCE SPRING
All African, including Nigerian, humanistic arts began in the oral communal traditions, whatever their current contemporary branches may be. Art is, collectively, a mirror of life which reflects what people do, what they think, how they live, what values they hold, what joys and what is a full portrait of every aspect of man.This is the case, however sophisticated the written, or technological retraceable the art forms have turned out (Mbiti, 1977). Essentially, therefore, as "literatures" they are at the centre of man's culture. In the last four to five decades, of the twentieth century and now the twenty-first, they have grown from "genie" to "giant."
ORATOR AND THE ARTS
Before being modified through contact with other world literatures and technologies, African arts were transmitted from one generation to another through the oral mode. This tradition was a creative expression and a functional enterprise. It was realistic and had collective purpose. An all encapsulating generic term for all this, as contem porary scholars phrase it, is "orature." Wall-paint ings, body-decorations, folklore and music make-up these arts.
In the various ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria, artistic expressions have not only an aes thetic nature but also a functional one. In lgboland, for instance, the MBARI artists show work and art, while traditional wall paintings structured on the ULI IVIOTIE encapsulate both abstract and aesthetic conceptions of the universe. For instance, there is the multifaceted ontological message of the snake with its tail in its 'mouth, which Soyinka captures in his famous "Mobius strip" in his play, The Road.
There is the portrayal of eternity in mazo-type circles in the Ibibio-Efik, Cross River Basin, Ejegham Cameroun nsibidi graphics. Folktales also usually thrive on the exploits of the ubiquitous tortoise (the trickster equivalent of Ghanaian- Akan "ananseter" spider). Examples are tales in the 'mboguo' as Efua Sutherland captures them in a play, The Marriage of Anansewa. In folk stories, there is a hyperbolic personification of humanity, wise and wily, which also functions to impart to the young ones the values and norms of society. Satire
played a role in judicial systems by serving as reprisals for minor offences as well as a form of entertainment as the society had its laugh on the culprit. Music via the "ikoro", the "gbecfa", the "obodorrf' "drums"; the town crier's bell; the "ikoroK' or the "e/we," or the "o/a" (flute) or the xylophone, distils the communal memory as well as brings men together at village assemblies or on a sum mons to war.
Functionality in the "orator period" also meant that the poet and the priest, or the prophet and the 'apothecary could merge roles in one individual as the Romans' poet-priest, "divine foreseer ... vaticinum and vaticinare".
RADICAL DRAMATIC AND THEATRICAL ARTS
Particularly illustrative is the root of Nigeria's robust theatre tradition. This root is to be sought in the numerous religious rituals and festivals that cluster in many Nigerian communities. From the researches of J.N. Amankulor, Meki Nzewi, Inih Akpan Ebong, Echerou, Ozzie Enekwe and Joel Adedeji, critics have established that festivals are events that tend to employ the fundamental princi ples of homeophathic magic, that is, they aim to achieve an objective via the powers of the imagina tion or simulation.
Yemi Ogunbiyi insightfully affirms that with time, man's acquired knowledge of his environment sharpened his awareness about nature, even if his means that he remained limited to what was an implacably hostile environment, a fact which pre vented his penetration of the major secrets of nature. However, in his desire to endure the steady flow of food as a permanent victory over his numerous adver saries, he soon learnt that he could achieve his desires by dancing and acting them out in the form of his rites. And there was reason to believe that these rites, hereto unformalized, were efficacious since the results which man sort for magically were promoted possibly by inspira tion and autosuggestion, induced by the rites themselves in the 'actors'. (Ogunbiyi, 1981:3-4)
written by K. Uka