Culture, perhaps its maintenance, has been on the mind of many Nigerians, especially Ndi-Igbo in the Diaspora as they constantly think of what would become of their children when they exit this earth. Majority of the Igbo people in the North America make extra effort to instill Igbo culture in their children. Many Igbo families have tried to speak Igbo language at home so that their children will pick up that aspect of Igbo culture.
Others have been telling their kids Igbo stories to leave the mark in their children’s mind. Yet, there are some who take their kids to Nigeria every year so that they would grow up to appreciate their heritage. There are other families who have sent their children to Nigeria for their primary and secondary education. Nonetheless, no matter how hard they try, the effort seems to be a losing proposition because of the multicultural dynamism inherent in the environment these children are growing up.
However, with such an adversity, there is equally a greater amount of effort to promote and maintain Igbo culture in the United States by various Igbo communities and individuals. These communities and some individuals are driven in part by the notion that without culture a group loses its identity. They dread the reality of their children losing Igbo identity. Thus, there has been a concerted effort to immerse these children in Igbo culture. Additionally, it is concluded that teaching our children our culture is a means of strengthening the ties between Igbo people with their children in the Diaspora and those in Nigeria.
Examining the following aspects of Igbo culture: Arts, Celebration, Clothing, Communication, Food, Government, Language, Religion, and Social Role; Igbo language is one aspect that is fast decaying both here in America and in Nigeria. Like in America, Igbo children in Lagos and other non-Igbo cities do not knowledge of or modicum of Igbo language. Lack of knowledge of Igbo language among our children is much more obvious here in the United States. This is particularly so because Igbo is not a dominant culture and these children are growing up in a multicultural environment. Consequently, more emphasis has been placed on celebration, clothing and food than other aspects of Igbo culture.
In the United States, particularly in the Dallas Metropolitan area, Igbo communities have been working diligently to promote and maintain Igbo culture every chance they get. Common among various aspects of Igbo culture these communities promote are the traditional breaking of kolanut, which oftentimes causes problems when the libation goes wrong; celebration, clothing, ethnic food, and cultural dances. Unfortunately, little focus has been on the teaching and learning of Igbo language corporately.
Nevertheless, Nnanta Chidi Uwadineke, Onye ihe oma gbasara Ndi Igbo na Asusu Anyi na-anu oku n’obi, Founder and Executive Director, Otu Iwelite Asusu na Omenala Igbo n’obodo Amirika, has used his skills and his Igbo Radio Program in Little Rock, Arkansas to promote various aspects of Igbo culture in Arkansas and the United States. Similarly, Igbo Community Association of Nigeria (ICAN) in Dallas has for several years operated Igbo Language Program, where Igbo language and other aspects of Igbo culture are taught every summer. The program provides immense opportunity for Igbo children in the Dallas metropolitan area to learn the language and other aspects of Igbo culture. There are other Igbo organizations and individuals in various cities in the United States that provide similar programs. They provide Igbo language learning for children of Nigerian-Americans.
Another aspect of Igbo culture that is beginning to rear its head here, and strongly so, is Igba Nkwu. Meanwhile, Igba Ngwu, a traditional Igbo wedding, seems to be prevalent across the United States as our children are increasingly reaching the marriage age. Our community is beginning to experience an increasing number of Igba Nkwu celebrations in various states.
In Dallas area alone, there are more than twelve traditional weddings in one year. The significance of this phenomenon is that the celebration is mostly initiated by Igbo children regardless of the culture they are marrying from. The trend now is these children want to do the traditional wedding in Nigeria.
In any case, no Igbo community has done more in promoting and maintaining Igbo culture than Mbaise people in the Dallas area. Mbaise community in the Dallas metropolitan area under the auspices of Mbaise Community Association use to thrill the Nigerian community with its annual Iri-ji Mbaise Festival every August. The fete, which had attracted many people from all walks of life, witnessed the traditional breaking of kolanut, women dance, and the rendition of ‘Abigbo Mbaise’ to the delight of blissful guests. The attendees splurged on a well-prepared yam pepper soup with roasted hen. Based on empirical evidence, the Iri-Ji Mbaise in Dallas began in 1989 as a tradition, and a cultural event aimed at educating young children, as well as maintaining the culture reminiscent of the New Yam Festival in Igbo land. Since the first Iri-ji Mbaise, the Mbaise Community Association has kept the tradition to mirror what is obtainable in Ala Mbaise.
In Mbaise, Iri-ji is celebrated on the 15th of August, a long tradition that is currently observed throughout the area. As result, the Mbaise Community Association had always held its Iri-ji festival on the third Saturday in August to allow the tradition celebrated in Ala Mbaise on every 15th of August to take place first before celebrating it outside Mbaise.
Lately, the Mbaise community has not celebrated its Iri-Ji in the Dallas metropolitan area as it used to do.
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