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Friday, 06 September 2013 00:00 Francis Odupute Columns

What happens when too many people occupy the same space? Who do you become when your own space is being invaded? By “space” I am not talking about your office space, or your market space, or your bedroom space. I am referring to that space over which you have control; I am referring to your identity (which includes your thoughts, language, values, feelings, emotions, actions, personality, etc). My space is me - my very person. Not just my tangible body but the person of me that lives and interacts with others.

Life is about relationships – interpersonal relationships, marriage relationships, bilateral relationships, socio-cultural relationships, business relationships, etc. From person to person, community to community, tribe to tribe, nation to nation and race to race, our individual identities/spaces, physiological and cultural differences, etc, are integral unifying and aesthetic components that drive our human relationships and make the world a beautiful, dynamic and interesting place to be - united and sustained in originality, variety and diversity.

In any relationship it is universally a natural instinct to think of my space, your space, and the space which we all share - our space.

For any relationship to thrive our individual spaces/identities must be well defined, known, valued and respected by us ourselves, and then by any other party involved in the relationship. This is central to our sense of self worth, our purpose and our productivity. It is, indeed, the catalyst for promoting our collective cultural spaces (or identities) and our efficacious contribution/commitment to the general interest.

Problem often arises, however, when one person, for whatever reason(s), invades another person’s space and tries to run his/her life; or one culture invades another culture’s space; or one government invades another government’s space; or one religion invades another religion’s space; or onelanguage invades another language’s space (mother tongue in context); and so on.  Crises of identity, originality and status, relevance and responsibility, mediocrity and inferiority/superiority complex, resistance and violence, breakdown of relationships, even lawlessness and criminality, are usually a natural consequence. 

Who do you think you are? Is your space (i.e. your identity, your person, your life) today a product of some external influence? What defines your understanding of yourself and the world around you?

“SPACE INVASION”, is an artistic inquest into the deteriorating trend of gradual extinction of Mother Tongue in the socio-cultural fabric of the Nigerian polity particularly, and the African society at large. The project will explore how language forms an integral part of one’s whole identity, and the erosion of which results in cultural alienation, mediocrity and poor productivity in the face of rising globalization/culture diversity, new frontiers in communication technologies, evolving cultural pluralism and multi-ethnic social climate.

When a human being is born into the world, the immediate mark of identity with which he/she is recognized by, and relates with, others is thefacial appearance; the next is thelanguage the suckling child learns from the mother as a lingua franca to communicate with the rest of the human society.

Language redefines the individual identity of the typical Nigerian youths today. Many are lost, unable to carve a niche for themselves and contribute meaningfully to national development and productivity, primarily because they lack the exact answer to the simple question of who they think they really are. Cultural imperialism/western influence- fuelled by poverty and corruption,  and counter-cultural civilization, have made most youths to become strangers to their own cultural identities, especially in the context of loss of their individual ethnic mother tongues.

In England, the citizens are identified by their mother tongues- English language- as the lingua franca, in Germany, they are identified by the German language (Dutch), in Sweden, they are known by their Swedish language, in China, they speak Chinese.  In Nigeria, however, the citizens have no language identities. Language identity/space invasion by English, French, etc, have redefined us all.

(To be continued)

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