New Telegraph

Reviving dying cultural heritage

The indigenous tribes living within the Federal Capital Territory, are a people with a rich history, culture and tradition. Annually, the nine indigenous tribes, namely, Gbaygi, Gwandara, Gade, Koro, Egbira, Bassa, Gwari, Abawa and Amomoa, gather together with a great sense of nostalgia, to revive their cultural heritage and save it from extinction. In recent times, some civil society organisations have mounted different programmes geared towards helping these indigenous people recover some aspects of their culture that have been under threat of extinction. One of the organisations that has remained consistent in doing this, is the Helpline Social Support Initiative.

The non – governmental organisation, in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, and Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) recently organised a specialised traditional skills training for these indigenous peoples.

Traditional skills transfer

In the 2024 edition, part of project packaged for them was the Traditional Skills Transfer programme. It involved the training of about 200 indigenous people on the making of cultural attires. Founder of Helpline Social Support Initiative, Dr. Jumai Ahmadu, said the initiative was conceived to help in preserving the cultural heritage of the people and empowering their youths. Ahmadu, who was represented at this year’s event by the organisation’s Project Manager, Arome Onojak, noted that the first batch of the training produced about 300 youths and other people who gained special skills on how to develop the different traditional attires of the nine tribes. She noted that the second batch of the training would consolidate on the successes achieved in the previous “This exhibition is not just a showcase of traditional attires of the nine tribes in FCT; it is a celebration of who we are as a community and a testament to the beauty and vibrancy of our shared humanity.

“Through this event, we have the opportunity to explore and appreciate the culture the cultures of the nine tribes that make up the tapestry of Abuja,” she said. According to her, the training was for economic empowerment on traditional skill that will also improve the living standards of the people. She explained that the exercise is aimed at helping the natives to preserve their language and culture from going into extinction in the nearest future.

Second batch

The second batch, she said will bring about sensitization of the people on economic path ways to enhance cultural practices and annex benefits of cultural preservation. The culture and traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Abuja have been under attack due to rapid urbanisation, but help has come their way, CALEB ONWE reports “Helpline with support from Macarthur Foundation through the Centre for Human Right and Civil Education flags off local economic development projects for original inhabitants of FCT to strengthen the economy of the people, creates jobs and reduce inequalities. “At the end of this project, our sustainability plans would be to monitor progress, and commitments by the agency responsible and to make our self available to their call anytime for mentorship,” she said.

Inside Abuja learnt that these indigenous people are now fighting hard to wade off any threats of cultural extinction. They are mobilising their younger generation to embrace any policy or programme that is designed to assist them in their fight for existential relevance.

Unique traditional attires

Inside Abuja learnt that the nine indigenous tribes have very unique traditional attires, which also represent their identity. At the graduation and exhibition ceremony, representatives of the nine tribes spoke about the cultural reawakening. They said that even the spirit of their ancestors would be glad in eternity, seeing that the people’s interest in traditional attires is being renewed. Some of them also expressed the hope that other organisations, and even the government will further help in advertising them to the world. Solomon Garda who spoke on behalf of the Gbaygi tribe, said the Ajesinda attire of the indigenous Gbaygi people represents their ancestral strength for war.

He noted that whenever a Gbaygi person puts on the attire, it was a sign of preparedness for warfare. Abubakar Yahuza who represented the Gwandara tribe, was thankful to the organisers of the programme, as he adorned himself with Gwandara’s traditional attires. Yahuza said he was particularly excited because the younger generation showed interest in learning the skills that aided their ancestors greatness.

More partnership

Inside Abuja gathered that more organizations have also shown interest in helping the indigenous peoples bridge the cultural and historical gaps in their environment. It was learnt that the partnership between the Helpline Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation through its Resource Center For Human Right And Civic Education ( CHRICED) was a rescue mission for the benefit of posterity.

Under the project, the trainers engaged the Original inhabitants of the FCT in traditional skill transfer and actual production of the traditional attires, which is the obvious means of identifying the people. It is a skill which almost went into extinction before the coming of this rescue mission project under the subtitle; Revamping The Old Culture Through Economic Empowerment And Cultural Preservation.

Ahmadu said: “We have proudly engaged 300 vulnerable and marginalized women and youth in the traditional skill transfer program, part of whom shall be graduating today the first batch. We are sure that this skill so far gained will not only revamp their cultures but will serve as a veritable means of livelihood. “As part of the programme, there will be an exhibition to showcase what our participants have produced this is to show you how prepared the Original Inhabitants are to continue to preserve and sustain their culture via the display of their traditional Identification. “To the participants graduating today, I want to welcome you to a new world because this is a new thing happening to you today.

The certificate that will be presented to you today is a prove of your resilience and determination to preserve your culture. Apart from that, the skill is for you to gain two things. Number one, to preserve your culture in the midst of rapid urban progress and then sustenance if livelihood. “It is on this note I will advise as a mother that you should not put this knowledge under the carpet but go and make profit from this vocation you have acquired so cheap.”, she added.

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