Ndam Ponzing: Promoting Art and Culture Through OAU’s Idobale Culture
There’s a performance culture at Obafemi Awolowo University that mandates any artiste who performs on their stage to dobale (prostrate). I was intrigued when I heard of this gutsy continuation of culture in 2014, at the time when the students asked Wande Coal to observe idobale while performing on stage, even though it appeared as if he didn’t want to.
I think it is an interesting poetic use of culture. It’s a reminder to be humble in the presence of sacred ground and to acknowledge those who are listening to you, and, well, from a bragging right perspective for the students. Music and culture have been intrinsically linked, going beyond mere performance for humans. They can form part of sacred rites and rituals for gods. The allure in all of this is that idobale now constitutes part of the unspoken rules of performance in OAU.
Looking at the global community and how clubs like the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood and The Viper in Los Angeles provide a stage for upcoming artists to perform and perhaps help launch the careers of some talented performers, there is evidence to argue that a stage with a culture of promoting arts adds value to our entertainment sector. Venues like these have made a significant contribution to the music industry. They offer artists a platform to showcase their talents and gain exposure to new audiences. They also provide a space for live music performances and bring together a community of music enthusiasts.
Beyond the prostration, I believe that we have the chance to strengthen our entertainment industry from a foundational level. Growing up in Jos, Lits Day was a significant event for the literary and debating society in our school. The organisers identified talented students who showed promise in singing, dancing, and other forms of creative expression. These students were then trained and their performances were synchronized to create an awe-inspiring show that entertained the audience.
I have a vivid memory of my first Lits Day. I watched in awe as one of my seniors did a Michael Jackson-style creep walk. This moment ignited my passion for the arts and humanities. That year, “In da Club” by 50 Cent was a popular song, and baggy jeans were the fashion trend. However, what impressed me the most was when a junior boy from St. Murumba effortlessly rapped Eminem‘s “Mockingbird.” Eminem would have been proud. However, the scheme got cancelled because, I guess, a parent reported it for being lewd or due to a lack of funding. My observation is that socialisation is dying as an art.
I know we have the Jos University indoor theatre where students occasionally put on performances, and the Allianz Francais Centre has made significant contributions to promoting the arts. However, I believe that we need more, like having a community of artists coming together to develop their skills and a stage where every aspiring artist must hold a potato and go down on bent knees before performing.
I am truly in awe of the idobale culture OAU students have forged for themselves. I can’t help but feel envious of their traditions and experiences. Imagine knowing that there was a time our renowned Wizkid plunked his face before a crowd of undergrad students in OAU, or that Adekunle Gold still reminisces about his experience over there many years later. Not all culture is repugnant to natural justice, and sometimes we must build upon the foundation we have.