Aesthetics in African cultural performance : a critical study of Ote'gwu festival among the Igala people in Nigeria.
Obaje, Ojochogwu Joy.
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The Aesthetics of African cultural performance is predominantly understood through non- African conceptualisations. Notably, such conceptualisations focus on the general analysis of the beauty of art as possessing intrinsic value, meaning and significance. As a result, the notion of African aesthetics has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, since it is subsumed under this general and in most cases Eurocentric conceptualisation. As a point of departure, the current study explores the aesthetics of African cultural performance from an African perspective. It focuses specifically on the celebration of Ote’gwu festival among the Igala people in Kogi State, Nigeria, providing a perspective of the aesthetics of African cultural performance through an analysis of this cultural festival. The study interrogates the various facets and elements of the Ote’gwu festival with the view to identify and analyse the aesthetics perception in an African cultural context. This study is qualitative in nature and adopts an exploratory research design. The research sample comprised of fourteen purposively selected interview respondents. Primary data was generated through semi-structured interviews, which was adopted as it facilitates access to deeper probing of the respondents in the effort to elicit a deeper response from the interviewees towards answering the research questions. Additionally, the researcher adopted a process of reflexivity/positionality to make explicit the researcher’s biases, values, identity and location in relation to the study and the ways these could impact the findings and analysis. Collected data were thematically analysed. The study shows that African cultural performance encapsulates various functions and values including religious, social, moral and economic values. These functions and values inform the aesthetics of African cultural performance. This shows that the aesthetics of African cultural performance have great-bearing on the life cycle of African peoples. African cultural performances are meant to appease or elicit favors from the ancestors. Also, it is evident from the study that African aesthetics does not exist as “art for art’s sake” but as “art for life’s sake”. Such performances hinge on human cultural realities and experiences of the environment. The study concludes that an Afrocentric aesthetic theory is of significant relevance in the study of African aesthetics.