Ibibio Cultural Expressions: Costumes Makeup and Colour Significations in Glory Usenobong’s Cradle Craze
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This study examines the Ibibio Cultural Expressions: Costumes Makeup and Colour Significations in Glory Usenobong’s Cradle Craze. Costume/makeup and colours are very important aspects of a dramatic presentation. They are not just about clothing and designing the performer; but the process of studying who and what the character in the scripts is. In character description costume/makeup/colours play important roles because, what the audience sees gives a more immediate impression of who the character is, than what he or she says; that is what they (the audience) hear from the characters speech. Consequently costumes/makeup naturally gives a form of expression about an individual either of his or her social status, culture, religion, profession, sex, age and so on. It reflects in the daily life of the people because it is closely related with festivities, culture, pleasure, fashion and basic religious practices in Africa and the world over. This ability of dressing to make an impression about the wearer on an onlooker is even more profound in the theatre because once a character appears on stage the audience instantly begins to interpret that character by what they see on him. In this respect, costume performs a primary role in helping the audience understand the character as well as his cultural background.
This study is centred on the Ibibio culture as reflected in the theatrical performance of the play: Cradle Craze with focus on how costumes/makeup help to express the culture and identity of the community and persons. To interrogate this research problem, the researcher adopted the mixed method of data analysis: historical and descriptive methodology which includes the participatory observation and in-depth content analysis of the performance/text: Cradle Craze. Secondary materials for the work were however culled from textbooks, relevant journals and seminar papers related to the subject matter under study. Findings reveal that the use of costumes and makeup will give the community cultural identification, sense of belonging and make the indigenes see and appreciate their dress sense as a communicative tool.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
Culture is the sum of attitude, customs and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another, transmitted through language, materials, objects, rituals, institutions and arts, transferable from one generation to the next. To this Edward Taylor contributes that; Culture is that complex whole, which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of a society. Holt Michael, (2002).
This in essence explains further that culture cuts across all dimensions of life as practiced by a people in a given setting and within an age. The culture of a people means a lot to them, their lives and beliefs are expressed as they live and go about their everyday businesses. This simply shows that culture conditions the communication of a people and how it proceeds among individuals, no matter how homogenous.
To this, Ngugi wa Thiong .O (2005) contributes that; Culture in its broadest sense, is a way of life fashioned by a people in their collective endeavour to live and come to term with their total environment. It is the sum of their arts, their science and all the social institutions, including their system of beliefs and rituals…Such values are often expressed through the people’s song, rites, these varieties of artistic activity have come to symbolize the meaning of the word, culture.
Brackett (2004) the concept of culture has a long evolution, so dynamic in nature. The Anthropologists has an assumption that culture is generally adaptive as it provides people an adjustment to their physical and social environment, the basic or derived needs of individuals within the society, such as the need of nutrition, reproduction, comfort, safety, relaxation, clothing, shelter and growth. This simply means that culture is a learned behaviour shared by a member of a society, which could be said to start when a child is born. It is culture that distinguishes human beings from other animals. To support this, Richardson Boyd states that; Culture is information capable of affecting individual’s behavior that they acquire from other members of their space through teaching, imitation and other forms of social transmission, Oghali Okpu (2015).
Costume and make up is a very important aspect of a people. The culture of a people identifiable by the kind of costume and make up they put on, as it is always the first call of attention, not only for the external covering of the body, they are unique identities particular to people, which identifies them in any gathering or location. To support this, Julie Umuokoro (2002) as quoted by Tracie Ezeajugh(2007) maintains that; Cultural Symbolism is the hallmark of the Nigerian traditional dress. It is consciously or unconsciously evolved to bear emblems unique to its owner.
Such emblems may be derived from common features in the environment, it may also be persistent contact of an ethnic group with some other, be a feature borrowed, appropriated and seemingly endorsed by widespread acceptance and use as one of its ethnic symbols. Brackett Oscar (2004) explains costume and make up as symbolic and carrier of information, as it concerns a people to the end. It gives expressive and explanatory information of the wearers, an aid to characterization, that in performance for instance, it speaks volume, even before the characters begin to speak or express themselves. In any event or production, the costume and make up worn speaks all about the people and the production they are involved in, it consists the total visual appearance of the character in any performance. It stands as a very important fact of a character and stands as the strongest element of the visual sense in a production.
Make up on the other hand plays a complimentary role to costume. Some make up practitioners see it as costuming; it has an innate communicative connection with the appearance of the actor. Make up is use to conceal all the exposed part, that was not concealed by the costume worn by an actor, and its form could be in liquid or solid form depending on its purpose and communicative potency. Michael J Gillette (2001) opines that; Stage make up enhances the illusion that the actor has become the character in almost every production. Some of the actors… do not facially resemble the challenge by providing actors with the means to change their appearance, Merril, E (2004) This simply means that make up is very essential in performances, as it changes an actor into that desirable character in the world of the performance.
The vocabulary of colour can be described as the visual reaction to the wavelength of sunlight interpreted as red, blue, green and so on; possessing physical properties of hue, intensity and value as well as portraying the psychological and emotional stance of a person (Cayton2009; Schneider Adams2002; Greider1996; Jackson1980; Appiah 1979). It is the most universally appreciated element that helps to give form and meaning to a piece of art such that pleasant colour rhythms and harmonies fulfil our aesthetic desires. Colour may also be arranged or employed to interpret a person’s emotions, symbolize ideas and create mood. According to Cayton (2009) “… blue can import a state of dignity, sadness or serenity, reliability, fidelity, loyalty and honesty”. Red may suggest bravery, sin, passion, danger or violence. Globalization or shared experience among nations or countries has also helped to associate abstract qualities such as virtue, loyalty and evil with colour. Consequently phrases such as: “ true blue” , “ dirty yellow coward”, “red with rage”, “seeing red”, “ virgin white”, “ pea-green with envy”, “ gray gloom” seem to be universally adopted.
However, colour meanings and symbolisms throughout the world depend on the culture and ethnicity of the people. For instance during the early Roman civilization, purple colour signified royalty. This was so because purple dye was so expensive that it was only the Roman emperor who could afford it. (Barton1969). Apparently even when the dye became affordable the tradition and its representation were still observed. To the Chinese too red symbolize good luck, purity, power, protection and wealth; hence red is mostly used in their marriage ceremonies. Certain colours are also believed to have some psychological and varying associations in indifferent cultures. Yellow or gold for example is a sacred colour to the ancient Chinese, a symbol of power to the Egyptians and Greeks, however, the early Christians looked down on it because of it connection with wealth.(Kwakye-Opong 2001).
To reinforce the power of colour and a person’s psychological disposition Cayton (2009) has this to say: Light, bright colours make us feel joyful and uplifted; warm colours are generally stimulating; cool colours are generally depressing. Medical facilities, trauma centers, and state correctional facilities are often painted in light blues or “institutional greens” because of the calming effect. Inferably, these various symbolisms make colour a living reality that also define nature’s gifts such as leaves, plants, flowers, blood, insects and animals (Jones 2005). Colour application and appreciations have invariably been informed by such means, and has resulted in impressive masterpiece (Dzamedo 2009). According to Antubam (1963) traditionally, colour symbolism among Ghanaians (including Gas) does not depend on scientific analysis but rather on philosophies embedded in their abstract and spiritual values.
Commenting further in his book Ghana’s Heritage of Culture Antubam (1963) discusses the notions of colour within the Ghanaian culture. He mentions that black, grey, blue, vermilion, crimson, tomato and terracotta red, silver, gold, white and brown are colours traditionally known and used by Ghanaians. Gold for instance represent royalty, continuous life, warmth, maturity and glory. As a result the Akans, Ga and Ewe chiefs use gold ornaments to denote their royal position in the community.
Hence, at a certain time in the history of the Bono of Ghana queen mothers were forbidden to use gold; they used white, blue and silver. Also during state functions the Korontenhene or Tufohene of the Akan who is “ranked next after the paramount chief” was also restricted to silver ornaments to separate him from the chief. Moreover, when a chief of La selects his future wife, certain portions of the body of family members are designed with yellow preparation. And to ensure continuous life, all 114 Tano fetish priest add a piece of gold (pokowa) to their “fetish preparations”.
Antubam mentions further that white symbolizes purity, virtue, virginity, joy and victory while black reflects the idea of vice, deepened sadness and malicious spirits such as the devil and death. Appiah(1970) holds a similar view and mentions that symbolism has an eminent role in African art as well as metaphysical qualities that express the ideologies of the people, therefore the colours used by a chief on an occasion is associated with meaning than elegance. It is deduced from all the various writers that colour concept and symbolisms are culture based; since they reflect the ideas and values of the people in focus.
In “Conscious or Arbitrary: Colour and Symbolism in Carnival Calabar”(2012), Ajibade&Obongha discuss the socio-cultural import of colours of costume and their representation in the Carnival Calabar of Nigeria. Quoting Georgina, a prominent member of the writers of Seagull band they noted that “Carnival is all about the creative use of colours. Hence their exploit was to investigate “the inherent symbolisms of the range of colours used by bands in Carnival Calabar. ”The paper mentions that the various bands choose their clothes to suit the yearly themes, and the ultimate benefits are to promote tourism and socio-economic development. The festival again promotes the Nigeria Film industry by sometimes involving film stars such as Pete Edochie, Ramsey Noah, Ini Edo and some others. They refer to the festival as a revelation of popular culture because it incorporates costumes, dance, music and properties. There are economic benefits as well; as tailors, art and craft dealers, welders, Disk Jockeys as well as fabric shops or firms are extensively patronized during the festival.
Costumes are the distinct feature of the festival; they speak. Each band therefore has a designer whose desire is to produce an outstanding desire to measure up to the intense competition. Significantly: It is within the costume designs for the King and Queen (of the band) that the Carnival’s theme and band’s colour Symbolisms are most prodigiously expressed and experienced. And because of the centrality of the King and Queen in Carnival Calabar, their costumes are especially assessed by the teams of adjudicators
Premium is placed on costume, especially their colours because of their significance and meanings. Orange colour is chosen by a band because it ‘symbolizes a bright future’. Additional colours like white, black, maroon might be added to elevate or tone down the original colour. The writers therefore conclude that the use of colours and costume in the Calabar festival is not arbitrary but there is a conscious move to bring out some philosophies needed to motivate as well as educate the community and also “provide insights into hidden social truths.”
READ ALSO: THE PRACTICES AND FUNCTIONS OF AKATA MUSIC OF THE IBIBIO: A CASE STUDY OF AKATA CULTURAL GROUP, ADADIA IN URUAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Culture as it concern costume and make up among many others is gradually taking another dimension, losing its sacredness, artistic and aesthetic values, and needs to be preserved and documented to prevent it from going into extinction. Many ethnic groups in Nigeria, no longer recognize the fact that costume, makeup and colours go beyond the mundane realms of beautification to the eternal abode of promoting and expressing a peoples’ culture. No culture grows in isolation of its people, but not recognizing the communicative essence of costumes and make up is a difficult issue. The lackadaisical attitude of this generation towards culture, especially the youths is overwhelming and degrading. Youths no longer research into the important factors that make them a member of a particular ethnic group and may wrongfully misrepresent an ideal costume and make up all in the name of celebration.
This research investigation therefore aims at documenting Ibibio Cultural Expressions: Costumes, Makeup and Colour Significations in Glory Usenobong’s Cradle Craze. The intent is to show that costume and make up are not mere fashion statements, rather, are indispensable tools in cultural representation and expression. Through this work, Ibibio indigenes and indeed other ethnic groups, will understand that beyond aesthetics in costume, make up and colours, there exists myriads of communicative, representative and expressive values of these elements to the people and their culture.
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