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Adebayo Adegbembo: Beyonce’s Lemonade & Influencers as Drivers of African Cultures

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laolu senbanjo beyonce bellanaija april2016bAt my last count, Beyoncé’s lemonade has inspired about a dozen articles on the Osun (pronounced Oshun) deity –  a religious feature of African Culture.

Consequently, this has created some positive awareness about what is now described by the generic phrase, ‘Yoruba religion’ –  reflecting its root in the Yoruba culture that spans West Africa and Latin America. Personally, I’ve been impressed by how the subject finds its voice in light of other mainstream issues which Beyoncé’s lemonade brilliantly captures.

Similar to Beyoncé’s lemonade effect on the Osun faith, parallel values can be drawn with respect to other features of African Cultures by tapping into influencers who drive contemporary conversations today. This is in light of the image problems facing these cultures specifically in the areas of language and tradition. While in Cologne last year courtesy of the Goethe-Institute, I was checking out a store for shoes when Wizkid’s Ojuelegba came on the radio speaker. Even though I didn’t understand German, I quickly recognized the track as one of my favourites. It didn’t stop there. During a routine conversation with Nicko – my tour guide – he mentioned he was a fan of Wizkid. I remember I couldn’t help thinking of the fact that most of the hit tracks by Wizkid had a mix of Yoruba yet it seemed to resonate with my German friend. Excited, I went on to explain to him that Ojuelegba is a Yoruba word that literally means “eyes of a cane.”

However, by citing Beyoncé and Wizkid as examples, it can be tempting to argue that the universality of music or the entertainment industry makes for the best use case for leveraging influencers. Hence, more examples below.

Political Influencers
In conversations leading up to President Obama’s visit to Kenya last year, the little less known Luo language became the subject of some interesting articles casting Luo in the spotlight alongside the country’s popular Swahili language. It can be deduced that this rare media focus on Luo was as a direct result of its association with the iconic Obama than any other factor.

Religious Influencers
Similarly, during a British Council facilitated exhibition of Genii Games‘ Yoruba language learning app, Yoruba101 in Manchester last year, a visitor to my stand looked at the app and tweeted an introduction to Iyanla Vanzant. Prior to that moment, I’d never heard of her. My guest went on to add that she’s an avid follower of Iyanla who happens to be an adherent of the Yoruba religion. That’s when I drew the connection to why she was interested in the Yoruba101 app. Again, the influential figure that Iyanla is makes for a direct interest and promotion of the Yoruba culture as demonstrated by this context.

In the instances cited above, what we see is a trend that’s worth exploring in respect of our African heritage. It goes to show that one way to promote these declining values is by involving influencers who have the power to tilt conversations in favour of just about any subject. Also, the influencer role is such that it can be filtered using different factors including geography. Thus, when it comes to promoting Nigerian languages, our local influencers can play roles. Typically in Nigeria’s music industry, when I think Phyno, I think Igbo; when I think Olamide, I think Yoruba. I could go on and on but the point I’m trying to make is that these figures exemplify certain attributes of our cultures such that they can be consciously leveraged to promote them. In order words, the use of words that borrow from these native languages can be creatively channeled to further promote the languages themselves.

In conclusion, influencers may yet hold the key to stimulating interests in our African cultures against the backdrop of their decline. It’s in keeping with this age of the self where lots of commercially driven brands continuously leverage influencers for product promotion.

Adebayo Adegbembo is the founder of Genii Games Limited; creators of interactive mobile apps, animated videos and workshops to make African Cultures fun for kids. A trained Engineering Surveyor from the University of Lagos, Bayo went the route of entrepreneurship in fulfillment of his passion for writing, technology, arts and culture. Follow him on Twitter @technobayo

14 Comments

  1. Fact.

    May 14, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Beyonce and Others INFLUENCED By African Culture.

    That came first.

    • Adebayo

      May 14, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      True. But my point is these public figures may yet hold the key to driving interest towards aspects of the culture given the negative stereotype attached to them plus the fact that some features such as our Languages are fast declining.

    • AmaPra Twia(Ghana)

      May 15, 2016 at 2:07 am

      How’s a foreigner going to make people more interested in their own languages? From what I see, Beyonce is appropriating various tribes from Africa for the sole purpose of selling her new album. I highly doubt that she even cares. And with the languages decline, one aspect is the enforcement of English on various platforms—entertainment, media, government, schools, etc. Languages in various African countries are not encouraged by the government nor the people.

    • afis

      May 15, 2016 at 12:06 am

      Nice one

  2. AmaPra Twia(Ghana)

    May 14, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    The last time I checked, Africa wasn’t a country. And there’s no such thing as African culture.

    • Adebayo

      May 14, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks for the feedback. African Culture and Cultures are used interchangeably in the article.

    • Laila

      May 14, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      Yes there is. African culture is broadly rooted in Family orientation, Religion and Community as the strongest influencers of Culture, regardless of what part of Africa you are from. Whether that is good or bad is a different issue but it is what it is.

      In addition, several ‘Cultures’ in fact transcend individual Country borders. Fulani’s, Touaregs, Yoruba, Hausa to name a few. Ironically, today’s ‘boundary lines’ are actually the most un-African thing about the Continent if you consider how they arbitrarily slice through cultures and force marriages of unrelated ones.

  3. Deola

    May 14, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    Don’t bother yourself replying some comments,some will deliberately not get the message,the need to leverage the star power of star boy has a positive influencer to help promote the African culture and help create more interest in the language,due to their sentiments attached to certain names,Welldone my brother.

  4. [email protected]

    May 15, 2016 at 7:12 am

    The school regulating board,must all see to it that the young ones are encouraged to learn the different local language and culture,bringing in known celebrities.

  5. Lola

    May 15, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Inferiority complex and the need to be seen as modernize,are part of the reasons our local vernacular are in decline.more awareness and encouragement will go along way in helping to build confidence,with the help of known celebrities.welldone for the inspirational post.

  6. Folarin

    May 15, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Brilliant,very insightful and important for the society today,to help build and inspire the new social media influenced generation,the need to be proud of our culture,language and heritage is more important today than ever.

  7. Tosin

    May 15, 2016 at 10:42 am

    in this world
    of over-rated pleasure
    and under-rated treasure
    i’m glad there is you
    – natalie cole

    thank you for starting a nice conversation. may it go on.

  8. Tunmi

    May 15, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I understand the article. I get your intent. However, the way you write is too chunky for a blog or for the audience you would like to meet. This style of writing fits academia. Not the average Nigerian. It’s not dismissive of your article or the average Nigerian. Basically, write in a way that a primary 3 student or an 8-9 year old can understand.

    And I agree with @Fact. They are influenced by the culture. Giving them the credit when not due is too close to an inferiority complex – until the west appreciated it, it’s not good enough kind of thing.

  9. Adebayo

    May 16, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Thanks all for the feedback.

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