Promoting African culture in academics

The richness of African culture has, once again, been brought to the fore as sound knowledge has found an enviable place in western education within the four walls of our ivory tower. This development not only shows the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge, it also clearly highlights the superiority of African tradition when it comes to global relevance. This reality was showcased when the widely-celebrated and literary icon was appointed Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies (CENTS), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun state.

CENTS was established in 2011 in line with the directive of the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) through the National Universities Commission (NUC), which had mandated tertiary institutions in the country to offer such programme and establish an entrepreneurial centre, to create and provide an academic environment whereby students would be exposed to the entrepreneurial environment through diverse training in both multi-disciplinary and non-traditional business skills. In this light, the centre provides facilities and expertise that would propel the growth and development of Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) through sustainable quality, effective and dynamic entrepreneurial studies.

The desire of integrating entrepreneurship studies into university education is basically to empower graduates, irrespective of their fields of specialisation with skills that would make them engage in income yielding ventures if they are unable to secure paid jobs by being job-makers. Before the existence of CENTS, a Centre for Skills Development (CENSKID) had existed, just as the Graduate Records and Career Centre (GRECC), and A. G. Leventis Memorial Centre for Learning (LEMCEL) were fused into CENTS in a bid to provide a full range of business education and support services to students, and the public and to facilitate the interaction between entrepreneurs and existing opportunities.

To promote academics and skills acquisition, Alagba Tunde Kelani is to facilitate the teaching and coordination of short courses designed to enhance the entrepreneurial skills and knowledge of film-making to students of the university. Popularly called TK, Kelani is a respected Nigerian filmmaker, storyteller, director, photographer, cinematographer and producer with a career spanning over four decades. He is renowned for his love of adaptation of African literary material into movies, as most of his works have followed that style of filmmaking including Oleku, Thunder Bolt, Arugba, The Narrow Path, White Handkerchief, Maami, and Dazzling Mirage.

The Visiting Fellow specialises in producing movies that promote the nation’s rich cultural heritage with a deep root in documentation, archiving, education, and entertainment. Kelani, a native of Abeokuta, where FUNAAB is located, was born in Lagos in 1948 and attended the Oke-Ona Primary School in Ikija, Abeokuta and had his secondary school education at Abeokuta Grammar School, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta. Records show that his grandfather was the Balogun of Ijaiye Kukudi and he was privileged to have witnessed most aspects of Yoruba ways of life such as religion, literature, philosophy, and world view in arts before he was introduced to Yoruba literature and theatre from an early stage in life.

It is instructive that when he was in secondary school, he was opportune to see most of the great Yoruba theatre classics including The Palm-Wine Drinkard, Oba Koso, Kurunmi and Ogunde, among others. He got interested in photography from primary school and throughout his secondary school education; he was actively investing money and learning photography. Kelani trained at the then Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) and went further to attend the London Film School, where he bagged a Diploma in the Art and Technique of Filmmaking. In the 1970s, he worked as a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television and Reuter’s correspondent.

TK co-produced his first film with the late dramatist, Adebayo Faleti, called ‘The Dilemma of Rev. Father Michael’ (Idaamu Paadi Mukailu). After several years in the Nigerian film industry, as a cinematographer, he manages Mainframe Film and Television Productions; which was formed to document Nigeria’s rich culture. Reputed as an advocate of ‘Alternative Technology’ in motion picture production in Africa, he has produced and directed many digital features, as Kelani often uses the Mobile Cinema Project, designed to take information and entertainment to the grassroots.

On the impact of this development to the academic life of the university, a honorary awardee of FUNAAB and a Professor of History, Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities, Department of History, The University of Texas at Austin, United States of America, Prof. Toyin Falola has described the appointment of TK, who is also known as Iroko, as ‘extraordinary’, ‘deserving’ and shows the “warmth and uniqueness of the University’s boundless imaginations and the humanistic vision of its vice-chancellor, Prof. Kolawole Salako”.

Apart from the blend of rich academic and entrepreneurial flavour that has been offered to students and members of the university community, the high unemployment pervading our country could be further reduced when youths and young persons are not only provided the avenue to acquire knowledge without good financing. This should be the next line of focus and priority that relevant authorities should look into by matching education with quality life, which should certainly be the ultimate.