On Iconoclasm' meaning in Nigeria >sight<

Alright, this is typical again … there I spent a few hours writing this post to organise my thoughts and here we go, five minutes of google-ing ‘iconoclasm’ and ‘Nigeria’ more for distraction rather than in expectation of any relevant finds and once again the insight: apparently the term is used quite differently in Nigeria! Just read this:

Umar, Soni Irabor, Prince Aghatise Erediauwa and Martha Karua in a way can be described as radicals or iconoclasts. Or, at least, if this definition isn’t tenable, their actions at the time of their resignations can be qualified as such. […]What is Emerson saying? It is simple. Be your own man. Be positively different. Be a radical or an iconoclast if you so desire, without any regret. (‘Men... Women Who Choose to Be Different in Our Mad World’ In: The Weekend Observer, 18 April 2009 (?), my emphasis)

I have known Senator Adesanya for many, many years, starting from during the struggle to rid Nigeria of iconoclasts and men of political iniquities in the Second Republic. Here is a patriot of the highest distinction, and notable for saying little and doing much, creditably. (Excerpts of M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu's lecture at the launching of the Adesanya, November 2002, my emphasis)

In fact, I have just chatted with a Nigerian friend who explained to me that in press and popular discourse iconoclasm

… the act of changing tradition, act of changing old ideas … the word is used more in the sense of someone that changes old stale traditions and ideas … in Naija Press, it is used as a positive word …

And iconoclast then is ‘someone that is different, like Jesus.’ (private conversation)

It would be unfair to claim that this is the only use of the term iconoclasm. I’ve actually just come across some references to Christian iconoclasm in the available literature by Nigerian authors! (This is where Google Books comes in extremely handy – but tell that those German authors who are currently on the barricades against it > sight! <)

The ITPA emphasized its commitment to the "special position of chiefs" in local administration against that Ibadan's "cultural and moral codes of social behaviour are a noble heritage that must be preserved secure from the desecrating encroachment of shallow amateur iconoclast." (Olufemi Vaughan 2006: 79-80)

For the zealots among Christians, the Ijebu State as it was before British conquest was not the right type of State, nor its citizenry either. The State into which they wished to see Ijebuland transformed was the Christian one in which only Christian ideas and Christian citizenry would be allowed existence. These zealots believed that good citizenship was inseparable from religious piety. Themselves members of a society in which religion and politics in the pre-colonial period was hardly separable, it was logical that they singled out their religion for a nexus with the State of their imagination. In their thinking indigenous religion and the rival monotheistic faith of Islam were not to be permitted co-existence with Christianity. Their thinking in this respect was translated into a display of physical force against Muslims and 'pagans' whose ferocity and frequently confounded British administrators. (Ayandele 1979: 276)

So, to avoid any further misunderstandings, here my working definition of iconoclasm as opposed to aniconism, straight from the introduction of my diss:

The Dictionary of Art defines iconoclasm as ‘the destruction of images, particularly for religious reasons. The word is also used more broadly, however, to refer to the suppression of, or simple opposition to, images, whatever the motivation.’ Iconoclasm, the article points out, might take various forms and be directed against a range of different images. It can involve the total destruction of all images or the removal of particular elements – e.g. figurative representations – only. Equally, it might be limited to the re-contextualization of a representation that made clear that it was not venerated or a symbolic act that rendered the image inanimate. In contrast, the term aniconism refers simply to the absence of representations, particularly of living or divine beings in the arts of any period or group.

A very helpful discussion of the iconoclasm, different types thereof as well as its history in Afghanistan and India has been published by Finbarr Barry Flood 2002: ‘Between Cult and Culture: Bamiyan, Islamic Iconoclasm, and the Museum.’ In: Art Bulletin. Vol. 84 (4). 641-659.


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