Explorations in the Issues and Challenges of Indigenous Language in the Yoruba Film Industry

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The state of the indigenous languages in Nigeria is worrisome because they are being endangered by the linguistic dominance of English as the language of formal and informal discourses. The paper draws examples, references and illustrations from the
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  1 Explorations in the Issues and Challenges of Indigenous Language in the Yoruba Film Industry Azeez Akinwumi Sesan Department of Languages (English Unit) Al-Hikmah University, P. M. B. 1601, Ilorin azeezakinwumisesan@gmail.com +2347065595199 A paper presented at1st Linguistics and African Languages International Conference (LALIC 2014), Kwara State University, Malete, Kwara State, Nigeria, March 20-22, 2014 Azeez Akinwumi Sesan lectures in the Department of Languages of Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Nigeria. His research areas include African Literature, Literary Theory and Criticism, Oral Literature, Gender, Cultural and Film/Media Studies. He has published in learned journals and books of reading.  2 Explorations in the Issues and Challenges of Indigenous Language in the Yoruba Film Industry   Abstract The state of the indigenous languages in Nigeria is worrisome because they are being endangered by the linguistic dominance of English as the language of formal and informal discourses. The paper draws examples, references and illustrations from the Yoruba language users, particularly in the medium of film that are used for analysis and discussion. It is the position of the paper that film has come as the popular medium of entertainment, education and social concretization. Considering the popularity of the film medium, it is expected to help in the propagation of indigenous languages and culture through plot, dialogue, costuming and characterization. The shortfall in the Yoruba film industry is however seen in the language attitude and pattern of some actors/actresses, producers and directors to the indigenous language. Some of these practitioners cannot speak in Yoruba language for some considerable period of time without code-mixing with English language. Besides, these practitioners also code-switch from Yoruba language to English language. The paper, therefore, observes that this phenomenon is a threat to the survival of Yoruba language. The language is being endangered by the negative attitude of the users of Yoruba as a language. The paper concludes that the challenges of language in the Yoruba film industry can be redressed with proactive film policy that will enforce the film idiom that will hinge on sustainable and positive use of indigenous language. Key words: Language; film; Yoruba language; theatre; film audience Introduction Language is primarily human. It is used in the private and public domains for communication and socio-human interactions. Humans are differentiated from other animals by the ability to communicate meaningfully with mutually intelligible linguistic codes. Considering the significance of language in socio-human and global arrangement, it can be said that it is a universal phenomenon that is used to control and influence the eco-linguistic sphere of individuals and a group of people. Nigeria, as a linguistic entity, is multilingual and multicultural with over four hundred (400) linguo-cultural groups. With this situation of multilingualism and multiculturalism, the country has been unable to achieve holistic indigenous languages development for sustainable mutual intelligibility among various ethnic nationalities in the country. The situation of linguistic confusion and disharmony in inter-personal and inter-ethnic communication has been avoided with the use of English as the language of inter-personal and inter-cultural interactions.  3 The ascendancy of English as the dominant language of communication among the elites and the educated in Nigeria has contributed negatively to the development and use of indigenous languages among the natives in the country. In the context of this paper, attention is paid to Yoruba language. This is connected to the fact the paper examines the state of Yoruba film industry and the attitude of the practitioners to the use of their indigenous language (Yoruba). One of the basic problems affecting the development of Yoruba language and other indigenous languages is the attitude. Nigerians have developed negative attitude to the use of their indigenous languages in communication because they see the ability to speak fluently and competently in their indigenous languages and the inability to speak fluently and competently in the English language as lack of exposure, learning and positive social status. In the linguistic and cultural contacts between English and Yoruba language, the latter is seen as the dominated and the threatened owing to the fact it is used in the restricted domain of socio-human communication and interaction. The linguistic relationship between English language and Yoruba language is a reflection of attitudinal problems militating against the survival of Yoruba language among its indigenous speakers. Most homes and by extension, the Yoruba society, do not encourage their children to acquire Yoruba as their mother tongue. In the process, these children become linguistically confused in the use of the two languages (English and Yoruba). In this instance, the opinion of Sesan (2013b:154) is therefore corroborated that: With the sociological and sociolinguistic evidences at our disposal, these children are not at fault. The problem begins from home and it is later compounded by the society. The contemporary reality is that most Yoruba homes have been Anglicized. Children no longer acquire and learn Yoruba as the mother/first tongue from parents, siblings and neighbours because these linguistic adults desire that the children should be exposed to the use of English Language at a formative stage. The consequence is that these children are caught in the web of linguistic confusion between Yoruba Language and the English Language. The linguistic confusion, as observed above by Sesan, is reflected in the way these children use the Yoruba language and the English language with some level of incompetence in the linguistic codes of the two languages. Since artistic expressions are done through languages, the linguistic competence of the performers and the artists is expected to be considered in the criticism and analysis of any artistic  4 performance. In the Yoruba film industry, the expected indigenous language is Yoruba. Thus, the criticism and the analysis of the films coming out from the Yoruba axis should include thematic pre-occupation, audience factor, technicality and the film idiom, with the inclusion of language aesthetics. The expectation of critics of Yoruba film is that the medium should impact meaningfully on cultural propagation and the promotion of Yoruba language among the Yoruba youths and adolescents. Unfortunately, the medium of film in the Yoruba nationality has failed in the promotion of Yoruba language because the practitioners (particularly actors and actresses) do not demonstrate considerable knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of Yoruba language. This paper explores the linguistic factor in the Yoruba film industry with consideration for the sociological and sociolinguistic factors such as the elitist nature of the Yoruba film audience and the general attitudinal problems of Nigerians to the indigenous languages and culture. The fact still remains that indigenous languages have not been favoured in the linguistic ecology of Nigeria owing to the ascendancy of English as the language of wider communication (LWC). Yoruba Film Industry: The theatre Origin No attempt can be made to discuss Yoruba film industry without reference to its theatre srcin. Various researches have shown that the foundation of what is known today as the Yoruba film industry is placed on the vibrant theatre tradition that the Yoruba nationality was noted with ( see Adedeji, 1969 and 1978; Obafemi, 2007; Ogundeji 1988 and 2006; Raji-Oyelade, Olorunyomi and Ladipo, 2008; Ogunbiyi, 1981; Clark, 2008; Sesan, 2008; Jeyifo, 1984 and Gumuncio-Dagron, 1994). These researches acknowledge that the incidents in the ancient Oyo Empire during the reign of Alaafin Ogbolu (a.k.a. Abipa) was instrumental to the development of theatre tradition in the whole of Yoruba land. The incidental performance and/or experimentation of the 1590 between the six masked (stock) characters otherwise known as the ghost mummers and the six ghost catchers later blossomed into (itinerant) theatre tradition (Sesan, 2013a: 2). With the extension of the scope of performance of itinerary of the Alarinjo tradition of the masque dramaturgy and the experimentation of interested individuals in dramatic enactments, there is an expansion in the spectrum of Alarinjo theatre tradition. The initial experimentation began with the contributions of the three axis of Yoruba theatre (Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo  5 and Kola Ogunmola) that introduced some professionalism to the dramaturgy of the Alarinjo tradition. These three axis of Yoruba theatre drew their performance from Biblical stories (as in the case of Hubert Ogunde), Yoruba history and myth (as in the case of Duro Ladipo) and adaptation of Christian morality play (as in the case of Kola Ogunmola). Apart from these genres that were common in the repertoire of these three axis of Yoruba theatre, there were also some plays that were satirical and poignant of the social stratification between the minority black population and the majority black population that was common in the colonial period of the country. In the satirical genre of Alarinjo theatre tradition were the plays of Hubert Ogunde such as Tiger's Empire , Strike and Hunger  , as well as  Bread and Bullet  . The transition of the Alarinjo theatre tradition from the stage to the contemporary video film is systematic and dramatic. Ogunleye (2012:49) has identified the stages of development of Yoruba film industry with the consideration of the development of an artiste. In her inaugural lecture, Ogunleye presents a diagrammatic progression of Yoruba film artistes as below: EGUNGUN ALARINJO (Masked strolling players) TRAVELLING THEATRE TROUPES CELLULOID FILM MAKERS VIDEO FILM MAKERS The above diagrammatic progression of the Yoruba film artistes given by Ogunleye are not adequate and comprehensive. The critic has omitted the significant contributions of radio and television in the making of the contemporary Yoruba film artistes. Before the utilisation of the resources of cinema, Yoruba artistes of Alarinjo tradition have experimented with the resources of radio (through audio cassette and record) to give the oral performance of their plays to the audience. Yoruba film artistes of Alarinjo tradition advanced their medium of performance with the coming of television. There was mass exodus of the Yoruba itinerant performers from the media of stage and radio to the television medium with the sole aim of presenting to the teaming audience the audio-visual version of their plays. Considering this developmental trends in the
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