Cultural Rituals and Symbol as a Paradigm for Conflict Intervention and Peacebuilding in Africa: Experience From Nigeria

Cultural Rituals and Symbol as a Paradigm for Conflict Intervention and Peacebuilding in Africa: Experience From Nigeria

Essien Essien (University of Uyo, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2574-6.ch006
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The complex relationship between art, culture, conflict, and peacebuilding in contemporary time has opened a gap in knowledge too difficult to grasp. This is because culture is implicated in nearly every conflict in the world. This is corollary to the fact that the biggest challenge confronting societies today is not about how conflicts occur, but how conflicts can be completely resolved whenever they occur. Nonetheless, despite the prevalence of such conflicts and the fact that culture has been identified as a driver and a major transformer, scholarly investigation into the intentional use of arts and culture especially within the realms of rituals and symbol for conflict resolution and peace-building has regrettably been modest, disproportionate, and largely unexplored. This study, therefore, is an attempt to respond to this thesis that the deployment of rituals and symbol as an instrument to symbolically communicate commitment toward peace is a viable alternative for peacebuilding.
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Conceptual Clarification

Given the continued evolution in the field of conflict and peacebuilding, certain concepts are yet to be settled and properly understood. This is apparent due to the reason that some of the concepts are overly flexible and holistic in characterization which leads to fragmentation of efforts and lack of selectivity in the prevention and intervention processes. A lack of consensus on the classification of some the concepts can create confusion and forms a barrier toward the harmonization and/or the co‐ordination approaches. Therefore, reaching agreement on the proper description of a number of concepts would help harmonize policies and approaches toward peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Some of those concepts are as follows:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Traumatization: Retraumatization is a conscious or unconscious reminder of past trauma that results in a re-experiencing of the initial trauma event. It can be triggered by a situation, an attitude or expression, or by certain environments that replicate the dynamics of the original trauma such as loss of power, lives and property, loss of control, and loss of safety.

Arts and Symbols: Ritual and symbols are understood as symbolic physical actions that require interpretation. The messages that rituals usually convey do not directly discuss the people or events at hand. Instead, they communicate indirectly through symbols, myths, metaphors, and emotions. For example, the handshake does not communicate a direct message, but rather represents or symbolize friendship. Symbolic acts that are repeated within a tradition and culture come to be thought of as rituals. These rituals often take place in unique spaces that are set apart from everyday life and aim to transform people's worldviews and relationships. Their profound impact consists in their ability to penetrate the seemingly impenetrable, overwhelm the defensive, and convey complex messages without saying a word.

Conflict Transformer: A conflict transformer is a process taken or a leader who embraces and practices the philosophy of viewing conflict as an opportunity for positive change. While avoidance and aggressive conflict behaviour styles are the most common, they are not the very effective. But whenever someone or a leader begins to recognize that there are other options toward handling conflict, their world expands and elevates their ability to lead toward transformation in order to enjoy significant benefits in the future.

Art and Culture: The concept of arts and culture includes all the elements that characterize a particular peoples' way of life. The arts involve a vast subdivision of culture, composed of many creative endeavours and disciplines. It encompasses visual arts, literary arts and the performing arts.

Peacebuilding: Peacebuilding denote actions and policies aimed at preventing the outbreak, the recurrence or continuation of armed conflict. It encompasses a wide range of political, developmental, humanitarian and human rights programs and mechanisms, together with short- and long-term actions tailored toward addressing the particular needs of societies affected or sliding into conflict or emerging from it. It also includes long-term support to, and establishment of, viable political and socio-economic and cultural institutions capable of addressing the proximate and root causes of conflicts, as well as other initiatives aimed at creating the necessary conditions for sustained peace and stability.

Carriers of Culture: Cultural carriers can be objects, political figures, practices, and concepts that preserve or “carry” certain normative meanings over time. Often, cultural carriers sustain continuity through times of conflict, war, political, economic, and legal change; examples being the Islamic veil, and a country’s national flag.

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