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The significance and use of cultural symbols in the contemporary African society: Igbo symbols as a paradigm

Gladys Ifeoma Udechukwu


It is often thought that Africans, and the Igbo in particular, are disposed to abandoning their local lifeworld in preference for western systems of life. In recent times, it is generally believed among the Igbo that there is an erosion of cultural values, especially those that constituted a veritable source of human existence in the past thus giving rise to a somewhat cultural crisis in the Igbo society. It would be assumed that one of the things that distinguish humans from all other creatures is their ability to symbolize memories, imaginations and religious experience. A symbol operates because it bears a relationship with the symbolized and this places a limit upon its use. The Igbo as an ethnic group in Nigeria are influential in a number of ways: while their population constitute one of largest (among the Yoruba and Hausa ethnic groups in Nigeria), their entrepreneurial spirit has been widely acknowledged across Nigerian ethnicities. Igbo culture is replete with symbols of varying significances. This paper therefore aims to give clear identification and definition of Igbo cultural symbols and their significance to Igbo modern life. In the course of this research, a descriptive method of research was adopted where I interacted and interviewed some Igbo people across age, class and gender. The result obtained lends insight into the significance of symbolism in Igbo everyday existence while also mitigating the negligence of cultural observances and its aftermath in the event of discordant modernities in contemporary life.