BASIC ELEMENTS OF COMMUNICATION IN TRADITIONAL RELIGION
I. Introduction – Definition of Communication
Generally and more from the perspective of language, communication connotes many ideas. The ideas include the act or action of making known, of informing a person, of conveying knowledge or information, of imparting and of transmitting. The sending of information or messages sometimes back and forth are part of communication. Speaking, gesticulating, writing to another to convey information are all aspects of communication. Interchange of thoughts, ideas as part of connectivity between people, often indicating openness of one to the other – are all part of communication. Affording unbroken passage from one to another person and having something logically in common are also part of communication.1
In other words, as put by Ojo2 “communication is a process of information exchange between two or more individuals or organisation. It is the process through which information, knowledge, idea or message are conveyed or transmitted from one source to another.”3
It is from the context that communication involves exchange between two or more individuals or organisations that the Traditional Religion becomes much involved.
II. Traditional Religion as communication
Traditional Religion is basically a proved system of conveying indigenous knowledge of a community about their belief to new members of the community and to strangers. It is a system of information, a procedure of imparting or transmitting values of the indigenous community. Traditional religious communication, as performative therefore includes speaking, singing, gesticulations, rituals, worship, and virtually all that are done within all traditional communities. Thus, Traditional Religion can aptly be seen as a unique but comprehensive system of communication that covers all within a traditional community.
Therefore, it will not be an over-statement to claim that Traditional Religion is all that the community does4 - in action, words or otherwise – to achieve peace for men, women and the community both here now and hereafter.
In any interaction, some components must be present before such could be called a communication. Such components include a speaker or sender, a listener or receiver, the fact, issue or message and the medium of expression between the speaker and the listener. The speaker is the originator of the communicative wave. He must send – transmit the wave in the proper milieu or code that could be received by the listener. The listener must be able to translate – decode – the transmitted wave to viable action. The essence of Traditional Religion is just to perpetually transmit the indigenous value to receivers of all places, ages, occasions and system. Some basic elements of communication will therefore be looked into from the context of Traditional Religion.
III Some Basic Elements
i. The Community: In Traditional Religion, the community is the originator, centre and preserver of all activities and communication. The community is the speaker in the illustration above, but really it is much more than just a speaker. It is really the context and total field of play for all communication involving any one within that particular community. It may therefore be said, in any Traditional religious setting, the community defines acceptable language, goal and values of life, means of living and even the end of living. As put by Idowu, “In all things they are religious…”5. This implies that even communication of the people within a community is religious. The community originates issues for communication and the means -the how- the issues will be transmitted. The community also suffers the results of actions from all communications. Thus, the community is the first and really most integral part of basic elements of communication in Traditional Religion.
It must be acknowledged that the driving spirit in the traditional religious community is that the survival of the community is the survival of the individual. Thus, communication is generated, guided, moderated and concluded within the ambience of Traditional Religion in the community.
2. Another basic set of elements are objects of worship in Traditional Religion. Objects of worship form a core in all communication within Traditional Religion. The objects of worship include the God-gods system, the persons involved in and with worship, the materials used and symbols used in Traditional Religion. It must be said here that all in Traditional Religion revolve only around communication. The directions of the communication within the objects of worship include, God to god, God-god to man, man to God-god, man to man, man to nature and nature to man.
3. The final basic element here mentioned is the medium of transmission. The medium could be any occasion of joy, sorrow or sadness. It could be in any ceremony or festival. It could also be in other forms like person to person, interaction, personal reflection and many others. Through all these mentioned forms, information, knowledge and action creating impulses are always conveyed. Few of these will now be looked into.
IV. Examples of communication around Yoruba Traditional Religion
1. “B’ínú se rí ni obì n yàn”.
This is a simple expression but it links vital aspects of Traditional Religion with communication. The saying is deep-rooted in belief, in functionality of the gods at revealing the unknown, and in showing all the unseen spiritual realities in plain visible dimension. The saying “B’ínú se rí ni obì n yàn” translate literally to “it is how the mind – inside of the person – is that the kola-nuts (of divination) exhibits when (when the Ifa divinity is) evoked.
This rather simple statement reveals many levels and aspects of communication within Traditional Religion. The levels of communication include, communication between the unseen world and the physical world, between the spiritual world and the world of form, and between the person consulting Ifa and his personal faith. The statement reveals the elements in communication as including the supersensitive world, the God-gods, the physical beings, beliefs, objects of worship and the community.
2. “Pèlé ní ako, o ní abo”
The statement “Pèlé ní ako, o ní abo”6 depicts peculiarity of the Yoruba community hence, its communication. It is noted with delight that the word “Pèlé” has no translatable equivalence in English culture or language hence, showing a unique form of communication in indigenous Yoruba tradition and community.
The statement simply means “Pèlé” has both a positive and a negative or soft and hard posture or mood. The statement is communication within a context – a wise saying to be read within lines. The elements here involved include, a situation or context, persons or a group of people and a circumstance wherein warning – cautioning is advised. The import of this type of communication is that of a high level proverbial, figurative restraint.
3. “Ara nrò fún mi…”
“Ara nrò fún mi…” can be translated literally as “the body is telling me…” but the communication is much more than that, especially within Traditional Religion. It implies a serious premonition or warning that something evil is around the corner. This calls for preparation in the form of devotion, prayers and caution. Again the elements of communication here exhibited are very similar to the ones already enumerated above.
4. “Onu r’íràn ju ojú lO”
The statement “onu r’íràn ju ojú lo” is of similar gravity and disposition. Normally, “enu” meaning “mouth” is not an organ for “seeing”, so how can and should the “mouth” see “faster than” or more than the “eye”? The elements of communication that are called to play apart from those listed above are metaphorical and prophetic.
5. “Ìfunra ni ògùn àgbà”
The statement “Ìfunra ni ògùn àgbà” interpreted as “vigilance is the medicine of the elderly” connotes a different style of communication. “Ìfunra” could imply vigilance but it includes suspicion, intuition and foresight. “Ògùn” on the other hand is medicinal, mysterious, magical and very potent. “Àgbà” is an idiomatic representation in the traditional religious Yoruba setting. Thus, ““Ìfunra ni ògùn àgbà”…” calls to mind another set of communication within the indigenous community.
6. Other Words and Concepts
There are many other words and concepts like “Àyèwò, ipè, àrokò, fífi ohùn ránsé, ofò, àyájó, ohùn, gbólóhùn, rírán ni nísé,” that are all elements of communication in varying dimensions. Others like Arts, worship, sacrifice, celebrations, festivals; feasting, rites of passage, music, drums, carvings and pottery are also elements of communication in some other considerations.7
The community is the ground of being of Traditional Religion and the means of interaction and inter-relationship is communication. In other words, all within Traditional Religion are elements of communication in various dimensions. Traditional religious practices employ elements of communication and the twine- Traditional Religion and communication are the inseparable sides of the same community coin.
Notes and References1. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, unabridged. p. 460 a,b, communication.
2. Ojo, B.J. Facilitating Effective Communication in a Counselling Session in Akinlua A.A. and Kolawole E.B. (Eds.) Topical Issues in Research and Education, 2002, Institute of Education’s Occasional Publication, University of Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria, p. 116.
4. Bolaji Idowu, Olodumare, God in Yoruba Belief, Ibadan, Longmans, 1962, p. 5.
6. The language and concept evoked by the word “Pele” have been treated in many other works that include Toyin O. Bamisaye, Ed. An Integrated Study of Language and Society 1 Majab Publishers, 2004, “Pele” P. 50 and T.F. Jemiriye, Understanding Why: A Case for the Orthodox Faith, Greenline Publishers, Vol. 1, p.9. The attempt here is only to reflect its relation to communication.
7. These here listed cannot be discussed in detail because of obvious limitations of required length of this writing. However, all these mentioned are of great religious significance especially in relevance to communication.
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