Nneka Isaac Moses is an ambassador of culture and tourism with the television programme Goge Africa. She could also be described as queen of African fashion: “When I travel to the Western countries with my big braids that the white hair cannot do, wear an outfit made with African fabric and step out in my dark skin, people take a second look at me. Apart from admiring what I have on, the Western people do have respect for Africans who know their onions. If they do not have respect for us, why do you think Nigerians who live in the Western world yearn for African outfits?”
At her Maryland, Lagos, office, which she shares with her better half, Isaac, Nneka spoke more on this and other issues with AGATHA EMEADI. Excerpts:
Culture and tourism
“The interest started from knowing that the best thing I can do is showcasing the real me. lt is easy to talk about yourself, showcase yourself because basically, you know that you are not acting. I am using myself as an example because I am African. I am showcasing African culture because it is easier than doing something that will mean that I am talking about the Gucci’s of this world. Someone needs to stand and bridge the gap. People are more concerned about the Western world. Why can’t we showcase our culture?
“We are talking about leading by example. What I am doing today is what I wish have been happening even before I was born. A programme like Village Headmaster will remind us about the village setting. It was an opportunity for most of us who did not grow up in the village to see what village setting looks like.
“I know that most of the people who do not watch TV may not have the opportunity to visit some African nooks and crannies or experience their festivals. If Goge Africa is blessed to bring this, I think it is a good job.”
Passion for the job
“If I do not have the passion, why would I be doing the same thing for the past l0years? I enjoy it. If I may ask, why wouldn’t you enjoy traveling? You go to the Western world, they give you the best they have. Infact, people work for the whole year, save money and go on holidays. But my job is to be on holiday at other people’s expenses. 1 love it.”
Scaring cultural practices
“If you have not seen a masquerade before, you will be scared the first time. But when they unmask, it becomes clear that those are the work of arts that someone is putting on. The wearer might be trying to explain one thing or the other. Ordinary objects could be scaring even though there is nothing much about them.”
“I would not know and do not think so. But what really matters is the feeling and the person that is working in a particular place. You might be doing something that is not spiritual, but another interpretation could be given to it. We have people who work in the mortuaries, I do not think that the spirits of dead people hunt them. If so, nobody will take the job.
“Showcasing naming ceremonies, weddings, and burials are all ways of showing culture. In churches, we celebrate thanksgiving because we are saying thank you to God for what He has done.
“I do not know the way people see culture, from my own point of view. I am like a historian but a consorted historian, just relaying history and events as they are. I do not add, or subtract and do not judge. I am just passing the message of other people the way it is and the way people live, it is just a job.”
“Well, fund was the initial challenge. Travelling is not easy. When you know you will be on a ship for a long time, or you are going to fly across continents, even when the weather is not favorable. Your host is expecting you, you do not want to disappoint them. There are challenges on the job like other jobs too.
“When we visit countries where people do not speak English and we cannot speak their native language. We are challenged with communication barrier. What is the way out? You need an interpreter. Your whole life depends on that interpreter.”
Goge Africa limited to African countries
“Goge Africa is meant for Africans lost by geographical location. Wherever you are as long as you are a Black man, you are an African. That is why we locate our people at Cuba, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the world where we could locate Black people. So far, we have been to four continents of the world in search of Africans.
“Experiencing other countries’ cultures is also an experience. In Nigeria, when an old person dies, dancing by the children and grandchildren, making merry is part of the ceremony to bid the aged person farewell.
“If you go to a Western world, every death is mourned. You see everyone in black suit with head bent and in a mournful situation.
You cannot see them dance away sorrow because they lost a grandpa or a grandma. “Infact, in most Africa countries, it is celebration that one loses an elderly one. It is a good thing that you are burying them not the other way round. There is a part in the burial rites where you are expected to come out and dance. The way they do things is totally different from the way we do things. The African worldview means different thing in their styles. The African world has come to teach that we are all one in a more entertaining way.”
One challenging experience
“There is a place in South Africa known as the African Village. When we visited there, the women took me to one side and we had a communication barrier, they were speaking Zulu language. They asked me to undress because they thought I was not properly dressed. To them, normal dressing is appearing nude and wear some leaves by the boobs and short raffia by the hips alone.
“I would have loved to do that, but my own culture does not permit my appearing nude. If I do it, I would not have the privilege to showcase it in Nigeria which is my primary aim. To agree with them, I had to remove what I was wearing and covered up with animal skin instead of leaves and be like them for that moment.
“I also had to explain my own culture that where I am coming from, women do not expose their nakedness. We cover up at all times. We exchanged cultures and that is the essence of the work. They accepted and respected my own culture. I also appreciated them the way they are. There was no pretence about their nakedness and the men walked in their midst freely.
“In some cultures, you are served raw prepared meat. Initially, you would frown at it and remove your face. To the people involved, they are giving you a royal treatment.”
Financing Goge Africa
“Goge Africa finances itself now. Initially, my husband and I financed it. But with time, it has grown. Individuals, corporate bodies and countries that want Goge Africa to showcase their cultural settings foot the bill.
“In the next 10 years, with Goge Africa, I would have touched lives, being part of inspiration to the young ones. I want the world to respect Africans, especially the blacks and appreciate us for who we are. I want my fellow Africans to take pride to say they are Africans. We can do it from here. We don’t have to be in America before we know we can do it.”
Positive impact from the Western world
“I will say a big yes. I will start from myself. In addition to what we have been doing in the past, we now go to America to give lecture on African culture. The awareness is there. “Last year, we went to University of California as guest lecturers on African cultures.
We made presentations on African cultures, showcasing some episodes of Goge Africa. In that hall, we had close to 300 students and 99 per cent of them were whites and Asians. What it taught me was that the world is looking unto Africa.
“The whites have exposed what they have already. We even know the American history better that some Americans. Then, they did not consider Africa as a factor, but now, they are beginning to, they are yelling to know Africa more. That is why a big university like that will make out time and money and invite us to come and give lecture.
“If you are an African and you are proud of whom you are, they will respect you. But when you try to mimick them, they look down on you.”