Apprenticeship — Raising Masters and Maestros By Kenneth Nwabudike Okafor Blog – www.naijagraphitti.blogspot.com
One of the cornerstones of this blog is to promote the virtue of extra-curricular learning because of the very visible limitations of syllabic learning. This post would highlight a vital example. For the last five years I have been involved with a not-for-profit which is determined to raise world-class entrepreneurs in Nigeria. One of the key platforms for achieving this target includes a programme on mentoring. However, I want to call attention to a traditional method of transferring skills and learning that has recently fallen into disuse and even appalling neglect — the apprenticeship system. Apprenticeship is not interchangeable with mentoring. The word mentor comes from Greek mythology and our present day use of the word refers to teacher, guide, adviser and protector. There is a strong history to the apprenticeship model of learning, and it is all about mentorship - helping others learn. Apprenticeship is an extremely effective form of training that is widely supported and used around the world whereas mentorship is the process where an experienced person (mentor) works with and educates a less experienced learner (apprentice) to help foster skill development and professional growth. In an apprenticeship, a skill expert (journeyperson or master craftsman formally, but called ‘master’ in Nigeria) passes on knowledge and skills to learners (apprentices). The mentor shares his/her skills, knowledge, techniques, best practices and experience to provide a comprehensive hands-on training experience for the apprentice. Skill expertise is only part of the role, the mentor needs also to be a skill expert, and a learning guide. Coming from a background, of Igbo extraction, with artisanal handicraft pedigree where my father and at least four of his brothers went through apprenticeship in blacksmithing (Ikpu’ uzu), I am fascinated by apprenticeship as a traditional method of learning and knowledge transmission / preservation. Personally I have studied several variations of the apprenticeship systems which have been in use for ages, mostly by artisans of all hues, musicians of different genres, Ogbomosho traders and Igbo traders across Nigeria.
Uwameiye and Iyamu (2002) define apprenticeship as "a contractual agreement undertaken by the master-craftsman and the apprentice through which the apprentice is trained for a prescribed work process through practical experience under the supervision of the mastercraftsman. It is a form of workplace learning, which enables the apprentice to have on-thejob training." Uwameiye and Iyamu (2002) adds "In Nigeria and all over Africa, apprenticeship has been an age-long method used in training young people in trades and crafts, agriculture, business, and catering. During the pre-colonial days, apprenticeship was the mode of training. It is a common feature of the traditional setting to see people engage in a vocation such as farming, fishing, hunting, carving, carpentry, sculpting, painting, building, decorating, blacksmithing, catering, boat-making, mat-making, dyeing and so on. The apprenticeship system was an institution that was jealously guarded by customs, lineage and rituals." In the rest of the world, the system of apprenticeship first developed in the later Middle Ages (14th and 15th centuries) and came to be supervised by craft guilds and town governments. A master craftsman was entitled to employ young people as an inexpensive form of labour in exchange for providing food, lodging and formal training in the craft. Most apprentices were males, but female apprentices were found in crafts such as seamstress, tailor, cordwainer, baker and stationer. Apprentices usually lived in the master craftsman's household. (Wikipedia 2013) In recognition of the importance of apprenticeship system of labour supply, the Federal Government of Nigeria established the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) during the second National Development Plan period (1970-74) which led to the promulgation into law of a National Apprenticeship Scheme in 1982 (Agbo, 1990). The ITF described apprenticeship as â€˜training for occupations in the category of skilled crafts and trades requiring a wide and diverse range of skills, knowledge, experience and independent judgementâ€™ (Onasanya, 1988). Though the apprenticeship system has fallen into deep neglect across Nigerian cultures, for a vast variety of reasons, I retain a healthy respect for apprenticeship as it has produced undisputed results across creative disciplines. Let us take the arts and crafts sector for one instance. Some notable artists have the apprenticeship system, as they were trained by old masters. There are several distinguished artists that come to mind. For knowledge sake I would mention just three who were once apprentices â€” Benedict Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya and Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyelale Osuntoki (Twin 77).
Briefly, Professor Benedict Chuka Enwonwu, better known as Ben Enwonwu, was a painter and sculptor. Professor Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya is a printmaker, painter and sculptor. Prince Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyelale Osuntoki, better known as Prince Twins 77, was a painter, sculptor and musician. Prince Twins 77 was an original "graduates" of the 1960's experimental workshops known as The Oshogbo School of Art conducted by Ulli and Georgina Beier in Osogbo, southwestern Nigeria. Horst Ulrich Beier, known as Ulli Beier, was a German Jewish editor, writer and scholar, who had a pioneering role in developing literature, drama and poetry in Nigeria. For most of his career Beier was a university lecturer (in English Language at the University College Ibadan first then transferred to department of Extra-Mural Studies), but unlike most academics he participated in and actively instigated many of the developments he wrote about. His most famous enterprise was the Mbari Club, a watering hole for writers and artists in the Nigerian university city of Ibadan, convened in 1961 with the involvement of Africa’s two literary giants: the Nobel Prize-winning dramatist Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, author of the celebrated novel Things Fall Apart. In 1962 Ulli Beier met Georgina Betts, a spirited south Londoner who was to become his second wife. For a time Beier, Wenger and Betts shared a house, living on different floors of an extraordinary Afrobaroque residence in Oshogbo, north-east of Ibadan. Georgina ran art workshops, while Beier collaborated with the local bar owner-turned-composer Duro Ladipo in the creation of the Yoruba folk operas Oba Koso and Oba Waja, which toured the world and were highlights of the 1965 Commonwealth Arts Festival. In the dramatic arts and Nigerian theatre for another instance. Nigerian theatre, variety of folk opera of the Yoruba people that emerged in the early 1940s. It combined a brilliant sense of mime, colourful costumes, and traditional drumming, music, and folklore using themes, ranging from modern-day satire to historical tragedy. The staple themes were: the fantastic folktale, the farcical social satire, and the historical or mythological account derived from oral tradition. Although there are more than a dozen travelling theatre companies, three professional troupes are particularly notable: those of Hubert Ogunde (author of Yoruba ronu ["Yorubas, Think! "] and Journey to Heaven); Kola Ogunmola (The Palmwine Drinkard and Love of Money); and Duro Ladipo (Oba koso ["The King Did Not Hang"] and Eda ["Everyman"]). Each of these troupes has created a distinctive style shaped by the tastes of its founder, who generally writes or adapts and produces the plays, arranges the music, and performs the leading roles. Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola and Duro Ladipo were masters that raised several protégés hands-on. The success the Nigerian theartre was built on the elaborate and self-propagating apprenticeship system. (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2013) In folk and traditional music, whether east, west, north and south, the same elaborate and self-propagating apprenticeship system. There are so many talented and successful
musicians that learned at the master’s feet, so to speak. Across board, musicians like I.K. Dairo, Haruna Ishola, Dauda Ekpoakara, Fatai Rolling-Dollar, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, and Victor Olaiya raised generations of protégés. The master of the talking drum Sikiru Adepoju and his brothers Saminu and Lasisi were taught drumming very early by their father, Chief Ayanleke Adepoju. While a teenager, Sikiru toured with and recorded several albums with the Inter-Reformers Band, the band of one of the pioneers of Afro-beat, Juju artist Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey. Apprenticeship played a huge part in the musical development and talent of perhaps the most famous musician, misconceptions and controversies apart, Nigeria has ever produced – Fela Kuti. Fela Kuti studied music at the Trinity College of Music, and, in 1963, moved back to Nigeria, re-formed Koola Lobitos and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. He played for some time with Victor Olaiya, trumpeter who plays in the highlife style, and his All Stars. In 1967 he went to Ghana and developed a new musical direction. What resulted was what a musical style Kuti called Afrobeat. Afrobeat is a complex fusion of Jazz, Funk, Ghanaian/Nigerian High-life, psychedelic rock, and traditional West African chants and rhythms. Afrobeat also borrows heavily from the native "tinker pan" African-style percussion that Kuti acquired while studying in Ghana with Hugh Masekela, Soth African trumpeter and former exile under apartheid, under the uncanny Hedzoleh Soundz. In the blacksmith and metal works pre-colonial times in the southeast. Awka (in Anambra state) was famous for metal working and its blacksmiths before the 20th century were prized throughout the region for making farming implements, guns and tools. An Awka boy would start very early to learn the art of smithing – at about the age of seven or eight. He would come under the tutelage of a master and follow him on his travels, to sell products and / or batter for production materials. At first he learned how to work the bellows; then he learned how to make chains by beating out old bits of brass into fine wire and fashioning them into links; then he learned to make the needles called ụmụmụ, formerly used as currency before the introduction of cowries. Then he went on to learn how to make razors ( ọkwa isi), native pen-knives, finger rings, etc. Then larger objects like hoes and axes. In the final stage of his education, he learned how to make a gun. Making guns was not easy because the smiths did not know the technique for fashioning the hollow pipes that served as barrels. Mostly, they obtained old flint-locks, and re-fashioned them into cap-guns. So, when a student-smith was able to manufacture guns (or more accurately, re-fashion flint-locks into cap-guns), he was qualified and a ‘graduation’ ceremony (known as Mma Òtùtù) was organized for him. By this time, he was usually in his late twenties and had learned his trade intimately!
For promoting and sustaining a culture of CREATIVITY and INNOVATION, we need to revive and reinvigorate the apprenticeship system in the creative sectors. References: Personal Notes and Observations on Apprenticeship Systems across Nigerian Cultures Notes from Apprenticeship â€“ Case Studies in the Pharmaceutical Business in Onitsha Headbridge and Aba Markets Uwameiye, R. and Iyamu, E. O. S. (2002): Training Methodology Used by the Nigerian Indigenous Apprenticeship System. DVV international Adult Education and Development 59/2002 Agbo, L.O. (1990): The role of the Industrial Training Fund in manpower training and development. Quarterly Journal of Administration. July, pp.292-301. Lekan, S. and Munta, A. F. (2008): Traditional Apprenticeship System of Labour Supply for Housing Production in Saki, Southwestern, Nigeria Ethiopian Journal of Environmental Studies and Management Vol.1 No.2 June. 2008
http://apprenticeship.nscc.ca/mentoring/Mentoring.Course.Introduction.pdf Wikipedia Encyclopeadis Britannica Okafor, A., 1992, The Awka People. Awka: Chudon Graphic Prints The Ancient Town of Awka: Fragments Of Its History, Traditions And Culture
Published on Dec 22, 2013
I want to call attention to a traditional method of transferring skills and learning that has recently fallen into disuse and even appalling...