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What constitute a traditional communication system

Communication, be it traditional, rural or modern involves sending a message (encoder) and receiving a response (decoder) in a particular way (feedback). Traditional forms of communication are for instance mythology; storytelling; songs; proverbs; religious custom; artistic, musical, dance and theatrical elements, as well on pottery, textiles and wood art. What constitutes traditional communication is today a hybrid from other fields of study such as religion, anthropology, mythology and an amalgam of multifarious cultural practices, which have become standard (Wilson 1990: 282). Wilson states that traditional communication is a mixture of social conventions and practices which have become sharpened and blended into veritable communication modes and systems. Traditional communication systems can be broadly categorized into six modes, of which the extra-mundane is one. These modes include: * Instrumental mode of communication * Demonstrative mode of communication * Iconographic mode of communication * Extra-mundane mode of communication * Visual mode of communication * Institutional mode of communication Traditional communication can be seen as a very complex system of modes, channels and media of communication used by different societies to achieve a basic goal, "communication consensus." Wilson (1990) further contends that the most outstanding fallacy drawn about traditional communication is that of its simplicity. It is thought that anyone could participate in its performances. On the other hand, it should be noted that in any given society, if two or more persons expect to understand each other, to hold some kind of meaningful discussion, they must have a common object or event to which they attach a mutually accepted meaning. Secondly, one universal purpose of communication is to influence and stimulate reaction (or feedback as it is now called) from the person to whom the message is addressed. For these two reasons, Oreh (1978), believes that a variety of non-verbal modes of communication were developed among Africans of early times.

In the same direction, Soola (1999), argues that the last three decades have witnessed attempts to crystallize scholarly thoughts, arguments, theory and research on the role of communication in the development process, pointing it up as a critical resource in-put. Similarly, attention has been paid to the differential effects of the media across a wide spectrum stake holders of development. It shows certain media to be most effective in certain situationspecific, socioeconomic and cultural contexts, while being less effective in others. There is thus the need for a synergistic media-mix approach to communication in the development calculus. As emphasized by Soola (1999), until the last two decades when Ugboajah (1972, 1985, 1987) of the oramedia fame, began to talk about and popularize traditional media, its nature and potentials did not come into the fore in serious intellectual discourse on the role of communication in the development process. Since then, however, there has been an upsurge in research and literature on the subject matter (Nwuneli 1981; Warritay 1987; Soola 1988, 1994). Ogbodu (1992), in an insightful, scholarly contribution, has underscored the possibilities of traditional media information dissemination. While not being preoccupied with development per se, Wilson (1988, 1991) provides the most comprehensive analysis of the taxonomy of traditional media system to date. These studies show that traditional media of communication are rooted in the culture, tradition, and practices of most traditional African societies. They constitute a way of life and enjoy an age-long, proven credibility status as sources of information on a wide range of social, economic, cultural, political issues and interests. As an environmental awareness tool, communication in the extramundane can be formatted and packaged, using the principle of "edutainment." According to this principle, entertainment can be laden with appropriate development-oriented information and education so that people are informed and educated simultaneously as they being entertained. THE EXTRA-MUNDANE AS A MODE OF COMMUNICATION The Extra-Mundane modes of communication is classified as falling under the traditional communication system and is defined as taking place between the living and the dead, or between the living and the extra-terrestrial (Wilson 1990: 282). Desmund Wilson, one of the most renowned Nigerian scholars today in the field of trado-modern communication holds that extramundane mode of communication on the surface usually seems unidirectional but participants at religious crusades, prayer sessions, rituals and other religious and pseudo-spiritual activities know there is often a form of feedback which may come through intrapersonal processes, physical revelations or magical and other-worldly verbalizations. Wilson further maintains that obituaries, memorial notices, and tombstone messages are the graphic forms of this mode of communication. Among some of the other well-known practices that the scholar highlights are incantations, exorcism, reports about vision and contemplation.

Modern forms of Extra-Mundane are found in obituary and in memorial notices published in newspapers, magazines, radio or television. Traditional communication uses its own devices in acquiring information on pressing issues involving the people in the society in which such communication occurs. The similarities involved in information acquisition and the fact-finding between traditional communication and modern journalism makes it clear that the extramundane mode of communication involves some kind of investigation. This is so because it digs into causes of events and certain happenings in social set-ups and also examines the circumstances leading to the happenings and then informs the community. However, it should be noted here that most of the activities involved in the investigation are in the domain of the unknowable to the ordinary mind and delves into the supernatural. In modern journalism, journalists trained in investigative journalism, gather facts prior to making public or disseminating such information. On the other hand the extra-mundane mode of communication journalism has its specialists e.g. spiritualists, witchdoctors, priests, and oracles who investigate on happenings both in the society in which they operate and beyond. They are believed to have some extraordinary powers and their revelations are believed to be reliable. In this respect, every instruction or information they pass on to the members of that society or community are treated as valid. Cases that may call for investigations through the extra-mundane include the following: 1. Disappearance of a child in the community (river, forests etc.) 2. Abnormal deaths within a family. 3. Causes of constant accidents believed as not common within a given family or community. 4. Cases of witchcraft and revelations made by witch-doctors who communicate with spirits and give instant feedback to what is being investigated. 5. Poor harvest (sacrifices are made after consultations with the chief priest of the community shrine). 6. Finding out a visitor's intention (whether with a good intention or not). Colanut is used, broken and the ancestral spirit called upon to assist in finding solution to the existing problem. 7. Incessant illnesses and abnormal behaviours of some children (constantly attributed to "Abiku or "Ogbanje" in Yoruba and Ibolands respectively). In our traditional and largely rural societies there is the strong belief in the use of spirits, ancestors or supernatural to acquire and disseminate information. In the Ibibio society, for example, the "Ekpo Nduk" or the "Akata" is used to acquire and disseminate such information. In the Bassossi society of South-West Cameroon, the "Mienkum" or "Esapa" serves a similar purpose although their operations or functions may differ a little. The functions of these cults could be seen as some kind of investigative procedure of mass communication in that they dig into the heart of happenings (secret most often) and relay the messages to the people of the society.

Atakpo (1988), in his thesis hammered on the fact that this means of traditional communication was quite important in the pre-Christian era in the Ibibio society stressing that the "Ekpo Nduk was the divination society." It was then one of the means of communication between the living and the dead. It is against this principle and background that the Ibibio have a traditional and functional system of communication through the ancestors of the "Ekpo Nduk." It should be noted that most of the activities of grand societies such as the Ekpo Nduk societies are in camera and non-initiates are not allowed to participate in the activities. According to Essien (1954: 54) in Atakpo's (1988) thesis, ancestor worship was deemed a very important aspect of Ibibio traditional religion. The "Ekpo Nduk" was held secret and due to its sacredness, it was believed that it had the power to know about things that ordinary humans could not. In the early days of the Ibibio civilization people refrained from wrong doings in fear of scandals through the "Ekpo Nduk" because the scandals and the real names and characters of the people involved in theft, adultery, illicit love deals and falsehood were exposed. As a means of checking false information, the traditional priest had to administer the "Mbiam" or "Ngwon" meaning "oath swearing" in Ibibio and Bassosi languages respectively. From the above, we see the "Mienkum" as a means of communication via the ancestors as the communicator was merely a vehicle between the community and the extra-mundane. Local gossips, news, local information were also disseminated through this medium. We see a link here with information acquisition and dissemination by investigation or fact-finding. One would liken this to investigative journalism, as most of the stories were thoroughly investigated before being brought to public hearing. In the Bassosi community, people believe and take the information retreived through "Mienkum" as reliable because of its assumed special spiritual powers and potency in investigating into secret happenings and the belief that at certain moments the society fights with evil spiritual forces to bring out facts which the community cannot easily get. The operations of the "Mienkum or Esapa" helps restore to a greater extent social norms, justice and peace. Consolidating this view Abiodun (2006), emphasizes that culture encompasses the entire gamut of a people's way of life. Culture, he stresses, is reflected in the socio-politico-economic system of a people. And, by far culture is more predominantly reflected in a people's mode of communication. Communication in the extra-mundane also includes incantatory and graphic modes of communication. Incantatory communication includes ritual, libation, vision and many of the forms of meta-physical communication. Graphic communication includes obituary and in memoriam notices published in various ways and channels. According to Wilson and Unoh (1991), institutional media of communication also exist as an extension of the extra-mundane mode of communication. These institutions, they stress, could be social or spiritual among which they include marriage, chieftaincy and other societies. But in the spiritual societies they include the shrine, masquerade and others. Some examples which reflect the extra-mundane communication include the following:

Nsem (fresh palm frond)--This can be used to send as many as five different kinds of information ranging from the personal to the general. Some of the functions identified by Wilson and Unoh (1991), include: * It could be issued to offenders banning them from participating in community activities, or preventing them from leaving the area until the accused are found guiltyless or not guilty. * It could be used as a warning that there is a shrine nearby and strangers are normally not expected to go near the area where it is displayed. * It could be used as a general warning to people to keep off areas that non-initiates are not supposed to go to, most especially areas reserved for secret cults. * It could serve as warning to disputants over a piece of land. * It could be used for arbitration in times of quarrel and thus it is used to stop combatants from continuing in their feuds. But it could, in addition be used to send special messages from one king to another. It should however be noted that this mode of communication may take various forms and reflect various meanings in many African societies and communities, given the existing cultural differences from one society to another as is commonly the case in Cameroon. In most African traditional societies, there is the belief in the existence of ancestral spirits and how these societies practice their traditional religions differ although such differences may not be great. What is very common or most similar is the belief that the spirits of the dead can be called to find out certain issues or solicit special favours. Some of the issues that may prompt investigative journalism through extramundane mode of communication among the Bassosi People of Cameroon for instance are examined here below thus: Situations leading to investigations with the extra-mundane a. Incessant illnesses and abnormal behaviour of some children; In some communities it is believed that cases of continuous ill health and abnormal behaviours are attributable to some supernatural powers most often believed to reside in the thick forests or water where it is believed some water god or mermaid exists and takes control of such abnormal beings. In the Yoruba and Ibolands such children are known as "Abikus" or "Ogbanjes" respectively. Usually, in most societies such children are believed to have some powers and their incessant illnesses attributed to their relationship with their water gods or forests spirits. To set them "free" requires the help of a witch doctor who is believed to have powers to gain access to the supernatural world to investigate from the spirits what they need to set free their human prey. This done, the message is communicated to the family concerned and this most often ends up in ritual performance or sacrifice being made with the assistance of the witch doctor. b. Drought or famine cases;

When this happens in some societies where cases of famine or drought are very rare, people attribute this to the annoyance of the ancestral spirits of the land. They consult the chief priests of the community shrine whom they believe has direct access to the ancestral world. The priest through incantations investigates the root of the problem and appeals or pleads with the ancestral spirits to forgive the people. Whatever response he gets from the supernatural world is communicated to the community. c. Nature of visits by individuals; Most often, the visit of someone considered important calls for the breaking of kolanuts as a welcome symbol. The head of the family or the most elderly person present usually does this at the time of the visit. The head of the family takes and breaks a kolanut into four pieces prayerfully calling on the ancestors to tell him and those present through the kolanuts how the visitor has come whether in good faith or not. He meditates, then throws carefully into the palms of the visitor four pieces of kolanut; if the visitor comes in bad faith, two of the four pieces would fall with the inside covered in the visitor's palms. But if all the kolanuts face upwards then, it would be known and believed the visitor did come in good faith. The outcome will determine what course of action to take. d. Mysterious disappearance of a child or someone in the community; At times people disappear mysteriously within the community, especially children and young men. This is usually attributed to some form of witchcraft. In such cases, it is believed that only the "Escapa" or "Mienkum" cult could solve the problem since this involves confrontation with powerful spirits of the witches and wizards of the supernatural. The "Mienkum" for instance in the Bassossi society is strongly believed to be some ancestral spirit whose duty is to entirely protect the community and restore peace and societal norms. In fact, it is strongly believed that it can hardly be seen but its fierce voice and its ability in unraveling mysterious happenings and events through serious investigation that most witch doctors cannot attempt makes the society to hold this particular grand society in high esteem. Most of its activities in unraveling the secrets or truth behind the mysterious disappearance of a child in a stream or a young man in his farm are nocturnal. "Mienkum" digs into the causes and course of events and brings to light the evils of the society as the situation calls for after thorough investigation into the supernatural world. This is another way we could see the extra-mundane mode of communication as a form of investigative communication. e. Constant accident cases within a family; In most societies, depending on the cultural background of the people, some accidents that most often lead to deaths are considered to be abnormal within family circles. This in many Cameroonian communities, especially in the English-speaking parts calls for investigation through the extra-mundane mode of communication. For example, among the Bayang/Ejagam/Anyang, the family of the accident victim consults elders of the community and members of the "Obasinjom" cult and request to know why and how their son or daughter died or was involved in a particular accident. This is similar to the use of the "Angbo" cult by the

Ejagham people of Cross River State of Nigeria which is used in finding out activities considered to be detrimental to that society. Investigations using the "Obasinjum" involve spiritual chants, incantations and continuous drumming and dancing while trying to get facts from the spiritual world of the dead. When truth is made known to the family of the deceased, a feast known as "Njare" in Ejagham or "saraka" in Bassossi respectively believed to help take away such mishaps completely from the family is organised in order to protect the family concerned. The functions and activities of these mystuo-therapentic orders are similar to investigative forms of communication. f. Sacrifices; These are offerings made by people within a society to appease, (in this context) the ancestors or appreciate the gods for favours done to them as well as find out the cause of a calamity to the community. In most Cameroonian communities or villages, sacrifices are normally performed by priests, witch-doctors, in particular places that serve as community shrines. Typical shrines in the North west and South west province, that is, the iroko tree called ("okoh") decorated with fresh palm fronds and a clay pot containing tobacco, some pieces of kola-nuts, and a bottle of dry gin or schnapps placed on a little mat. This sacrifice, "saraka"is meant to call on the ancestors to cleanse the family. By this, the family communicates with the dead. This done, family members partake of what has been sacrificed, as a way of stopping the successive mishaps into the family in question. Sacrifices of this nature, it should be noted, go with chants and incantations calling and appealing to the ancestors for further guidance and protection. g. Pouring of Libation; Another issue explored in Communication in the Extra-Mundane has to do with the pouring of libation, common with most west and central African societies and Cameroon specifically. This entails the pouring out of gin or palm-wine to the gods or ancestors acknowledging their presence and the significant role to be played on that occasion in question. This done, it is believed the gods or ancestral spirits have been invited to partake of and grace the occasion. It is a common practice during coronations, deaths, births and marriages. The pouring of libation communicates the relationship binding the living and the dead. It is an invitation of the ancestral spirits through invocation and utterances or incantations usually by specially identified individuals during a particular occasion that warrants such libation pouring. CONCLUSION Traditional communication, as Wilson (1990: 281) puts it, is a "complex system of communication, which pervades all aspects of rural and urban life in Africa." It operates at various levels of society. The extra-mundane as one of the modes of traditional communication systems should not be seen only as involving communication between the living and the

supernatural or Supreme Being, but should be seen also as some form of investigative communication. It should be noted that the existence of modern communication systems have not succeeded in exterminating the extra-mundane mode of communication in most African societies since in one way or the other individuals, groups or societies make use of this traditional mode to acquire information of some kind. Still to note is the fact that every human society has its peculiar norms which not only characterize it but which determine the life of its members. In traditional societies, festivals and ritual ceremonies play this role. It should be remarked here that these are occasions for the community or kin group to come together, to sing and dance or in ritual to give expression to the sense of dependence on the ancestors or on other supernatural powers. The traditional African believes strongly in the existence of a Being or Beings whose wishes he must conform with. No doubt the traditional African visualizes life and the world as a whole in the context of his relationship with the sacred realm. More precisely, the essence and continuation of social life are guaranteed through well-determined and periodical contacts with the deities during which the society not only renews its faith in the gods but also reiterates the essential factors of life and death Modum (1978: 46). Communication is therefore perhaps man's second most important need after biological needs. In fact, to satisfy some biological needs man must employ verbal or non-verbal communication. This is why a face-toface system is, and, indeed, all other systems of communication are developed in traditional African societies. In any given society therefore, if people expect to understand themselves, hold some kind of meaningful communication, they must have a common object or event to which they attach a mutually accepted meaning. Secondly, one universal purpose of communication is to influence/stimulate reaction (or feedback as it is now called) from the person to whom the message is addressed. REFERENCES Abiodun, S. 2006. Paradox of a milieu: Communication in African indigenous languages in the age of globalization. In Salawu Abiodun (Ed.), Indigenous Language Media in Africa. Lagos: CBAAC. Atakpo, U. 1988. Rural Communication in Nigeria. Unpublished manuscript, University of Cross River State. Baran, S. 1998. Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture. New York: McGraw Hill. Dominick, J. 1972. The Dynamics of Mass Communication. New York: McGraw Hill Publishers. MacBride, S. 1980. Many Voices, One World. New York: UNESCO Publishing House.

McCombs, M. & Shaw, D. L. 1972. The Agenda-setting Function of the Mass Media. New York: McGraw Hill Publishers. Modum, E. P. 1978. Gods as guests: Music and festivals in African traditional societies. In Kalu Ogbu (Ed.), Readings in African Humanities: African Cultural Development. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co. Ltd. Ola, B. 1986. Cultural perspective in the African mass media. In Nwueli Onuara (Ed.), Mass Communication in Nigeria: A Book of Readings. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co Ltd. Oreh, O. 1978. Modes of communication. In Ogbu Kalu (Ed.), Readings in African Humanities: African Cultural Development. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers. Soola, E. O. 1999. Traditional and modern communication media use and strategies for effective communication. Journal of Communication and Language Arts, I/I. Udoh, C. 1987. The search for cultural identity in African traditional religion. University of Cross River State Cultural Week Magazine. Uyo: University of Uyo. Wilson, D. 1991. A survey of traditional and modern mass media and Solomon Unoh in Old Calabar. In Solomon Unoh (Ed.), Tropical Issues in Communication Arts. Vol. 2. Uyo: Modern Business Press. -. 1990. Traditional communication media systems. In Emmanuel Akpan (Ed.), Communication Arts Principles, Applications and Practices. Uyo: Modern Business Press Ltd. Wilson & Wilson. 1996. Traditional systems of communication in modern Africa: An analytical view point. In Charles Okigbo (Ed.), Development of Communication Principles. Enugu: ACCE Publishers. Bisong Divine Epey Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Buea, Cameroon. & Funge Diffang Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Buea, Cameroon. e-mail: <>