Shadrach T. Ukuma

  • University of MaiduguriScholarship Holder

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Research Project

Cultural Performances, Healing and Reintegration of Victims of Farmers-Herders Conflict in Central Nigeria: A Study of Daudu Community

The study, “Cultural Performances, Healing and Reintegration of Victims of Farmers-Herders Conflict in Central Nigeria: A Study of Daudu Community”, is informed by the overall idea to build peaceful communities for inclusive sustainable development as encapsulated in No. 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals, 2015. This is coupled with the near absence of empirical evidence in Nigeria on the potentialities of the Arts as a veritable tool for conflict transformation and peacebuilding. It is instructive to note that there exist policy gaps regarding the role of the arts and culture in building inclusive communities in Nigeria. This perhaps explains why development plans and issue-based interventions do not mainstream the arts and culture, but rather treat them as appendages to ‘spice up’ the ‘more serious’ challenges of daily life.

The farmers-herders crisis in Central Nigeria is characterized by mass atrocities including brutal killings, rape, displacements, destruction of livelihoods and heritage, and creating a generally unfavourable environment for cultural practices and expressions thereby leading to a loss of practices and adaptation of new ways of life in a bid for survival. This situation has sharpened divides which directly threaten the aspiration for inclusive communities. Thus, the ideal of ‘sustainability’ suffers as horrid and new experiences do not only destroy tangible and intangible culture, but also force upon the victims new dynamics in their culture and its expressive forms.

In the study area, the Daudu community in Central Nigeria, state and non-state actors in resolving conflicts between farmers and herders have used several approaches, but art-based approaches have received no attention. Judith Marcuse (2009) argues that “Art has the potential to move and change us…”, it creates dialogue and builds connections; it breaks the monologues of war, bridges silence and gets us to hear our own thoughts and those of others. Art therefore becomes a strong instrument of Psychosocial First Aid and Trauma management through the use of cues of music, drama, paintings and drawings to provide options for taking out such individuals and their communities from the cage of psychological distress (WHO, 2011). The above means that by using art, both individuals directly affected by conflict, other persons affected by relationship with the victims and entire community is transformed.

The essential motivation is that theatrical performances have the potential to tap into our expressive aspects of body, mind, and spirit through the use of music, sound, imagery, role play, and movement. This approach will assist victims to attain personal and emotional growth, ego development and psychological integration, behavioural change, the development of social skills, and improvement in quality of life.

The specific interest in cultural performances is deliberate in two ways: first, this is the available theatrical expression in the area and it therefore forms the right idiom with which to communicate and connect with the people. The second is based on the functional meaning of cultural performances. John MacAloon defines Cultural Performances as “the occasion in which as a culture or society, we reflect upon and define ourselves, dramatize our collective myths and history, present ourselves with alternatives, and eventually change in some ways while remaining the same in other” (qtd. in Carlson 23). To Turner, cultural performance is an aesthetic family which includes such genres as folk-epics, ballads, stage dramas, ballet, modern dance, the novel, poetry readings, art exhibitions, and religious ritual (42). This conceptualisation serves the goal of this study. The intervention of cultural performances will cause a coming into contact with the present reality of the people where alternatives for integrated coexistence will be recognised, thereby leading to a change of the ‘unfriendly’ while reinforcing or sustaining the ‘friendly’.

Designed in the qualitative methodology and using the ethnographic approach to data interpretation, this study seeks answers to the level of awareness of the functionality of cultural performances in the promotion of healing and reintegration amongst victims of farmers-herders conflicts in the Daudu community of Central Nigeria; how this can be employed; whether there are constraints; the strategies for surmounting these challenges; and how cultural policy can mainstream cultural sustainability for building inclusive communities in Nigeria.


Shadrach Teryila Ukuma holds Bachelor and Master degrees in Theatre Arts (2006 and 2014, respectively) from the Benue State University, Makurdi-Nigeria, where he also lectures in the Department of Theatre Arts. He is a doctoral degree candidate at the Centre for the Study and Promotion of Cultural Sustainability, University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri, Nigeria. He has special research interests in Cultural Tourism, Performance Studies and Creative Peace-building. His involvement with the Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP), where he is presently the Assistant National Secretary, has exposed him to practical field experiences in Advocacy, Creative Peace-building and Theatre Therapy. In October 2013, he participated in the UNODC/NAPTIP training of trainers’ short course for NAPTIP/NACTAL Counsellors and Social Workers on Basic Counselling & Social Work Skills in the Management of Trafficked Persons (TPs), which training qualified him as a resource person for the training of the NAPTIP/NACTAL staff. He has also served as quality assurance consultant and workshop facilitator for the Foundation for Justice, Development and Peace (FJDP) of the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, particularly on their MISEREOR funded Peace projects dealing with farmers-herders conflicts in Benue and Nasarawa States of Nigeria. Shadrach Teryila Ukuma also has experience and keen interest in community building/organizing. He has published several articles in the areas of Performance Aesthetics, Cultural Performances and Creative Peace-building as well as Literary Criticism. He is a Research Fellow of the Institute for French Research in Africa (IFRA); and member, African Theatre Association (AfTA), and Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA).