Folklore in Our Lives [Archives:2001/18/Culture]

April 30 2001

By Nabil Mustafa Mahdi
Manager of Information Department
Aden University
A group of scientists in London agreed on founding a word representing the science of traditional popular customs and arts. The new word that was officially added to English language is ‘folklore’, which has later been translated to all languages in the world, including Arabic to the ‘science of traditional popular customs and arts’.
During the mid 19th century, this word started to gain popularity and helped drive attention and improve popular traditions everywhere in the world. The word had become a major branch of science in itself. It had its own theories, researchers, and categories. This science gained more popularity as time passed until it has become one of the major topics in many international conferences and seminars all over the globe. In the Arab world, efforts have been exerted to establish institutions and centers dealing with Arabic folklore. Tens of Arab printing and distribution houses started the distribution of university research and scientific papers along with hundreds of books on Arab proverbs, stories, and lyrics about specialized folklore related topics.
The significance and attention paid to folklore and the efforts to develop and discuss folklore material raise an important key question: Why is such importance given to those inherited arts and traditions?
The importance of the glorious folklore of the past becomes evident when seeing the great importance developed industrial nations gave to this particular science. These nations, which were the pioneers in discovering outer space and created the most advanced technologies couldn’t have done so if they hadn’t studied and appreciated folklore of their own and of other nations. Those developed countries had built folklore museums and translated thousands of publications explaining the folklore of many nations of the world.
When the United Nations founded its cultural committees, it made sure that the study of world nations’ folklore is given the share it deserves by forming the International Folklore Committee (IFC). After World War II, the International Culture Organization started sponsoring the activities of the Paris-based IFC. Hence, it is clear that the developed world does understand the importance of folklore not only of their nations, but of all countries in the world. The study of the different prospects of folklore values and literature represents another way of looking into the unwritten history of the human race through many generations and many eras. And knowing that history is a vital scientific branch, which if studied well would serve as a basis for future planning and development. This is why studying folklore (as in studying history) has been a main factor behind the progress and evolution of the developed world.
However, those old traditions and arts are slowly moving towards extinction due to the tremendous global changes that are affecting people everywhere. The industrial revolution and globalization are participating to erase the links and bonds to old inherited traditions and arts of older generations.
The gap between the traditions of the past and the style of life of today is widening by the day. Younger generations tend to abandon their fathers and forefathers traditions, which they consider as ‘old’ and ‘outdated’. Many folklore scientists have been urging many countries of the world to double their efforts to limit the effects of the current styles of life in schools and colleges on those countries’ respected folklore.
To combat this wave of change that is slowly extinguishing folklore, scientists have started discussing the different options and possibilities to help in reviving folklore and limiting the effects on it by the changes taking place in the world.
The first option was to expand the folklore science to cover more areas. In the past, folklore has only been dealing with popular literature in the form of story telling and certain traditional customs, etc. The scientists are calling to include every single popular custom and art that are still present today in many nations, either in cities and industrial regions, or in remote villages any where in the world.
The other option is to merge folklore with the social sciences and the human culture related sciences, which will give folklore a matched importance as any other social science and prevent it from dying further as a science.
Finally, it is important to stress that as Arabs our folklore is among the most vulnerable to the effects of globalization and the New World Order. We need to participate effectively in keeping our folklore and the study the folklore of different nations of the world alive. Along with developing our countries culturally, technologically and in all aspects. We need a balance between what is original and what is new in our daily attitudes, and in our arts, sciences and customs. The different sciences, old and new, must be given great attention without neglecting any of them because they enrich our lives in many ways. Among those important sciences that we should always pay attention to is no doubt, the science of folklore.