In the advancement of European empires, the widespread approach to colonizing foreign lands was through violence. The Europeans would arrive in new territories with their sophisticated weapons and ideals, and would forcibly subjugate the indigenous people. However, in the instance of the English colonization of Nigeria’s town Ake, the English colonists implemented colonization through cultural imperialism. The English began implementing their process of cultural imperialism through converting the people of Ake into their religion, Christianity.
The English, like most colonizing countries, understood that influencing the Nigerian people would come much easier once they were under religious control.
The English utilized the brilliant ploy of employing Nigerians to spread Christianity to their own people. The Nigerians who compromised and promoted English concepts were rewarded for their deeds. For example Wole Soyinka’s family was rewarded by being given the security of a parsonage. However, this was actually given as a result of Essay’s contribution to the spread of English education, through his position as headmaster of the school.
Education, therefore, became another aspect of English culture used to promote cultural imperialism in Ake. The Nigerians were made to assimilate many English ideals through the education process, which commenced at a young age. The English also required the Nigerians to study their language. By teaching the people of Ake English, the English colonists were able to engrave their ideals into them. The education system furthermore was able to be used to keep a watchful eye on the students, and to control the mindsets of the best and brightest of them.
This use of cultural imperialism helped prevent Nigerian intellectuals from becoming political opponents. The English accomplished this by having a government school for advanced students. Although the English didn’t openly colonize the Nigerians through violence, there was a subtle form of violence often used to inscribe English beliefs through education and religion. For example Wole Soyinka had Christian beliefs beat into him by the frequent use of “the rod” at home, and English manners impressed upon him by principal Daodu’s use of “the rod” at school.
Additionally, the English colonists imparted the technological cultural luxuries of electricity and the radio on Wole’s family. This made them even more dependent on English ways. The installation of the radio into the Soyinka household played an important role of cultural imperialism by introducing the English culture directly into their home. The media can have an incredible influence on a society. As mentioned in the The Years of Childhood, Essay and his friends became obsessed with listening to the news on the radio. Thus the English were now capable of distorting daily events by controlling the news.
An important incentive for Europeans to colonize in Africa was taxation, so it too was used to implement cultural imperialism. The wealth accumulated through taxation was a main factor in the economic success of European nations. Taxation was particularly harsh on Ake’s women. This was so much so that the Nigerians started an uprising to abolish taxes on women. As the English knew, to keep the men of a country under control, they first had to satisfy the country’s women and ultimately agreed to abolish the taxation on women.