With Igbo Household, Owerri museum celebrates Ndi-Igbo’s lifestyle
By Tajudeen Sowole
The role of museum in the preservation of cultural and artistic heritage of a people is being reinforced through an exhibition by the National Museum, Owerri, Imo State, entitled: Igbo Household (Ezi na ulo Ndi- Igbo).
Largely in contemporary rendition, but depicting Igbo traditional architecture, occupation and vocation, the works dwell on the people’s spirituality, within family and the extended communal level.
The Ozuruigbo V of Owerri, Eze Njamanze (right) and D-G, NCMM, Abdallah Yusuf Usman
The opening of the exhibition also marked the official presentation of the museum to the people of Imo State. Although it is one of the 34 national museums across the country, its collections have not been presented to the public since it commenced operation in 1988, as there was no gallery in place.
During the opening, the Director-General of the National Commission for Museum and Monuments (NCMM), Abdallah Yusuf Usman stated that the conceptualisation of the Igbo Household exhibition is the fulfillment of the mandate of the NCMM “to integrate all aspects of the nation’s cultural heritage for development.”
He explained that Igbo Household is in line with government’s involvement in the propagation of Nigerian culture as well as underscoring “the importance of culture in promoting unity and peaceful co-existence among the people.”
As the curator of the museum, Mrs Chioba Francisca Uboh led visitors during the tour of the exhibits, the importance of preserving people’s cultural value, which the King of Owerri, Eze Njamanze (Ozuruigbo V) had earlier stressed in his palace, was felt.
When the monarch received the delegation of NCMM, led by Usman, he lamented the destruction, particularly during the Nigerian Civil War (1967 to 1970), of vast cultural objects and monuments in his kingdom.
|The huts section of the Igbo Household exhibition.|
Tracing the existence of the town to the “14th century,” he disclosed that the name, which means “I got my thing back,” emerged from a conflict between brothers.
The Ozuruigbo however noted the importance of government in revival of cultural value and argued that development would continue to elude a nation that neglects its cultural value.
The Igbo Traditional Architecture section of the exhibition also underscores the Ozuruigbo’s advice that “government should support the revival of culture in the villages.”
Native technology of the people is recreated in the Smelting and Smithing sections of the gallery. An inscription explains that blacksmithing was of ancestral importance “because of the myth that it contributed to the creation of the world.”
The section on settlement and architecture shows a sense of sanity in such installations as the assembly hall (mgbala –ogo), The Men Hut, The Women Hut and Adult Male House.
One of the inscriptions says the male house is located close to the assembly hall of the community. The women hut, according to the text “is the cradle of the household, where children are nurtured and groomed.”
In pottery, carving, weaving, the art of craftsmanship is also celebrated. However, each of these areas, according to a source, has peculiarity in certain sections of the Igbo people.
For example, “Akwete weaving is most predominant among the people of Abia.”
For the people of Okigwe, Inyi, Ekulu-Udi, Ishiagu, Afikpo and Abakaliki, it’s pottery, while carving was famous among the people of Awka, Afikpo, Orlu and Mbaise.
Stressing the family value essence of the exhibition, part of the guiding texts explain that spiritual sanity, which has ancestral link “include moral codes and etiquette,” within and outside the purview of religion.
Earlier, at the opening, the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha described the exhibition as unique and “congratulated the entire Igbo race for the revival of their culture through this museum display.” Represented by the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Engr. Alex Ogwazuo, the governor also commended the NCMM for the commissioning of the museum and using a crucial aspect of the people’s cultural value, the household as focus of the exhibition.
Vocation section of the Igbo Household exhibition at National Museum, Owerri, Imo State.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, represented by Usman, congratulated Okorocha for being the governor at a period of twin ceremonies: commissioning of National Museum Owerri and the opening of its permanent exhibition/gallery.
Duke noted that the “famed Igbo-Ukwu Art corpus: traditional songs, music and dances, especially ikeji or Iri-iji, Ofala, igele ekpe and others have added to the immense potentials of tourism in Nigeria.”
According to him, “the conceptualisation of Igbo Household was to recreate the Igbo life style, by exploring the people’s creativity, political, economic and social organisation around the household.”
Tracking the history of National Museum Owerri, Usman recalled that it commenced operation at its current location in 1988 to fulfill the policy thrust of the government, which is aimed at establishing museums in each state capital to promote museum culture and national unity.
He also commended the state government, the governor in particular, for “making our dream come though by providing another expanse of land for the construction of a new museum.”
The House Committee Chairman on Culture and tourism Hon. Ben N Nwankwo described the exhibition as a “fantastic recap of the history of pre-colonial Igbo people”.