Sunday 27 October 2013

To protect cultural heritage, Nigerian conservators, Chinese experts converge at Lagos museum

By Tajudeen Sowole
  In preserving the vast collections of ancient and modern art under Nigeria’s two major government agencies, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and National Gallery of Art (NGA), regular conservation exchanges with foreign experts is crucial, so suggests a workshop organised in collaboration with Chinese government in Lagos.

The four-day workshop held at the National Museum, Onkan, Lagos few days ago, involved conservators from NCMM and NGA selected across national museums and galleries in the country.
One of the Chinese delegates speaking during the opening of the workshop at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos

As a meeting point for art and science, conservation of art, it has been noted, could be very complex. With increasing premium being placed on cultural objects across the world, particularly in boosting domestic and international tourism, Nigeria’s national museums and galleries spread across the country cannot afford not to step up their games, experts have always argued.

Stressing the commitment of NCMM in protecting the nation’s heritage, the Director-General, Mallam Abdallah Yusuf Usman explained that the importance government placed on the invaluable collections in the national museums spread across the country makes seeking of expatriates inevitable. Speaking through his representative,  Director of Museum, Abuja, Rosemary Bodum, during the opening of the workshop in Lagos, Usman said the NCMM believes in the “ability of the Chinese conservators to impart knowledge in the field of conservation”.

The Director-General of NGA, Abdullahi Muku recalled that the journey towards organizing the workshop started last year through conferences and seminars. Muku’s representative at the workshop, Zakari Adamu expressed the D-G’s confidence in the workshop: “NGA believes the horizon of conservation will be wider in the exchange of ideas with our Chinese visitors”.
The Chinese delegation of conservators was led by Deputy Director of Art Department, Bearua of Culture Affair, Wang Qi . Other members included Deputy of Nanjing Municipal Museum, Wu Tian; Director of Collection Division, Qiu Xiao Yong;
Expert in Collection Restoration, Wang Ju sheng;
Curator of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, Xu pei pei
Wang Qi noted that China and Nigeria have been enjoying relationship in other sectors of the economy, except in the area of conservation.  He stressed the importance of protecting a people’s cultural heritage and hoped that “we can make progress with the four-day workshop”.

A Chinese conservator and Nigerian participants during the workshop in Lagos.

One of the ongoing efforts of NCMM in the area of conservation include a partnership with the Ford Foundation and British Museum. Specifically, the partnership, which is confined to the Onikan museum has led to the renovation of the galleries and retraining of staffs in conservation. More importantly, computerization of the facility as well as installation of a conservation laboratory has been ongoing.
Three years ago, the Onikan museum and Ford Foundation had launched a joint rehabilitate project worth $2 million Dollars. Two years after the project took off, the collaboration started yielding the target goals: as the galleries got new look when a new exhibition Nigerian Art in the Cycle of Life was mounted.     
Also, the Onikan museum, courtesy of the Ford Foundation has converted certain portion of the office to a computer laboratory for the training of staff on the computerised documentation of collections, the museum stated last year.

 “The computer lab is for capacity building in documentation to replace the analogue system. The Ford Foundation has also funded the building of a new gallery converted from several old offices”.

The conservation lab, when completed, is projected to serve the entire West Africa coast.

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