Saturday 16 November 2013

‘Nok exhibition should have held in Nigeria before moving to Germany’

Nigerian Nok teracotta, currently showing in Germany
In faulting the recently opened Nok exhibition held in Germany and organised by Leibieghaus  Sculpturesammlung  in collaboration with the Goethe University and the support of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments(NCMM), Abuja, the Archaeological Association of Nigeria {ANN}, through its president, Dr Zacharys Anger Gundu, argued that the exhibition should have been held in Nigeria before moving to any other part of the world. 

The exhibition titled Nok.  Origin of African Sculpture opened on October 30 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany. ending February 28, 2014,

Dr Gundu noted that the Nok terracotta sculptures, being among “Nigeria’s most strategic heritage resources” deserve should not have been exhibited in Germany ahead of Nigeria “even when it is clear the Nigerian audience has a more direct connection” with the objects. He insisted that the exhibition “is a disservice to the country”.
  His words: “Nigerians should have been given the opportunity to enjoy, connect with  and be educated by the exhibition before the Germans.  We know of no country in the world that would allow others to study their heritage to a point of exhibiting the results of their study elsewhere before the exhibition debuts in the country of origin.
  “German scholars seem to be exploiting the duplicity and lack of understanding in the leadership of the NCMM to appropriate rights to the control and study of the country’s archaeological resources. Only in 2007, the Germans exported tons of materials excavated from the site of Durbi Takusheyi  in Katsina for restoration and conservation at the Romisch-Germanisches Zentral Museum in Mainz. These materials went on exhibition in Germany in 2011 with the promise that the materials will return to Nigeria in 2012. To the best of our knowledge, the Takusheyi materials are yet to be returned into the country. With the current exhibition, it means two important classes of Nigerian archaeological  materials are outside the country. This is clearly unacceptable.
Some of the Nok Teracotta, currently showing in Germany
  “The letter and spirit of the MOU between the Germans and the NCMM on the project has also been breached. Though the Germans claim in the online advertisements on the exhibition that they are partnering with two Nigerian universities on the project which started in 2005, the AAN notes that it was only in 2012  that the MOU was reviewed to allow the participation of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Jos in the project. To the best of our knowledge, scholars from these two universities are yet to be properly involved in the project. This may explain why no scholar from these two Nigerian universities has co authored even a single paper with the Germans on the project.

  “There is also the vexed question as to how the more than 100  Nok sculptures and pieces on exhibition got to Frankfurt. In 2010, when the AAN  raised alarm on the wholesale exportation of Nok materials to Germany by Professor Breunig and his team, the Germans vehemently denied this, claiming only samples for analysis were been exported. The NCMM that had also been supporting this wholesale exportation also denied this, accusing the Association  of raising a false alarm. Unfortunately, neither the Germans nor the NCMM could tell us where the Nok materials were stored since the beginning of the project in 2005. If these materials were exported irregularly to Germany and lack proper documentation, we would want to draw attention of the NCMM and the Germans to the many international conventions in archaeology heritage management and  museums that prohibit the exhibition of looted materials.

  “The AAN is concerned that Nigeria may not have proper records of these materials some of which were exported as sealed deposits in POP to Germany.   In at least one case the Association knows of, sealed deposits from Garaje(on the outskirts of  Kafanchan) were taken to Germany on the condition that they would be opened in the presence of Nigerian archaeologists to ascertain their cultural contents. These were however opened at the Romisch-Germanisches Zentral Museum in Mainz without Nigerian archaeologists’ presence.

  “The NCMM instead of protecting our heritage and archaeological resources is unfortunately supporting German academic colonization of archaeology in the country. The NCMM is making it difficult for Nigerians to take hold of  the country’s past and reclaim the right to study and interpret it. What is the benefit of the project to Nigeria when ALL those who have gotten their postgraduate degrees from the project since inception are Germans?
“ The NCMM owes Nigerians an explanation on the Durbi Takusheyi finds and a commitment that the finds will be returned to Nigeria where they belong without further delay . Nigerians also need to know when the Nok materials will return to country and what efforts the NCMM is making to ensure that what is returned to the country is not fake. The AAN  also requests  a public disclosure of all the archaeological reports that the German team has written on their fieldwork in Nigeria.

   “The AAN wants to draw the attention of the NCMM and the Germans to the resolution of the 6th World Archaeological Congress in Jordan early in the year to abide by the project MOU and international best practices in managing the project. The Association is particularly concerned with the non involvement of archaeologists and graduate students from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Jos in the fieldwork and analysis stages of the project.
“ The AAN is concerned that Nigeria must retain a level of control on research, dissemination and exhibition of the country’s vast archaeological resources. While we are not against international collaboration, we must be accorded the right to interpret our past and be the first to enjoy it and benefit from the education that comes from exhibiting it. Where collaborations are skewed against the country, the AAN calls for an urgent appraisal of such collaborations,  to give Nigerians the opportunity to take charge of their heritage and archaeological resources.

Nigerian delegation to Germany, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke (left), D-G, NCMM, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman and one of the German hosts.

Why Nigeria exhibited Nok in Germany, by Usman D-G, NCMM
The Director-General of NCMM, Mallam Abdallah Usman who responded to the fears of AAN stated: “The Archeological materials were conserved and restored in Germany.  It stands to reason to exhibit them there first, to minimize mounting and dismantling of fragile objects, which bringing it first to Nigeria before returning it to Germany would have required.  The new MoU, which Dr. Gundu has immense input in, took this into consideration viz Article 5.H of 2012 MoU.
  “On the Participation of University Lecturers:   Dr. Gundu may not be aware (as he admits) that Ahmadu Bello University formally accepted the collaboration and indeed nominated a lecturer in the person of Aliyu Adamu-Isah, who accordingly worked with Professor Breunig recently.  Professor Jemkur’s statement answers for University of Jos adequately.
 “Takusheyi:These materials were conserved and restored at Mainz, where the practice is to show the scientific world the result of their work.  That the materials did not return to Nigeria on the date earlier planned has to do with some logistic constrains including the completion of the renovation of Katsina Museum, where the materials will be exhibited.  Now that the renovation is complete, a new date for the return of the Takusheyi objects has been fixed.
 “Authoring Articles:  Mr. Ameje co-authored an article with Prof. Breunig and Dr. Ruppo.  In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Prof. Jemkur and Dr. Hambolu contributed a chapter each.  The Honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke and myself (DG NCMM) wrote the Preface and Foreword respectively.  It is to be noted that Mr. Bitiyong another archaeologist with interest in Nok was actually approached to write a chapter but due to his busy schedules, could not do so.
“Training of Nigerian PhD Candidate: Dr. Gundu is aware that we have been discussing this issue and do have in mind messrs Aliyu Adamu Isah, Adeniyi Aribido and Ann Adamu as potential candidates to be trained at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira.
  “The exhibition has brought the Federal Republic of Nigeria Good will as Minister Edem Duke used the opportunity to sell Nigeria outside petroleum.  In fact after the exhibition in Nigeria, it will still go on International tours in line with the Federal Government cultural diplomacy.
  “It should also be noted that His Excellency the Governor of Kaduna State Alhaji Ramalan Muktar Yero who was at the opening used the occasion to market the Tourism and Culture potentials of his sate to an international audience.
  “It is to be expected that when progress is being recorded-based on a mutually redesigned MoU – it should be acknowledged by all stakeholders”.

‘Materials are safe and all of us are satisfied with their conditions’ Prof. J. F. Jemkur
A member of the Nigerian professional community in the archaeology field, Prof Jemkur who is of the Deptartment of Archaeology, University of Jos, Plateau State witnessed the opening of the exhibition. He assured that there is no fear over the safety of the exhibits.
  Jemkur stated: “I was at the exhibition which opened on 29th October, 2013 representing the University of Jos as one of the participating partners in the project after the reworked MOU of 2012. The exhibition was well attended by scholars from most parts of the world with great enthusiasm. All agreed that the exhibition was well organized.
  “These points had been discussed with the Germans, NCMM and AAN at some earlier fora and agreement reached. Explanations have been advanced as to why the exhibition was going to kick off in Frankfurt.
  “The letter and spirit of the MOU between the Germans and the NCMM has not been breached (to my mind). This is because i-iii took place before the reworked MOU between the NCMM and the Germans with inputs from AAN. The 2012 signed MOU specifically brought in two Nigerian Universities – Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Jos as partners in the project. In the first quarter of 2013 the University of Jos was formally written by NCMM. The University has since accepted the offer and is being represented by its Dept. of Archaeology. It was because of this that I was invited to contribute a chapter to the exhibition (which I did).

Another set of the Nok teracotta pieces in Germany.

After the opening ceremony the participating partners (Goethe University, NCMM and the University of Jos) held a meeting on 31/10/13[1] to appraise the future of the project. It was agreed all that the signed MOU be fully complied with by all parties. That all materials on exhibition and others to be returned to Nigeria in the first quarter of 2014 and the exhibition mounted in one or two cities in Nigeria.

I assure Nigerians that the materials are safe and all of us are satisfied with their conditions.
  “Apart from the participating stake holders from Nigeria, the Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, the Executive Governor of Kaduna State and HRH, the Chief of Jaba were all at the exhibition. The Minister and the Governor all made speeches at the opening ceremony. The Nigerian Ambassador to Germany was also at the opening ceremony.

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