Sunday 13 April 2014

In Ile-Ife, archaeological exhibits herald fresh face of 60-year-museum

By Tajudeen Sowole
The revered city of Ile Ife, has stressed its status as one of the centres of ancient African civilisations as a new exhibition titled Ife Archaeology and Material Culture In Retrospect opened at the city's National Museum, Osun State.

 The exhibition replaces inaugural set of works that opened the museum in 1954 just as the event, held last week, provided the Federal Government an opportunity to disclose that the city may soon get a UNESC0O world heritage city status.

The government also pledged a yearly financial support for the state's popular festival, Osun Osogbo.

(Front row), Hon Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke (left); D-G, NCMM, Mallam Abdallah Yusuf Usman; and Prof Muhib Opeloye during the opening of Ife Archaeology and Material Culture In Retrospect…Recently        

Present at the opening were the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse II; the Deputy Governor of Osun State, Titilayo Laoye Tomori who represented the Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke; Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman; and scholar, chairman of Ife Board, Prof Muhib Opeloye.

The works on display inside the 60-year-old museum included sculptures of figures and households as well as tools made in bronzes, stones, beads and terracotta. While some of them are dated to nearly a thousand years, others are as ancient as 12th and 15th century.

Duke premised the new exhibition on what he described as "the cultural and tourism statements of the Federal Government" as well as "the vision and mission of the NCMM." He argued that the richness of the works in the museum offer a broad research opportunity for visitors and scholars who have interest in "cultural history of the Yoruba."

Disclosing that the Federal Government has proposed to the United Nations Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) a world city heritage status for Ile Ife, Duke hoped that if the international recognition is granted, the city and indeed, Osun State will "enjoy influx of tourists from across the world." Already, the state boasts of, arguably, Nigeria’s most popular internationally recognised yearly festival, the Osun Osogbo. But the minister also disclosed that Federal Government "will start giving Osun Osogbo a yearly financial support," to boost the state government’s efforts.

Aregbesola noted that the new exhibition stresses the importance of Ife "as the centre of civilisation." The city, he stated, has always offered “rich materials in sculpture, painting and memorablia objects that speak to us and inspired us about the future." He however warned that it is not enough to have rich cultural objects on display in a museum, proper preservation through regular maintenance is as important. "I call for discipline and proper maintenance of the museum."

From the Ife Archaeology and Material Culture In Retrospect exhibition 
In his Welcome address, the D-G, Usman, agreed that the city of Ife has a revered place in the world as one of the richest custodian of ancient art, culture and civilisation. He cited the European and U.S touring exhibition Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria as evidence of the city's enviable culture and art status. In 2010 Dynasty and Divinity opened at Foundacion Botin in Santander and Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Madrid, Spain; shown as Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures From West Africa at the British Museum, U.K., and moved to Houston, Richmond and Indianapolis, U.S. in 2011 and berthed in Nigeria, a year after.

On Ife Archaeology…  Usman stated, specifically, that the exhibition "brings to focus the journey of Ife clay, stone and bronze technology." He traced the period of the works on display to historians' estimation of "about 800AD and 12th - 15th century." He explained that the archaeological content of the theme pays tribute to "outstanding heroes of Ife archaeology and material culture."

Indeed, Ife boasts of memorable archaeological discoveries of great cultural objects, courtesy of British colonial era and controversial archaeologist, Leo Frobenius. But it is ironic that the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife, according to an observer, currently has no archaeology department. The chairman of the exhibition Prof Opeloye who also acknowledged the contributions of individuals like Frobenius, K.C Murray and former D-G of NCMM, late Omotoso Eluyemi, faulted the resting of OAU's archaeology section and urged the institution's authority to revive it. "We appeal to the OAU authority to resuscitate the Department of Archaeology of the school that was rested in the 1970s."

With the efforts of architects, K.C Murray who was Supervisor of Antiquities, Malin, the builder and Bennard Fagg, a government archaeologist, the national museum, Ile Ife began its journey in 1954 as the first regional museum.

1 comment:

  1. Archaeology in Nigeria seems to be still dominated by non-Nigerians and dependent of foreign
    assistance. Does any Nigerian authority care about the state of archaeology in Nigeria? Do people
    realize the crucial importance of this discipline for Nigerian and African history? And how can a
    university in Nigeria close its Archaeological Department and thus let all Africa down and dash our
    hopes of discovering more evidence of the Nigerian and African past? When we recall that the
    constant view expressed by some Westerners, some of whom are considered Nigeria’s friends, that
    there is lack of evidence of African achievements, then this closure of an Archaeology Department is
    a shame, if not something worse.

    Kwame Opoku