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By Foluso Ogunsan

 

 

 

 

 

There’s an awakening of cultural nationalism amongst select Nigerians seeking to re-define the Nigerian Museum experience. More often than not, they’re young, mobile, upwardly-driven people steeped in global knowledge of arts, design, use of space and/or curatorial training of a sort. With their prior understanding of the western museum experience, they aim to break away from the mould that African history should be defined from outside its shores.

A pressing reason for such would be repudiation of the western notion that museums are exhibition spaces where conquest, plunder and colonial domination of the West over African territories centuries in past are intentionally displayed for celebration and profitability.

Another reason would be the-coming-of-age of the nationalistic fervour of Nigerian heritage. A mix of the history, context and relationship that has existed in the Nigerian identity itself, vis-à-vis the reawakening of the Nigerian cultural consciousness, a desire to state how we exist in our devised way.

Purposeful identification of the creation of the Nigerian museum for social cohesion and civic responsibility also takes centre-stage. The new Nigerian museum is getting created to tell the Nigerian story from and through Nigerian eyes. Preferring to be more story-based than object based.

“A living resource of teaching and learning” is the apt way Jess Castellote described the recently completed Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art. A university museum that wants to socially impact as a cultural hub with varieties of programmes it will run when fully operational.

“A museum that focusses rather on history, culture, subject matter rather than objects. If we’re looking at our history, we’re looking at our narrative, how can we present it in our own voice, in our own way that is authentic to us”, is Seun Oduwole’s characterization of what the J.K Randle Museum for Yoruba History and Culture.

Jumoke Adenowo’s take on the reawakening of the African museum goes thus- “To truly take ownership of its heritage, Africa needs a new (type of) Museum to house its returning cultural artefacts. A museum is a locus of insemination where minds pollinate minds and catalyse visions to full bloom”. “A museum should be a place where we come to and we open our minds to a new world, to the past, to the present and then we begin to think and envision the future.”

Sustainable funding for these new museum revival projects however poses a real challenge. Some proponents are of the view that social projects may not necessarily translate to economic gains while some believe these projects should include a pecuniary theme if culture and tourism are to become economic reasons for existence.

Time as always will tell if the new found awakened consciousness of the nationalistic fervour in the Nigerian historical fabric of artistical documentation will have and hold its place in the world as it lives on.

Foluso Ogunsan, writer and frequent contributor to BookArtville, was at a recent edition of the Ben Enwonwu Foundation’s Point of View, which discussed Museums, Tourism and Urban Development.

   

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