Thursday, April 26, 2007


Teracotta sculpture of hand holding Akoko, a symbolic tree in western Nigeria

Brian surgery by traditional Doctors

A rusty silence echoes loudly in these empty halls of historic memorabilia, the archaic objects that reveal details of times past unfutunately remain of limited intreast to most Nigerians. Perharps the intellectual battles fought internationally for the protection of our cultural heritage will also continue to be in the restricted beaureuacratic boundries of foreign policy and academic analysis.
But then again, perharps it might not, especially if the Nigerians near obssesive intreast in politics and sports is eased with the sublime benefits of our aboundant cultural history, especially the visually stimulating creations of our forbears.
Theft of antique arts and crafts, African or otherwise has always existed since the commencement of imperialism, so it does not come as a surprise that much of our cultural heritage is gradually losing its context, the gradual erosion of facts as artifacts travel from smuggler to one owner to another is the unavoidable reality of such stolen works.
The western world that once viewed African art as backward and barbaric have since changed their tune, recognising the significant contibution of African Art to humanity. Unfortunately many Nigerians have not yet changed their views, as comptemporary art struggles to gain its rightful place in the hierachy of relevance in the budgets of individuals and government, the archaic pieces of histroy have even less of a chance of surviving this cultural annihilation.
Unlike Picasso, who was once insipred to paint Les Demoiselles d’Avignon when he saw African masks, heralding an influencial art movement – cubism, inspiration is the last thing many Nigerians experience when viewing, (if ever they do) the seemingly unappealing images of antiques. The infrequent visits to musuems show the less than enthusiastic intreast in our artistic and cultural history, not to mention the general opinion on, what the west consider cultural treasures, which many here have rejected as fetish, backward, ungodly or simply too gross.

A flicker of hope lies in the latest trend of originality in the entertianment and fashion industry, if the youthful exhuberance that have taken these sectors by storm engulf our Musuems and other National Monuments, perharps it will become “cool” to visit a musuem or other places of historic relevance.
The resulting hype may bring the attention of private investors and local leaders to the problems of these crumbling structures. Untill art and history becomes acessible to all, it will never flourish solely in the hands of die-hard intellectualls and eccentric artists. One of the most essential aspects of tourism, is the reverantial display of our cultural history and artistic legacy, many of us tend to pay only lip service to our “rich cultural heritage”.
So, lets assume charity begins at home, genuine intreasts in the presevation of our cultural identity can be as simple as visiting a musuem, and most importantly respecting the archaic works that may appear worn and unappealing. Afterall, recent research has revealed that many types of African visual art have messeges that transcend mere aesthetic appeal.
Although certain native objects have been created with the specific purpose of selling them to interested foreign parties many were not made to end up in a museum or a private collection but to serve a ritual or utilitarian purpose in a traditional setting.
Native objects convey an ethnopharmacological message by embodying the diversified and ingenious ways in which mankind has applied natural resources in its daily struggle for survival and in its quest for religious experiences.
In this way, the objects can do much to inform and please spectators. Just as the Nok terracotta sculptures reveal the early leap of our ancestors from the stone age to iron age, many other antiques unattractive they may seem to the typical person, hold secrets to times past, if only we will listen to the silent whispers of aged wisdom.

All that Glitters is not gold,
All that is tarnished must not be sold.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

True! Many ancient treasures have been stolen or destroyed in the name of civilization. I hope Nigeria is able to preserve what's left.

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