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The Museum Of West African Art Opens its Doors to the City in Three-Day Educational Fair

August 15 2023
4 minute read
The Museum of West African Art, Edo (MOWAA) is proud to announce their first Open Day event which was held on the site of the Pavilion, their first building dedicated to research and conservation in Benin City. Spotlight was placed on archaeology, providing a glimpse of what it looks like in practice. MOWAA hopes to upgrade conservation efforts in Nigeria, ensuring that any construction work that could damage surviving remains are properly protected and training specialists to professionalise heritage practice.

The three-day event took place from June 1-3 and provided informative tours of the future Pavilion centre and educated visitors on the benefits it will offer the city in terms of investment, jobs and educational opportunities. The diverse turnout included other NGOs, students, artists, artisans, community groups and curious residents. Representatives from the National Commission of Museum and Monuments (NCMM), the Archaeological Association of Nigeria, the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and the Universities of Benin and Ibadan were also in attendance.
Visitors were encouraged to try their hands out at a live dig, pottery workshops, and other exciting activities that highlight the significance of archaeology in promoting community values and supporting local tourism. Those in attendance learned how scientific studies of buried remains can help us uncover knowledge of our past – from ancient diets and farming practices to how great wall fortresses were built.

Development of the Pavilion is already underway, with completion scheduled for early 2024. When complete, the Pavilion will host state-of-the-art storage facilities, and the best equipped labs for conservation, digital production, archaeology and applied material science in West Africa. The educational facility will also provide year-round professional training, internships and outreach activities to sustainably grow relevant skills for heritage and creative economies.

“We are thrilled to open our doors to the community.” said Ore Disu, Director of the MOWAA Pavilion. “This Open Day is a platform to foster a deeper understanding of the importance of archaeology in preserving our cultural legacy and share some of our exciting new discoveries. We are excited to get more cultural practitioners and residents in touch with the Pavilion’s work, which is already proving to be a dynamic space for research, education, and community outreach. None of this would be possible without our local and international partners, who are as committed as we are to serve communities in Nigeria.”

Eager to contribute to the education and development in Edo State, MOWAA has already begun delivering programmes, three of which were showcased during the Open Day. These projects are in partnership with the National Commission of Museums and Monuments, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), the British Museum, Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Wessex Archaeology and the Open Society Foundation. The event also displayed ongoing outreach activities with local schools and community stakeholders undertaken since September 2022.The event showcased a series of archaeological studies carried out prior to the construction in partnership with the British Museum and in close collaboration with the National Commission of Museums and Monuments. These institutions have been supporting the local homegrown archaeological team to preserve remains that could be lost or damaged during the building process as well as educating volunteers from University of Benin.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum said:
“A core part of the British Museum’s mission is to work in partnership with colleagues from around the world to develop our shared understanding of cultural heritage.  We’re honoured to be working with MOWAA and the NCMM in Benin City and to be part of the team helping establish a new age of archaeological best practice in Nigeria. Supporting initiatives that equip communities to deliver vital research and heritage preservation programmes is an important part of the British Museum’s work and we look forward to our ongoing role within the project.”

The British Museum’s comments were echoed by the National Commission. In her opening remarks at the event, Ms. Anna Adamu-Abui, Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Heritage Studies stated:
“NCMM plays a dual role of supervising and collaborating with MOWAA in the research itself. The Commission has ensured that the ongoing project adheres to ethical and legal standards, including the protection of cultural heritage, in compliance with relevant regulations. The benefit of collaborative research is demonstrated in the use of modern techniques and equipment, which I have personally experienced. These collaborations leverage on the expertise and resources of both institutions, leading to a more impactful and comprehensive research.”

Young and old visitors alike were drawn to exciting virtual reality simulations from Edo|Cation project. This project is a collaboration between DAI and MOWAA, majorly funded by the German Federal Foreign Office. Its focus is on studying and promoting preservation of the famed Benin Moats.

Dr. Jörg Linstädter, Director of the Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Countries (KAAK) remarked:
“It has been a real privilege to join MOWAA on this journey of digitally mapping historic buildings and archaeological landscapes of historic Benin. With the work our joint team has been doing in deploying technology such as photogrammetry, it has enabled us to work towards detailed records of the great moats for the Nigerian people, and the world, to study and appreciate for years to come.”

Other collaborations on display including an exhibition curated by students from the recently concluded extensive in-school program, Open Learning, funded by the Open Society Foundation.

Speaking at the press event, Phillip Ihenacho, director of EMOWAA Trust, spoke on the future ambitions of the young non-profit. “We have decided to update our brand identity to emphasize our focus. So going forward we will use the Museum of West African Art, Edo (MOWAA). This signifies a new chapter for our organization. We have already been approached by organisations in West Africa about potential collaborations. In future, we hope to establish other centres of creativity and learning across Nigeria and beyond to grow our global presence.”

General Information

MOWAA Panel for Press Event

  • Phillip Ihenacho, Director, EMOWAA Trust
  • Ore Disu, Director, MOWAA Pavilion, Center for Arts and Heritage Management
  • Dr. Segun Opadeji, MOWAA Senior Archaeological Field Lead & Senior Lecturer of Archaeology, University of Ibadan & NCMM
  • Charles le Quesne, Senior Advisor on Heritage Management

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