Lagos National Museum known for housing the largest collection of Nigerian arts within one museum recently held an exhibition to commemorate the visit of the president of Ford Foundation, Mr. Luiz Ubinas.
Ubinas, who came in the company of the deputy vice president of the Foundation, Dr. Jacob Gayle, is on a tour of the museum stores to review the works that the Foundation has funded over the past two years. And this includes upgrade of the museum’s infrastructure, installation of a computer laboratory and the initiation of a multi-faceted training programme for museum professionals within Nigerian museum system.
In addition, the Foundation has recently voted another $2 million dollars for the revitalisation of the museums.
It was also a forum for the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) to formally announce the partnership of the Lagos National Museum with the Ford Foundation and the Arts and Business Foundation.
The exhibition with the theme: All is not lost, a national treasure worth preserving, started with a tour round the museum, with the officials of the National Museum conducting the entourage round, showing them the well over 40,000 art objects housed in the museum, their names and what they symbolised.
The exhibition witnessed the presence of personalities including government representatives such as Mr. George Nkanta Ofot, Acting Director (culture), Nath Mayo Adediran, Director, Museums, Mrs. Aderenle Ogunsanya, representing the Lagos State government, Frank Okonta and Basir Badamosi, all variously spoke on their commitment to the revitalisation of the museums.
Mr. Tayo Aderinokun, a member of the entourage and the head of the Arts and Business Foundation, explaining how much the business community has tried in getting involved with the Nigerian arts, said that the major impediment they encounter was the lack of a coordinated formal platform through which the business community can support the arts.
The Arts and Business Foundation is a newly incorporated NGO whose mission is to liaise between the arts and business community and distribute funding for specific cultural programmes. It has chosen the renovation of the Lagos museum as its first major undertaking. It also has Dr. Mbola Fajemirokun, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo and Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters as its steering committee members.
Also present at the exhibition was the representative of the British Museum, Mr. Jonathan King who expressed the commitment of the British Museum in bringing back life to the National Museum. This according to him, they started in 2007 by setting up a training programme in West Africa out of which eight different workshops have been held in different West African countries to teach the workers about storage, conservation and good house keeping.
Continuing, he said what is important to the British Museum is that Nigeria is the leading African nation, hence their commitment to its course. He also expressed satisfaction at the transformation he witnessed in his present visit as against what he met on ground when he came around some few months ago.
While Chief Emeka Anyaokun, former Commonwealth Secretary, who is said to be the driving force in the revitalisation of the national museums said the museum is just a glimpse of the very rich legacy of the culture of this nation and that the significance of conservation and storage of our cultural heritage goes beyond what we in Nigeria take it to be.
He also went further to say that the expedition and export of the Benin artifact in 1897 marked the climax of the popularity of the Nigerian artifacts and made the national museum gain significance. He added that instead of sustaining and preserving that legacy, the national museum went into a state of decline. He stressed the embarrassment he felt when he took his Canadian visitor to the national museum, this he said, led to his registering his displeasure at the state of the museum to the presidency, the result of which saw Dr. Ekpo Eyo back in the helms of affairs at the national museum.
He also acknowledged the invaluable support of the British Museum, who he said are very keen to support the Nigeria museums as well as others in the West African regions. Speaking further, he said if Mr. Tayo Aderinokun, whom he claims to know very well, brings his characteristics to bear on the museum, he will succeed in bringing about a complete turn around to the museums as the survival of the museums is critical to the survival of our cultural, traditional and national unity.
The Ford Foundation has been providing support to both the private and public sectors in Nigeria since 1958 and has operated an office in Lagos since 1960. Besides the museum, Mr. Ubinas will also be visiting a number of the Foundation grantees.