MARE 2010: exploring nature’s gift for tourism
OSCaR is a professional climber, but he looked at the Idanre rocky hills in awe last week during the annual Mare festival. His task was simple, but yet not so simple. He with two others, Oscar Morales and Raul Lora were invited by the Ondo State government to train local climbers at the Methodist High School, Idanre, as part of this year’s festival. He marvelled on seeing the hills, saying they have the prospect of becoming a world class tourists attraction for mountain climbers because the weather is friendly and the cost of participation is cheap. He, however, stressed that the state must first invest in climbing tourism by creating routes for climbing, building rest places, providing health facilities and ensuring safety.
The three professionals’ assignment includes the training of local climbers, improving on their climbing techniques and creating routes on the rock for climbers. The professionals were coordinated by Mr. Tunde Balogun, a United Kingdom-based Nigerian and ex-international footballer John Fashanu
Mare festival 2010 featured carnival float/street shows, cultural performances, art and crafts exhibition, marathon race and musical concerts parading the likes of Sir Shina Peters, Opalemo, Ara, Francis Akintade, Lord of Ajasa, Weird MC, Seun Kuti, Pappy Luwe, Boy Alinco and many young local talents. Amng them were Seun Akinola and her cultural troupe, local government councils standing troupes.
"There are no two cities like Idanre in the world. We must, therefore, create wealth out of the abundant wonders of nature provided by the rocks," Governor Olusegun Mimiko said at the festival that ran from December 9 to 11. He noted that the lovely rock formation was a special gift to Ondo State and Nigeria in general and promised that no effort would be spared to make Idanre the best tourist centre in the country and attract tourists to the state. He said: "Our administration is leaving no stone unturned to make Idanre Hills the best tourist centre in Nigeria. By next year, the on-going Golf Course at Atosin will be completed. We are also planning to build a housing estate that will not tamper with the ecology of the area".
He recalled that last year-winner of the mountain climbing race, 11-year-old Sunday Akinwumi, would have been in Spain by now, but for some hitches in his visa processing. Akinwunmi climbed the 2000 feet mountain during last year’s grand finale of the festival. He won scholarship, prizes and trips abroad sponsored by the state.
Following the continued support from the state government, Idanre Hills have attracted the attention of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which recently announced plans to enlist Oke Idanre Hills on the World Heritage List.
This development will make the ancient hills the third world heritage site in Nigeria after Osun-Oshogbo in Osun State and Sukur palace in Adamawa State. No doubt, this would act as catalyst to the efforts of the government to turn the state into a tourists’ haven and a place to be visited in Nigeria.
Also, the world body has approved the Idanre Hills nomination dossier and consequently dispatched an independent inspector to carry out comprehensive assessment of the facilities on the site as contained in the dossier. UNESCO’s accredited assessor and a renowned international archaeologist, Dr John Sutton disclosed that from his findings, the dossier actually met the technical criteria for the listing.
At the marathon race, Stephen Juvbe (Plateau State) of the Nigerian Army, First Division, Kaduna, won the first position and a cash prize of three thousand dollars while Christopher Tokbe and Gwok Kendagwu got two thousand dollars and one thousand dollars as second and third position winners respectively. In the female category, a woman police from Taraba, Yohana Dinatu, won the first position and a cash prize of one thousand five hundred dollars. Genevieve Njoku from Bayelsa State and Deborah Agidi Omoyeni from Ondo State won second and third position respectively.
The festival raffle draw brought out the philanthropist in Governor Mimiko who donated refrigerator and thousands of naira to Mrs. Folake Taiye, 24, who won the first prize of the raffle draw. Folake who was overwhelmed with joy, also got donations from some members of the executive council present at the ceremony. According to the Governor, ‘I was praying in my mind while the raffle draw was going on for a true winner that deserves the prize to emerge, so that the winner can be truly torched. And I am happy that it came to pass.’
On the new innovations at this year’s festival, Ondo State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Chief Tola Wewe identified the training of the youths in the act of mountain climbing at the Methodist High School, Idanre, as a major addition for the growth and development of the festival, especially the mountain race.
"I can foresee an Idanre indigene becoming a Tiger Wood of mountain climbing in the future because there are the potentials. For instance the 11 year-old boy that won the mountain climbing last year, has been tried by the professional mountain climbers and was discovered to have the potentials," Wewe said.
Artist as a social crusader
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Mrs. Stella Awoh, an art lecturer at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, is unpretentious about her concern for human rights in her works of art, especially as they affect women. She is equally touched when widows’ rights are abused by the society that should protect them. Little wonder she literarily made these issues the focus of her last solo exhibition Hibernation and Rejuvenation in 2008 at Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos and the forthcoming exhibition tagged; Hephzibah and Beulah opening at Omenka Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos on December 11.
As a fresh vista to 2008 exhibition, Awoh is incorporating both art and crafts in this year’s outing to express her creative mind for the benefit of mankind. A total of 30 works (arts and crafts inclusive) will be showcased at the exhibition that will run till December 18. The exhibits include Rose of Sharon 1 and 11, Greener Pastures, The Widower, The Widow, Aso-Ebi, Aba Women Riot, Unity, and A New Dawn. Generally, the collection is more message-oriented and affordable to collectors than being appealing in terms of aesthetic.
According to her, "the size of the works is a reflection of my approach to art- not competing with anybody. I do it my own way."
Of the paintings, The Widow and The Widower share a common character in terms of presentation. The artist uses a metal comb to etch the surface of the works thus creating a near coarse surface that tells the mood of the object of the paintings. But, the two works also show a difference between how the society talks and treats a widow in modern day Nigeria. While the eyes of the figure in The Widower are closed that of The Widow are wide open.
As a social crusader, the author of From Grief To Grace takes a swipe on an emerging trend in the churches where Christians turn the house of God to a market place. She uses Aso-Ebi, a piece made from textile to illustrate stealing in the name of God. In like manner, she presents Aba Women Riot to correct the wrong information by Governor of Abia State, Gov. Theodore Orji that Aba is a city unknown for riot. She recalls that in 1927, Aba women took to the streets in protest against taxation by the colonialists. One of her mixed media works, A New Dawn, (additive plastograph) draws attention to the misery of the cock that keeps the world abreast of the time.
At a sneak preview of her selected works, Awoh said: "I have been blessed with a creative mind from my youth. I see it as God’s amazing grace on me. I have been able to combine numerous ideas in creating my works; with a metal comb, metal foil, clay, sinamay, wood, fabric, acrylic paint and cake icing (fondant and sugar craft). There is no question that we all face problems and difficulties. Everyone has pressure and pains. But this is part of being included in the human race. How we face our difficulties is what makes, or breaks us.
"Affliction comes to us all not to make us sad but sober, not sorry but wise, not despondent, but by its darkness, to refresh us as the night refreshes the day; not to impoverish but to enrich us. As the flow enriches the field and multiplies the seed a thousand fold, so will our joy be multiplied. Faced with challenges of years of grief, God has increased my understanding of Him and His plans for my life. Today, I see things more clearly from His perspective rather than mine. What the devil meant for evil, God will use for good."
Awoh said to get this far, she had to sacrifice her social life, noting that she struggled to attend most events. "I don’t drink, and I don’t enjoy parties," she added.
Jonathan unveils Bring Back Book Campaign
As a way of promoting education, President Gooduck Ebele Jonathan will on December 20 in Lagos unveil the Bring Back Book Campaign. The launch will afford some teachers and children the opportunity of interacting with the president on issues affecting reading and education. The event will be marked by a mini-festival featuring D’ Banj and Zakky Azzay to promote the power of written words.
Also to be presented on that day is Goodluck Jonathan: My friends and I, a compilation of some of the President’s conversations with friends on policy and governance via facebook.
According to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Mr. Oronto Douglas, the book campaign is designed to revitalise the reading culture, with knowledge serving as a tool for development. He described project as a vehicle for knowledge and empowerment.
Douglas said the President insisted that books should be used as an instrument to project the nation’s culture, for survival, sustenance and protection which should not be mixed with politics because if it is politicised, "we will miss it."
"The time has come when educational opportunities must be for all; when knowledge must be promoted over the mad rush for materialism. Book culture, if properly put in place, will help promote a new Nigeria," he added, noting that key literary groups that have been projecting and promoting book culture would be identified, encouraged and supported in the sustenance of this historic mission. These groups, he said, would be partners in the campaign.
Douglas said the book campaign would not be a one-off event because after the Lagos show, the President would wish to read to children anywhere he goes. He, therefore, urged young writers to write new books on knowledge and information.
The launch is expected to attract literary icons from across the nation.
Explaining what led to the publication of the book, Douglas said the President opened a facebook account as a means of opening the door into governance so that youths and elders could have direct access to him through suggestions. "Four months after, the interactions with Nigerians on facebook were turned into a book containing reactions and suggestions on issues of governance. The President joined facebook not to belong but for the desire to engage, communicate and learn from Nigerians. In fact, the idea of government and governance being impenetrable and sacred, should be smashed as government belongs to the people," Douglas said.
Theatre for change
If plays by renowned playwrights, such as the late Hubert Ogunde, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Prof. Wole Soyinka, could be used to effect social change in the 50s and 60s, theatre can also serve as a veritable tool to effect changes towards credible elections in 2011 and enthrone good governance. This was the thrust of a paper, Theatre and change: Credible elections for good governance, presented by the deputy dean, School of Visual and Performing Art, Kwara State University, Ilorin, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, at the convention of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) in Lagos.
The former artistic director of the National Troupe of Nigeria described this electioneering period as a threshold of the confrontation or collaboration between theatre and political change, noting that the political realities are good materials for great drama. He explained that theatre has been tried in the past in different forms, and it has helped to achieve change by educating and mobilising the society whose problems are reflected in the play as well as helped to point towards change by conscientising and demanding it for the society.
"Hubert Ogunde had used his play, Yoruba Ronu, to examine the ills of the developing Nigerian society of the 50s and 60s. In the play, Ogunde spoke directly to a cultural group in Nigeria, asking it to find identity for itself within the political reality of Nigeria. Wole Soyinka again leads in the act of using theatre to effect change. In his Before the Blackout series of sketches by his Orisun Theatre Company at Ibadan and Lagos in the 60s, and Guerrilla Theatre Unit at the then University of Ife, in the early 70s and 80s, Soyinka captured the immediacy of theatre as a weapon of change.
Employing the graphic use of historical, socio-political issues and music, with a good dose of iconoclastic wit, where the audience laughed at themselves being presented as character caricatures, Soyinka confronted the society with immediate problems, dissecting the ills, proffering solutions if need be, and forcing the audience to ponder and arrive at their own decisions on the state of he nation," Yerima said.
The Edo State-born theatre professor observed that for the genre to be potent, artists must understand the craft of skilfully turning theatre from a tool for entertainment and enjoyment into a weapon of social change. He added that artist must observe society, recognise the ills, and being to weave his plot so that the conflict of his play carries the message without making it too didactic. Beyond presenting both sides of a political discourse, Yerima stressed that questions on good governance must be presented by the artist in his play while the society must find a space to pause and think, and conclude on issues raised in the play.
Continuing, he said: "Electorate should be able to know that their votes should not be sold ton the highest bidder or should they allow themselves to be carried away by the promise of politicians. They should be made to know that they must properly analyse such promises before decisions on who to vote for are made. Questions such as is government ready for free and fair elections must be asked. The dramatic presentations must be direct, yet humorous, the language clear and the images and imageries recognisable."
According to the guest speaker, theatre as a tool for community development in the area of children’s theatre should be taken to the base community by practitioners and issues broken down into plots and scenario for professional actors, children actors to act out roles that will inform the audience on the need for good governance and credible elections.
He noted that the power of individual artist in terms of personality and fame to effect political change, should not be undermined citing the endorsement of TV hostess, Oprah Winfrey as the beginning of President Barrack Obama’s rise in the presidential election victory which changed the face of American politics and history.
He said in Nigeria, artists have started endorsing political candidates as political rallies are strewn with theatre artists singing and dancing for candidates. Reacting to President Goodluck Jonathan’s recent announcement of a 200million dollar incentive funds for the arts, Yerima asked: "Is this the much awaited endowment for the arts? How will these funds be distributed to all the genres of the arts? Or is it a political gimmick to win the votes of gullible, hungry, poor, stupid artists?
In his remark, NANTAP president, Gregory Odutayo noted that the association’s journey has been a tedious and long one but thanked God for getting this far. He said the convention would be used to drive the state chapters especia
lly in terms of membership, which has been in low ebb. "After this convention, we would have given the impetus to the association to move forward. Among Nigerians inseted as fellow of the association included governor of Nassarwa State, Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Idoma, minister of tourism, culture and national orientation, ALhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed and Dejumo Lewis.
Literary festival first on my mind, says Amaechi
This year’s Garden City Literary Festival, which opens on December 8, will witness a historic meeting of two literary titans, Nobel laureates Prof. Wole Soyinka and J.M.G Le Clezio, the French writer who won 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State said he never had a nightmare over security when he initiated the Garden City Literary Festival three years ago. He said the take-off of the literary festival, which has attracted giants, such as Nobel laureates Prof. Wole Soyinka, JP Clark and Kenyan literary icon, Ngugi Wa’ Thiong’o and Kofi Awoonor, as well as young writers, such as Sefi Atta and Igoni Barrett, was the only issue on his mind.
This year’s festival, billed for December 8 to 11, will witness a historic meeting of two Nobel laureates — Soyinka and J.M.G Le Clezio, the French writer who won the 2008 Nobel Prize for literature. Le Clézio, who is one of the special guest writers at the festival, has more than thirty literary works to his name, including short stories, essays, novels and children books.
He began writing at seven and his first novel was published when he was 23. He has received many prestigious awards, including the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1991, he wrote the novel Onitsha, which was translated to English in 1997. Partly based on his childhood in Nigeria, the work recounts the journey made by a young European boy to the country. It tells the experiences of the boy, his family and the people they met in Nigeria.
Recounting what motivated him to initiate the festival, Amaechi explained that he wanted to use the annual literary festival as a forum for young writers to engage in critical issues.
He said: ‘It was to create that environment for more argument, for more creativity and to see where it will take us. It was also to create an environment where the young writer.”
Three years on, the festival has provided several opportunities for old and young writers to share ideas on writing skill and publishing challenges, among others.
He noted that he was moved by the size of the audience present at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) hall when Prof. Wole Soyinka was presenting his address during the second edition of the festival.
To him, the greatest fulfillment is using the forum to nurture a movement from culture of acquiring certificates to that of absorption of knowledge.
“In fact, that will be my greatest achievement. But to assess the impact of this, we really have to wait for some time. You can only measure my administration’s performance in education 20 years after I have left office. That will be when the quality of graduates from primary, secondary to tertiary levels will be measured,” he said in a chat with art editors in Port Harcourt.
Amaechi observed that after Chinua Achebe wrote the Man of People, which is a creation of post-independence politics, no Nigerian novel has ever made him laugh like Man of the People. He explained that the novel is one he could pick up and still read even though it is not a very radical piece. According to him, the novel belongs to the conservative school of thought which is incomparable to other Nigerian novels in terms of presenting a socialist view point.
“But, you can clearly say that it is a creation of the Nigerian politician of post-independence. If Achebe created the Anthills of the Savannah to present the picture of what the local government looks like in post-independence Nigerian politics, how many Nigerian writers are doing this?”
He expressed concern over the dearth of critics, saying: “I doubt if we have critics like the days of Yemi Ogunbiyi, Chidi Amuta and so on. There is a difference between critics and journalists who enjoy themselves in reporting literature. We have wonderful writers in the media and if you want to enjoy yourself you find many materials in the media. We used to celebrate critics when they came for conferences. I have gone to several conferences and I have not seen new critics being celebrated,” he added.
On the impact of the festival, he said the festival could not be used to measure the impact on literary growth in the state but that there is the need to up the creative efforts by making the tempo and gains worthwhile. He disclosed that if there are funds in the future, “we can think of Writers’ Forum where funds can be released to train people.”
Reacting to questions on plans to establish a Writers’ Village in the state, the governor said such proposal should come from Rainbow Books, manager of the festival, who must also come up with how to source the funds and the relevance of the village to the festival.
“But I have this mental picture of a Writers’ Village, a quiet environment. Can we find a quiet environment in Port Harcourt that is suitable for such? Port Harcourt is a very noisy place unlike Calabar,” he noted.
The festival will feature a book fair, photo exhibition (9ja@50), a collection of rare images of Nigeria at independence, workshop/master class, interaction, seminars, drama presentation of Love’s Unlike Lading by Femi Osofisan and A Feast of Return by Odia Ofeimun.
Jonathan, Soyinka return to classroom
IT was a great tribute to the power of the written word.
There were two seats – one occupied by the President; on the other sat the Nobel laureate. Each held a book ready to read.
The excited crowd of kids listened, their minds tuned to the big moment.
Welcome to President Goodluck Jonathan Bring Back The Book Campaign and the presentation of Goodluck Jonathan: My Friends and I; (conversations on policy and governance via Facebook), penultimate Monday, were meant to encourage Nigerian youths to read.
The first reading lesson was taken by President Jonathan, who gave an introductory summary of Chinua Achebe’s Chike and The River. To test the children’s knowledge of Nigerian literature, he asked if they knew Chinua Achebe and possibly his books. "Do you know Chinua Achebe? Which of Achebe’s books have you read?" the President asked. The children answered in the affirmative as Chike and The River echoed through the hall.
That was the assurance the President needed to continue his reading of the first chapter of the book. And the children followed with rapt attention. Prof. Wole Soyinka took the next lesson reading from his popular book, AKE.
It was the turn of the children to ask their teachers questions on the books read. "Why was Chike unhappy in the book? What is the equivalent of one pound in today’s naira?" Were some of the questions asked by the children.
Jonathan explained that Chike was unhappy because each time he thought he would achieve his goals, he was always confronted with one challenge or the other. And on the equivalent of one pound, Jonathan told the children that former Finance Minister Dr. Usman Shamsudeen would provide the answer. But for some whispers from the audience, the children were almost misinformed on the equivalent of one pound in naira. At first attempt, the children were told the answer was twelve shillings as against twenty shillings. Unfortunately, none of the children knew the shilling as a denomination of Nigeria’s old currency.
Three of the children had golden handshakes with Jonathan followed by group photographs with him and Soyinka. Publishers took advantage of the occasion to display their books. And messages like"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader"; "There are many ways to enlarge your child’s world; Love of books is the best of all" were strategically pasted at different stands in and outside the hall.
At the presentation of his Facebook compilation in the evening, Jonathan restated his commitment to reinventing the book-reading culture among the youth, which he described as a spring board for the emergence of a new and virile nation. He said for Nigeria to be great nation, its citizens must use their heads to think and a to do that, they must read. "In our drive for social and economic advancement, I have discovered that after due consultation, there is need to encourage people to read. This effort will guide our young men. I am convinced that with government’s efforts at repositioning our education sector, there is hope for a brighter future. The campaign starts here and now," he said.
He disclosed that his facebook page offered a platform and feedback that have been invaluable. Jonathan, therefore, charged Nigerians to take the campaign across the country, saying it must be supported by all. "Today we are charting a path to restore our education standard to its glorious past, and take it further to where it will lead to the resurgence of our economic development. At all times, we should have a book in our hands," he said.
Frontline writer and activist, Odia Ofeimun, said it is heartening to meet a new type of leader who wishes to make a difference in the face of a reading culture considered dead or in doldrums. He noted that the charm in it is that he is doing it as a facebook denizen in open camaraderie with other readers and surfers. "By giving all of us common access to knowledge and entertainment, the art of reading mobilises consciousness, in favour of human empathy and solidarity. It provides a basis for building a sense of community among diverse peoples. Of course, we need such a sense of community to nurture genuine approaches to the setting of social goals and expansion of the context of political interaction," Ofeimum said. He stressed that great nations are built by great minds, while great minds are nurtured by great books. "But how do we aspire to the reading of great books if we lack reading habits that sustain access to books in general?"he asked.
According to him, what makes the President’s initiative unique is that it is the first time a national leader at the apex of decision-making would be identifying with the campaign for the development of a reading culture without minding the cynicism of those who believe the situation is too far gone to be remedied.
Ofeimun stressed that a new approach was certainly required, which could garner mass support based on a very programmatic confrontation with the core issues and for the purpose of generating new policy directions and commitments. Continuing, he said: "Talking of core issues, I think we can all agree that the disheartening state of reading culture across the country is first and foremost a sibling of the absolute derailment of public education in the country. I like to put it this way: that we have an educational system which gives poor education to poor people in order to keep them poor and unmobilisable."
As a way of meeting the spirit of Bringing Back The Book campaign, Ofeimun presented President Jonathan with advance copies of three of his books soon to be published: Lagos of the Poets, (an anthology of poems written on Lagos since Dennis Osadebay, first President of the Nigerian Senate, and Nnamdi Azikiwe, President of Nigeria in the First Republic), A House of Many Mansions and Taking Nigeria Seriously.
The event was not all about reading and long speeches as some young Nigerian musicians mounted the stage to thrill guests to many of their top releases. Among them were 2Face, P-Square, Zakky Azzay, D’Banj and Mo’Cheddah.
UK auction house cancels sale of Benin artefacts
A leading United Kingdom (UK) auction house, the Sotheby’s London, has dropped six Benin artefacts from its list of works for next month’s auction. The cancellation followed pressure from local and international groups, including the Edo State government.
In a statement cancelling the sale of the artefacts, the auction house said: "The Benin Ivory Pendant Mask and other items consigned by the descendants of Lionel Galway which Sotheby’s had announced for auction in February 2011 have been withdrawn from sale at the request of the consignors."
The artefacts were to be sold by the descendants of Lt-Col Sir Henry Lionel Galway, who took part in 1897’s punitive expedition in Nigeria. A mask, which depicts the head of the queen mother of the Edo people, was due to be auctioned along with five other rare pieces collected from Benin at the same time. According to Sotheby’s, the masks "rank among the most iconic works of art to have been created in Africa".
Earlier in the week, the Edo State government through its Commissioner of Culture and Tourism, Abdul Oroh, called on the international community and the UNESCO to compel the British Government and its people to return all the antiquities stolen from Benin. He also urged the international community to prevail on all other countries in possession of Benin heritage to return them forthwith.
Leading the pack of campaigners, a UK-based Nigerian pro-democracy group, Nigeria Liberty Forum, on December 23, petitioned Sotheby’s over the planned sale of six pieces of Benin artefacts on February 17. The forum alongside other UK-based African groups and institutions registered their protests condemning the sale of precious pieces of Nigerian heritage to the highest bidder.
In a petition, ‘Re Auction of 16TH Century Benin Ivory and Other Benin Artefacts’, signed by Kayode Ogundamisi, convener of the forum, to Ms Helen Collier of Sotheby’s London, the group urged Sotheby’s to do the right thing by withdrawing the said items from sale.
These artefacts, the group said, were acquired illegally, by theft, and they are now being put up for sale illegally, adding that they are important cultural heritage of Benin people, and part of their history, and should be returned forthwith.
"We are aware (and so should you) that these artefacts were forcefully taken from Nigeria in 1897 when the British invaded the Benin empire, and request very firmly that your organisation should not assist and or collude in the appropriation of such.
"It is a shame that in this time and age individuals continue to plunder and abuse the culture and heritage of a defenceless people just because they can. There is simply no legal or moral basis for the Galway family to lay claim to the Benin masks and to go on to profit from their sale is reprehensible and unconscionable.
"To this end, we request that you withdraw the items from sale forthwith as the true ownership is far from settled. We would also like to request that you go a step further and advise your clients to return these items back to the Nigerian people where they rightfully belong. It is akin to the selling of the Egyptian mummies, and should not be allowed," the group said.
According to the group, it is in the process of mounting legal, diplomatic and or political challenges to the sale of these cultural artefacts and "we are sure your organisation does not want to be embroiled in the resulting fallout this will surely create".
It added that the rape of Africa and plundering thereof has gone on for far too long and still continues, aided by such institutions as Sotheby’s.
The Nigerian Liberty Forum stressed that the said masks have been subject of historical study by the UK Open University, which has produced a clip about the theft of these artefacts.
In his reaction via his blog, a US-based Nigerian scholar, Prof. Sylvester Ogbechie, said the plundering left their owners significantly poorer and that it is tragic that the descendants of the thieves who stole these artworks from Africa should so brazenly benefit from their plunder when the descendants of the Africans who created the artworks receive no share at all from their economic value.
"All across the world today, many stolen artworks are being repatriated to their countries of origin. No one is asking the cultural owners of these artworks to pay for the privilege of retrieving their ancestors’ properties.
Therefore, the relevant issue is whether Africans have any legal rights to their lives, natural and cultural resources. At what point does the brazen dispossession of Africa become a significant political, economic and moral issue?
"The Sotheby’s sale is part of a broad disregard for the very real impact of dispossession on the reality and fortunes of black Africans today. There is no justice here and it does not appear that black Africans or their descendants will be afforded any kind of legal justice in the prevailing context of white Western power. And yes, this is clearly a racial issue," he added.
He recounted that Zahi Hawass has stopped Western institutions from brazenly trafficking in Egyptian artefacts while continuing to negotiate the return of large numbers of looted Egyptian artworks back to Egypt.
According to him, Italy has repatriated artworks to Libya. Western museums have repatriated artworks to South Africa, but all requests for repatriation or reparation by black Africans have been dismissed without hearing. This, he said, is not surprising: African-Americans have so far only received an apology for their centuries–long enslavement and, through their overwhelming imprisonment, they continue to fatten the coffers of modern-day slaveholders who run various prisons in the US.
He said: "There has never been any Western country held accountable for their actions in Africa, not even Belgium that oversaw the genocide of close to 10 million Congolese between 1880 and 1920. Sotheby’s multi-million dollar sale of stolen Benin artworks would seem insignificant within such a list of atrocities against Africa but, make no mistake, it is part of the same current of morally and ethically dubious actions unfolding without any regard at all for African concerns."
Dr. Peju Layiwola of the University of Lagos, explained in her recent exhibition, Benin1897.com, that it is more disheartening to know that over a century after, the descendants of Galway still hope to gain financially from the loot taken in one of the most gruesome episodes of British imperialism in the Euro/African encounter.
She noted that the attack on Benin by the British was instigated by an overwhelming commercial interest.
"The commodification of Benin artefacts in the West and the continuous keeping of these artefacts in foreign museums are extensions of this commercialisation," she added.