Arts and culture in West African sub region have received a boost as The EMOWAA, (Edo Museum of West Africa Art) Trust has unveiled plans and programmes for their development and advancement in Benin, the Edo State capital, South South Nigeria.
This is made possible as works are in progress on the construction of the pioneer building designed by world renowned architect, David Adjaye, OBE in collaboration with Nigerian architects MOE+.
The not-for-profit Foundation/Trust – pavilion which was floated in 2019 is expected to house a Materials and Digital lab; Archaeology Centre and Research, as well as Archives Facility.
The Trust’s pioneer Executive Director, Philip Ihenacho disclosed these Thursday during an interactive media parley in Lagos.
Ihenacho who noted that the targeted EMOWAA scope of operation was beyond being a museum, revealed that the pioneer pavilion which is still under construction would provide modern research facilities for artists and academics from West Africa and Archaeological and Material Lab, as well as a digital equipment and facilities to support the storage and “study of West Africa’s unique cultural knowledge base and our imagined futures into 2D/3d reality for global access and engagement”.
Ihenacho said further: “With a major focus on learning and artistic and academic engagement, the Pavilion will house a visitor centre for engaging the local stakeholders through ongoing initiatives and programming.
“At the heart of these initiatives is a commitment to redefine how research, archives and collections are engaged with, challenging notions of expertise and exclusivity”.
He cited as an example, the recent launch of Open Learning initiative developed in partnership with Open Society Foundation in Africa, adding that the initiative has since engaged over 500 students in Benin city – discussing the rich cultural history of West as well as “potential career opportunities within the heritage management and arts”.
On EMOWAA’ focus and mission, Ihenacho said: the Trust’s “initial focus will be creating an ecosystem for research education and career opportunities for young creatives and professionals in cultural heritage management. The Pavilion is planned as archives and research centre, providing space for learning, exchange and archival space for works of art from West Africa and the Diaspora, both contemporary and heritage.
“It will also be a space that will help catalyse the art and culture ecosystem by providing infrastructure for capacity building, training, digitaization of works and growing a pipeline of future artists and archaeologists. In short, it is about building platforms for the study and creation of art.
“EMOWAA’s mission, according to its corporate profile, is to support West heritage and culture, as well as to empower contemporary creatives. EMOWAA intends to this by providing infrastructure, research and education, as well as capacity building opportunities for scholars and creative professionals across West Africa. It will also support the preservation of of West African arts, culture and heritage”.
Speaking further on what the Pavilion can offer, Ihenacho reiterated that it would serve as facilitator and platform-supporting and maintaining part of a planned cultural district in the heart of Benin city.
The Creative district, he elaborated would collaborate with, and boost the success of all existing and planned cultural institutions in Benin city, including the future Royal Benin Museum and the existing NCMM Museum by facilitating “a thriving creative hub and tourism destination in Edo State”.
“By working in collaboration with other museums, educational, cultural institutions and Foundations across the world, EMOWAA intends to foster long term partnership that foster a supportive platform for the creative sector and enhance the vibrant contemporary arts scene in West Africa.
“It is incredibly important that our work supports young creatives, hence, our focus also on contemporary and modern art and the recent appointments in this area” Ihenacho reasoned.
On the roles of the Trust as the custodian of arts and artefacts, the Pavilion Director replied that this was a due and expected role, saying that it would preserve the cultural assets as long as the owner wanted, still, asserted it would not be involved in the debate of which artefacts should be brought to its care and otherwise.
Responding on the choice of Edo as the base of the Trust, Ihenacho said apart from the well established historical cultural richness of the enclave, the initiators have been getting maximum support and cooperation from the current Governor Godwin Obaseki, saying his conviction and confidence in the Trust and its goals have been motivational.
Citing examples across the globe, Ihenacho revealed that running a museum was highly expensive, saying that cost of preserving arts and artefacts was quite huge, which he disclosed was the reason most arts facilities run at a loss.
Against this backdrop, he said those on board don’t receive, instead, give, so that the Trust could thrive and survive. He therefore called for more voluntary donours to support EMOWAA to achieve its set goals and stay alive subsequently.
The EMOWAA Trust was established in 2019 as a not-for-profit Foundation/Trust incorporated as a company limited by guarantee.
It is the promoter of the planned Edo Museum for West African Arts EMOWAA Pavilion.
The interaction was attended by a team member, veteran journalist, Andrew Okungbowa, the Trust’s Director of Finance and Administration, Kingsley Odigie and Director of Human Resources, Bunmi Akinsanya.
Pic caption: EMOWAA Executive Director, Philip Ihenacho (middle), a member of the team, Andrew Okungbowa (left) and EMOWAA Director of Finance and Administration, Kingsley Odigie at the interactive session (right)