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‘I have created a collector’s art piece, an exclusive entertainment offering with 1851 Agidingbi’

‘I have created a collector’s art piece, an exclusive entertainment offering with 1851 Agidingbi’

Oludàmọ́lá O. Adebowale is a man of many parts. He is a researcher, cultural advocate, chief priest at Asiri Magazine, contributor at Guardian Life Arts and Culture, senior curator at the Nigerian Brazilian Public History Project, among others.

In this interview, the creative talent speaks to Obinna Emelike on the 1851 Agidingbi, his breathtaking home-grown variant of the chess game, its entertainment offering, use of technology to preserve history, culture, among others.

Excerpt:

What is 1851 Agidingbi, your latest entertainment bouquet , all about?

It is an idea that is different from the norm. It is a new home-grown variant of the Chess Game, which is like one of the oldest games in the world. The most popular version in this part of the world is the British version. What I did was to create a new variant; Nigeria’s first variant of the chess game and the first of its kind in Nigeria and Africa, if I am allowed to say that.

The idea behind the 1851 Agidingbi Chess Game is to create something fresh. As a researcher and culture historian, I am always looking for ways to preserve our history further and use technology as an enabling tool. That is what I have done with the 1851 Agidingbi Chess Game. The game comes in both app and board game versions.

1851 Agidingbi is a Nigerian Lagos history-themed chess game (App and Board, which revolves around the narrative of the 1851 Bombardment of the Eko, as it was called then by British Naval Forces.

The term AGIDINGBI is onomatopoeia for the sounds made during the cannon guns that were fired by British forces in 1851. The sound was so loud that it was heard in Badagry and the mainland of Lagos.

The app version is currently on iOS and android devices. It works like normal chess but with the knowledge of Lagos history and the narratives of what happened in Lagos in 1851. The 2.0 version of the game will be different and it will come with its own separate rules and feel. The board game will be released in October and the idea behind that is to create an exclusive collector’s art piece for every lover of history, Chess, culture and arts of Lagos State.

Is there a story behind the 1851 Agidingbi and how is it relatable in the game?

Yes, there is a story behind it and not just any story, a very strong historical narrative that forms the very bedrock of Lagos vis-a -vis Nigeria. So, in 1851 Lagos was invaded by the British Royal Naval forces with its infamous HMS Bloodhound docked on Lagos waters. The bombardment was a result of the power tussle between Oba Kosoko and his nephew Oba Akitoye.

After the bombardment, Kosoko was exiled to Epe and Akitoye was re-installed as the Oba of Lagos. 10 years after the incident in 1862 the Annexation of Lagos document was signed by Oba Docemo, which made Lagos a British crown colony and that was the bedrock of colonial administration in Lagos and what would later become Nigeria.

You can see the relationship between history and the game in the characters and also the Chess tussle that took place before and after the bombardment. Unlike what the British had with their characters, this game has a Lagos version with characters likened to traditional Lagos royalty and chieftaincy.

Basically, the game reflects the very core of Lagos history, heritage and culture and, most importantly, the story of Nigeria.

What inspired the home-grown game?

I curated an exhibition at the 2017 Lagos Book and Arts Festival at Freedom Park Lagos. The original chessboard of the 1851 Agidingbi was originally an installation for the exhibition.

If you have seen any of my works as a curator, you will know that I enjoy having installations as a physical engaging point for all my exhibitions. So, I created the game as an installation and on the third day of the event a 12-year-old boy came into the exhibition room, saw the game board and rushed at it playing with adults and check-mating them within 10 minutes. He was so good, there was this line of adults who wanted to play with the boy. The irony of the situation was that his dad didn’t know he could play chess.

He came back the next day with his mother who obviously knew that he plays chess, because she made him register for a chess class in his primary school. Before he came into the exhibition hall, there were some adults who were waiting for the boy already. It was at that moment I told myself, “This is not just an installation or an idea, this is a product!” Four years later, in 1851 Agidingbi was born. We kicked off work on the app during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The app was released in May 2022.

How were you able to infuse Lagos themes, heroes and icons in the game?

I wanted to create something that would export the narrative of the history of Lagos; the story of the 1851 Bombardment of Lagos to the world. That is what we have done with the 1851 Agidingbi Chess Game. The infusion of the Lagos historical characters into the game was not that easy though, it took long nights of research and study to create that perfect fit and blend into the game, and as someone who has done a lot of work in the Nigerian history space, it was easy for me to find my way around historical books and documents in amplifying the cause of the game.

What international game did you model the game after?

Chess, of course. So, for Nigerians and Lagosians, there is no excuse in playing a British-styled Chess Game anymore, we can play our own, which carries every strain of Lagos/Nigeria’s history in its vein. Most importantly, the game gives you the opportunity to learn and play chess and learn Lagos history at the same time.

Read also: MultiChoice: Going beyond content to deepening cultures of Africa’s biggest economies

How has it been appreciated so far by lovers of board games?

The reception and love have been amazing. We are still pushing it and trying to expand our marketing within and outside Nigeria. We have plans of doing public park activations, a secondary and primary school tour in Lagos, virtual reality and augmented reality exhibition and also public and private installations all over the state and country. We are also working to acquire the latest gaming technology and infuse it with what we have done here. It took us quite a while to get here, we have an 8-year plan of how we intend to keep this product active and evolving.

Other international board games are acclaimed to sharpen brain power. Is that the case for your game?

Yes, the game seeks to teach a bit of Lagos history while improving IQ, mental awareness, risk analysis, leadership skills and more.

This chess-style game is our way of exporting Lagos to the rest of the world via the digital landscape. The objective and notion behind the creation of the game are to infuse technology with history as a way of preserving history and culture and also showcasing it to the world in a flexible and engaging medium.

Are you inventing another game soon and does it require training to invent one?

Funny enough, I would say yes. So, over the last 10 years I have created a series of products using history, culture and arts as my enabling core points. So yes, we are moving into the tech space with a lot of innovations, we have a line of six products that are good to go, 1851 Agidingbi Chess Games is the first on the shelf.

Beyond the game, what else do you do?

Well, being an archivist, a researcher, curator and historian is a lot of work, so I am always busy with one project or the other, if I am not overseeing and curating contents for ASIRI Magazine, Nigeria’s No 1 digital repository of history, I am writing for the Guardian Life where I write for the Arts and Culture page, or just doing research, which takes a lot of time and work. All in all, I enjoy what I do.