In May 1983, the Nigerian visual arts scene scored a first with the opening of the first private art museum in the country.
While there were some private galleries and government owned museums then, Didi was the first museum owned and operated by an individual.
The museum was founded by Newton Jibunoh in memory of Edith Jibunoh, his sister who died at an early age.
Didi Museum is set in the exclusive Victoria Island, Lagos environs; on Plot 175 Akin Adesola Street, yet it has been very open to all lovers of art no matter the status.
The private museum has been home to many artists who look back at their days of little beginning with excitement because of the platform the museum offered them that in turn nurtured their career in the arts as artists or culture workers.
However, 40 years down the line, Didi Museum has remained one of the famous art, culture and heritage promotion centers in Victoria Island, Lagos.
It also hosts many artists who trace their roots to the museum and are proud to say it.
The museum is also celebrating the 40 years milestone in colour; though not loud enough when compared with their impact in the art and culture sector over the four decades.
The 40 years anniversary celebration is on the theme, ‘No Art No History’, and it was conceived by Jibunoh, an art collector.
“Without the art, there is no history as the art documents our culture and heritage, and therefore history of civilisations over the centuries,” Jibunoh explained.
It rolled out a three-pronged programme, which kicked off on World Museum Day on May 18, 2023.
The annual celebration is designated by UNESCO, and the management of the museum found the day most appropriate to announce the new direction the museum intends to pursue in the coming decades of its existence.
One of the directions is the formal berthing of the museum in Delta State, the home state and current base of Jibunoh, the 85-year-old founder.
Part of the highlights of the celebration is the formal opening of the Nelson Mandela Gardens & Resorts, which is one of the monuments declared by the Mandela Foundation to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s legacy. The Resorts provides recreational facilities for children, a mini zoo, semi Olympic sized swimming pool, the lawn tennis court, bar & restaurants and a 30-room lodging facility, which is located inside the Asaba International Airport, and; which will be the new home of the DIDI Museum going forward. The facility was formally introduced by Dewald Kruger, managing director of Silk Road Hospitality, the new managing partners of the resort.
A major highlight of the celebration was the opening of an exhibition of some of the works in the collection of the museum on Saturday, May 20, 2023, a colourful exercise performed by the royal fathers of Kano and Benin; Aminu Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano and the Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Ukuakpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II of Benin Kingdom.
The choice of the two monarchs, according to Didi Museum’s management, is to honor and acknowledge the sustained contributions of the two royal kingdoms in the history of the museum, right from inception in 1983.
Earlier on, 40 students from four secondary schools in Asaba were on an excursion to the nature-friendly Nelson Mandela Gardens & Resort, during which they explored its vast green ambience, including mini-zoo for animals – monkeys, crocodiles, peacocks etc — and produce drawings or paintings that catch their fancy.
They later converged for a mentoring session with the Octogenarian founder of the Museum and the Garden.
One intriguing program of the celebration was a virtual conversation themed ‘My Journey With Didi’ that featured some of the artists who had been part of the Didi Museum family over the decades, including those whose careers were either birthed or have been shaped through the support and operations of the art centre.
While the inaugural exhibition of the museum on May 11, 1983 featured works by Kenny Adamson and Adamu Ajunam, the management of the museum is inviting the general public to visit to see the exhibition of 40 works for the Asaba museum. The works have been specially curated to represent the characteristics of the vast collections of the museum over the years, while the display would reflect the divergent tastes and artistic preferences of the founder, Jibunoh.