• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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EMOWAA hosts secondary school students to self-curated exhibition in Benin

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As part of entrenching its education programme and directing the creative impulses of youths to productive engagement, Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) recently hosted a one-day self-curated exhibition for secondary school students in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

Tagged Heritage Futures, it was meant to direct the students’ interest in exciting career options and opportunities in the art, culture, heritage, and tourism sectors. The event was attended by students from select secondary schools in the city as well as stakeholders from the art, culture, heritage, tourism sectors including the ministry of education and sundry government officials.

It showcased outcomes of a collaborative project between EMOWAA, which is an art, heritage and cultural non-profit organisation and five secondary schools which began in August last year and was funded by Open Society Foundation.

The highlight of the day was a series of exhibits put together by students of Ogbe Grammar School, Phelim High School, Anglican Girls Grammar School, University of Benin Demonstration School and Federal Government Girls’ College.

Designed as a DIY Museum project, each school team featured a student curator and four student guides, who worked together to ‘re-tell stories about their history and culture through objects and images’.

Their installations were curated under the guidance of teachers, professionals from the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), and History students of the University of Benin.

Heritage Futures also brought together the perspectives of students and arts practitioners in thoughtful compositions about the continued relevance of local heritage and its care.

The themes for the composition ranged from traditional instruments deployed during the Ugho Royal Dance or the Queen’s Dance to the evolving cookware of Emwin Ukoni, the Benin traditional kitchen.

Their presentations drew on earlier workshops ran by EMOWAA that explored alternative ways of shaping future legacies and engaged students, with contemporary debates around restitution, museum development and careers in heritage management.

The day also featured an inter-school competition, with various awards carted home by the best student and school in essay composition and the best curated exhibition among others.

Speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Art, Culture, Tourism, and Diaspora Affairs, Edo State, Iryn Omorogiuwa said, “the Ministry is currently implementing various initiatives aimed at arousing the interest of young people in the areas of art, culture and heritage management. One of the ways is with the introduction of a Culture Day, once a week where students will wear their traditional attire to school. We also wish to organise major cultural events and exhibitions. As we continue to engage with EMOWAA, other strategic areas for partnership will be identified.”

While the Director of Pavilion, EMOWAA, Ore Disu disclosed, “that the first exhibition taken up by EMOWAA is a collaborative endeavour, co-curated by students and heritage practitioners, is a testament to the public-facing ethos of the Trust. Open Learning has built bridges and forged new connections between artists and conservators, curators and archaeologists, students in universities and those in secondary schools. I have been honoured by the high level of commitment demonstrated in hundreds of volunteer hours. Museums are and should always be people institutions.”

In his closing remarks, Curator at the National Museum in Benin, Mark Olaitan said, “I have found it intriguing to collaborate with EMOWAA on their Open Learning programme, which enabled my staff to contribute to various aspects of the initiative. This collaboration underscores the importance of working together to achieve common societal goals, particularly with regards to deepening the historical and cultural knowledge of students while sparking their interest in the heritage sector.

“I am eager to see the continued impact of such programmes in collaboration with EMOWAA and look forward to exploring further opportunities for partnership in the future.”

Some of the students at the event also shared their experience, with Tamilore (12 years old) of Phelim High School, noting that, “Open Learning has helped me know more about our culture and history. It is important to teach and encourage citizens to value their culture. I’m really glad I was able to take part in it.”

Justina (14 years old) of Anglican Girls Grammar School, said, “I am from Akwa Ibom, but I have learnt so much about the moats, the kings in the past and other cultures. I want to be an archaeologist. I am very interested in learning more about it.”

Similarly, Amarachi (15 years old) of Anglican Girls Grammar School, in her reflection said, “although I am not from Benin, the programme made me read more about pre-colonial history. I went back home to pose questions to the Benin family I stay with. I actually stay with a chief’s family, who is part of the Benin Traditional Council.”