Tuesday, May 31, 2011

mauricearchibongtravels: The late Prof Ekpo Eyo: photo taken probably in the late 1960s

mauricearchibongtravels: The late Prof Ekpo Eyo: photo taken probably in the late 1960s

The late Prof Ekpo Eyo: photo taken probably in the late 1960s

The late Prof Ekpo Eyo. PHOTO: NCMM

mauricearchibongtravels: Nigeria's legendary museologist, Ekpo Eyo, is dead

mauricearchibongtravels: Nigeria's legendary museologist, Ekpo Eyo, is dead

Nigeria's legendary museologist, Ekpo Eyo, is dead

Prof Ekpo Eyo is dead

Prof Ekpo Eyo, the first Nigerian-born head of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM); is dead. He died in the early hours of Sunday, 29 May, 2011; at his home in Maryland, USA. Ekpo Eyo was, until 2006, a Professor of Anthropology at University of Maryland in the US.

Of Efik, Creek Town, Western Calabar, origin; Prof Ekpo Eyo was appointed Director of the then Federal Department of Antiquities in 1967; he is survived by his Yoruba-born widow, Augusta, and their children. Ekpo Eyo, who was made a Fellow of the Smithsonian Institution in 1984, is on record as Nigeria's museums chief with the longest uninterrupted tenure. He held that office for a record 18 years until his retirement in 1986.

Ekpo Eyo was an outstanding archaeologist, anthropologist and museologist. Archaeological pieces excavated in and around Owo in Ondo State are among spectacular contributions by Ekpo Eyo to museum work in Nigeria. As museologist, Ekpo Eyo left a legacy of efficient management of Nigeria’s National Museums by the time of his retirement.

For the most part, it is widely believed that the NCMM enjoyed smooth sailing throughout Prof. Ekpo Eyo’s leadership. In particular, he consolidated on the foundations laid by Murray and Fagg; and, also facilitated major international exhibitions of ancient Nigerian Art. It is also worth noting that the museum workforce reflected Nigeria’s federal character, as far as qualified personnel were concerned, during Ekpo Eyo’s tenure.

Those days, the Ekpo Eyo-led Federal Department of Antiquities helped to foster a good image for Nigeria through exhibition of indigenous antiquities/artefacts abroad. For example, in 1980, Treasures of Ancient Nigeria: Legacy of 2000 Years was on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA from 14 August to 26 October. Two years later, in 1982, Treasures of Ancient Nigeria travelled to the British capital, where it was displayed at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, London from 30 October, 1982 to 23 January, 1983.

These exhibitions engendered tremendous respect for Nigeria across the world. This is why most museum watchers hail Ekpo Eyo for the way he managed the NCMM during his tenure as helmsman. In fact, his leadership of the then Onikan, Lagos-based hub of that institution is seen as museum halcyon days in Nigeria; however, there was controversy over the gift of some precious antique objects by the then head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, to the British crown; while Ekpo Eyo held sway at Onikan.

The NCMM was established in 1943 and its founding father was Mr. Kenneth C. Murray, a Superintendent of Education in the colonial service. Mr. Bernard Fagg later succeeded Murray for a while, after which Murray was reappointed to that office. In his first term, Mr. Murray was Surveyor of Antiquities for 14 years (1943 to 1957). Mr. Bernard Fagg, who succeeded Murray, held office for six years until 1963, when the former art master was re-appointed helmsman. Murray finally retired in 1968; and, though he put in a total of 19 years' as chief of Nigeria's Museums, his tenure was interrupted.

After his retirement from service in 1986, Ekpo Eyo worked as an anthropology lecturer at University of Maryland; where he was appointed a professor. He was also author of numerous papers and books, including the unique volume on antiquities; From Shrines to Showcases: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art; and, co-wrote The Terra cottas of Calabar with Dr. Christopher Slogar.

From shrines to showcases: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art is published by the Federal Ministry of Information and Communication. Issued in 2008, the 256-page book also features Letty Wilson Bonnell and Christopher Slogar as Contributing Editors. From Shrines to showcases: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art homes in on Historical Arts; which include Nok Terra cottas, Bakor (Ejagham) Monoliths, Calabar Terra cottas, Igbo Ukwu Bronzes, Ife Terra cottas and Bronzes, Esie Soap stone Figures, as well as Benin Bronzes and Ivories.

Despite its comparatively more ancient origins, not much has been written on the Calabar terra cottas. This is partly due to the fact that this piece of antiquity is something of a recent discovery, when compared to Ife’s Ori Olokun, found since 1910 and Igbo Ukwu artefacts, first unearthed around 1939. In comparison, the Calabar terra cottas were found in the 1980s.

Although little has been written on the Calabar Terra cottas, a few scholars have literally done justice to this aspect of Nigeria’s heritage; and, The Terracottas of Calabar, published by the Cultural Preservation Fund, is; arguably, the leading light on this subject. The Terracottas of Calabar is a joint project of the Old Residency Museum, Calabar; and the Cultural Preservation Fund, Washington DC, USA.

As we await announcement of funeral arrangements by the family, we pray that God grants Ekpo Eyo’s soul Peace Eternal.



“Apart from his (Ekpo Eyo’s) knowledge of museology, museography et cetera, he has real and innate love of the museum. Such is his passion and commitment that I suspect he would love to be buried in a museum premises. There won’t be perfect rest for his soul, if after death, he ‘discovered’ that anyone saddled with museum work, failed to perform satisfactorily. As a worker, Ekpo Eyo was himself, like a priceless Museum piece”.
 - Mr. Akin Liasu, a former Director of Monuments, Heritage and Sites, who retired from the NCMM in 2006.

“Prof. Eyo rose through the ranks; obviously, he would know his onions. And he did. He was also helped by exposure. He knew his work, and knew how to put people through”.
 - Rosemary Bodam, former Curator National Museum Jos.

Monday, May 30, 2011

ENCOUNTER: Jeanne-Frances Okolue-Madu

Jeanne-Frances Okolue-Madu
Meet award-winning Ovation magazine’s bureau chief in Benin Republic

An alumna of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Mrs. Jeanne-Frances Okolue-Madu took her first degree in French. Earlier, in 1989; the then Miss Jeanne-Frances Okolue had studied for a National Certificate of Education (NCE) in English/French at Federal College of Education in Okene, Kogi State.

Mrs. Jeanne-Frances Okolue-Madu. PHOTO: MAURICE ARCHIBONG

 After graduation from Enugu State-based UNN in 1994, she had gone into teaching, full-time. She had worked as French language teacher at American International School, Cotonou for nine years; until a job offer from Ovation Magazine.

Ovation Magazine is the popular as well as glamorous and glitzy monthly, laden with photographs and devoted to celebrities; founded by Chief Dele Momodu. Mrs. Okolue-Madu is Bureau Chief of Ovation Magazine in Benin Republic and she spoke with mauricearchibongtravels inside her Cotonou office.

Ovation Magazine must be doing well in Benin Republic, going by the fact that it bagged an award, Grand Prix de l’Excellence pour la promotion de la Culture (Grand Prize for Excellence for the Promotion of African Culture) in 2007.

Like her magazine, Mrs. Okolue-Madu has also been rewarded for her contribution: on 11 February, 2011; she won the Prix-Kwabo Award. Interestingly, Prix-Kwabo Award was instituted to honour Benin-born sons and daughters that have distinguished themselves in their various careers, thus fostering the image of their country.

However, Mrs. Okolue-Madu was elected for this award in recognition for her work, which has also gone a long way in projecting the image of Benin Republic. It is worth noting that this Ovation bureau chief was the only female and non-Beninoise among the nine recipients honoured this year.

Whether working in Ovation or other ways, Mrs. Okolue-Madu has truly helped to project the image of Benin Republic as well as that of Nigeria, too. She is a member of Christian Friends of Democracy, which has its African headquarters in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

Christian Friends of Democracy is an affiliate of Sister Cities International, which is based in Michigan State in the US Mid-West. Sister Cities International and Christian Friends of Democracy occasionally organize talks, forums, seminars and so on.

Such platforms facilitate exchange of ideas and building of vital networks: “These (being billingual and involved in some non-government organisations) have made it possible for me to penetrate the West African region; and, also made my work for Ovation easier”, she mused.

Mrs. Okolue-Madu, who joined Chief Dele Momodu’s company in 2006; conducts interviews and does translations for Ovationa International, which is a billingual edition of Ovation magazine. Speaking with mauricearchibongtravels inside her office within an imposing complex popularly called Berlin, located near Ancien Pont (Old Bridge); Okolue-Madu enthused: “My learning French at UNN finally paid off”.

She pointed out that being billingual is key to efficient execution of her duties as Bureau Chief of Ovation International in Benin Republic. Effervescent with ideas and brimming with infectious joy, this mother of three; added: “I was just born for this thing because I’ve always been interested in meeting people. I have an open mind about people; and, this has helped me in many ways, wherever I have work to do”.

In deed, she enjoys an excellent relationship with countless Benin Republic nationals, including numerous key government figures; who have come to trust her as an individual. In some ways, the Nigerian community both in Benin and back home relies on Okolue-Madu for some things, too. For example, she seems to be first choice for Master of Ceremony (MC); whenever Nigerian Embassy Cotonou has an event.

Teacher, reporter and translator; Mrs. Jeanne-Frances Okolue-Madu is also a regular mother. She and her hubby, Mr. Calistus Precious Madu, tied the nuptial knot in 2000; and, despite her tight office schedules, she has also proven successful at the domestic level. 

Concluding, Mrs. Okolue-Madu declared: “There are Nigerians, and there are Nigerians. All this talk about Nigerians being involved in this and that could be quite disturbing; but, let’s always remember that there are more Nigerians doing legitimate businesses and making positive contributions to societies, where they live. Me, my husband and our children and all the Nigerians I know are into genuine ventures; and, at the end of the day; this country (Benin Republic) will remember that we passed this way”.


mauricearchibongtravels: Lace Expo opens Friday, 3 June at Lagos Museum

mauricearchibongtravels: Lace Expo opens Friday, 3 June at Lagos Museum

Lace Expo opens Friday, 3 June at Lagos Museum

African Lace expo at Lagos Museum

An exhibition of African Lace will open on Friday, 3 June at National Museum, Lagos. The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Ibrahim Mahe; is billed to declare the exhibition open at 10am.

According to an invitation sent to us, signed by Mr. Yusuf Abdallah Usman, Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM); the African Lace show is outcome of a collaborative effort between Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria; and, Nigeria’s NCMM.

The expo, devoted to the little-explored chapter of African fashion history; will revolve around the history and significance of lace fabric in Nigeria; and, had earlier taken place in the Austrian capital last October.

mauricearchibongtravels: Late unidentified Nigerian for burial in Cotonou, Wed

mauricearchibongtravels: Late unidentified Nigerian for burial in Cotonou, Wed

Late unidentified Nigerian for burial in Cotonou, Wed

Late unidentified Nigerian for burial Wed in Cotonou

The body of an unidentified Nigerian man, who died in Cotonou, Benin Republic; on Monday, 23 May will be buried on Wednesday. Following the victim’s transition, members of the Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) had arranged to have the dead man’s photograph taken before his body was deposited at a local morgue.

Subsequently, NIDO Cotonou members had circulated the man’s picture for possible identification; and, had also sought advice and financial assistance from the Nigerian Embassy with a view to burying the victim in Cotonou, in the event that no one came forward to collect the dead man’s remains.

Thus far, no one has come forward to identify the deceased or claim his body; and, the late man’s corpse has been lying at Morgue de l’Hopital de la Mere et de l’Enfant, Lagune (HOMEL) in the Tokpa Hoho neighbourhood of Cotonou since the day he breathed his last. As a result, plans are at advanced stages to bury the victim in Cotonou next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Anambra State indigenes in Cotonou as well as the entire Igbo community and NIDO Cotonou Chapter are putting heads together with a view to raising funds to settle mortuary bills and for the burial. Nonetheless, the Nigerian community is also looking up to their country’s embassy in Cotonou for assistance.

According to Mr. Okezie I. Jonathan, personal assistant to NIDO Cotonou Chapter President, Chief Emmanuel Uko Elendu; it has emerged that the victim, who was thought to have died after being heavily drugged; actually passed a night at a Celestial Church roughly three streets away from where he reportedly slumped and was subsequently picked by personnel of the local emergency services, Safeur Pompier.

Investigations carried out by the local NIDO president’s office indicate an okada rider had phoned the local emergency services after he witnessed a man, earlier walking ahead of him; suddenly slump and lay on the ground convulsing. When emergency services personnel got to the scene, one of them had dialed the number from which a call was put to their office. The okada rider that had called Safeur Pompier was still in the crowd of onlookers gathered around the sick man; and, had stepped out to narrate what he had seen.

At the same spot, a member of the local congregation of a Celestial Church near La Roche roundabout had told Sapeur Pompier officials that the man had been seen in chains and bare-chested inside their house of worship the previous day. When contacted, church elders had confirmed the victim was on their premises Sunday till Monday, and that they had thought another member had brought the man there for spiritual healing.

They claimed that the man had kept mummuring, intermittently, uninteligible sentences in English and Igbo languages, while there. Aside his monologues, the man; they further alleged, had acted in ways that created fear. When, at the end of the evening’s service the bare-chested man was still roaming the premises; and, there was no sign that anybody was coming to take him away, he was consequently bound in chains to avoid a situation, where the perceived sick man could cause harm to other people.

Cele members further submitted that the victim had rejected a top to protect him from cold the previous night; and, that he had also turned down an offer of food from a female member that night. The following morning, seeing that nobody had come for the man and that his situation was worsening; and, fearful that they would be in trouble should the man die on their premises; church elders decided to send the fellow out of their compound.

It remains unclear how the sick man was ejected; and, questions would be asked why the Celestial Church leaders did not call in state health services since the man was ostensibly unwell. In any case, it is believed that the man slumped shortly after leaving the Celestial Church compound.

Curiously, too; instead of Safeur Pompier rescuers taking the sick man to a health centre, they had carried him to Missebo Market in search of NIDO Cotonou office. There, after a search; they had found a French-speaking Igbo youth, who led them to the office of the NIDO president. Promptly, this Igbo guide had fled to continue his business.

Through immediate moral and financial support from Chief Elendu, the incognito man had been rushed to Centre de Sante Al-Faycal (Al-Faycal Health Centre). Sadly, he had later died, while undergoing treatment there.

According to reliable sources, officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou had since been informed and briefed of ongoing developments. In response, the local Nigerian mission had since despatched memos to Abuja; and, copies of such letters had also been sent to relevant police divisional officers, Interpol and so on.