Saturday, July 21, 2012

First Ekpo Eyo Memorial Lecture

Buried in Lagos, Nigeria’s first indigenous museums’ chief resurrects in Calabar
Exactly one year after his remains were interred in Lagos, the life and achievements of the late Prof Ekpo Okpo Eyo were celebrated in Calabar, capital of Cross River State; through the First Ekpo Eyo Memorial Lecture, which was organised by National Museum Calabar, where Mr. Sunny Adaka is Curator.
Pic 1. Photos: Courtesy Old Residency, National Museum Calabar.

It could be recalled that Prof Ekpo Eyo, who passed on at his Maryland, USA home on 28 May, 2011; was the first indigenous Nigerian to head the nation’s museums, following his appointment as Director of the then Federal Department of Antiquities in 1967.

Throughout his tenure as then Federal Director of Antiquities, Ekpo Eyo consolidated on the foundations laid by Messrs KC Murray and Bernard Fagg; his predecessors in office as well as broke new grounds through exploiting cultural diplomacy to foster Nigeria’s image.
Pic 2.

Such outings included Treasures of Ancient Nigeria: Legacy of 2000 Years (1980) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA; and, Treasures of Ancient Nigeria (1982) at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, London, UK. An outstanding archaeologist, anthropologist and museologist, Ekpo Eyo later worked as lecturer at University of Maryland, US; where he was appointed a professor.

But, even before his retirement as Director, Federal Antiquities Commission in 1986, Ekpo Eyo was in 1984 inducted a Fellow of the Smithsonian Institution. He was also honoured with Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) and in 1975, Ekpo Eyo was admitted into Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (a sort of the enviable Academy of Arts and Letters) by the French Government.

Indeed, the late Prof Ekpo Eyo would be remembered not only for his competent leadership of the NCMM but also for his numerous illuminating papers and books, including the unique volume on antiquities; From Shrines to Showcases: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art (2008) and Nigeria and the Evolution of Money (1979), 2000 Years of Nigerian Art (1977) as well as The Terra cottas of Calabar; the latter, co-authored with Dr. Christopher Slogar.
Pic 3.

These, among others, were what the First Ekpo Eyo Memorial Lecture aimed to celebrate and the organisers’ goals were successfully achieved. The event, which took place on June 30 at The Marina Resort; featured Prof Eka Braide, a former Vice Chancellor (VC) of Cross River State University (CRUTECH) and currently VC, Federal University, Lafia as Chairperson; while Prof Olufunmilayo Olatunde Lawal, University of Calabar’s Library and Information Service; gave the lecture, titled, Ancient and Modern in Cultural History of Calabar: Legacies of Prof Ekpo Eyo.  

Among other laurels and garlands, Prof Braide is a Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Science; Fellow and co-Founder, Nigerian Society of Parasitology; an Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR); and recipient of the Jimmy/Rosalyn Carter Award for Outstanding Dedication toward the Eradication of Guinea Worm in Nigeria.

On his part, Prof Lawal the Lecturer is a Fellow, Nigerian Library Association (NLA); a former Member National Library Board (2007-2010); a former Member, University of Calabar Governing Council (2009-2011); Fellow, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (FCLIP), UK; and Institute of Management Consultants (FIMC) in 2006.

Aside Professors Braide and Lawal, other notable personalities in attendance included Mrs. Augustha Ekpo Eyo, widow of the late Prof Eyo; a representative of the Palace of the Obong of Calabar; Cross River Deputy Governor, Chief Efiok Cobham; Prof Evara Esu, Senator Ewa Henshaw; Dr. Ogbonna Kalu Iroha, President of Calabar Museum Society; Prof (Dr) Jaja; and, Engineer Ekpe Esien Ita of the Cross River State University.

In his lecture, the occasional paper of which he dedicated to The Senator Henshaw Centre for Indigenous Studies, University of Calabar; Prof Lawal revealed in the abstract, that the presentation: “Examines the profile of the legendary Prof Ekpo Eyo, some of his major contributions to Museums and Monuments, and important stratification of major focus of his research”.

Lawal went on to expatiate that “The elements of Ancient and Modern concept are elucidated in some of his (Eyo’s) publications such as Conventional Museums and the quest for Relevance in Africa (1994), Two thousand years of Nigerian Art, Treasures of Ancient Nigeria: A legacy of 2000 years”, et cetera. In his conclusion, Prof Lawal submitted: “As a Senior Advocate of our rich cultural heritage in Nigeria, a significant National Monument should be named to immortalise him (Prof Ekpo Eyo)”.
Pic 4.

The profile of the late doyen of museum reminds that Ekpo Eyo, though Efik-born; married a Yoruba lady, Augustha Tinuade in 1967; and, that he carried out extensive excavation exercises in Owo and Calabar. In his lifetime, Prof Eyo also served as Vice President of the Advisory Council of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and on UNESCO Committee for the Creation of the Convention on the Illicit Transfer of Cultural Property (1970). He also served in the UNESCO World Cultural Property Committee (1974).
In his welcome address, Dr. Ogbonna Kalu Iroha, who is President of Calabar Museum Society; observed: “This lecture is organised by Calabar Museum Society in collaboration with the NCMM”.

Dr. Iroha went on to explain that, “Calabar Museum Society is a body, consisting of people of all works of life and disciplines, who have declared their intention to and desire of promoting public interest and awareness in museum activities, thus fostering appreciation of the cultural and natural heritage in Cross River State and beyond”.
Pic 5.

Additionally, Iroha said that, among other educational and social activities; the Calabar Museum Society organises workshops, seminars, public lectures, exhibitions, essay/quiz competitions for schools, cultural displays as well as tours and conferences both within and outside Cross River State.

With regard to the body’s ultimate goals, Iroha had this to say: “The aims and objectives of the society is to provide a forum for professionals in different fields and interested individuals to be involve in the work of museums or complement the activities of the NCMM.

Today’s occasion is another milestone in the efforts of the society through its programmes to bring into focus the pioneering works and contributions of great citizens of this state to the development and growth of museum, archaeological studies and tourism in our contemporary society”.

Speaking further, Iroha added; “In line with the belief that success breeds success through a process of emulation, the Calabar Museum Society is of the view that time is now for us to have a closer look and a review of what Nigerian citizens, indeed great sons and daughters of Cross River State have done or contributed towards cultural development and preservation of cultural heritage so as to promote the dissemination of such contributions for emulation.

“Professor Ekpo Okpo Eyo, a Cross Riverian was an eminent archaeologist, anthropologist, art historian, ethnologist, museologist academic and administrator, who made brilliant contributions in museums, tourism and academics.

As an authority in matters of African art and archaeological research and knowledge, Professor Ekpo Eyo was believed to be one of the people of this land that have made tremendous contributions to our cultural history and development.

“If I may ask: Where are those distinctive and distinguishing dress codes that depict the uniqueness of our culture? What is happening to our native dialects that even the well-educated and well-read have forgotten and our children can no longer communicate in them? What is happening to traditional cuisines and menu in the face of so-called modern foods”?
Pic 6.

Concluding, Dr. Iroha pointed out, that: “There is a very strong linkage between the ancient and modern in our cultural history. We are therefore looking through this lecture because we know that the challenge of sustaining and retaining our culture is one challenge that our government is taking very seriously”.

Pic 1: L-R: Cross River Information Commissioner, Mrs. Augustha Ekpo Eyo and a rep of the Obong of Calabar.
Pic 2: L-R: Cross River Deputy Governor, Prof Evara Esu, Senator Ewa Henshaw and Prof Olu Lawal.
Pic 3: L-R: Prof (Dr) Jaja, Engr Ekpe Ita and Chief Henshaw.
Pic 4: Mrs. Ekpo Eyo with goggles in group photograph with some participants after the lecture.
Pic 5: Members of a cultural troupe in action during an interlude.
Pic 6: The late Prof Ekpo Eyo as he looked in the late 1960.

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