The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, on Monday, led delegates of the German Government to inspect the site for the proposed Edo Museum of West African Arts (EMOWAA).
Obaseki, while conducting the German Minister of State for Culture and the Media (BKM), Claudia Roth on a guided tour of the project site in Benin City, said the museum will attract tourists from far and near to view Benin artefacts and have an experience of the history and rich cultural heritage of Edo people.
He said the German Government has declared interest to return all looted artifacts in its custody and assured the Edo State Government of its continued support towards the realization of the EMOWAA project
Obaseki said, “We are glad that we have been able to serve as a catalyst to make this happen. A few years before I came into office, the discussion was on but we realized it was not going to go anywhere until the Edo State Government stepped in and it was the intervention of the state government that facilitated the return of these works and the increased conversations about the returns.
“This conversation about restitution and return of these works have been going on for almost two years. It is part of our dealing to first return these artifacts to where they belong but more importantly, whether they are all returned or not, what is most important is the ownership, that these work don't belong to the people who are currently holding them, but to Edo people and as part of Nigeria, they should come back to Nigeria.”
Noting that the Germans were the first to accept to return the looted artefacts, Obaseki commended the German Government for its continued partnership with the Edo State Government.
He said that the EMOWAA project, on completion, will serve as a facility to bridge the gap in the history and knowledge of the Edo people.
The governor further noted, “People may not understand the implication, impacts and importance of what we are doing now but hopefully in years to come, Edo people and Nigerians will come to appreciate that we took the right decision. First, to put pressure on those who are currently holding our prized pieces of artifacts that these works actually belong to us and were forcibly taken away from this city and there was a lot of destruction and carnage that went with it.
“How are we going to benefit? It's not the work in themselves, it is the whole ecosystem that we will be creating. There is so much we don't know because of the disconnection of what happened, how we used to live and deal with our environment. We need knowledge and these pieces coming back serve as a contact point to begin research work as to who we are as a people. Never again are we going to sit and allow outsiders to tell us about our history, who we are and what our objects mean to us.
“This will also serve as a stimulus. Edo people are still very creative and the blood that flows in them is the same blood that flowed in the people who made these world-class pieces 500 years ago. Many of them are expressing themselves in different art forms and media but there is no infrastructure to support them. So, a facility like this will be that infrastructure that will be second to none in the continent to support our budding artists, whether in the traditional arts, music or entertainment. So, it's about reenacting that creative cultural instinct that is in our DNA.
“It will also create an economy out of our culture, just like some other cities in Nigeria. But it cannot happen if we don't have the facilities to. So, creating a cultural hub like this will provide that infrastructure for us to be the home of culture, which we naturally are.”
Hailing the German Government for their support, the governor noted, “They are partially contributing to fund the EMOWAA project. EMOWAA, a charitable trust, is raising funds internationally and openly to help us preserve our heritage; it is not a money making venture. Nobody is making money from it, rather people are going out, spending their energy, resources and connections to try and put Edo before the world and make Edo attractive for people who globally are concerned with preservation of heritage.”