By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has hailed the very rich cultural history and tradition of the ancient Benin Kingdom, one of the famous destinations during the exploitation of the African continent by the Europeans.Speaking at the opening of the National Gallery of Art (NGA) Benin Art Exhibition, in commemoration of the coronation of the new Oba of Benin, in Benin City on Friday, the Minister however lamented the plundering of the priceless pieces of Benin art works during the attack on the ancient Benin Kingdom by the British in 1897.
”Although some of the works have been repatriated, till date some other choice works are still adorning exhibition spaces in museums across Europe and Britain. For instance, the Idia Ivory mask, official symbol of the 2nd World Black Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77) which took place in Nigeria in 1977, is still on display in a British museum,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the people of Edo, whom he described as ”highly skilled” in the arts and crafts, have continued to maintain the rich legacy of the Benin Kingdom with their colorful festivals and engagement in arts production such as pottery, basket-making, cane furniture, cloth-weaving, mat-making and gold-smiting to generate income and create jobs.
He used the occasion to welcome and highlight the significance of the establishment of World Intellectual Property Organisation’s External Office in Nigeria, noting that the contribution of Nigeria to the Commonwealth of culture and creativity has gained global prominence.
”Our rich culture is a spectacle for the global world to behold. Nigeria has become an irresistible and important site of culture, creativity and intellectual property. The above fact is therefore significant to the establishment of WIPO’s external office in Nigeria.
”WIPO’s office in Nigeria will fulfill the three key objectives of providing the much-needed capacity building for Africa with Nigeria as regional hub; support local and regional information and technical assistance system; and strengthen automated solutions by IP system and public authorities for the country and the region,” the Minister said.
The four-day exhibition, with the theme: “The Art of the Benin Kingdom,” is showcasing the exquisite Benin art in the national collection, alongside art works produced by some Benin artists. The exhibition contains various genre of art such as paintings, sculpture, and textiles.