The Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has called on State Governments to emulate Edo State in promoting the culture sector, saying the renovated and repackaged Benin Museums Exhibition Galleries were pointers to the fact that the Federal Government is gradually achieving global best practices in Museums.
Lai Mohammed made this remark during the opening of National Museum Benin Exhibition Gallery, launching and projection of the work of Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge, a renowned photographer to the Royal Court of Benin Kingdom, described the event as a major landmark in Benin Kingdom.
Speaking at the epoch-making event, which held at the National Commission for Museum and Monuments (NCMM), Benin City on Friday, 29th September, 2017, the Honourable Minister, who was ably represented by the Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Alhaji Yusuf Abdallah Usman, said since the edifice that housed the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Benin City was erected some forty five years ago by the former Governor of Mid-Western State, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia (of blessed memory), the arts and culture of Benin Kingdom were taken to a new level of significance and importance.
His words: “Today’s event represents a major landmark of historical significance, first to celebrate the rare works of an illustrious Edo son whose outstanding collections have thrilled the entire world, and also to witness a repackaging and renewal of the exhibition gallery of National Museum, Benin City, which has been existing for long.”
While expressing his gratitude to the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, for his disposition to collaborate with a Federal Agency, the Minister said both levels of Government are running in the same direction to achieve a common goal which is the preservation and promotion of our cultural heritage; and therefore, called on other State Governors across the Country to emulate the Edo State by joining hands with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in their respective states to move the cultural sector forward.
Speaking earlier, His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin Kingdom, Omo n’Oba n’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II (N’Ogidigan), who was represented by the traditional prime minister, Chief Sam O. Igbe, said it pleased the Oba, who is the custodian of the peoples culture, to know that Benin artwork and culture wer well appreciated all over the world.
He stated that the palace court was delighted to know that this was the first time the Smithsonian Arts School was collaborating with another Institution outside America and even went further to choose Benin City, adding further that Chief Solomon Alonge used his dexterity in photography to serve the people very well, most especially the royal palace court; and that the anthology of his work will go a long way to preserve and improve the cultural values of the Benin Kingdom.
The royal palace expressed gratitude to the duo of Alhaji Yusuf Abdallah Usman and Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Nigeria and The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, USA, respectively.
In his remark, the United State Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency, Mr. William Stuart Symington, said he was elated to be part of this momentous event, adding that this was the first time a US museum was collaborating with an organisation outside America; and eulogised the creative and imaginary instinct of the Benin people for capturing images that are worthy of note.
While delivering his speech, the Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, congratulated the people of Edo State for the notable collaboration between a United State Institution and that of Nigeria.
He said he was part of Solomon Alonge’s project even before he became Governor and that he supported the project because it would bring cultural development to the good people of Edo State; and applauded the efforts of the senior archivist, Smithsonian’s National museum of African Art, Amy Staples and other members of her team for projecting the work of the Edo State born renowned photographer, Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge.
Also speaking at the occasion, former Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Senator (Pharm.) Matthew Urhoghide, said the culture of the Benin Kingdom is a masterpiece that can be showcased in any part of the world.
He expressed gratitude to the United States for making the collaboration possible; and assured the Governor of his support for any event of such magnitude that would better the lives of the people of Edo State and Nigeria, in general.
On his part, the Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Alhaji Yusuf Abdallah Usman, expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, for his support, which had made the Museum in Benin to be an area for education, entertainment and research, informing that, the photographs and archive of Alonge had been reproduced by the US Museum and presented to the National Museum in Benin.
In her remark, the Director Emerita, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, USA, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, expressed her appreciation to the Edo State Governor for the opportunity and support given to her Institute to collaborate with a Nigerian Institute.
The highly elated director, who could not hide her joy, said that the event was what seemed impossible to her at the conception stage and that it will remain a memorable one, describing Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge as an artist with exceptional talent, passion and foresight.
While giving thanks to the numerous supporters, the Senior Archivist, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Amy Staples, said Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge is one of Nigeria’s premiere photographers and first official photographer of the Royal Court of Benin, adding that Alonge took photographs and documents of the activities of Oba Akenzua ll (1933-1978) and a very good part of Oba Erediauwa (1979-2016).
In describing the collection of Alonge’s work, the senior archivist said: “The collection of historic photographs was captured on Kodak glass-plate negatives and documents more than 50 years of the ritual, pageantry and regalia of the Obas (kings), their wives and retainers. Alonge’s photographs reveal a unique insider’s view of the Benin royal family and court ceremonies, including historic visits by Queen Elizabeth in 1956, foreign dignitaries, traditional rulers, political leaders and celebrities.
“The collection preserves an important historical record of Benin arts and culture during the periods of British colonial rule and the transition to Nigerian independence during the 1950s and 1960s. The Chief S.O. Alonge exhibition celebrates the role Nigerian photographers have played in documenting their own history and addressing issues of identity, nationhood and memory.”
It is worthy of note that the co-organiser of the event, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, is a museum dedicated exclusively to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africa’s traditional and contemporary arts; and its mission is to inspire cross-cultural conversations about the beauty, power, and diversity of African arts and cultures worldwide.
The event, which also featured the launching of a book, entitled, Fragile Legacies: The Photographs of Solomon Osagie Alonge, with Johnnetta Cole, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, Kokunre Agbontaen-Eghafona, Enis Ehikhamenor, Tam Fiofori, Daniel Inneh, George Osodi, Amy Staples, and Theophilus Umogbai, as contributors, had Capt. (Dr.) Hosa Wells Okunbo as the Chief launcher.
Other dignitaries that graced the occasion were the Honourable Minister of State (Ministry of Health), Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Chairman, House Committee on Culture and Tourism, Hon. (Engr.) Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama; the Executive Secretary/CEO, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Assoc. Prof. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, represented by the Institute’s South-West Zonal Coordinator, Mr. James Imohiosen; former Member of the House of Representative, Hon. Chief Sunny Agbebo; Mother to the Edo State Governor, Madam Stella Gbinigie, MON; and renowned highlife music maestro, Sir (Prof.) Victor Nwaifo.