The Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has announced plans to accelerate development of the eagerly-awaited Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA).
At a retreat organised by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments that held in Benin City, the Governor revealed that the construction of an early-phase building called the EMOWAA Pavilion, will commence before the end of the year.
The creation of this first facility within the larger museum complex of buildings and grounds will enable EMOWAA to match the ever-increasing momentum of an international movement for the return of Benin artefacts and restoration of the cultural heritage of the Kingdom of Benin.
In a joint announcement with the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments and Legacy Restoration Trust (LRT), (the independent, non-profit organization charged with building and managing the museum), Governor Obaseki displayed the initial Pavilion designs, rendered by globally renowned architect, Sir David Adjaye.
In his presentation, the Governor highlighted features of the EMOWAA Pavilion such as secure, state-of-the-art facilities for functions including conservation, study, exhibition, and public programming, as historic artworks of the Kingdom of Benin are restituted from the institutions where they are now held across the world.
Governor Obaseki also announced that the EMOWAA Pavilion, and the museum complex as a whole, will be situated within an emerging Benin City Cultural District, as part of a wider Benin City Masterplan that has been commissioned by the state.
According to the him, “The integration of EMOWAA into the daily life of our people, and its impact on a greatly improved urban fabric, will begin with the opening of the EMOWAA Pavilion. In his well-thought-out design, Sir David Adjaye has served all the requirements of the still-developing Museum and at the same time created a place that will welcome and embrace all members of the public.
“The EMOWAA Pavilion will be an important and integral part of the EMOWAA complex, which will be situated in what was the heart of the historic Royal Palace grounds in Benin City before the British Invasion in 1897.”
In his reaction to the newly unveiled development, the Director General of the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Professor Abba Isa Tijani, said, “The ever-increasing pace of agreements to restitute the cultural heritage of the Kingdom of Benin, and the cooperation now being extended to Nigeria by institutions in Europe and North America, have encouraged us to begin creating EMOWAA with this important first phase of construction. The Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to EMOWAA and the Legacy Restoration Trust as a transparent, innovative way of attracting investment into the arts and culture infrastructure in Nigeria. As revealed in Sir David Adjaye’s magnificently sensitive and dignified plans, the EMOWAA Pavilion will enable the museum to begin fulfilling its mission as needed, in the very near future.”
Phillip Ihenacho, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Legacy Restoration Trust, expressed his gratitude to renowned architect, Sir David Adjaye for envisioning a first-phase facility that is complete in every way and at the same time is achievable on the organisations’ timetable. He emphasised that “the EMOWAA will be ready to provide a secure, environmentally controlled facility for artworks and artifacts by the end of next year.” In describing the world-class edifice, Ihenacho explained that the EMOWAA Pavilion was conceived as a highly sustainable, efficient single-story building comprised predominantly of locally sourced rammed earth. “The EMOWAA Pavilion will house an exhibition gallery with views into the secure, climate-conditioned storage and collection study area, an auditorium with seating for 180 persons, conference rooms, conservation laboratories, and a library. The landscaped grounds outside the building will include an informal public gathering place and a museum facility for outdoor programs”, he concluded.
In the near term, the EMOWAA Pavilion will provide a state-of-the-art secure facility for restituted objects and archaeological finds, a project center for the archaeological work currently in progress on and around the EMOWAA site in Benin City, laboratories for studying artifacts unearthed during the archaeological excavations, a visitor center for engaging the local community and stakeholders, and interim offices for EMOWAA staff.
In the long term, after EMOWAA is complete, the EMOWAA Pavilion will be a base for ongoing archaeological research, a hub for training in archaeology, conservation, heritage studies, and museology, and a storage and conservation center for the objects held by EMOWAA.