MAJOR MUSEUMS IN NIGERIA (GEO-POLITICAL ZONES) PART 1

NORTH- CENTRAL ZONE

Esie Museum Kwara

Esie is an Igbomina Yoruba town in Kwara State of Nigeria lying about 48 kilometres Southeast of Ilorin and about 128 kilometer north of Ife. Esie is generally known as a home of soapstone figures.

This was the first museum in Nigeria, built in 1945. The museum once housed a thousand tombstone images, which represents human beings and is famous to have the largest collected works of soapstone images in the world.

 The Origin of Soapstone figures is baffling, until date, it remains a mystery. Indeed, nobody knows how these stone images exactly came about, the stone figures were first discovered in 1775, and myth has it that the local people of the town committed a terrible offence and thunder struck, turning everyone into a stone.

Ironically, the Esie people worship them yearly, however, most of these soapstone figures have lost either heads or limbs. They appear to represent a variety of people, some are men while some are women. A particular one, adorned with the tall cap neck and wrist beads was said to be their king. This one receives the annual sacrifice offered by the Esie people on behalf of others.

The soapstone figures of Esie are largest collection of stone carvings still in Black Africa. They were found in groves outside the town of Esie.

The Esie Museum is located in Esie, a town about 53 kilometers Southeast of Ilorin in Irepodun LGA.

Jos Museum

This is a museum in Jos located beside a Zoo, established in 1952 by Bernard Fagg and was originally the National Museum. It is an important centre of research into the prehistoric culture of Nigeria, and was recognized as one of the best in the country but fell into ruin.

The Pottery Hall in the museum has an outstanding anthology of finely crafted pottery from all over Nigeria. The museum boasts some fine specimens of Nok terracotta heads and artifacts dating from between 500 BC to AD 200. It also incorporates the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture with life-size replicas of a variety of buildings, from the walls of Kano and the Mosque at Zaria to a Tiv village. Articles of interest from colonial times relating to the railway and tin mining can be found on exhibit.

NORTH-WEST ZONE

Gidan Makama Museum Kano

Gidan Makama Museum is a museum in Kano, it was built 520 years ago and served as the temporary residence of Muhammadu Rumfa the 18th emir of Kano, whilst the emirs’ palace was being constructed in the 15th century.

It is located at the Emir Palace road in a 15th-century historical building, which is recognized as a National Monument by the Government of Nigeria.

The galleries are the rooms and courtyards of the old Makamas and depict the fashion of a traditional residence of a Kano aristocrat. The entrance of the gates exhibited some historical pots believed to have been excavated at Kofar Kabuga, a gate within the Kano city wall and two colonial cannons.

The museum has 11 galleries each containing materials, artifacts and pictures representing the historical heritage of the people.

  1. First gallery is about Hausa traditional structural design and includes building materials used by the people of Kano
  2. Second has the Kofar kabuga gates through which the British entered and afterward captured Kano; it also has a map showing the walls of Kano
  3. Third exhibits a traditional religious history of Kano in pictures and the story of the early invaders of Kano led by Bagauda
  4. Fourth depicts the Fulani prejudiced history of Kano starting from the 19th century
  5. Fifth tells the story of the Kano Civil war
  6. Sixth tells the story of old Kano economy and the Durbar
  7. Seventh has the colonial period and pictorial history of 20th century political figures
  8. Eighth includes the Islamic heritage of the people of Kano
  9. Ninth shows various occupations of the people of Kano and includes farm instruments, basketwork and textiles
  10. Tenth has music instruments
  11. Eleventh depicts the traditional Hausa bride’s room.

Kaduna Museum

This museum is located along Ali Akilu Road in Ungawan Sarki, Kaduna. The museum was opened in 1975 following the donation of the old Northern People’s Congress (NPC) building by the North Central State Government. Opposite the Emir of Zazzau’s palace along Ali Akilu Road in Kaduna, is the National Museum, one of the many historical monuments the city inherited for being the capital of the defunct Northern Region.You will also find a traditional craft village located within the Museum premises, where you can observe traditional artisans and women making crafts.

One fascinating thing about this museum is its live craft peculiarity, which allows visitors to watch local craftspeople and artisans working in real-time. Terracotta statues and Benin bronzes can be found in the museum.

The museum has in its collections both Archaeological and Ethnographic materials ranging from terracotta figurines of humans and animals from the famous Nok culture area dated to about 2,500 years ago, as well as artworks and crafts of both prehistoric and contemporary societies.

Also found in the museum are building structures constructed with the Hausa traditional architecture of mud and thatch. The museum is a fascinating building recommended to Tourists. The National Museum in Kaduna used to be a beehive of activities, attracting visitors from far and near, including foreigners.

Kanta Museum

Kanta Museum is a museum in Argungu, Kebbi (Argungu is a popular tourist location and receives many tourists from all over the world because of the Argungu festival), built in 1831, the building was named after Muhammed Kanta, who founded the Kebbi Kingdom. It served as the Emir’s palace until 1942 when the British built a new administrative palace during the reign of Muhammed Sani. After the building became unoccupied, it opened as the Kanta Museum on 1 July 1958. In 2013, the federal government took over the museum, and the National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM) declared it as a national monument, offering an insight into the turbulent history of Kebbi State.

The museum is divided into eleven partitions and has a remarkable collection of weapons, consisting of charms, spears, swords, wood, stones, bows and arrows, local guns and even drums on display. The ancient architectural splendor of the museum is maintained with minimal renovations and reconstruction. It retains its historic charm; and the view from outside is of ancient northern Nigerian structure and edifice.

The Emir, comes into the museum every Friday after the Jumat service to pay respect to his ancestors by sitting for a time on the ancient throne. Since the museum, also serves as a royal tomb, all past Emirs of Kebbi kingdom have been interred there.

The best time to visit the museum is during the day when there are guides to take you through the museum and lecture you on the rich history of the Argungu people.

NORTH-EAST ZONE

Borno State Museum

The museum is located at the premises of the Open Theatre within the state capital. It is an embodiment of Borno’s famous history and cultural heritage, which was collectively enriched by its heterogeneous ethnic groups.It, is established primarily for the preservation, exhibition, promotion and research of the antiquities as well as the contemporary art works, crafts and other historical artifacts of the people of Borno State.  It is notable as an historical site. Borno state museum is a haven for artifacts and relics that re-tell about the historic past of the Borno people.

SOUTH-SOUTH ZONE

Benin City National Museum

The Benin City National Museum is a national museum in Benin City, Nigeria, situated in the city centre on King’s Square. Benin City Museum is a premier national museum founded in 1973 with significant number of artifacts associated to the Benin Empire such as terracotta, bronze figures and cast iron pieces.

The Museum is one of the richest National Museums in Nigeria in respect to the amount of history it holds not just of the Benin Empire but also of surrounding ancient city-states.

Its curved exterior echoes the spherical parcel of land where the museum stands. A 1976 exterior mosaic by Yoruba artist Jimoh Buraimoh depicts a lively abstracted court scene of an Oba (presumably Oba Akenzua, as he wears circular spectacles) surrounded by chiefs, courtiers, and shield-bearing figures drawn from 16th-century plaques.

Some of the major artifacts here include the head of the renowned Queen Idia, samples of shotguns used during the Ida war and bronze casting of a gun powder keg.

The first (ground) floor was dedicated to mostly pre-1897 antiquities, some of which had been purchased back from Britain when Nigeria was still a colony. This area included exhibits of partially reconstructed regal altars, although with objects clearly separated from one another for display purposes.

The second floor included some Benin City objects of more recent manufacture, including divination equipment, as well as pottery, masks, and other artworks from elsewhere in the former Bendel State (now divided into Edo and Delta States). The third floor included wooden sculpture, masks, and additional art from other regions of Nigeria. Get a sight of the various historic relics and artifacts from around the country on the last floor also known as Unity Gallery. From the bronze throne presented to the emperor by the head of Portugal to a variety of traditional clothing’s and craft work, get an insight into the ancient history of the Benin people.

In late September 2017, however, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art brought their exhibition “Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria” to the museum as part of its permanent installation.

Note: Cameras are not allowed into the museum, this is because the museum has the case where people come in, take photographs and attempt to recreate the artifacts found in the museum so it banned visitors from taking pictures entirely. You can however, take pictures from the outside of the museum and ensure to get a souvenir from the museum gift shop, ranging from batik fabrics to various traditional drinking vessels and costume jewelry items.

Old Residency Museum Calabar

The Old Residency Museum was built in 1884 on top of Consular Hill; the building is a prefabricated construction of Scandinavian red-pine wood shipped in knockdown parts from Britain to old Calabar. This building was the seat of the British colonial administration for the Southern Protectorate of Nigeria. It was built in 1884 and accommodated the early British administrators, and was declared a national monument in 1959.

Built about 130 years ago, but still in good shape and gives one a better understanding of the kind of buildings the colonial masters were staying. Hewett, a stern-faced man with a floppy moustache, was the first resident of what is now known as the Old Residency, a building prefabricated in Britain and then shipped to Calabar in 1884.  With Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the colonial rulers left, but the Old Residency remained; its Scandinavian red-pine wood walls survived the Calabar climate (a 10-month rainy season), the Biafran War, and dictatorial destructiveness.

It is situated close to the Marina Beach resort and focuses on the history of Calabar, the Cross-River region and slavery. The building is housed in the former residence if the Colonial Governor when Calabar became the first capital city of pre-independent Nigeria. The old residency museum houses the world’s largest quantity of original Nigerian artifacts and documents.

The museum opens with the darkest page in its history: the four centuries of transatlantic slave trade during which the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and British shipped millions of Africans across the Atlantic to sell as slaves.

The building which served as both the residence and administrative headquarters of the colonial government is one of the only few history museums in Nigeria and hosts some of the most preserved artifacts and documents dating back to pre-colonial period. Because this is a history museum, it has some of the best and most preserved historical collections in the country.

Slave History Museum, Calabar

The Slave History Museum derived its name from the activities that took place in Calabar, the point where a significant percentage of the slaves left African shores during the transatlantic slave trade. The establishment of the museum was exclusively the Cross River State initiative, to enhance the tourism potential in the state, the museum is directly managed by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

The museum’s five main exhibits include the Esuk Mba Slave Market in Akpabuyo. Slave trading in Calabar was a case where the enslaved were largely captives of war or sometimes sold by their parents in the hope that they might find a more profitable life elsewhere. Captives of war were assembled in this market and sold out as slaves to slave merchants. This market is still in existence, with a barter system in operation, even until date.

Another exhibition features objects of the slave trade, including Chains and Shackles. Slave traders used shackles to be in charge of slaves, and with the help of these chains, the merchants discouraged resistance as they carried as many people as possible over long distances.

 An exhibition on the Procurement of Slaves depicts the diverse currencies of the slave trade, from copper bars, manilas, and Dane guns, to brass bells, gongs, flutes, and more. The Shipment of Slaves displays an artistic impression of the arrangement of slaves in a ship. Enslaved people are arranged in different positions depending on where they were kept on the ship, either by sitting, standing, or in juxtaposition, in order to avoid conspiracy in the ship.

These positions were maintained for several months until the vessels arrived at their New World destinations.

Finally, a British act for the abolition of the slave trade on 25 March 1807 stated that from and after 1 May 1807, the slave trade should be legally abolished. The Slave History Museum, Calabar, was established in 2007 and commissioned on 17 March 2011. It is opened to the public every day of the week including Saturdays and Sundays as well as public holidays.

Photo credit: https://www.legit.ng/1127884-top-museums-nigeria-location-year-establishment.html

Photo credit: https://hotels.ng/guides/destinations/top-ten-museums-in-lagos/

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