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MOWAA Pioneers Heritage Preservation through Inaugural Archaeological Seminar

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In an unprecedented move towards safeguarding West Africa’s rich cultural heritage, the Museum of West African Art (MOWAA) recently organized a landmark seminar in Benin City, Nigeria.

The seminar titled, “Futures of Archaeology: Archaeology and Heritage Management in West Africa Today – Challenges and Opportunities,” aimed at equipping Africans with the necessary knowledge and skills to protect and manage the invaluable heritage sites scattered across the region.

The two-day event, spanning September 12 and 13, served as a melting pot of ideas and perspectives from esteemed voices in the archaeological realm.

Leading figures like Prof. Akin Ogundiran from Northwestern University, Prof. Jonathan O. Aleru from the University of Ibadan, Prof. Gerard Chouin from William and Mary University, and Dr. Babatunde Babalola from the British Museum and the Cyprus Institute graced the occasion, sharing their insights on various archaeological projects.

 

According to Charles Le Quesne, MOWAA’s Head of Archaeology, urban development and population growth in West Africa have become significant threats to the preservation of cultural landmarks and traditions.

Le Quesne emphasized the urgency in documenting and understanding these historic sites before they disappear due to modern advancements.

To counter these threats, MOWAA introduced its new Field School initiative during the seminar. This platform seeks to offer hands-on training to students from within and beyond West Africa.

MOWAA is collaborating with esteemed institutions like the National Commission for Monuments and Museums (NCMM) and the University of Oxford, focusing on scholarships and capacity building.

Dr. Samuel N. Nkumbaan, Head of the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana, lauded MOWAA’s proactive steps, citing the immense potential these initiatives bring to archaeological and heritage research in Ghana and West Africa.

Emphasizing the importance of heritage management, Dr. Oluwatoyin Sogbesan, President of ICOMOS Nigeria, described heritage practitioners as the custodians of a country’s identity and diversity. Through the work of such professionals, a nation’s past can be documented and preserved for future generations to appreciate.

The seminar marked an important step in the construction of the MOWAA Institute in Benin City. Once launched, the institute will be a hub for research, archives, archaeological fieldwork, and archaeological science. With advanced equipment procured through a grant from the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the institute is poised to revolutionize archaeological research and documentation in the region.

Speaking on the future of the institute, Prof. Shadreck Chirikure from Oxford University highlighted the critical role of African scholarship in retelling the continent’s history. He stressed the need for increased funding to ensure more students can benefit from the institute’s resources.

Ore Disu, Director of MOWAA’s Institute, envisions a holistic approach that melds research, community building, and education, culminating in a vibrant tourism sector. The recent interest shown by global institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York signifies the vast potential that lies ahead.

As the drumbeat of heritage conservation grows louder, MOWAA stands at the forefront, ready to drive change and preserve the rich tapestry of West Africa’s history for generations to come.

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