Governor of Edo State,Godwin Obaseki, has revealed plans to speed up the construction of the much-anticipated Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA).
The Governor announced that construction of an early-phase facility called the EMOWAA Pavilion will begin before the end of the year during a retreat organized by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Benin City.
The establishment of this first facility within the bigger museum complex of buildings and gardens will allow EMOWAA to keep up with an international movement for the return of Benin artefacts and the restoration of the Kingdom of Benin’s cultural legacy.
Governor Obaseki unveiled the initial Pavilion designs, which were created by internationally renowned architect Sir David Adjaye, in a joint announcement with the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments and the Legacy Restoration Trust (LRT), (the independent, non-profit organization charged with building and managing the museum).
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.”
The EMOWAA Pavilion, according to Ihenacho, was designed as a highly sustainable, efficient single-story building made mostly of locally produced 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.
After EMOWAA is completed, the Pavilion will serve as a basis for continuous archaeological research, a training hub for archaeology, conservation, heritage studies, and museology, as well as a storage and conservation facility for EMOWAA’s artefacts.