Varsity Don Engages Igbo-Ukwu Community, Pupils, in Restoring Ancient Expertise

By Michael Nnebife

A lecturer in the Department of Archeology and Tourism, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr Kingsley Chinedu Daraojimba, has engaged the people and secondary school students in Igbo-Ukwu, in Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra State, in a capacity-building exhibition and workshop on Igbo-Ukwu artifacts, to enable them to understand better and harness the rich cultural heritage of their ancestors for a better life.

The two-day exhibition and workshop entitled, ‘Archeology and the Public’, took place at the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Igbo-Ukwu, on June 8 and 9 for students and adult community members respectively.

According to the organizer, Dr Daraojimba, the essence of the event was to create public awareness about what Archeology was all about.

Speaking while taking the participants on the artifacts at the museum, Dr Daraojimba said, ‘This exhibition and workshop is all about going down to the grassroots to engage them on the importance of Archeology to the community and to keep them updated with recent research that’s going on in Igbo-Ukwu since 2019.’

Dr Daraojimba, who is also a post-doctoral research fellow at Macedon Institute of Archeology, University of Cambridge, explained that ‘Since (British) Thurstan Shaw carried out excavation work in Igbo-Ukwu over 60 years ego, it appears as if the community is not yet aware of what (the archeological) discipline is all about, and some of them have not seen many of those materials excavated more than 60 years ago.’

He said Thurstan Shaw started excavation in Igbo-Ukwu in 1959 and ended in 1964 after which nothing was done till 2019.

‘With the help of Pamela Shaw, the wife of Thurstan Shaw, we felt that there is a need to come to the site because there are a lot of things at Igbo-Ukwu that are not yet discovered,’ the UNN archeologist said, arguing that during the time of Shaw, there were a lot of questions such as who manufactured the Igbo-Ukwu artifacts; what was the nature of environment they were found; what was the source of materials for the objects; among others, which, he said, were unaddressed.

‘So, we felt that there is the need to come back to Igbo-Ukwu to carry out a study to answer some of these questions,’ he explained, adding that from 2019 to 2023, five sites had been excavated and that this year they wanted to update the community on the materials they had recovered so as to keep them abreast of what they were doing, their goals and the results so far.

Dr Daraojimba disclosed that his team had carried out a little bit of excavation at Igbo-Ukwu to train local community members and visited secondary schools in the community to educate the school children on what Archeology was all about.

He argued that artifacts were not fetish, but aspects of African heritage, created out of innovation and high level of craftsmanship by African ancestors, even as he suggested that religious priests should carry out exorcism on the artifacts.

The Archeology teacher advised Africans to engage in routine visits to museums for knowledge of artifacts in order to get inspirations that would enhance life in the present age.

He appealed to the federal government to return History to the nation’s educational curriculum to help the children know what their ancestors did right or wrong and correct them.

In an interview with the press, the Curator, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Igbo-Ukwu, Mr Inn Sam Imebo, described the exhibition and workshop as richly educating, saying that such and its kind should be encouraged and sustained.

The curator, who was represented by the Chief Museum Education Officer of the commission, Mrs Cordelia Otikpa, appealed to the host community, Igbo-Ukwu, to take the museum as their heritage and contribute to its infrastructural as well as material developments.

In their separate responses, some of the adult participants and stakeholders of the community, including Igwe’s cabinet secretary, Ide Emeka Ezesuokwu, eulogized the workshop and appreciated the organizer, Dr Daraojimba, even as they advocated the sustenance of the event.

The students of the five participating schools, Christ the King College, Future Hope Secondary School, Girls’ Secondary School, Holy Family Secondary School, and Community Secondary School, all in Igbo-Ukwu, were practically engaged in the art of learning how to mould various objects such as pots, pestles, snakes, among others, using ceramic clay. It was done by two students of Fine and Applied Arts, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State, Jacinta Pollyn and Mmaduabuchi Ofordum.

Speaking to the press, some of the school children, who included Master Chukwuebuke Nwoha of Holy Family Secondary School, and his Christ the King College counterpart, Master Basil Ifeanyi, said they had, through the workshop, learnt the craftsmanship of their forefathers and expressed appreciation to the organizer for giving them the opportunity.

Among the dignitaries present during the event, was the wife of a former traditional ruler of the community, Lolo Ego Ezeh.