The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said the development of the Museum of West African Art (MOWAA) will contribute immensely towards the quest of his administration to reposition the State as the arts and tourism hub in Africa.
Obaseki, while speaking to journalists in Benin City, the Edo State capital, said the project is part of ongoing efforts by the government to transform the State’s art and culture sector, boost tourism receipts and grow the State’s economy.
According to him, “One unique advantage of Edo is its culture. Nobody else has it and the world now recognises this. It has become even a lot more famous with all the controversies surrounding returns of our artefacts. So, I thought that if the world has acknowledged and recognised these unique attributes, how do we as a State and as a people monetise it?
“How do we take advantage of it? How do we give it some tourist value? You know, if people go out to the world to see these things, how can we tell our story differently so that more people can come here and see us, not just see things?”
The governor continued: “Because these are artefacts, products our forebears created long ago and those same creative instincts that led to all of these are still here with us as it’s still the same blood that flows in our veins. So, why not create a similar environment that will allow for these creative instincts, these creative geniuses in our people to blossom?
“You can only do that when you have supporting infrastructure to do these things, that’s where things like the MOWAA’s Institute under construction, the museum, and the display areas become important and necessary; that’s the reason. It’s not just about the returns of the Benin artefacts.”
He added, “The other issue is that we still have all sorts of arts here, ancient and modern. The key is, how are we preserving them, how are we conserving them? If the works that we are asking to be returned were not preserved and conserved, will we find them today to be returned?
“For us, we see arts as fortune, so we’re trying to create the environment, including the infrastructure. The thinking is to make the wealth, the fortune that is embedded already in our arts. That is why MOWAA is important, that’s why the Institute is important, and that’s why we’ve redesigned the city centre as a cultural centre where people can come in and see elements, and relics of this great kingdom.
“That’s why we are restoring parts of the moats so that people can come in, look at the moat work, go through a moat walk, and try to understand the things that influenced this great empire.”