The Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) Trust has unveiled its plans and programmes for developing arts and culture in West Africa as work progresses on constructing the Pavilion in Benin City, Edo State.
The Pavilion, which will be the first building within EMOWAA’s Creative District, was designed by the renowned architect David Adjaye in collaboration with Nigerian architects. It will house a materials and digital lab, archaeology centre and research and archives facility.
Speaking at a media parley in Lagos on Thursday March 30, 2023, executive chairman of EMOWAA Trust, Philip Ihenacho said the Pavilion is meant to support museums across West Africa.
“EMOWAA’s initial focus will be on creating an ecosystem for research education and career opportunities for young creatives and professionals in cultural heritage management. The Pavilion is planned as an archives and research centre, providing space for learning and exchange, and archival space for works of art from West Africa and the Diaspora both contemporary and heritage.
“It will also be a space that will help catalyse the art and culture ecosystem by providing infrastructure for training, residencies, digital production, and growing a pipeline of future artists and researchers. In short it is about building platforms for the study, creation and display of art,” Iheanacho said.
EMOWAA’s mission, according to its corporate profile, is to support West African heritage and culture as well as to empower contemporary creatives. EMOWAA intends to do this by providing infrastructure, research and education as well as capacity building opportunities for scholars and creative professionals across West Africa.
This first building under construction will provide modern research facilities for artists and academics from across West Africa, and Archaeological and Material Lab. This 4000sqm facility will provide the digital equipment and facilities to support the storage and study of West Africa’s unique cultural knowledge base and bring to life our imagined futures into 2D/3d reality for global access and engagement.
With a major focus on learning and artistic and academic engagement, the Pavilion will house a visitor centre for engaging the local stakeholders through ongoing initiatives and programming. At the heart of these initiatives is a commitment to redefine how research, archives and collections are engaged with, challenging notions of expertise and exclusivity.
An example of one of these programmes launched recently is the Open Learning initiative developed in partnership with the Open Society Foundation in Africa.
The initiative has engaged over 520 students in Benin City, Edo State discussing with them about the rich cultural history of West Africa as well as potential career opportunities within the heritage management and arts.
As well as building the Pavilion, the EMOWAA Trust will serve as facilitator and platform- supporting and maintaining part of a planned cultural district in the heart of Benin City. The creative district will collaborate with, and boost the success of all existing and planned cultural institutions in Benin City including the future Royal Benin Museum and the existing NCMM museum by facilitating a thriving creative hub and tourism destination in Edo State.
By working in collaboration with other museums, educational and cultural institutions and foundations across the world, EMOWAA intends to foster long term partnerships that foster a supportive platform for the creative sector and enhance the vibrant contemporary arts scene in West Africa. “It is incredibly important that our work supports young creatives, hence our focus also on contemporary and modern art and the recent appointments in this area,” concluded Ihenacho.
Iheanacho stated that EMOWAA is independent in its operations it does not own rights to artefacts. He noted that the museum simply wishes to partner with the Edo State Government, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments of Nigeria, and the Benin Kingdom.