Thursday 7 June 2018

With my tour guide, Mr. Festus
 I love museums. Ever since I was a child, I’d always been fascinated with museums and art. As a teenager, I would spend hours watching documentaries and reading books on Egyptology. I was convinced I would find an ancient temple in almost perfectly preserved states (I still believe this will happen) There are two things I always do once I get into a new city – listen to the radio and go to a museum. Those are the best ways to have a feel of a city. 

I decided to go to the National Museum on Awolowo road, Ikoyi. My office is just off Awolowo road and I figured I would go there immediately after my show. It took a few minutes to get there, and I almost turned around and went back home. I’m fighting the flu plus I hadn’t had water or food all day. But I figured, I’ll brave it and not stay for too long.

Mr Festus, my guide

The main entrance

I got down from the car with just my phone and my wallet because I knew there would be a fee to get in. I was greeted with a sign that said “No photographs inside” and I felt half my excitement vanish. I think the beauty of a museum is having pictures and videos. But anyways I was in already, I just had to get on with it. I paid for my ticket – funny because the lady asked if I was a Nigerian citizen, I laughed and said yes so I paid N200. That was cheap so I was thrilled. My excitement came back. Everywhere looked rather dark and I asked if there was a gift shop and she said yes. It was right there. While I had to wait about 3 minutes for change, the lights came back on and the ladies exclaimed saying I was lucky. 

A giant pot in he courtyard, with Wolof Jollof written on it
Then I saw the art work behind them, I was so excited because I love art. I have a pretty decent collection which is still growing. In England, i would raid charity shops hunting for bargains and it was always a huge thrill to get amazing pieces.  I was already trying to see which pieces I would purchase at the museum. I saw the Idia mask and I would have bought that, but then I realized I got a similar mask 10 years ago from the museum in Benin City, Edo state. It proudly adorns the walls in the living room of my family home. 

I asked about the price range of the art and when I indicated the little figure head I wanted, I was informed it was N20, 000!! Mic drop, I asked if there was anything in the range of N2000 and basically nothing. My excitement dropped again.  It’s a museum gift shop, and not an art gallery. There should be things for every budget. Plus little gift items. It was 10 years ago, but I got some carved wooden bottle openers for N150 and N300 from the Gift shop at the Benin museum. 

 I asked for brochures and well there were none. That made me sad. Most historical places have brochures as a guide. I was not even going to bother asking for those iPod like gadgets that are your tour guides when you’re on tour of some museums and castles. I was preparing to walk through a maze all by myself, with no guides (I was thinking I had maybe made a wrong decision coming)
I was asked to give my entry ticket to a man at the reception, I greeted him and gave it to him. He led the way and I followed along meekly. It took me a few minutes to realize he was my personal guide. At this point, I started to feel happier. Heck, I had my own private guide….Life is beautiful!

First section we got to was basically a lot of sculptures and figures revolving around beads. Honestly I was not too interested in this part. Plus the beads weren’t exactly real, these were statues with “statue beads”. Some stands for sculptures were empty, and a tag read “away on exhibition’” or something.  I’m from Rivers state so I know A LOT about beads, plus my family has a nice collection, I mean we could actually have our own exhibition. But it was interesting to note that so many other parts of Nigeria use different beads as well, not just the Niger Delta.

Next room was a corridor basically, thank goodness for the air conditioning. I’m wondering what it would have been like if the power hadn’t come when it did. These were the traditional African gods that our ancestors worshiped. There were some from different parts of Nigeria. He started telling me about Eshu, one of the Yoruba gods. I could sense some similarities with the Norse god Loki. I saw one of the gods from Adamawa state, I was surprised because I had never really thought about the Northern parts of Nigeria having ancestral gods. A lot of what i know about ancestral worship is from books and movies, and I guess I’ve just maybe not read or watched much from the North. That will change though.

A figure outside the museum
And I saw the famous Mmawu masquerade, it was freakishly tall. I’ve heard of Mmawu especially being used to describe someone with questionable fashion and makeup choices and when I saw the masquerade, I could understand why. I must admit, some of the figures did look kind of creepy – I guess memories of the Nigerian movie called “Oracle’ about a mask with magical powers starring Pete Edochie and Charles Okafor came back into my head.

A courtyard scene made of wood. Spot the EFCC vests

Next stop was a section for facial masks, showing facial marks from different parts of Nigeria. I saw an ivory carving of a face from Benin that was very similar to the Olmecs in Mexico, just way smaller. And then we moved on to an area for masks – entertainment masks. I have to say these masks did not look entertaining. They did look rather scary. I saw a mask from the Ogonis in Rivers State (I was happy to see that) and some really scary looking masks. I was getting a bit tired so I kind of hurried this part along. And I did not like the look of those masks. We moved on to another section with some other sculptures and stuff, it was pretty decent.

We came out and walked along a gangway with art on every side. There were the massive stone carvings called Akwashi from Akwa Ibom, which were basically faces of important men in the community carved into stone (Not in the Stark family way though as in Game Of Thrones) - basically giant faces that came up to my knee. One of them almost came up to my chest, I’m guessing he was a very rich and influential person in his time.

One of the most important parts of my trip today was about money. There was an exhibition dedicated to money, it was really a learning process. While we think of cowries as being our money from the past, there were about 8 different things that had served as money in the years past. Bottles of alcohol, cloth, little metal strips, tiny beads, even baskets woven with cowries all served as money at some point. My guide told me about how the Portuguese and other invaders would bring their goods to our ancestors and we would buy it with beads.

I didn’t have the heart to tell my guide that it was the other way around, they took our palm oil and other things they needed, and paid our ancestors in worthless plastic beads and bits and pieces of metal. They basically got our oil, ivory, resources and even sadly our brothers and sisters sold to them as slaves for nothing. Instead making us cast away our trade by barter system and introducing us to a system of currency that has proved to have been our undoing. I got emotional at this point though. I didn’t see any mirrors as a payment form though. 

Next stop was a gallery called ‘The life Cycle in Nigeria” or something close. I couldn’t take pictures so can’t exactly remember the name of that section. My guide seemed to love this area as he spoke with so much passion. He told me about the 7 stages of life – starting from conception. There were some gods in charge of fertility whom parents would appease to have a baby, doing the rituals and eating the required food and then on to the pregnancy stage. It was very interesting to see a birthing tray where women would sit to push their babies (Northern Nigeria). The trays are said to have powers to get rid of all complications. And once the women gave birth, there was a particular instrument used to announce the birth (Igbo land) and there was a clay bowl where the umbilical cords are put into and buried (Yoruba). There was also a piece of cloth in that exhibition where the child would be wrapped in and also strapped to the mum’s back. 

There also was a little section with Pepper soup spices (for internal cleansing after birth) Shea butter (to give the baby smooth skin) Nzu and a lot more. i saw a little blade for circumcision. There was another section with food items like honey, cornmeal, salt for the baby to taste and be blessed. 

Now at this point I had begun to feel woozy. I am claustrophobic and had not had a meal all day, in fact I had not even drank water all day. I had been taking my ginger lemon infusion thanks to the flu, and no water.
And it was a bit stuffy in this section, I think the AC might not have been on or maybe it was just stuffy from lack of air, but I told him we needed to walk. And I felt myself getting very weak, I told him I needed air so I couldn’t complete all the stages. We walked out to my car where I had a bottle of water in my bag and had a few sips and we walked back to the hall with Murtala Muhamed’s exhibition. 

The Murtala Muhammed car was on display here
 We got in there, I saw the car he was assassinated in way back in 1976 and he was taking me through a tour of all the pictures. I knew I had to get out so I told him I would come back another day but I had to leave. I had been walking and standing now for about an hour 30 minutes. Wrong move – I’m ill, dehydrated, tired and hungry. We stood by the car speaking for a bit.

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t get a chance to properly introduce myself to my guide till i was done. He showed such passion and was dedicated to his work, and didn't display the disinterested attitude we come to expect with civil servants. I asked him for his name and he introduced himself as Mr. Festus. And when he asked where I worked, I told him and he screamed. He said he loves Classic FM. And then he asked for my name and I when I said Zibby, he was surprised because he had listened to me alot. That was so unexpected! I promised I would be back again. I asked if he would take a picture with me and he was kind enough to say yes. Years ago, I had a tour guide in Paris who did an amazing job and I was in awe. I never forgot how interesting and cool she was. Sorry Madame, but I think Mr. Festus stole your place in my heart. 

There were some interesting sculptures outside and I got pictures of these. I don’t like the No Pictures rule though. I remembered at the museum in Benin we also weren’t allowed to take pictures. My friend at the time whom I went with said it was for the best, cos for all we knew the camera could make one of the statues come back to life! I’m not ready for the Night at the museum story.
I have to say, all the staff i came in contact with at the museum were very polite and courteous. That was a massive plus! i"ll be back there for sure.

Thanks for reading. 
Drop a comment to let me know what you think.
You can keep up with me on twitter @ZibbyJ and Instagram @countess_zibby


PS: I got myself a new laptop for my birthday. This is a special post as it’s the first on my new babe! Cheers to much more writing!


* indicates required

Find us on social media

Twitter Facebook Youtube Instagram



Hiya, im Zibby and this is a brief intro about me :)

Continue Reading ...

Popular Posts