Aims & Objectives

Project Progress Report

Project steering group and official launch.

(Left to right) Cllr Joy Laguda, David Idiabana
(General Manager of NACRC) Lyn Brown (MP for West Ham),
Vincent John (Chairman of NACRC)
The 7 members of the Project Steering Committee were appointed prior to the start of the project.

The Job advertisements for the two part-time posts of Project Co-ordinator and the Project Worker were advertised in the 'Guardian Newspaper' on the 24th September 2011. Interviews for the 2 posts were held on the 7th October 2011 and the start date for the successful applicants was the 10th October 2011.

Publicity Leaflets were designed and produced to advertise the project launch which took place on the 29th October 2011. The publicity leaflets were distributed to local youth clubs, libraries, community centres, schools, colleges, local heritage organisations, voluntary groups and local businesses.

The Project Launch Event took place at the Newham African Caribbean Resource Centre (NACRC) and was attended by 250 people. Representatives from Voice of Africa Radio, Benin Union Trust and Newham Council attended the event. This event was featured in an article published in the Newham Recorder Newspaper. One of the partner organisations, Aston Mansfield, included the publicity leaflet in their mailing list which is sent to 500 local community and faith organisations. An 'Official Project Launch Event' took place on the 30th January 2012 at the House of Commons (Jubilee State Rooms). This 'Official Project Launch Event' was organised in conjunction with the Parliamentary Office of Ms. Lyn Brown (Member of Parliament for West Ham Constituency).

This event was attended by 50 people including 30 volunteers, representatives from the partner organisations (British Museum, Aston Mansfield, Newham Council & REIN), Trustees of NACRC, Project Staff (Samuel Egharevba and Dennis Mensah) and the Newham Recorder. Speeches were made by Ms Lyn Brown (M.P.), Mr. Vincent John (Chair of NACRC), Ms Laura Phillips (British Museum), Mr. Geoffrey Wheeler (Aston Mansfield), Ms. Valerie Brown (REIN) and Mr. David Idiabana (General Manager of NACRC). Newham Recorder published photographs and wrote an article of this event. This event was covered by the Newham Recorder Newspaper and an article was published on Wednesday 8th February 2012.

Exhibitions and workshops.

Professor C.O. Idehen
Three exhibitions on the history, culture and traditions of the Benin Kingdom were held on Saturday 7th July 2012, Friday 12th October 2012 and Saturday 13th October 2012. On each of these occasions, archive Photographs of the Ancient Benin Kingdom, the '1897 Conflict' and Edo State today were exhibited alongside Benin artefacts.

At the first exhibition, a visiting Professor from the University of Benin (Professor C.O. Idehen) gave an in-depth presentation on the Ancient Kingdom of Benin, the '1897 Conflict', the British Colonial Administration and the modern Edo State in Nigeria. The presentation was followed by a lively 'Questions & Answers' session.

DVD Films of the Coronation of the current 'Oba of Benin' and the BBC 3 TV Documentary Series on the 'Ancient Benin Kingdom' in the series titled "The Lost Kingdoms of Africa" were screened. Traditional Costumes worn by females from Edo State were also exhibited. Professor C.O. Idehen also provided us with 30 exclusive archive photographs from the 'Royal Palace of the Oba' which included pictures of the 'Oba Ovonramwen' being surrounded by some British Officials prior to his exile to Calabar where he remained for 17 years before he died and Oba Akenzua meeting Queen Elizabeth in 1956. Other pictures included the current 'Oba', Benin Royal Family Members, Benin Chiefs, Palace Officials, Benin Artefacts and Historical Buildings.

Below each of the 100 Photographs that were exhibited at all 3 events there was a summary explaining each of the photographs. The 2nd and 3rd Exhibitions were planned to take place during 'Black History Month' and had prominent Benin Historians and Community Figures who gave speeches and presentations on the 'Governance and Administration in Ancient Benin Kingdom, the 'Benin Kingdom/British Conflict 1897', the British Colonial Administration and the Modern Day Edo State. The exhibition on the 13th October 2012 was attended by one of the members of the Benin Royal Family, Engr Bernard Woghiren (The UK Represenative of the 'Oba of Benin'. ), Dr. Taiwo Idemudia (Phd, JP), Councillor Joy Laguda (OBE), Councillor Charity Fiberesima, other Newham Councillors and the publisher of the 'Ambassador Magazine'. Cultural Dancing, Singing and Drama were performed to showcase and depict the rich cultural heritage of the Benin Kingdom.

Educational trip to the British Museum.

The Curators Team with one of the workshop sessions.
Two Coach Trips to the British Museum ('Sainsbury's African Gallery) took place on Saturday 23rd June 2012 and Saturday 30th June 2012. The two coach trips were attended by 126 people including 20 volunteers. As well as a tour of the British Museum ('Sainsbury's African Gallery), all of the participants had a chance to view the famous collections of Benin Artefacts and take part in a Seminar and Workshops that were delivered by the Curators Team (Sainsbury's African Gallery).

Participation in the Seminar and Workshops enabled the volunteers and project staff to collate information to assist them with their research. The Curators Team delivered a Seminar and small Workshops that covered the 'Ancient Benin Kingdom'. During the Seminar, some of the participants (who had studied the history of the 'Ancient Benin Kingdom' ) pointed out corrections that needed to be amended in some of the information provided by the British Museum. For example, the dates, frequency, spelling and names of the 'Ague' & 'Igue' Festivals. Also the historical links that exist between the 'Yoruba' people and the people of 'Benin Kingdom'.

For example, the eldest son (Ekaladeran), of an 'Oba of Benin' migrated to the present day 'Oyo State' (a place called 'Ile-Efe' ), which is in South Western Nigeria. Benin Oral History reveals that Ekaladeran, later was made the King of 'II-Ife'. The eldest son of Ekaladeran, was made the 'Oba of Benin'.

During the 3 Exhibitions that were organised the Benin Trust provided us with DVD Films on the Coronation Ceremony of 'Oba Erediauwa', African Youth Organisation provided us with Benin Artefacts, Archive Photographs, Traditional Costumes and Benin Historians providing presentations on the cultural and symbolic relevance of what each of the Benin Artefacts being displayed represents. Volunteers have visited the British Library as part of their desk top research for contributing to the publication of the book.

Heritage workshops.

The UK Representative of the 'Oba of Benin'
(Engr. Bernard Woghiren)
The 'Curators Team' of the British Museum organised Seminars and Workshops on the 'Ancient Benin Kingdom' on Saturday 23rd June 2012 & 30th June 2012. These Seminars and Workshops provided participants with historical, military, artistic and economic details about the Benin Empire. The Seminars & Workshops were presented with visual and archive materials.

During the tours of the British Museum ('Sainsbury's African Gallery'), the 'Curators Team', delivered workshops (participants were divided into small groups) on the Benin Artefacts on display and the methods of preservation used to safeguard these priceless items. Aston Mansfield (Community Involvement Unit) assisted us with the planning of the first Exhibition ( Display Boards, Display Space Management, Presentation of the Archive Photographs, use of Equipment for hire and the layout of the venue).

Aston Mansfield, also assisted us to organise and deliver a training programme for the volunteers. The volunteers participated in the following training sessions: 'Induction & Customer Care' (24/02/2012), 'Health & Safety' (16/03/2012), 'Time Management' (30/03/2012), 'Safeguarding Children & Vulnerable Adults' (24/04/2012) and 'Team Working' (11/05/2012). During the training session on 'Team Working' we covered 'Events Promotion & Management which assisted us with the planning of the Exhibitions. Aston Mansfield also assisted us with the promotion of the first Exhibition that was held on Saturday 7th July 2012 and provided us with free use of some equipment items.

The UK Representative of the 'Oba of Benin' (Engr Bernard Woghiren) attended the Project Launch Event on the 29th October 2011 and the third exhibition held on the 13th October 2012. The first exhibition (7th July 2012), was attended by Representatives of the 'Benin Union' (Mr. Igue Edo and Mr. Idahosa) and the 'Benin Communities in London Organisation' (Mr. Peter Avan). In addition to the 3 exhibitions, with the assistance of the Curators Team of the British Museum, a private tour of the 'Sainsbury's African Gallery' was organised for HRH Prince Edun Akenzua (the brother of the 'Oba of Benin') who was on a private visit to London. The private tour took place at 2pm on the 25th September 2012 for a duration of one hour. HRH Prince Edun Akenzua was accompanied by the Curators Team of the 'Sainsbury's African Gallery', Engr Bernard Woghiren, Ms. Efe Akenzua (daughter of HRH Prince Edun Akenzua), Councillor Joy Laguda (OBE), Dr. David Obaze, Mr. Stephen Obarise (prominent Benin Businessman), including Vincent John and David Idiabana (Chairman and General Manager of NACRC respectively, plus Project Staff, Dr. Samuel Egharevba and Dennis Mensah).

There was a wide age range of participants in attendance (aged 11 to 80 years old) from different communities living in Newham and other London Boroughs.

Private tour by HRH Prince Edun Akenzua.

HRH Prince Edun Akenzua accompanied
by the Curators Team
In addition to these 2 Coach Trips, we also organised a private tour of the British Museum (Sainsbury's African Gallery) on the 25th September 2012 for HRH Prince Edun Akenzua, who was on a private visit to London.

He was accompanied on this private tour by a delegation consisting of Ms. Efe Akenzua (his daughter), Engr Bernard Woghiren (UK Representative of the 'Oba of Benin), Councillor Joy Laguda (OBE), Dr. David Obaze, Stephen Obarise, Mr. David Idiabana, General Manager, and Mr Vincent John, Chairman (Newham African Caribbean Resource Centre). Twenty people participated in the private tour. All of the 3 tours of the British Museum (Sainsbury's African Gallery) provided the participants with the opportunity to view the famous collection of 'Benin Artefacts' and other collections from West Africa (e.g. Textile Materials, Ceremonial Stools & Swords of Paramount Chiefs etc.).

The participants also had the opportunity to view 'Benin Brass Plaques (from the world famous Igun Street), the 'Iyoba Queen Mother's Head', a DVD Film on 'Brass Casting' (Igun Street), Maps of the 'Ancient Benin Kingdom', Benin Masks ('Ekpo'), Coral Beads and Regalia of the current 'Oba of Benin', 'Oba Erediauwa', photographs of 'Oba Erediauwa' and Carvings. The British Museum designed a small handbook that was used for the workshops during the tours of the Siansbury's African Gallery. The contents of the small handbooks were designed specifically to be used as a learning resource to educate participants on the history of the 'Ancient Benin Kingdom, the 1897 Conflict and the Benin Artefacts that is displayed at the British Museum.

Media workshops.

Media training with Suleiman Garcia

Two Media Workshops were organised for volunteers on interviewing skills and camera techniques.

The 'Media Workshops took place on Wednesday 27th June 2012 and Thursday 28th June 2012.

Both of the workshops were delivered by Superior Television & Radio (SRTV), the organisation that produced the DVD film of the project.

The DVD film that has been produced has more than 5 interviews with Benin community leaders, Historians and also features a prominent member of the Benin Royal Family.

Exhibitions and end of project celebration.

Edo Cultural Theatre Group performing
'Oba Ovonramwen N'Ogbaisi' at The End of Project Event
Three exhibitions were held on Saturday 7th July 2012, Friday 12th & Saturday 13th October 2012. The first exhibition held on the 7th July 2012 took place at the Durning Hall Community Centre, Earlham Grove, Forest Gate, London E7 9EB.

The 2 Exhibitions that were held on the 12th & 13th October 2012 took place at the Newham African Caribbean Resource Centre, 627- 633 Barking Road, Plaistow, London E13 9EZ. Archive photographs of Ancient Benin Kingdom (the '1897 Conflict' and post '1897' period), Traditional Costumes were displayed at all of the 3 exhibitions.

Loaned Benin Heritage items (Benin Artefacts and Art Works) were loaned from local Benin organisations and displayed at all of the Exhibitions. An 'End of Project Event' took place on Saturday 21st December 2012 to launch the publication of the book and the DVD Documentary that was produced. This event was attended by about 280 people.

Production of website, 1,000 books and 1,000 DVD documentary.

A new website has been produced with ongoing updates and the hand book has also been completed. The DVD Documentary has also been edited and completed by Superior Radio & Television (SRTV). Both the DVD Documentary and the Book were launched at the 'End of Project' Event, which was held on Friday 21st December 2012.

The Books & DVDs will be distributed to local libraries, the British Museum, Heritage Organisations, Schools, Colleges, Community Centres, Nigerian High Commission and other Embassies.

Project evaluation.

The book of the project
Evaluation has been ongoing through regular review meetings with the steering committee, project staff and with project volunteers. This has led to improvement in the design and general set up and content of the website, which now contain more information than it did initially; also improvement in the way the project was advertised, as volunteers were then able to distribute leaflets more widely; use word of mouth to talk to people, used their individual mailshots to inform their circle of influence, etc.

Discussion from meetings also informed the content and format of the DVD, the design, the format /colour of the DVD packaging inlay and so on. Other improvements from the evaluation included the content of exhibition materials, as we had more in subsequent exhibitions than the previous one. It also impacted on the content and variety of the entertainment package during the exhibitions in order to attract a wider demographic. This helped to bring varied age groups into the exhibition, as attendance varied from children aged 5 years up to adults aged over 85 years old. There was also a mix of cultural backgrounds ranging from African, Caribbean, Asians and Whites.

One of the downsides from our evaluation is that some participants, especially those from Benin felt that the project did not go far enough to address issues regarding the return of the artefacts, although we made it clear that the project was about preserving heritage, learning and participation and not the return of the artefacts. Secondly, as the project did not involve travelling to Benin, it was not possible to have direct input from some of the families that might have been affected; it was also not possible to have a direct interview with the present King and members of his cabinet.