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National Museum of Unity, Ibadan ; A Mausoleum for Nigerians’ Antiquity

After days of careful thought, I decided to pen my experience at the National Museum of Unity, Ibadan.

The National Museum of Unity, Ibadan, houses a collection of forgotten culture, tradition and history as each compartment acting as some resting home for our once loved artifacts, fast-fading away identity and truth.

I found my way to the museum even though it was threatening to rain on a Thursday. And it was quite easy to locate as passers-by and the bike man were maps.

Its environment was serene, only for some audible religious activity coming from a small amphitheater adjacent to the main entrance to the gallery.

Soon, my tour began from one section to another with a plump beautiful woman who became my tour guide and recounter.

Museums are time machines and truth centers that can give you a different outlook, a change in perspective, and a better appreciation of one’s history and tradition.

I discovered that

The 2-3 hours movement from one segment to another was enough to re-orientate, learn, unlearn and re-learn a lot about Nigeria’s cultures, places, people, and traditions.

Although, the largest collection asides the musical instruments are the earthenwares for various purposes, sadly, most of these things have been regarded as local, uncivilized, and most importantly fetish.

A tour around the museum would convince you that we were once focused on pottery and appreciated every form of it.

There is pottery for everything, like cooking, preservation, eating,storage, refrigeration, carriage, dirt including special potteries for rituals.

Although few people are still involved in this trade, pottery purchase now is mainly for decoration, and they are no longer considered for utensils or any of the aforementioned usage.

Concerning tradition, most people do not know that “mágùn” erroneously called “thunderbolt” is quite different from “Edun ara”, which is the real “thunderbolt”.

While mágùn is a spell placed to caution infidelity- an outcome wherein the unfaithful partner is glued during sexual intercourse with their lover, “Edun ara” is believed to have the ability to prevent lightning, power surge and “sent” inform of errand for theft or burglary.

The former, mágùn is a rare occurrence known as ” don’t climb” while the later, Edun ara, is common among the Sango worshippers.

Concerning religion, tradition, and cultural misrepresentation, you would learn that one of the fast-spreading misconceptions is the comparison of “Ẹsu” a Yoruba deity to Satan, translated “Ẹsu” in the Yoruba Bible.

The tour guide took time to explain that Èsú is not the translated Èsú in the Yoruba Bible by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther.

This aged misconception was as a result of finding someone or something that people can relate with. But why “Ẹsu” and not the other deities?

The Yoruba mythology and tradition see Èsú as a servant of Ọlódùmárè ( God ) and an avenger for humans.

Èsú’s purpose is to enforce justice and defend the helpless. He is never biased.

But on the contrary, the biblical Èsú is destructive, God’s and man’s enemy, and a factor leading to the fall of the human race.

Concerning purpose, The National Museum of Unity, Ibadan is specifically founded so that we would constantly be reminded of the things that bind us together as Nigerians.

Emphasis is based on the fact that sounds from the hides and strings are universal, no matter the region it comes from in Nigeria.

And despite the different shapes, designs, size, and length, they produce sameness musical sounds when blown or beaten.

Besides, the museum has a special stand to represent this called, “The Unity Stand”.

Also, I discovered that working in a museum or visiting one, has the tendency to help relearn and unlearn. And that’s if you are open-minded.

Remember the plump beautiful woman? Yes, she is an example.

She says ” I used to have some crazy ideas about our culture but since I started working in this museum, I have understood some things better …we have allowed our newly found religion to sweep our culture underneath the carpet.”

I guess this explains why people visit (and they should visit) historical sites not just for sight-seeing but to reaffirm or affirm a belief, be wiser, better informed and know “what’s up”.

The effigy of a one time wealthy and scholarly Yoruba monarch, Oba Abimbola of Ijebu Remo was another discovery.

According to history, his regalia were made of about 7 million beads just to differentiate himself from the other monarchs. History has it that it took him five years to complete this rare robe. He was a retired policeman.

You would also learn that indigenous Nigerians have medicine for every ailments, and solution for every issue of which the processes have been considered fetish.

From barrenness, impotency, childbearing, malaria, sickle cell, knowing one’s path for life and the lists go on.

Answers and solutions are either carried out by simple ritual dance, àwúre (prayers), ìwèréré (good behavior)or àṣèje (concoction) as directed by the deities when consulted.

However, the Yoruba attire, Adire is still in vogue. Adire ( A di a wa re, literally means we tied it before it was soaked) is fashionable, stylish and colourful.

Asides adire are festivals. The museum has few replications. Festivals are still celebrated, it’s one of the tides that binds community.

Even though híhún òfì, alágbède(blacksmith) trades are some fast-fading away professions in the urban areas, few people still practice those once noble professions in rural areas.

Tips when visiting the National Museum of Unity

Artwork at the National Museum of Unity, Ibadan in case you consider visiting the museum for the first time, the following tips should help.

The entrance fee is N200, about 0.556USD. A fair price I believe.

Do note that phones for pictures are not allowed in the gallery.

In case you are coming from other states to Ibadan, Oyo State, the museum is opened from the hours of 9 am till 5pm.

Also, prepare to ask questions. One of the things you should do at the museum either you are there as a group or solo is to ask questions. The curators are very much open to answering all your questions, and they are sincere if they can’t answer any yet.

Also, since the purpose of visiting is to have a bit of history, get writing materials, or at least make an audio recording as you journey through the compartments. Most importantly for students.

Lastly, it is very much important to be open-minded once you decide to visit the National Museum of Unity, Ibadan.

Be opened to learn about the culture, people, and history of Nigerians.

Final thoughts

The beauty of traveling to some destinations is to know, see, then listen.

The price for “civilization” involves trading then shaming some aspects of culture, tradition, and crafts and no nation remains the same if these things are lost or abandoned.

But is abandoning one’s way of life “civilization”?

At first, I sincerely find this challenging because of the no picture rule( A rule in most museums) thinking of how best to relay a message but thank goodness I didn’t undermine the power of words.

However, you can always visit the National Museum of unity, Ibadan to see these bits of history, culture, and practices laid to “rest” . Perhaps then, you would see that they were once Nigeria’s, and similarly, Africa’s treasures laid to rest for new ways.


Seye Fakinlede

Seye is a writer and a journalist, who is intrigued about documenting Africa's arts, destinations and culture.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. John Promise

    Looks like somewhere I should visit really…

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