The Jos Museum, which includes the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA), with life-size replicas of a variety of buildings, from the Kano Walls and Zaria Mosque to the Tiv and Anaguta complexes, is today now a ghost of himself. Once a center of knowledge, culture and tourism, parts of MOTNA now rest on a pile of sand. Daily Trust reports on Sunday the decades of neglect and religious controversy that are leaving Nigeria’s historic monuments in ruins.
By Yusufu Aminu Idegu, Jos
The Jos Museum, which incorporates the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA), was once a sight to behold. University students from all over West Africa used to visit ancient structures for historical knowledge. Students of architecture have found the preserved ancient designs inspiring, and for students of theater and film arts, as well as those of the Nigerian Film Corporation and the Film Institute, MOTNA has provided an engaging setting for staging plays and dramas that portrayed Nigeria’s traditional settings.
Today, however, the historic structures that once offered towering status to Nigeria’s past and cultural heritage have been transformed into an anthill-like heap of red sand.
In 2002, the then Nigerian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ojo Maduekwe, during a visit to the Jos Museum, aptly described it as a “chilled memory of Nigerian culture and history “.
The museum was famous for housing the traditional architectural design of the country, where one could find Kano Walls, Bight of Benin, Katsina Mosque and other cultural architectural designs. Unfortunately, today a number of these monuments which had been preserved for their historical and cultural significance are left in ruins.
The archives available to our correspondent indicate that the Jos museum was created in 1952 by Bernard Fagg, a British archaeologist who worked for the British colonial administration at the time in Jos and was widely associated with the discovery of the Nok culture of Nigeria. .
The Jos Museum is a complex of different exhibition areas located in the city of Jos, where visitors can admire samples of terracotta figurines attributed to the Nok people. The complex also includes spaces dedicated to the history of architecture, tin mining and railways.
Experts said that in the past, the museum had served as an important center for research into Nigeria’s prehistoric culture and was once recognized as one of the best in the country.
The museum’s pottery hall has a collection of unique handcrafted pottery from across the country and MOTNA’s life-size replicas of a variety of buildings, from the walls of Kano and the mosque in Zaria to a Tiv complex, which gave the museum a unique attribute.
A former museum staff member, Mr. Labaran Musa, described the Kano wall as unique architecture in itself, saying, “If you look at the building, you cannot access the wall from the outside, there is has a drainage around it which is almost a gully. This makes it difficult for someone to scale the wall from the outside. Thus, the design of the building takes care of its safety and the one who is there.
He added that in pre-colonial times and in traditional warfare, enemies on horseback were unable to access the Kano wall from the outside.
“When you fired your arrows, they didn’t penetrate the wall. Then there were holes around the highest side of the wall, through which the person inside could peek to see someone outside and shoot their arrow at the enemy from inside,” he said.
Civil Liberty Organization director Mr Steve Aluko also said, “It is unfortunate that these traditional architectural landmarks are now in ruins, resembling an ancient village destroyed by war or tsunami.”
Our correspondent reports that a visit to the museum shows an institution suffering from decades of neglect.
Daily Trust on Sunday found that among some of the factors responsible for the collapse of the museum and others across the country is religion.
Santos Ayuba Larab, a lecturer in the Department of History and International Studies at the University of Jos, said the federal government, which is responsible for preserving the country’s cultural heritage, chose to abandon the museum. because some religious leaders considered cultural objects as a fetish. , and therefore must be discarded.
Larab, who is also a member of the Historical Society of Nigeria, said: “The problem started with the attachment of religious feelings to our cultural heritage. So we allowed religion to kill our history.
Our correspondent discovered that the land mass of more than 100 hectares belonging to the museum and intended to accommodate more architectural structures of various ethnic groups, has been sold to private individuals, who now use the space as centers for events, horticulture and restaurants.
The largest part of the museum is the section where MOTNA is located. There, one can have access to unique pre-colonial designs of buildings from various ethnic groups. From the Tiv complex of Benue State to the Anaguta, Jarawa and Berom people of Plateau State, the monument’s beauty, serenity and security features were once a sight to behold.
A retired senior staff member of the museum, Mr. Funsho Ajayi, said: “These preserved buildings have their historical value for students of Nigerian history in our universities. They are also relevant for students of archeology, as well as students of architecture and construction. The research components of these monuments cannot be underestimated. Students from various universities have come to the museum to study these buildings as part of their academic work.
At MOTNA, our correspondent understood that the Tiv complex, on the other hand, had been leased to the Tiv community of Jos, who now use the space as a bar and restaurant. The Tivs also hold their regular meetings and cultural festivities to mark the annual Museum Day within the compound.
The complexes of Anaguta, Afizere and Irigwe are maintained by socio-cultural organizations of the ethnic groups, and the buildings of these complexes can be seen in their original forms, erected with mud bricks and covered with thatch.
Visitors often go to the compounds to view cultural artifacts of ethnic groups and to purchase traditional musical instruments such as drums, gongs, as well as traditional dress and other materials, such as beads, mats and beads. wooden seats.
However, our correspondent observed that the walls of Kano, the Katsina mosque and the Zaria house are almost completely destroyed.
The Kano Wall, which is the largest structure in the museum, is the most affected by degradation. Our correspondent observed that despite signs of total collapse over the past decade, the structure has yet to be renovated. A failed attempt to save the wall by building an aluminum roof did little to slow its decay.
Labaran Musa, a former museum staff member, said the security features of the Kano wall were planned and made with local building materials, which he said could be replicated or modified.
“It was mud, molded, burned and built. The mud used to build the house is weatherproof and regulated; it stabilizes weather conditions,” he said.
To revive the ruined Kano walls and other historical monuments, Santos Ayuba Larab has asked the federal government to recruit experts with the necessary skills to rebuild the monuments and bring them back to life.
“The government’s attempt to build an iron roof to protect the Kano wall is a distortion of history. This building can be rebuilt in its original design,” he said.
For anyone who has visited the Jos Museum, its current state leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Mr. Barnabas Kusa, a graduate in theater arts from the University of Jos, said Daily Trust on Sunday that the value of the museum for present and future generations could not be quantified.
“The government should not allow him to die. If the government cannot maintain these monuments, it should privatize them. And I am sure that if they do, the University of Jos will take over because it has been a source of knowledge and research for the institution.
“As students of theater arts, the university has brought us here several times for lectures. We had also played dramas and played movies here. We also met students from other universities who came for studies and research. So, the relevance of this museum is not only for the University of Jos but for universities inside and outside this country,” he said.
Expressing his frustration with the deteriorating structure of the museum, the head of the archeology department at the University of Jos, Professor Joseph Jemkur said, “I stopped going to the museum because every time I pass by and see his terrible state, I shed tears. . “Other societies around the world preserve their cultural heritage because they know its value, but here in Nigeria our history is suffering. It’s as if we no longer appreciate the relevance of history. I am an archaeologist by training and I teach archeology at the university. I cry for this country.
As a historian, Santos Ayuba Larab understands the importance of preserving the past for the future. He explained that “if we destroy our museums, the heritage of African paintings is gone, the beauty of African architecture is gone. In short, our history is over.
“With monuments, the legacies of generations we have never met are there for us, and that alone connects us to past generations. With these monuments we can understand who they were and the kind of life they lived, and their manual labor.
The historian explained that as a member of the African Museum who knows the importance that other countries place on the preservation of their cultural heritage, it is time for the Nigerian government to consider a public-private partnership if it cannot. not maintain the museums.
He lamented that the government does not invest in museums, even though he knows they are not for profit.
“Staff members aren’t even well paid, but in Europe and America, museum curators are among the highest paid. Here, they are badly treated and badly remunerated. It will greatly benefit the country and its citizens if we can bring back these monuments; there is something we must learn from them.
“The United Nations (UN) did not create the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for nothing; it is for the preservation and development of our cultural heritage, as well as material and immaterial culture. The UN saw reasons to preserve our material and immaterial culture, and that is why we have UNESCO. Nigeria should wake up.
“There is also the need for hybridization of our ancient and modern architectures as the Chinese do. In China today, all kinds of houses are built with bamboo. They have already infused local technology into modern architecture. They improved it,” he said.
Curators at the Jos Museum and those at the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA) declined to comment and referred our correspondent to the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in Abuja.