As Art assumes a new place of importance in national discourse it can be developed as an alternative source of income to crude oil, said Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
He said this during the opening of the Exhibition Gallery at the National Museum, Benin by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) in collaboration with the Edo State Government, and the Smithsonian Institute, United States of America, on Friday, in Benin City.
Obaseki said he accepted to be the first Nigerian Commissioner in Venice Art Biennale, which is like the Olympic for the Art, and accepted to represent Nigeria to draw the link between art, Nigeria and Benin City.
He noted that it was the first time the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, in the United States of America (USA), was hosting and housing an exhibition on the African continent. He said the exhibition would add value to the quest to develop cultural and tourist sites in the state.
“The role of a museum as a tourist centre cannot be overemphasised especially as a state known for its artistic and cultural heritage. As a state, we have a good international image in the area of art, following centuries of creative work of excellence,” the governor said.
The Director-General of NCMM, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, commended Governor Obaseki’s support for the laudable project, and stressed that “this is a departure from the experience with past state governors.”
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, William Stuart Symington, described the event as an “extraordinary moment, as it is the first time in the history of the America’s great national museum, Smithsonian Institute, that we have brought an exhibition to the continent of Africa.”
“We are not just bringing the images here. This is not just art, but Benin art and images. And today, they are brought back home,” he said.
The Oba of Benin, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewure II, said Benin artworks are largely rituals, some are used for recording history, to place on record events that happened in different periods in Benin History.
A representative of the Oba, the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe, said the Benin artworks gained prominence in Europe in 1897 after the Kingdom was attacked by the British soldiers, who later took the artworks to Europe.
The high point of the event was the launching of the book “Fragile Legacies,” the photographs of Solomon Osagie Alonge, and a tour of the exhibition area by governor Obaseki.