The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art’s (YSMA) pioneer school programme on Pre- Colonial Societies of Nigeria kicked off on Wednesday, the 26th of May 2021, with a visit from students of Ibeju High School. The programme, which has been in the works since September 2020, was designed in collaboration with The Five Cowries Art Education Initiative. The programme aims to contribute to the educational system by helping students learn about history through art.
The first session of the school programme began with the pre-colonial civilization of the Benin Kingdom, titled Igodomigodo: Now, Then, Future. With a lot of ongoing discussions around the repatriation of Benin Artworks to Nigeria but a little conversation about the impact of the works within the country and their usage, the program seeks to engage the public with available Benin Bronzes within Nigeria and tell other stories.
Activities embarked on by the students during the training programme include an interactive tour of the museum with drawing exercises in between, an interactive class about the Benin Kingdom titled: Igodomigodo that focused on the ancient Kingdom’s history, navigation of the history of Benin through artworks from the YSMA’s collection, and a workshop session in the Museum’s Gazebo, where the students created works of art inspired by the Benin artworks.
During the workshop, the students had the chance to explore their creativity, think and imagine like Guild of Bronze casters on Igun street of the Benin Kingdom and produce their mask versions of the Benin Bronze heads. The amount of skill and creativity they displayed was quite commendable. One could tell they had so much fun throughout the learning experience of the programme.
Solomon Nkwagu, the Visitor’s Services Manager, shared that:
“Part of our objectives for the project was to re-imagine how we teach history in our educational system. We realised, during our interaction with the students, that they do not offer history at all in their school.” So, the learning experience is unique for them and also a great opportunity and privilege for them to see and touch historic Benin Bronzes for the first time.