The hushed and reflective mood at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton was transformed on March 20, as the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, stopped by for an official visit.
During the visit the 51st Ooni took the opportunity to speak to curators about various artifacts, including an ancient Yoruba crown, that have been donated to the museum with little or no accompanying information.
“We are here to connect the dots,” His Majesty told CNN. “Because so many of our artifacts and antiquities that have been taken for many centuries can’t be properly interpreted.”
“We are the custodians of culture, heritage and tradition, we took the baton from our ancestors, and we know more about those antiquities that anyone else.”
‘We will tell our story ourselves’
Sustained colonization and the international slave trade have resulted in artifacts from Nigeria ending up all over the world. In many cases these priceless items are kept in homes and museums, completely out of their original context.
His Majesty offered a potential solution to this problem: “We want to come up with an initiative whereby every museum we’ve gone to in the world will loan our artifacts and antiquities, although they belong to us!”
“If they are being kept on our behalf we can loan and put them on display, then we can talk about our things, nobody can talk about them more than us, that was very evident today.
“We are the ones who will tell our story by ourselves, nobody will tell our stories, our mission is to unite all the custodians of heritage and tradition across the entire continent of Africa.”
Nigeria’s youth = Nigeria’s future
As one of the youngest traditional kings in Nigeria, the Ooni of Ife had a lot to say about young people in the country, and wants to make the most of Nigeria’s natural resources while providing jobs for the young people there; “Over 70% of the population of Nigeria are youths we have to work towards how to sustain their temperament,” he said.
“How do you sustain their temperament? Provide jobs! We are known to have the best cocoa in the world, but Nigeria were only focusing on oil and gas, we left a lot of things that we were doing before, but now we are going back to the old things, and it has been working for the youth.”
He acknowledged that it won’t be easy, and named the recession, poverty and the negative view the world has of Africa as obstacles; “Everybody sees [Nigeria], a beautiful country, in a negative light all the time, great things are happening in the country.
“Why should they always talk about negative stories out of Nigeria, out of Africa? No, we want to challenge that system and be saying positive things. “
Developing the relationship between Nigeria and Britain
The Black Cultural Archives was not the Ooni of Ife’s only stop. He had a private session with the British Monarchy and was invited for commonwealth remembrance ceremony. He later met the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Andrew.
“We talked about how we can further develop a relationship within Nigeria and Africa as a whole within the British system.”