African World Heritage Day: ITP African Museums Showcase!

Tomorrow, 5 May, is African World Heritage Day!

In anticipation, ITP Fellows working on the continent have been invited to showcase museums and collections to mark the day.

The ITP team wishes a happy African World Heritage Day to everyone in the ITP network.

Dikko Idris (ITP 2011)
Chief Curator, National Museum Gidan Makama, Kano, Nigeria

Entrance National Museum EDIT 1

This is the front view and entrance of National Museum Gidan Makama, Kano, north-west Nigeria. The museum is located at the heart of the ancient city of Kano, close to the Emir’s palace. The house was built in 1442 AD by the sixteenth King of Kano (1438-1457 AD).

After the British conquest of Kano in 1903, the house briefly served as an office of colonial officers in Kano. It was later declared as a national monument in 1959 under the Department of Antiquities. It was converted into a museum and opened to the public in 1985.

Gates EDIT 1
Here are some of the doors from the ancient city gates of Kano on display at museum. The first phase of construction of the Kano city wall and gates was in the 12th century AD, during the reign of the third King of Kano, King Gijimasu.

Royal Fan EDIT 1

Royal Sandals EDIT 1
And here are some stars of the collection: the Royal Sandals, Slippers and Ostrich- feather Fan were created to adorn the Emir, and were introduced by King Muhammadu Rumfa in the 15th century AD.

Rika Nortje (ITP 2007)
Art Collections Management Specialist, University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa


Here are some images of a small museum called the Fonteinhuisie in Jongensfontein, South Africa, where I am currently on holiday. Loosely translated, Jongensfontein means ‘Fountain of the Young’. It is a small coastal town in the Western Cape.


This was a common type of building in the early days of the town. The house was converted into a museum through one-off fundraising by holiday-makers, after appeals in the 1980s and ’90s for the building to be restored and to become a national memorial. The museum tells the story of the founding of the town and of its people. Outside the museum is an anchor from the SRI Rezeki, which ran aground at Jongensfontein in 1971.

Cynthia Iruobe (ITP 2010)
Assistant Chief Curator, National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria

Okang Mbang region headrest

Research on terracotta sculpture is still ongoing, as evidence has shown that with each passing excavation done, priceless terracotta pieces were discovered daily. One cannot talk about terracotta sculptures without mentioning those in the Calabar region.

Calabar is said to be one of the earliest visited ports on the coast of ancient Nigeria as it traded with Europe for over five centuries but unfortunately terracotta objects were not discovered not until the early 1970s, when commercial activities led to the opening up of businesses and the development of roads, schools and so on. Terracotta objects were discovered when bush or forest clearing took place to make way for development.

Several terracotta pieces of significance were found: notable among them were vases with beautiful designs, but one of particular interest for me would be the headrest. One would wonder why such a piece would be comfortable to rest the head and neck on. Also of importance are the significant designs on each piece: these were not created for aesthetic purposes, but have meanings and are solely for passing messages amongst members of a particular cult known as the Ekpe Society.

This headrest is from the Okang Mbang region. The hole is significant as it is placed there to keep the soul of the sleeper so that it does not wander off while sleeping.

(With excerpts from the book ‘The Terracottas of Calabar’ by Ekpo Eyo and Christopher Slogar)

Ishaq Mohammed Bello (ITP 2012)
Assistant Chief Technical Officer (Education), National Museum, Kaduna, Nigeria

IMG_20180502_125106On 14 March 2018, we opened the exhibition Value of Calabash to the Nigerian People at the National Museum, Kaduna. This exhibition came out of the Re-Org workshop, which was a partnership between the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Ahmadu Bello University and ICCROM, and was funded by United States Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.


Museum display of instruments, with shantu (decorated calabash xylophone) and calabash drum

This exhibition has been a starting point for me to conduct research on calabashes. The National Museum, Kaduna has in its collection various types of engraved calabashes used by the Hausa/Fulani people in Kano, which have been part of the research. In addition to this, the oldest market in Kano (Kasuwa Kurmi) and Kurka market were visited for purchases and two other Local Government Areas were chosen for the research work, namely Tofa Local Government and Danwakin Local Government Area in Kano State. In these Local Government Areas, questions were asked about the planting seasons, types of gourds, uses of calabashes, carving techniques and use of seeds.

The calabash today is symbolically represented or implanted in people’s mind by the popular drawing and representation of the ‘Fulani milk girl’. It has come to represent one of the popular images of Northern Nigeria. For us working in Northern Nigerian museums, the calabash has special significance as it represents one of the few media of artistic expression in the Islamic North. Luckily, as it is easily obtainable, it will continue to form an important component of our Long Holidays Programme, where we seek to impress on children the processes of transformation of raw materials into utilitarian and decorated products.

I look forward to sharing the full research project with the ITP network soon!