From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, urged the newly launched Yoruba World Centre (YWC) to champion the return of artefacts that were plundered, looted or illegally taken away from Yorubaland to any part of the world.
He gave the charge at the launch of International Centre for Yoruba Arts and Culture, initiated by the International Centre for Yoruba Arts and Culture (INCEYAC) in collaboration with the Institute of African Studies, and Yoruba Language Centre, University of Ibadan, held on the campus of the institution.
Osinbajo said: “You must join in the global movement to champion the return of artefacts that were plundered, looted or illegally taken away from these shores. Indeed, the centre could serve as a home for such returned items where the immediate provenance or circumstances in which the items were taken is not clear or not known.”
The vice president said the centre has “initiated a place that will give context and depth to our understanding of our past, our place and role in the present and hopefully our preparation for the future. A place that will help tell a fuller, deeper and richer story of a proud, creative and colourful people but also of the rich tapestry of cultures, races, ethnicities and faiths of which they are a part.
“At a more reflective level, we will through this repository and the traditions embedded in the art works and cultural artefacts imbibe the triumphs, challenges, inventions and spiritual heritage of the Yoruba people. We know that well before contact with the Western world, the Yorubas had a fine artistic tradition that was rendered through sculpture and architecture, using wood, bronze, stone, terracotta and brass.
“But beyond and yet inherent in the splendour and beauty of artworks and the genius of artists, are the histories and stories of our people. The forced relocation of Yoruba people by slave dealers to the Americas and the Caribbean and other unspeakable degradations and atrocities of slavery, and the ways in which Yoruba culture adapted and survived in the dehumanising humiliation, and suffering in those distant and hostile environments. And how here at home, Yoruba culture also had to adapt to the onslaught of colonialism, in Nigeria by the British and in Benin and Togo by the French.”
Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo States, represented by their deputies, Rauf Olaniyan, Noimot Salako-Oyedele, and Lucky Ayedatiwa, respectively, advocated preservation of Yoruba culture, urging the centre not to engage in distortion of fact of history, should not dabble into politics. The centre, according to them, must be used to promote the unity of Yoruba race, national unity and nation building.
Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi, who chaired the programme, said the YWC should be a focal point of return and restitution of stolen archives and artefacts by the colonialists, alleging that some archives, which recorded the rich history of the Yoruba were taken away by the colonialists, thereby depriving the younger generation of Yoruba race opportunity to read about their rich history. The archives, he said, now exists in some developed countries.
Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, in an interview with newsmen, said: “We need to document our history, brand our culture and we need to bring pride to our heritage because if you don’t write your history, the enemy will write it in a wrong way and it will affect your pride.
Yoruba is one of the most important races in the world. This is a race that has been in existence for more than 15, 000 years. We have a lot of things to document so that the global village can know our importance and where we are coming from.
The convener of the project, Alao Adedayo, who is the publisher of Alaroye Newspaper, said the idea was first conceived in 2014 with the desire to create a place where researchers could conduct and complete their works on the history, arts and culture of the Yoruba people.