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The hidden beauty of CBAAC’s new Culture home…

By McPhilips Nwachukwu
Mention the name CBAAC, an acronym for Centre for Black African Art and Civilization, what  immediately comes to mind  is FESTAC, another acronym for Festival of Arts and Culture.

These conclusions are not in any way wrong, given that the World festival of black  African  art and culture held in the historic city of Lagos , Nigeria in 1977 gave birth to CBAAC, a culture home, now a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Culture , Tourism and National Orientation saddled with the responsibilities of housing all the materials, which constitute the core collections of artifacts and other rare cultural items exhibited by the fifty nine African countries that participated in the black and black Diaspora show.

CBAAC's-Building-2Established by Decree 69 of 1979, CBAAC at inception found a home in the bowel of the nation’s culture home, the National Theatre, where it shared neighborhood with the National Gallery, National Troupe of Nigeria and National Institute for Cultural Orientation.

It is interesting to note that the nearly three decades of its existence, CBAAC has meaningfully validated the decree  that established it by making the Centre , one of the most activity centered parastatals in the Ministry.

Since inception, the centre regularly holds lectures, seminars, symposia, workshops and exhibition both within and outside the country. It has a well equipped library, archival collections stocked with audio/visual library materials, museum and hall of fame.

Unfortunately, the richness of this culture home is not very well known to many would be users of the facilities. This may have been caused by the suffocating accommodation space, the centre suffered at its old home at the National Theatre coupled with the deteriorating condition of that beautiful edifice, which lack of structural and infrastructural maintenance gave in to the pressures of natural elements leading to destructions and possible destructions of some of the rich collections housed in the building.

Therefore, the decision of the Professor Tunde Babawale’s CBBAC’S  executive to relocate shop to her newly allocated office space at Broad Street, Lagos is already beginning to yield profits as the real beauty of the centre, hidden its rich facilities base are also commanding fresh attention by visitors.

A visit to the new culture home nestling on top of a two story building located at 36/38 Broad Street, Lagos was a worth  while time out. Being the first in the history of my over ten years  coverage of activities of the centre, that some other journalists and I had the opportunity of being conducted round the rich facilities of the centre, we really had fun.

First point  of our visit  was the book shop section of the centre, which comprises of a  book stand , where about fifty eight publications of CBAAC are gracefully displayed. At this section , we were told that buyers can  buy any of the old or new publications by the centre.

From, the book stand, two Assistant Directors in charge of Research  and documentations; Mrs Ndidi Aimiwu and Mrs Chuma Ibe  conducted us round the new culture home, showing and describing  for us the rich facilities of the centre.

There  are two sections to library. The first is children’s library. This section of the library, Mrs Chuma Ibe explained ,  is stocked with books donated by organizations and individuals. We were made to understand that the British Council , Nigeria is a major donor to the Children’s library section.

Amazingly, the adult library section of  CBAAC can compare with any university or research libraries in the country. It is stocked with books from across different areas of knowledge. But most  importantly, it has rich collection of books written by authors from different countries on Africa and Africa Diasporas discourses and race relations.

From the  library point , we were taken to archival section of the library, where all the papers, seminars and symposiums that have held since the inception of FESTAC are preserved in their original scripts. Theses important reference materials , though still in hard copies may soon be going by the words of Chuma Ibe converted to digital format since according to her “age may affect the texture of the material with time.”

It is the craft and ethnographic sections of the  centre that really gave us a tilt: Take for instance, the miniature architectural pieces taken from different regions of Africa  and are exhibited in the hall. These miniature works according to our guides “are meant to make African architects  reflect on their architectural aesthetics in regards to the kind of houses they design for Africans in this age of frequent building collapses and global weather cataclysms.”

Also in the ethnographic section is the Ikom monolith sample. This rock sample found in the Ikom area of Cross River State with its snide inscriptions is already opening up a whole lot of hypothesis on migratory movements in and around the world. It is  a fascinating piece to see.

The craft section too, has samples of all the crafts of contemporary expressions that were  exhibited during FESTAC festival. All the exhibits embody in them deep cultural and psychological history  and ethos of their countries of origin.

A visit to the CBAAC’s new culture home is a worth while experience and would be more satisfying, if the authorities would be gracious enough to expand her  space to enable her flesh out her full wealth and beauty to the world of study and research.


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