By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
A lady with great focus, Mrs.Elizabeth Jibuno is very concerned about the plight of rural dwellers, and she blames their pitiable state which has led to the increase in rural-urban migration lately, on a lack of support from absent indigenes. In an encounter with Vista Woman recently, Mrs.Jibuno shared how she has in the last four years, together with her family, contributed her own quota to the development of her rural origin.
Taking an urban idea to a rural place could be tasking, but I feel fulfilled that I’ve been able to take Didi Museum to our village, Akuku-Igbo in Delta State!
Usually, only people living in the urban areas would understand the concept of a museum; walk into a building that houses artifacts and things for display only just to view them for their aesthetic value, and enrich your own knowledge about history and artifacts; not that you want to buy!
I say it is a huge fulfillment for me because these are people who are mainly interested in their daily survival- preparing garri for sale and consumption, going to the farm, etc.; not in going into a building to look at what you have hung on the wall! But I’ve got them interested now!
I’ve been able to sustain the concept in the last four years because I decided to introduce activities that would be of interest to them. One of these is the weaving of a popular native cloth called Akwa-Ocha, within the museum. I started off by weaving for display, and after that, I began to train those interested in learning the art.
When other villagers started seeing people weaving, they started coming into the museum. From watching the weavers, they started looking around the wall and began to ask questions about certain objects displayed in the museum. That’s how the interest has continued to grow! Now, villages around are beginning visit and take interest in the museum.
The same thing happened with Didi Museum in Lagos when it was set up about 35 years ago with a fair collection of antiquities and contemporary arts. Didi Museum actually owns part of 2000 years of Nigerian art. Ideally, those works should be in the national museum, but because we were granted permission to be a museum, we got the right to showcase them. We however basically use our space for gallery purposes as well.
At the time when we opened in Lagos 35 years ago, it was mainly the expatriate community that was interested in art collection. So, because I needed Nigerians to come appreciate the art, I decided to use dance and drama (performing arts) to attract them to the museum. I invited professional traditional dance groups to come perform whenever we had art exhibitions.
We also invited traditional heads like the Oni of Ife, Oba of Lagos, Oba of Benin, and others traditional rulers. That way, we succeeded in arousing the interest of Nigerians in art exhibitions, and our exhibitions became something peopl
e began to look forward to.
Back to Akuku-Igbo, after the people had developed interest in the museum concept, I began to look at what was lacking in their community. I noticed they had only a few of the young boys and girls going to school. So, to get them interested in education and learning, I set up a library to help them develop the reading culture.
I also set up a computer training centre for those keen on becoming computer literate, free of charge. We have staff at this centre. My husband also has an educational trust fund with which we sponsor those that seriously desire to go to school!
Recently, I got a donation of about 230 books for that museum. The concept is growing and day by day, more people are keying into it. Also, schools as far away as in Onitsha now visit the museum in Akuku-Igbo. It’s quite a beautiful adventure!
I read Museum and Gallery Management but that’s not really why I’m very keen on the arts. I happen to be married to a man, Chief Newton Jibuno, who has always been very keen on collecting art works. That actually inspired the establishment of Didi Museum in Lagos 35 years ago.
I want to urge other people to embrace the notion of impacting positively, lives in the rural communities.
There’s a lot going on in the urban areas, and since every Nigerian comes from a rural area, we should not forget our base in terms of what we can contribute to its growth. It is important to empower our community of origin. This is what I’m trying to do where I come from in Delta State.
Anybody can take this project home. It doesn’t have to be a museum like Didi Museum! It could be health, education, agriculture programme, etc Imagine the great development that would occur if a thousand families who live in the cities but come from Delta State, go to their roots and begin to do what my family and I are trying to do.
Imagine too, the difference in development, when one million Nigerians who are urban dwellers go into their different villages to develop them! You will find that the rural base will become so energized and powerful that you’ll have job creation and the people will no longer be so dependent on structural issues like societal politics where they are mandated to sell their votes during elections.
If you are well empowered and enlightened, the fact is that nobody will be able to intimidate you into selling your rights; especially one that could earn you good governance.
Even companies and individuals can decide to take up a project as a form of social responsibility. Why do we have to pour our social responsibilities into areas that are very well developed when there are areas that are crying out for help in community development? That will make for a much more robust country; not a country where the difference between the urban and the rural is so obvious! Imagine what tremendous improvement there would be
in trade and commerce for instance, if good roads were constructed to link villages and communities. The energy sector has at least helped by ensuring power supply at night in most villages, but they still need to help with power during the day.’