OBINNA EZUGWU

The U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, says it will spend $127,000 on the digital documentation and conservation of Busanyin Shrine located in the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove.

The $127,000 grant was awarded to CyArk, a California-based non-profit, through the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP).

Speaking at the signing of the project’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Monday in Lagos, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, said AFCP was administered by U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

According to her, the grant supports the present preservation of major ancient archaeological sites, historic buildings, monuments and major museum collections that are accessible to the public and protected by law in their host country.

“The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (or the AFCP) grants program is administered through annual competition by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  The grants support the preservation of major ancient archaeological sites, historic buildings and monuments, and major museum collections that are accessible to the public and protected by law in a host country,” she said.

“Through the AFCP, the U.S Mission has partnered with the Nigerian government to preserve cultural landmarks and sites for over a decade. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, the United States is proud to say that we have funded projects worth over a million dollars across Nigeria.

“Prior to this project, the U.S. Mission funded the conservation of the late 14th-Century Sungbo’s Eredo (ER RAY DOE) monument, the famed system of fortifications designed to protect the ancient Ijebu (EE JAY BU) Kingdom in Southwest Nigeria.  Starting earlier this year, the $400,000 AFCP project is using three-dimensional laser scanning technology to generate a precise topographic map covering a thousand square kilometers of the area occupied by the monument.  This 3-D map will be the most detailed map of any archaeological/architectural feature in Nigeria.

“Today, we are proud to announce the launch of our 2020 AFCP award to digitally document and conserve the Busanyin Shrine located within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove.  CyArk and its local partners were awarded a $125,000 grant under the AFCP small grant program to help document a series of shrines within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and provide training to local professionals to build capacity in digital documentation skills and cultural heritage management.

“The Busanyi Shrine has been significantly damaged throughout the years due to extreme flooding. The 3D digital documentation of the shrine is the necessary first step to provide the most accurate record of the current conditions of the site to effectively plan a restoration project to increase resilience of the site during a natural disaster or extreme weather conditions. This will allow for the Busanyi Shrine to remain intact as a cultural landmark for many years to come.

“Through projects like the one in the Sacred Grove, the United States and Nigeria are actively cooperating on means to protect Nigeria’s cultural heritage.   We’re also initiating new ways as well, including discussion of a bilateral agreement that would establish restrictions against the import into the United States of prohibited items of cultural property. The agreement would also encourage public and private cultural institutions and law enforcement agencies in both countries to work together on repatriating trafficked objects and fostering the cultural exchanges.  In this way, the U.S. would demonstrate its commitment to protect and preserve Nigeria’s cultural heritage and Nigeria’s rich religious and ethnic diversity.  I am looking forward to many more opportunities like this to strengthen our combined efforts in the future.”

Prof. Abba Tijani, Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), said that the commission had been collaborating with relevant stakeholders to protect, conserve and manage national assets.

One of such collaborations, he said, was that between NCMM and Cyark in 2019 which led to a successful workshop on 3D documentation.

“This is a great opportunity to train some staff of the commission as well as carry out more works at the grove,” he said.

According to Tijani, the Osun-Osogbo sacred grove, Nigeria’s second World Heritage Site and primary rain forest, is fast disappearing in the West-African sub-region.

“The grove is important to many of its devotees both within and outside the country and other stakeholders, hence, the need to keep it in good state of conservation at all times.

“This training programme will not only empower the staff of the commission in 3D documentation of cultural heritage but also assist in conservation works to be carried out in the grove,” he said.

Also, Olu Adeosun, Member, Board of Trustees, Adunni Olorisha Trust, said that conserving heritage sites would not only preserve them for posterity but also provide accessibility to people around the world.

He said that the Adunni Olorisa Trust was founded in 2003 to ensure that the Osogbo art legacy was preserved and that the integrity of the Osun grove was protected.

“Our focus has always been on the restoration of the site and the works in the groves.

“The grant has come at the appropriate time because the need for a comprehensive digital reconstruction of the grove could not be more important,” Adeosun said.

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