Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The 32nd good thing about Lagos: It has a museum!

People who know me well know that I love museums. Well, Saturday we had our first Nigerian museum day. It was an interesting experience. When we were on our way, I asked our driver, Jamiu, if he had visited the National Museum and he enthusiastically said, "Oh yes, madam, many times!" He was most excited about the political display they have that in centered around the car that Nigerian leader General Murtala Mohammed was in when he was assassinated in 1976, which brought Nigeria's current president into power. I wasn't quite as excited as Jamiu about seeing the limosine with the actual bullet holes in it. But I guess it was interesting. We were in the building with the political displays at the end of the tour and a Nigerian boy (maybe 11 years old) and his mother who had come through the rest of the museum with us were there. As we entered, there was a display that showed the Nigerian pledge to their flag and the national anthem. I asked the boy if he knew them and he said they recited the pledge and sang the anthem every school day. He then sang it for us. He was quite good. And he also knew the whole story about Murtala's assasination -- when it happened and where he was and everything. Our museum guide, Christina, was not as informed about the political history as she was about the rest of the museum. I asked her about the upcoming elections and she clearly didn't care about them. She said that people were ready for Obasanjo to leave office, but she wasn't excited about any of the contenders. She wasn't sure when the elections were and didn't know what the voting age was. But she was very knowlegable about the collections of Nigerian antiquities. The museum had quite a lot of nice tribal stuff and she had some good stories to tell. I hope to come back again and read the labels. I got her story, but there were quite a few informative labels that would give me more background. There were a lot of similar pieces to what we have in Houston in the African collection of the Museum of Fine Arts. There was quite a nice collection of bronzes from the kingdom of Benin. She did comment about a couple of particularly important pieces, saying that they were replicas -- the originals were in the British museum. No surprise there that the British made off with the good stuff!

The museum itself was pretty dusty and dirty -- like most of Lagos. There was not much in the way of temperature controls. The entrance fee was reasonable -- 1oo naira -- about $.75! I wanted to get a picture of Christina, our guide, as she ran her hands over objects as she talked about them -- objects with a sign warning "DO NOT TOUCH!" But photography was not allowed inside the museum. Brent did take a picture of us together in front of the museum. She has a neater outfit than what I wear when I give museum tours in Houston. And she was quite pleased with the tip I gave her at the end of the tour. Nobody ever offers me a tip after a tour....

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