“We need to treasure our culture now for the sake of future generations”

Babajide Famuyiwa, Curator of the Odu’a Museum and Hall of Fame

I couldn't help but notice that the atmosphere was calm and relaxed almost in an eerie manner. A cursory glance to the right reveals a wall, well adorned with batik, adire and other locally made fabrics. Another quick shift in my gaze upwards told me that the ceiling too wasn't left out of the magic either - its entire length enshrouded with traditional bamboo and cane mats. Completing the ambience was the soft music of Hubert Ogunde oozing out of the background. And befittingly, in the centre of this fabulous re-creation of the Yoruba culture, sat the Curator of the Heritage Museum, Babajide Famuyiwa. The University of Ibadan alumnus in an exclusive interview with IBCITY INFO opened up on what it means to be one of the few custodians of the Yoruba culture.

Growing up and educational background

I attended Ijebu-Ijesha Grammar School in Osun State before I got admission into the University of Ibadan to study Yoruba and Religious Studies. I also got my Masters in African Beliefs and Archeology at the same university.

On being a custodian of the Yoruba culture

Being a museum curator involves keeping in touch with artefacts. I also get to plan exhibitions and educate people generally. Charity begins at home they say, if we treasure what’s left of our culture now, future generation can understand where they come from and get inspired from this. For example, we used batik and ankara on our walls, this is our way of saying you don’t have to paint the entire wall; you can keep things a bit traditional by using indigenous designs.

On keeping our culture alive

We are bound to change with time, the fact that our forefathers were sleeping on mats does not mean we should as well, but we can redefine the usage. We should not only imbibe the culture that is being passed down from the older generation, we should also add our own to it. We have more youths coming in than adults as they are more curious about the past and what it looked like. Some of the traditional carved gourds are being turned into gifts for people to keep in their homes, while some artefacts like the amu (traditional water storage for homes) are being decorated and kept as exhibits.

The thrills of the job

I love when people ask questions about things they haven’t seen. I also had the opportunity of meeting Hubert Ogunde in Jos before he died when he came to premier his film “Mr Johnson” in 1990. I also enjoy going for radio programs and discussing some of the items in our collection and their significance to our history.

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