Africa is a continent blessed with various cultural diversity. That alone will give you a clues of what visiting any museum within the continent will look like. And I find it quite interesting doing so. In my expeditions as a tourist, the following are the top best museums I have visited so far.
National Museum of Unity, Enugu
National Museum of Unity, Enugu is one of the first and best I visited. I remember vividly how I and my friends on our way from our school in Kogi State decided to stop over at Enugu for the tour before proceeding to our final destination. It was a very wonderful experience and we had so much fun. For most of us in the group, it was our first-time touring by ourselves outside the usual school-organised tours.
When we got there, we went to the reception, presented our student Identification cards, and introduced ourselves as students of Leisure and Tourism management. We were given a warm reception and the museum curator showed us around after we paid a token payment of NGN200 each. The services provided by the Museum are grouped in three galleries:
(a) THE UNITY GALLERY presents objects and artifacts illustrating some common concepts in the belief system of the various ethnic groups of Nigeria;
(b) THE IGBO GALLERY showcases artifacts reflecting the Igbo worldview through architectural, religious, political, social, and economic systems of the Igbo people; and
(c) ENUGU, THE COAL CITY GALLERY presents artifacts showing the growth and development of Enugu City arising from the discovery of coal.
Nigerian National Museum, Onikan, Lagos
On one of my WakaWaka trips to Lagos where I attended the Nigeria Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference. My Lagos-based friends decided to show me around town and we ended our city sightseeing at the Onikan museum. As we were told, this museum is the oldest in Nigeria. It was set up in 1957 by an English archaeologist and tourist named Kenneth Murray.
He set it up for the preservation of cultural artifacts he found fascinating while touring Nigeria. At the museum, you would find the state car of Murtala Muhammed the former head of the state of Nigeria. You will also find old sculptures and royal crowns. The history of Nigeria is largely told at the museum as well. It is usually open by 9:30 am and closes at 3:30 pm from Monday to Saturday.
Slave History Museum Calabar My Best Museum in Nigeria
It was on a class tour that we visited one of the most emotional slave trade experience museums in Nigeria. Just as the name goes, the museum documents the full breakdown of what transpired during the 15th-century transatlantic slave trade with a graphic representation of the slaves which shows life-sized sculptures. There is also an audio recording effect that dramatizes the sculptural depiction and makes it comes to life. Trust me, if you are an emotional person, you will likely most break down into tears. You can hear slaves being auctioned and sold off, hear them working on plantations, and some other scenes.
National Museum Calabar
On that same trip, just before we visited the slave trade museum, we did a very comprehensive tour of the National Museum. This National Museum was once a British governor’s house. It was built in 1959 shortly after the Nigerian National Museum, Onikan was built. It has the furnishings that the Europeans made use of during the slave trade and colonial period. It is notable as the home to the relics of the slave trade including names of people that aided it, and the currency of the slave trade.
National Museum, Owerri
The Museum is known as the Igbo household museum because it has a permanent gallery titled “Ezi na Ulo Ndigbo” ie The Igbo Household. It has a collection of artifacts that depicts the way of life of the early settlers in Imo state. although not so popular a museum within the country, but trust me, its an amazing one. Imo State being my state, of course I have no choice but to visit and promote. again, without mincing words you would be impressed with the rich cultural depiction you will see. It is located at B65 Shell Camp, Off Orlu Road, P.M.B. 1585, Owerri Imo State. You can email them at [email protected] or [email protected]
National War Museum, Umuahia
National War Museum, Umuahia was established in 1985 with the aim of putting the ugly episode of the war behind and speeding up the process of national reconciliation and healing. It is notable as a sanctuary of the relics from the Biafran-Nigerian civil war that took place between 1967 and 1970.
Ever heard of Ogbunigwe? Want to know more about the Nigerian civil war? The National war museum is a sanctuary of both traditional and modern warfare and opens its doors far and wide to people seeking to know more about this portion of Nigerian history. The museum has three galleries that cover traditional warfare, the armed forces, and the Nigerian Civil War weapon galleries.
With just a token payment, you will be assigned to well-trained curators who would take you around and education you about what transpired during the Nigerian-Biafran war.
National Museum, Osogbo
Not so much to talk about at the Osogbo museum. But if you get to Oja-Oba in the city centre, you would see a signpost of the national museum. When I got into the building, I was told that most of the artworks for the museum are on display at the Osun Osogbo grove. You will be required to pay some amount to be taken to the Osogbo grove.
Recall that The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is a large cultural landscape of undisturbed forest dedicated to Osun, the Yoruba goddess of fertility. Within the forest sanctuary, you will see forty shrines, sculptures, and artworks erected in honour of Osun and other Yoruba deities. Some have been over the past forty years now. You will also find two palaces, five sacred places, and nine worship points strung along the river banks with designated priests and priestesses.
You will agree with me that it is a very scary place to visit. I could remember how I was pressed and needed to ease myself but was so scared to even say so. My bladder was hurting seriously before I mustered the courage to even ask the guards where I could ease myself because I was scared of desecrating the shrine. My major fear is that we were warned at the entrance point not to touch or take anything from the shrine.
CRIMMD Museum, Idimu, Lagos
So, I visited the first time but was not satisfied because there was a lot to see and so many stories to tell so I had to revisit. Established on October 1st, 2012, CRIMMD started as a photo museum but presently it has a collection of about 10, 000 photos of Nigeria’s history and other really valuable items from pre-colonial, colonial, and modern eras. The museum is rich with photographs and portraits of several iconic personalities in Nigeria, Africa, and the world at large. I had written a full article about the museum. Click here to read more…
Badagry Heritage Museum
The building is an old house that was formerly used by the colonial government. It was built in 1863. It was later converted into a slave museum which was commissioned on august 22, 2002 by the then governor of Lagos State Ahmed Bola Tinubu. The museum houses several pictures from the slave trade era and first-hand information about the slave trade activities are handed down at the museum. It has various galleries, including the gallery of the colonial masters who were former occupants of the building before they left, the one that shows the kind of punishment meted upon stubborn or bold slaves who wouldn’t remain obedient to their masters or those who tried to escape. Also, you will find another gallery that shows the people who fought against slavery and many other depictions. It is a great place to visit once you can find yourself in Lagos State.
Seriki Faremi Williams Abass Slave Museum, Badagry
The story of this museum is all about a particular who greatly indulged in slave trading while living in Badagry. Although a stranger from Ijoga Orile in Ogun State, turned himself into a chief and build a palace. His name is Seriki Abass Williams. The house has up to 40 sets of rooms used as slave prisons. His building was named ‘The Brazilian Barracoon’ because he used it as a slave prison will transacting business with Brazillian and Portuguese trade masters. The rooms are very small and each was used to house about 40 slaves. Male and females were kept separately. At the museum, you will find an umbrella that was used to exchange for 100 slaves, a canon gun in exchange for 40 slaves, and a schnapps bottle in exchange for 10 slaves. You will also find some of his descendants living in the compound and still using some of the buildings
Chief Mobee Royal Family Original Slave Relic Museum
This Museum is a private owned museum named after a famous chief in Badagry. His name is Chief Mobee. Unlike the former, Chief Seriki Abass Williams, he fought against slave trading in Badagry and played a role in the abolishment of slave trading in Badagry. The museum houses an exhibition that discusses the arrival of Europeans to the Badagry area and the origins of the trade in human beings. There you would find slave trading items such as yokes, chains, a mouth lock that prevented the captives from speaking, and handcuffs for children.
The Royal Palace museum in Porto-Novo, Benin
Although originally King Toffa’s Palace, the Royal Palace Museum (Musée Honmé), is a government owned museum in Porto-Novo, Benin. It is the former royal residence of transgenerational kings who ruled Porto Novo before and after colonisation by the Portuguese. The Portuguese constructed the building during the era of slavering before it turned into a museum for sightseeing.
In the building, there is a reception called the waiting room where the people who come to see the king wait for the king before they are summoned to see him. The voodoo worship place oversees your heart to know if you have a bad intention or good intention against the king. It will alert the king and you will not be allowed to see him.
There are various graves where some of the kings were buried. It was told that for each of the king’s burials, 3 virgins were buried with them because the people believe that the kings don’t die rather, they travel. So, they will need their servants there. So, the 3 virgins would automatically become Queens and will serve him in that capacity on his way to the journey in the great beyond.
The museum has a lot of first-hand information pertaining to the traditional leadership and culture of the people of Port Novo in the Benin Republic.
Musée Da Silvain My Best Museum in Porto-Novo, Benin
Musee Da Silva is the largest private museum in Porto-Novo. It is owned by Urbain Kareem Da Silva who started this museum on Nov 2nd, 1998.
The museum spreads across two floors, the ground floor of the main house displays photographs of the Da Silva family and its descendants, detailing their experiences as freed returnee slaves from Brazil.
While at the first entrance of the museum, you would find a hall that has all information about Martin Luther king. It is a complete gallery of Martin Luther king’s pictures and stories. It was put in place just to honour him as a great leader and one of the great figures who fought against racial discrimination in America, his life stories, quotes, photos, and transcripts of speeches he made are found at the museum.
The museum also houses so e items and personal effects of the owner and custodian Urbain Kareem Da Silva and that of his family members plus those he acquired by purchase and auction while living in the US ranging from old telephones, typewriters, home theatres, speakers, radios, sewing machines, television of different generations. There are also collections of motorcycles from the 1960s to present day, as well as vintage cars like 1980s Rolls-Royce and a couple of 1950s Citroen in the museum.
In conclusion, I actually find it interesting visiting museums and but I will also begin to diversify into art galleries soon. Meanwhile, I still have some more museums on my bucket list which are Ese Museum and Benin City Museum.