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Afro-Brazilians partner Nigeria to explore historical connection, strengthen ties

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Director of Nigerian-Brazilian Cultural and Business Initiative, Mr. Yinka Odunniyi (from left); Iyalorisa Eldelzuita; Secretary of Culture in Rio de Janeiro, Nilcemar Noguema; Carolina Osunleye; Desirree Rers; representative of Lagos State Commissioner for Arts, Tourism and Culture, Aminu Omosun, and Babalawo Ifadele at the museum at Freedom Park… in Lagos

The obvious disconnect among peoples of black origin scattered the world over has been a source of worry to some concerned individuals, who advocate the need to rebuild and take charge of Africa’s common heritage by those in the diaspora and on the homeland so as to strengthen existing relationships and forge new ones. To this end, a delegation from the Ministry of Culture in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in partnership with Nigerian-Brazilian Cultural and Business Initiative (NBCBI), is exploring the historical connections between Brazil and Nigeria for mutually benefiting purposes.

The Afro-Brazilian delegation, which was led by Secretary of Culture in Rio de Janeiro, Nilcemar Noguema, explained to newsmen at a press conference over the weekend in Lagos that they want to build an Afro-Brazilian Museum in Valongo Wharf, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is reputed to have been a high point of entry for a large number of Africans into Brazil during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

According to Noguema, the approval of the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro has been sought for the project, which she hopes would improve the lives of blacks in Brazil and the rest of the world.

“We need to visit the past to put questions to the present and, if you know who you are, you can do anything,” she said. “The government has been doing some things, but we blacks also need to do more to improve things for ourselves. This is why we are creating a museum in Brazil that showcases the Afro-Brazilian history.

“More than 56 per cent of Brazilians have black heritage, but most of the black people do not know anything about our ancestors because the available books about history have no details of black history. So, for the first time in Brazil we are creating a museum, which would tell the history of black people. Also, we decided to visit Yoruba ethnicities of Nigeria because of the many similarities in culture between the Yoruba and the Afro-Brazilians.”

She added that the delegation had visited Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwunsi, Ojaja II, and Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka in Abeokuta and they have agreed to the partnership for the museum project.

“We have come to Yoruba ethnicity because the Yoruba and the Bantu were the first sets of slaves in Brazil,” she further elaborated, adding, “also there are lots of similarities and influences of the Yoruba in Afro-Brazilian culture, language, cuisine, and religion.”

Director of Nigerian-Brazilian Cultural and Business Initiative, Mr. Adeyinka Odunniyi, said the groundwork for the project started four years ago and explained how his organisation intimated the parliament in Rio de Janeiro about the project, as directed by Ooni of Ife. He said Brazil has the second largest black population in the world and, incidentally, 90 per cent of that population can trace their roots to Yoruba culture.

“In June this year, Ooni of Ife went with a large contingent to meet with Afro-Brazilians,” Odunniyi said. “We discovered there is a recognised law in Rio that sees Ife and Rio as twin cities. Also, they have so many similarities with Yoruba in language, culture and religion, hence the need to unite the two countries’ cultures by seeing to the success of the museum.”

Odunniyi further revealed that Ooni of Ife has promised to assist the delegation on the project by sending thirty experts in the area of art, painting, sculptor and others to help create authentic African artifacts for the museum. The monarch was also said to have promised to loan the museum some original artifacts from Ile-Ife.

Also, Acting Head, Department of Tourism, Lagos State Ministry of Art, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Aminu Omosun, representing Lagos State Commissioner for Arts, Tourism and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, relayed the state’s readiness to partner with the delegation, noting, “At the meeting with the delegation, the commissioner gave assurance of Lagos State’s support. A tour has been facilitated by the state for them to visit Badagry where they would see Badagry Slave Heritage Museum and other slave monuments.”


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