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U.S. deepens cultural relationship with Nigeria, hosts Headies, supports heritage preservation

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
15 May 2022   |   4:01 am
The U.S. government is committed to strengthening the cultural ties between it and Nigeria through music, arts, film, cultural heritage, professional and educational exchanges.

U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard. Photo/TWITTER/POLICENG

The U.S. government is committed to strengthening the cultural ties between it and Nigeria through music, arts, film, cultural heritage, professional and educational exchanges.

Disclosing this was Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, when the U.S. Mission Nigeria hosted a reception on Thursday, May 12, 2022 to honour the 15th yearly Headies Music Awards, which will be held for the first time in Atlanta, Georgia, later this year.

She applauded the growing ties of the two countries in the creative industry, saying that the choice of Atlanta symbolises the growing relationship between the music industries of both countries.

“This year’s awards will highlight the growing U.S.-Nigeria ties and the vast potential of Nigerian musicians as cultural exporters to the African continent and beyond,” Leonard said.

She added, “the U.S. government has long recognised the role of music in diplomacy, with its emphasis on free expression, improvisation, and democratic and collaborative teamwork. Sharing music is one of the best ways to find common ground with people on an exchange programme. The appeal of music is truly universal.”

In his welcoming remarks, Acting U.S. Consul, General Brandon Hudspeth, noted that cultural and artistic exchanges are just one way the country partners with people and government of Nigeria.

“We continue to explore innovative ways to foster valuable people-to-people connections between our two countries,” Hudspeth said. “The U.S. Mission is honored to partner with the Headies. This year’s Headies Awards will highlight the Nigerian music industry’s creativity and growing global reach.”

Executive Producer of the Headies Music Awards, Ayo Animashaun, noted that it’s the first year the Headies will be held outside of Nigeria. He described Atlanta as home to many prominent hip-hop and R&B artists and their record labels.

“The Headies recognises outstanding achievements in the Nigerian music industry. Our goal is to continue to support the development of talent and nurture innovation in the music industry,” Animashaun added.

Also, the U.S. government recently supported the preservation of Nigeria’s rich heritage through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) and other partnership mechanisms.

The Mission, in collaboration with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and the Trust for African Rock Art, launched a unique traveling exhibition, “The Ancient Rock Art of Nigeria” at the National Museum in Lagos.

Sponsored by AFCP, the show seeks to raise awareness of the importance of preserving Nigerian rock art — a cultural treasure at risk.

Delivering remarks during the show’s opening, Hudspeth noted that the scope and depth of the various AFCP projects in the country has helped to strengthen collaborative efforts in the preservation of Nigeria’s cultural heritage, both for future generations and for tourism.

“Since the programme’s inception, Nigeria has received 10 preservation grants worth $1 million with projects spread across the country. This achievement shines a light on Nigeria’s historical and cultural heritage. It is also a symbol of the high regard in which the United States holds Nigerian culture,” Hudspeth added.

In his remarks, Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Professor Abba Issa Tijani, commended AFCP projects across Nigerian museums.

“The fund has been yielding great results in terms of capacity building, documentation and digitisation of our rich cultural heritage. This is just the beginning. We look forward to many more productive partnerships with the U.S. government,” Tijani said.

Executive Chairman, Trust for African Rock Art, David Coulson, explained that the aim of the travelling exhibition is to engage communities living near the rock sites on the beauty of rock art as well as the perils it faces from both human and natural forces.

“It is essential that we increase involvement of community members in efforts to preserve and benefit from their rich cultural heritage,” Coulson added.

Hosted at the National Museum in Lagos, the exhibition includes monoliths from museum storage rooms, which have not been on public display for decades, over 50 photographs, 3D reproductions and thematic videos.

The exhibition will be open to visitors over the next four weeks in Lagos before travelling to the National Museum in Calabar in July and the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in September.