Ambassador Leonard’s remarks for reception for the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP)
Monday, November 8, 2021, 6:00 p.m Location: U.S. Consul General’s Residence, Ikoyi, Lagos
Hello everyone, I am Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard. I am pleased to participate in today’s signing of the Memorandum of Understanding to launch this new Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Grant to preserve the Busanyin Shrine within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove.
I want to first recognize our esteemed guests from CyArk: Director of Conservation Programs Kacey Hardick and her colleagues Chris Milbern and Avidan Fernandez.
I would also like to acknowledge Professor Abba Isa Tijani, Director General of the Nigerian Commission of Museums and Monuments, and Robin Campbell, Co-chair of the Management Committee of the Adunni Olorisha Trust. The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding demonstrates the United States’ commitment to partner with Nigeria to preserve its rich history and culture.
The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (or the AFCP) grants program is administered through annual competition by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The grants support the preservation of major ancient archaeological sites, historic buildings and monuments, and major museum collections that are accessible to the public and protected by law in a host country.
Through the AFCP, the U.S Mission has partnered with the Nigerian government to preserve cultural landmarks and sites for over a decade. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, the United States is proud to say that we have funded projects worth over a million dollars across Nigeria.
Prior to this project, the U.S. Mission funded the conservation of the late 14th-Century Sungbo’s Eredo (ER RAY DOE) monument, the famed system of fortifications designed to protect the ancient Ijebu (EE JAY BU) Kingdom in Southwest Nigeria. Starting earlier this year, the $400,000 AFCP project is using three-dimensional laser scanning technology to generate a precise topographic map covering a thousand square kilometers of the area occupied by the monument. This 3-D map will be the most detailed map of any archaeological/architectural feature in Nigeria.
Today, we are proud to announce the launch of our 2020 AFCP award to digitally document and conserve the Busanyin Shrine located within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove. CyArk and its local partners were awarded a $125,000 grant under the AFCP small grant program to help document a series of shrines within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and provide training to local professionals to build capacity in digital documentation skills and cultural heritage management.
The Busanyi Shrine has been significantly damaged throughout the years due to extreme flooding. The 3D digital documentation of the shrine is the necessary first step to provide the most accurate record of the current conditions of the site to effectively plan a restoration project to increase resilience of the site during a natural disaster or extreme weather conditions. This will allow for the Busanyi Shrine to remain intact as a cultural landmark for many years to come.
Through projects like the one in the Sacred Grove, the United States and Nigeria are actively cooperating on means to protect Nigeria’s cultural heritage. We’re also initiating new ways as well, including discussion of a bilateral agreement that would establish restrictions against the import into the United States of prohibited items of cultural property. The agreement would also encourage public and private cultural institutions and law enforcement agencies in both countries to work together on repatriating trafficked objects and fostering the cultural exchanges. In this way, the U.S. would demonstrate its commitment to protect and preserve Nigeria’s cultural heritage and Nigeria’s rich religious and ethnic diversity. I am looking forward to many more opportunities like this to strengthen our combined efforts in the future.
In closing, I look forward to meeting you this evening as we celebrate our partnership with the signing of this very important Memorandum of Understanding to launch the project.