Oludamola Adebowale: Curating Memories To Outlive Generations
Using Digital Media as tool of educating and preserving archival Nigerian history. Oludamola Adebowale, founder of ASIRI Magazine has created Nigeria’s biggest digital repository of history, arts and culture within the last 8 years.
Archivist, Researcher, Curator his contribution hasn’t gone unrecognised as it has also earned him a Senior Curator with the Nigerian-Brazillian Public History Project.
It is finally good to put a face to ASIRI. What inspired you to start ASIRI Magazine?
The idea behind the ASIRI Magazine started because I was bored. I was two years into my five-year contract as Nigeria Country Manager at one of the biggest AD agencies in South Africa and at that stage, I felt more than just working at the company I need to do and create something more lifetime fulfilling and that has a purpose that would be my legacy.
So, I had a sit down with my mother one afternoon and she was giving me a breakdown of my family history. I was blown away by the richness and the exotic nature of history that I started writing a book around it. Well, halfway into the book, I stopped, and I said to myself, “Oludamola, don’t be selfish. If your family history is as rich as this, how would the history of millions of families and Nigeria look like?” It was then my exploration of Nigerian history started. It took me 2 years to come up with the name, the reason being that I needed a strong brand attachment between the name and the objective. 8 years down the line, ASIRI Magazine is now Nigeria’s biggest digital repository of archival history, culture and arts. We have done almost everything from comic history strips, radio programs, public events, you name it.
Like many others, we are curious. How do you keep such memories that have long been forgotten on the dusty shelves in libraries and locker rooms?
I would say one thing. It has been a lot of heavy research, reading and gathering almost accurate information and making sure the story is as accurate as possible. I have also been a history buff. My maternal grandmother would make me read all kinds of books while growing up, including studying the world’s history, and this has helped me in shaping my undying hunger for knowledge and history. It is also why the need to help bring the very core of Nigerian history into the forefront using digital media and the latest technological tool is more important than ever. Like I will always say, “research is a hard and tedious process,” but I enjoy what I do and I don’t plan to stop soon.
As a curator, you have high profiled exhibitions for the Ogun State Government, the British Council, and Terra Kulture, also the likes of Chief Ebenezer Obey, Professor Wole Soyinka and many more. How did you get into this?
I started curating and producing exhibitions about 4 years ago. The need for me to create experiences around the core of history, arts and culture have a subsidiary of my core of being an archivist, researcher and writer of Nigerian history. Now people get to interrogate and feel the works on a personal level. The need to have people in a space and use that space to teach, influence and educate is more impacting than ever. It leaves a lasting impression on people.
You recently created a History-themed Chess game app around the History of Lagos. Tell us more about the 1851 Agidingbi Games.
The Project was created off my 1st Solo Exhibition I held at Freedom Park, Lagos. It was an exhibition on the 1851 Bombardment of Lagos where I created this huge installation of a chess game around the battle dynamics of the Invasion and war tactics and it took me 3 years to fashion that into a game product. Last year, during the outbreak of the Pandemic, I started working on the APP and now we have Nigeria’s 1st Variant of the Chess Game built around the history of Lagos.
A little birdie tells us that the chessboard, The 1851 Agidingbi is also linked to history. What history lessons do you want players to learn?
Yes, the 1851 Agidingbi is built around the History of Lagos. The name “Agidingbi“ is an onomatopoeia for the sounds made by the canon gun that was fired by the British Naval forces during the Bombardment** and this sound was heard on the mainland. “1851” was the year of the Bombardment. Now that’s how I came up with the name of the Game. It is a game product (App and Board) that teaches History and the need to have an analytical and strategic mind at the same time teaching Lagos (Nigeria) history.
What words do you live by?
“You must not lose faith in Humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty,” – Mahatma Gandhi.
Read about the British bombardment titled “GAME OF THRONES: 1851 BOMBARDMENT OF LAGOS BY THE BRITISH NAVAL FORCES“ on Guardian Life’s website (www.guardian.ng/life/culture)