Asaba Memorial, Exhibition ‘ll Inspire Nigerians

Sunday Okobi

The Asaba Memorial Committee has announced the opening of Asaba Memorial, a group exhibition curated by Otsholeng Poo, and convened by Chief Chuck Nduka-Eze, the Isama Ajie of Asaba, to commemorate the tragic events of the Asaba Massacre in 1967.

The organisers of the memorial, at an event held in Lagos yesterday to usher in the memorial, described it as “a captivating selection of work by Nigerian artists that provokes awareness and recognition of the tragic event in Nigeria’s history and aims to support the development of the Asaba Memorial Park – a cultural monument in honour of the victims of the Asaba massacre of 1967.”

Speaking on the event, Chief Nduka-Eze ,explained the importance of using art as a powerful catalyst for bringing awareness to important issues that receive only marginal attention.

He said: “To date, there has been no proper explanation or official apology from the Federal Government of Nigeria for the humanitarian crime.

“We encourage everyone to come and explore the exhibition. It will challenge people not only to ask, ‘what could have been done, but also, ‘what can we do?’ This is the first step to creating a memorial site that is accessible and dignified in its representation to honour the victims, a place that will be a community symbol of all the lives lost and extend to encompass a cultural and recreational attraction for both local and international tourists.”

The Asaba Memorial, produced by A Whitespace Creative Agency, will open on the November 27, 2022, at Red Door Gallery, 51 Bishop
Oluwole Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The exhibition, which will also take place till December 7, he disclosed, would  offer a rare insight of the Asaba massacre of 1967.

According to him, “It covers the emotional complexities of a forgotten peaceful community with compelling stories on the trajectory of the horror and the growing realisation of the extent of the massacre during the Nigerian civil war. It simultaneously critiques the government and global communities’ inaction to the atrocities that took place and will question commonly held assumptions about the massacre, and challenge visitors to consider the responsibilities and obstacles faced by those who managed to survive — from the young widows, women and children to soldiers — who made difficult choices, to effect change and in a few cases, took significant risks to help victims on that fateful day.

“The exhibition features works from over 20 artists, including IN MEMORIAM, a monumental canvas piece with the names of some of the victims by a 12-year-old artist, Kanye Okeke, who created this work for this show, and Victor Ehikhamanor’s Black Peace (2022), part of the series which was featured as the book cover of Elizabeth Bird and Fraser Ottanelli’s book titled: ‘The Asaba Massacre: Trauma, Memory, and the Nigerian Civil War’.

At the event, the curator, Otsholeng Poo, said: “As a South African who calls Nigeria home, I understand the importance of this exhibition on a very personal level. I am inspired by the people of Asaba’s continued survival and resounding call for the Massacre to be given its proper place in the telling of Nigeria’s history. I’m also hopeful that as this project gains supporters from across the continent and the world, we can keep telling the story of Asaba through art and community.

“As the exhibition travels across locations, we intend to invite more artists’ contributions and keep expanding the Park’s collection.”

The exhibition is part of a series of remembrance activities to support the development of a permanent physical space – a world-class nature park, monument, artistic and cultural centre in honour of all those who lost their lives and were displaced by the Asaba massacre.

The Memorial Park will have, as its foundation, 1,000 trees as a symbol of all the lives lost. It will be a legacy project that finally gives homage to the victims, their families and becomes a place for reflection on healing for the Asaba people and all Nigerians.

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