ASIRI @ Ten: Celebrations Loom for Nigeria’s Research, Digital Archiving Brand

Yinka Olatunbosun

When the researcher and culture archivist, Oludamola Adebowale founded ASIRI Magazine ten years ago, it was meant to be a magazine on Nigeria’s history and culture uploaded for consumers on dropbox. But today, tens of thousands of netizens can easily access archival materials and storytelling on the ASIRI website as well as its social media platforms.  At the moment, Adebowale who doubles as the creative director of ASIRI, still feels he hasn’t done enough for the culture despite the growing followership and connections made on the platform.

“Looking back at when we started, with a 33-paged illustration art magazine, we were billed to do eight editions. One of the famous stories we did then was a story on Queen Idia, Moremi and Madam Tinubu. For all these stories that I did, I was always travelling to these regions to find out. But after the 8th edition, I felt we needed to do more,” he recounted.

To do so, he propelled the brand to launch its archival digital phase by sourcing for rich histo-cultural content and working with other media platforms to promote this underrated segment of a nation’s education- history.

“In the last ten years, we were also on television for a while, making documentaries. We were on Radio Nigeria for six months for the programme called ‘Roots,’ by ASIRI. It was a drive time storytelling programme. For 30 minutes, people could listen to stories about their cultural history on radio. We have had partnerships within and outside Nigeria. We have done quite a lot of work.

“I have met a lot of people who have said that ASIRI was their reference point. In a way, I feel fulfilled but I want to do more. I feel proud that a Nigerian research brand will stand the test of time for ten years- self funded.”

Indeed, ASIRI is a Nigerian brand; not seeking to promote one tribe above others. The story behind the brand name itself is multicultural.

“The name of the brand ASIRI is not even a Yoruba word. It is originally Arabic and the meaning of ASIRI in Yoruba is secret and means the same thing in Ibo- ASIRI which means gossip or secret, same with Hausa, Swahili, Nupe and Igala.

“It took me years to form a local brand because I wanted something that I can explain that would resonate with. The purpose of the brand is to preserve, explore and bring out Nigerian history. It is not meant for just a particular tribe.”

While reflecting on ASIRI and audience engagement over the decade, it’s been gratifying to hear stories of families reuniting over archival pictures that connect their roots with others. For Adebowale, that in itself is a rewarding experience. 

“Families have reunited; people have met their cousins. Many have developed relationships via this platform. For us, it shows us how much Nigerians are aware of their history. 

“On the flipside, I have had several issues of death threats. I remember when I posted an image of Ojukwu, there were lots of hateful comments. People who are not really smart individuals tilt to one side of history rather than understanding the core of history.”

Adebowale, who is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife and an Associate Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, further revealed the lined-up activities to celebrate ASIRI at ten. A three-day hybrid event is in the pipeline.

“We are talking to some of our foreign partners to help us release a coffee book, a film documentary and a theatre performance,” he continued. “We are planning a three-day celebration. The first two days will be zoom events. The weekend is when we will have the grand physical event. A lot of people don’t even know the face behind ASIRI.”

ASIRI is on the quest to transform to become a proper historical arts foundation. 

“We are looking forward to having an arts space where we can host events, performances, exhibitions and book readings. We want to thank everyone who has pressed like on all ASIRI’s social media pages.”

For the last 10 years, ASIRI Magazine has stood as the vanguard of preserving and telling authentic stories on Nigerian history via its digital media and other technological tools.

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