A musical celebration of the Nigerian Golden Jubilee

Nigeria celebrated 50 years of independence this month, making this a good time to celebrate the treasures from Nigeria here at National Museums Scotland.  Nigerian objects dating from the mid-1800s up to the present day form a significant part of our African collections. We have nearly 2,000 objects ranging from intricately carved wooden sculptures of the Ibibio people in the Cross River region of southern Nigeria to the fabulous embroidered robes of the Hausa in Northern Nigeria and the celebrated bronzes from the Kingdom of Benin.

Wooden ancestor figure made in the 19th century
Wooden ancestor figure made in the 19th century.
Embroidered robe
Embroidered robe.
Bronze plaque showing a central figure of an oba or chief flanked by two attendants
Bronze plaque showing a central figure of an oba or chief flanked by two attendants, made in Benin during the 17th century.

Also in our collection are over 700 reels of field recordings from the music collector and museum curator Jean Jenkins. She travelled from Bali to Mongolia, from Pakistan to Ghana, learning about musical traditions, collecting musical instruments and recording musicians. One of her first collecting trips was to Nigeria in 1960 for the independence celebrations.

Jenkins borrowed recording equipment from friends at the BBC and headed to Lagos, Nigeria, with a large contingent of media personnel. Intent on making the most of her few weeks in Nigeria, she tried to experience as much of the country as she could. She travelled out of the city to Ibadan, Oyo, Ilesha, Ilorin, and Jebba. Her recordings from this time provide a valuable snapshot of Nigeria during the time of its independence 50 years ago.

Listen to sounds of Nigeria in 1960 here:

Jenkins’ field recordings from all over the world are currently being researched and digitized by Assistant Curator Susan Lewandowski in preparation for a new gallery Performance and Lives, set to open in the redeveloped National Museum of Scotland in 2011. You can here more music collected by Jenkins in our World Music Composer game.

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