Igbo Art and Material Culture, Wits Art Museum

October 20, 2023
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Igbo Art and Material Culture, Wits Art Museum

The Terminale B BFI students visited the Wits Art Museum on Friday, 3 November to engage with Igbo artifacts which had been specially curated to link with their novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe.

Through participation in the JoMUN Conference earlier this year, our students were exposed to the topics of  “Securing the repatriation of cultural property lost from warfare to its origins” in UNESCO and “Creating a framework for post-colonial reparations in Southern Africa” in SPDC. The workshop opened with many questions from the students as to how the artifacts were originally acquired and how the craftspeople and artists are formally acknowledged in the museum space.

Students were then exposed directly to traditional Igbo Ikenga, Mami Wata, a ceremonial costume and masks, as well as pottery. These artifacts brought precolonial Igboland to life and added depth to their study of the novel. The processes used to create some of the artefacts were explained in detail, for example: craftsmen used natural materials like raffia to create intricate patterns on cotton and then dipped the cloth in indigo dye a number of times depending on the vibrancy of colour they wished to achieve.

To coincide with Heritage Day on the 24th of September the TB BFI researched specific elements of Igbo culture and explored similarities with their own culture. The knowledge they gained allowed them to interact with the two curators in a robust manner, prompting the Education Curator to send the following e-mail, “It’s always a pleasure for us to engage with the students, as it not only provides us with valuable insights from their perspective but also offers us a learning opportunity. Thank you for highlighting the students’ debate topic. Their prior knowledge significantly enriched and added depth to the types of questions raised. We were impressed by the group’s critical thinking.” Take a listen to the podcast which the TB BFI students created.



Thank you to the curators at the Wits Art Museum for giving us the opportunity to interact with these artifacts.


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