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Centre for Memories: Leveraging on lessons from past to build future

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IN RECENT times, it is has become evident that societies transcend to higher level of development through historical trajectories.

The developed world continues to achieve enormous societal progress because they have harnessed a common ground where historical events, values and artifacts serve as tools for development.

Unlike the developed world, African societies have failed to take a cue from their western counterparts to explore their histories and export them to outside world. At times, not just do the people fail to identify with their history, values and cultures, most are oblivious of such events.

History as a subject has been relegated to the background in Nigeria’s secondary school curriculum for over a decade now. A society that wishes to achieve nation-building cannot attain her predilections if she continues to deny her past and not reconciling it with her present conditions/events. Knowledge of our history will not only help to influence our understanding of life but it could be a catalyst for national integration, development. This historical defect in our system is the gap Centre for Memories wishes to bridge.

Set up in the year 2017 by a group of like-mind individuals who are passionate about the growth and sustenance of Igbo culture and historical events, the Centre for Memories located at Independence Layout, Enugu, serves as a cultural hub, a repository of Igbo history, culture and aged-long innovations. This cultural hub, documents Igbo historical events while preserving her values for the future.

To achieve desired objectives and vision, the Centre for Memories runs various programmes which leverage on lessons from the past, today, to build the future we so much desire for the Igbo nation. It believes that the continuous repression of our past events is detrimental to the nation-building we seek.

Through exhibitions which are held quarterly and annually, the centre exports thematic areas of Igbo history, culture and identity to the world. The first of such exhibition which was titled ‘Ola Ndigbo: Igbo Contributions to the World’, focused on individuals of Igbo extraction such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ben Enwonwu, Chinua Achebe, Pius and Christopher Okigbo, Mike Ejeagha, Chike Obi, who left marks in their respective fields of work.  In a follow up, the centre organised another exhibition tagged, ‘Reviving Some Lost Innovations and Technologies of Ndigbo’. The exhibition explored Igbo society’s age-long innovations such as blacksmithing, iron smelting, woodcarving, Igboukwu Bronze casting, Akwaete Cloth Weaving and Igbo pottery.

 To mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war, Centre for Memories also organised an exhibition themed, ‘Ozoemena’. The exhibition aimed at telling the untold stories of the Nigerian civil war and to serve as a spur for healing process of bottled-up emotions induced by the war.

With the knowledge that there is no better way to tell our stories but by ourselves, in our own way, Centre for Memories continues to push her limits and break bounds through the curation of important events and memories by producing documentaries. On January15 , 2020, CFM first screened a documentary titled, ‘January 15 ,1970: Untold Memories of the Nigeria-Biafra War’. This documentary which was produced by the award winning film maker and lawyer, Ed Emeka Keazor, on behalf of the Centre for Memories features personal accounts of the war.

The documentary has been screened across major cities of Nigeria; Awka, Enugu, Lagos and Abuja and in various cities of the United Kingdom and United States as well as online, globally. It is worthy to note that the documentary,  ‘January 15, 1970: Untold memories of the Nigeria-Biafra war’ was recently nominated for the 2020 African Movie Academy Award in the best documentary category.

Reflecting on what the nomination means for Centre for Memories, her young vibrant program officer, Ifeoma Nnamani  said :”This nomination means a lot to CFM. Although our motive for making the documentary, ‘January 15, 1970: Untold Memories of the Nigeria-Biafra War’ wasn’t to look for accolades or awards, it still feels really great to be recognised for the work we are doing.

It means we are doing something right. It means more people from all over the world would get to know about the documentary and the stories of the Nigeria-Biafra war. It’s good publicity for the Centre for Memories. No matter the outcome of the event, the nomination is  enough statement in itself”.

CFM also shot another documentary on the legendary Mazi Ukonu, a veteran actor and entertainer titled, ‘Allelu? Alleluia’. Currently in partnership with Ed Emeka Keazor, CFM is working on a documentary on the life and times of Dr. Michael Okpara, former Premier of Old Eastern Region. The documentary is scheduled to premiere on December 25, 2020, in commemoration of the late Premier’s 100 years posthumous birthday.

Ideas shape the course of history as true innovations cannot be achieved without human interaction, argument and debate. It is on this threshold that CFM organises a monthly lecture series, Nkata Umu Ibe, bringing distinguished speakers to discuss on critical issues affecting Igbo society and how best to move forward.

The lecture, which holds every first Friday of the month at the Enugu Sports Club have had notable professionals like Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, Prof. Okey Ndibe, Dike Chukwumerije, Prof. Philip Effiong Jr, Chika Oduah, Dr. Joe Abah, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Frank Nweke Jr, among others, as speakers. The lecture series, which returned on December 4, 2020, with the theme, ‘Oganiru bu Ntughari: Development as Attitude,’ after a hiatus as a result of coronavirus pandemic had Prof. Osita Ogbu as the speaker. Many of these lectures can be found on Nkata UmuIbe YouTube channel.

Children are major push and pull factor for Centre for Memories. In organising Nzuko Umuaka, also a monthly programme, CFM teaches children the Igbo language, cultures and history. The programme is being run at the centre, schools, and television and radio stations while using folklores to engage children in civic duties.

To encourage reading culture, especially among youths and to promote Igbo authors, CFM runs a book club where members review books by Igbo authors, monthly. The monthly book review have been switched to an online event to enable individuals participate from any part of the globe. Also at the centre is a physical library where people come to read, without making any payment.

In line with her ideology, the Centre for Memories equally commemorate memorials and events such as May 30 Biafra Memorial Day, World Poetry Day, Iva Valley Coal Mine Massacre and Aba Women’s Riot, among others. The centre also employsyoung, vibrant youths to run its day to day activities, thereby exposing them to opportunities needed in their personal and professional development.

As a non-profit organisation, all programmes of the Centre for Memories are supported through donations and resources from individuals and organisations such as the Enugu Sports Club. To achieve our desired societal goals, there is the need to protect and cherish our history, arts and way of life.

This cannot be achieved if we continue to fail in identifying with our culture and values, for a country without a sense of history, is a soulless entity waiting to implode. We should seek and partner in Olu Obodo – service to motherland, which Centre for Memories has begun to attain a prosperous society for us and the generations yet to come.

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