Creation of a digital archive for the intangible cultural heritage of Benin
In the context of a project financed by the French Ministry of Foreign affairs through the Fonds de solidarité pour les projets innovants (FSPI), IFRA provided digital technologies and teaching to young Nigerians for them to learn how to protect, promote, and diffuse knowledge about Nigerian intangible heritages in Benin City. IFRA is particularly interested in the historical and anthropological variations that characterise intangible heritages and this project centrally aims at shedding light on the evolution that traditional practices have gone through to adapt to a changing environment. Consequently, IFRA commissioned the Institute for Benin Studies to create a digital archive cataloguing the intangible heritage of the Benin people while concomitantly training young Nigerians to use different tools and techniques to create and preserve auditive and visual contents
At the start of the programme, on November 14th, 2022, ten young Nigerians were hired as interns to be trained at the Institute for Benin Studies. They were provided with intensive lectures and workshops training them to the use of new tools and methods essential to accomplish the archival and research work they were tasked with. Visual and sound editing software’s were purchased for the interns to use and train themselves. Several interns were attached to qualified mentors to be supervised and to get personal advice allowing them to develop new skills and new perspectives.
The interns who were sent to the field were tasked with the collection of intangible heritage items from Benin communities starting with Benin City. They were asked to physically attend Obsequies, Marriages Ceremonies, Naming Ceremonies, and Festivals with a focus on the ceremonies, rites, and songs associated. The supervisors and their interns showed a high level of commitment to the project and by the end of 2022 over seventy intangible cultural heritage items of the Benin people were collected and preserved both in English and in Edo. These items are extremely varied, they include rites, associated with marriages such as Imuerhan gb'oto, negotiating rituals, Igbẹ-igue, Igh’iyọmọ, breaking of kola nuts, Ighibiẹguaẹ, etc; rites associated with Obsequies such as Adan, Isukpukpe, Iwaorinmwi, Izakhue, Ikpowia, Isoton, Isuerhanfua, among several others. A website has been created and will host the visual and audio documents that are being collected by the interns involved in the project.
Until February, cultural festivals are taking place in Edo state providing the interns with an invaluable opportunity to collect first-hand data. By the end of February 2022, the Institute hopes to hold a ‘Four-Day Workshop’ to present and review the work conducted in the context of this program.