The Afro-Modernist: Architecture, Identity and Sexuality (Part II)

The Afro-Modernist: Architecture, Identity and Sexuality (Part II)

Identity

In November 2017, I gave a presentation at TedX Port Harcourt, where I focused on ‘African identity’, questioning in particular ‘who we are’.  I am currently on a self-discovery journey to understand what it means to be ‘African’ in the context of today’s world and read on Sola Akintunde’s Linkedin page “The world takes too much from Africa, it is time to return the favour”. He is a designer and vice president of LEGACY 1995 – an historical and environmental interest group in Nigeria. As a Continent, our generation needs to understand and redefine identity and celebration of self as a people. It is on this topic of ‘Identity’ that I would like to explore here.

Internationally, there has been a strong affiliation with African identity. In December last year, Erykah Badu – an African-American musician, was at the London Fashion Awards where she showcased her threaded West African hairstyle.

Erykah Badu. Photo credit: topcelebritygist.com

I have not found the exact origins of these hairstyles but it is safe to say that before ‘the scramble for Africa’ at the Berlin Conference in 1884, which marked the creation of African colonies and boundary lines, there had always been the free movement of people, culture, and trade across West Africa. In fact, my own ethnicity attests to this. My sister, Bami Oshinowo did an ethnicity make-up test. The result states we are not even 50% Nigerian.

While Erykah Badu has been so bold to celebrate this ancient means of expressing our beauty, most of us home-grown are too scared to follow, apart from the likes of Chimamanda Adichie and Chidinma Ekile.

Photo credit: envongueng.wordpress.com

We need to take on more opportunities to celebrate us, and this is what I spoke about at TEDx Port Harcourt. In preparation for the talk, I researched through this process of growth and understanding.

As a continent, so much occurred that has chipped away at our culture. We don’t actually realise how much is lost. We are so blind, that we don’t even realise it.  From research by the British Museum on the Ile-Ife bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures, there was much trade between the different empires/kingdoms in salt, gold, copper, tin, glass beads, ivory, kolanuts, palm oil, textiles and slaves. They were quite advanced, we have historical records of Timbuktu and how it was a trading point advanced in Islamic study. But it appears from records that from the 1500s, this advancement halts.

What is also interesting about the critique from the British Museum is that the Ile-Ife sculptures are carbon-dated between 1300 and 1400 AD.

Kingdom of Ife: Sculpture From West Africa. Photo credit: The Btisih Museum Press 2101

They assume that they were produced by a specific group of people because there is no continued civilisation. Several of the sculptures were found in the ground or kept in shines, and so were not even available for people to see. By the time their existence became public, nobody knew enough about them and the information hasn’t been transferred down.  It is also not wrong to assume that because we have oral history as opposed to written, we have lost so much. I, however, put it down to external forces which ensured that there was lack of continuity. It is this lack that has affected us most as a continent.  To know where we are going, we must first look back at where we are from.

Industrialisation:  Transatlantic Slave Trade – Colonisation – Modernity

Industrialisation was the process that took an agrarian society (farmer and hunters) into a mass production one (labour and technology). Industrialisation which started in 1800 was the beginning of urbanisation/city growth. However, its prerequisite was the slave-trade, which allowed the production en masse of farming produce. The transatlantic slave trade began in the 1500s, and it was at this point the raping of the continent began.  Prior to slavery, there is record that the Portuguese were trading with Africa from the early 1400s as equals, and preferred to create alliances as opposed to colonies. They had an ambiguous relationship with their African trading partners. Many African cities at the time were deemed larger, more hygienic and better organised than those in Europe[i].  They traded predominantly in gold, ivory and pepper, and the earliest record of a lagoon on the coast of West Africa – Lagos in Portuguese history, is 1472.

The Portuguese trade with West Africans brought interest from other European countries and by the time the British and Dutch companies arrived, the growth of the transatlantic slave trade was fully fledged. The Spanish through Christopher Columbus can be credited for starting the transatlantic slave trade. In 1495, Columbus sent thousands of peaceful Taino “Indians” from the island of Hispaniola to Spain to be sold. Many died en route.[ii]  It was soon realised that the African had a stronger disposition and strength, and by 1509, Christopher Columbus had opened up an economy which launched one of the greatest waves of genocide known in history[iii].  Most of the slaves in the early years of slavery ended up in the Caribbeans and South America, replacing the indigenous Indian tribes. In 2007, I went to down-town Kingston, Jamaica on a university excursion and met a Rastafarian, who was very excited because he had never met a pure-blood African before.

Through the course of 400 years, a population of over 12 million people was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. To put this in perspective, it was the estimated population of Lagos in 2011, the most populated city in Africa to date! Then, no town or city could boast these numbers. The forced potential brain-drain that would have existed is disheartening. Most slaves were acquired as prisoners from tribal wars, some as punishment for crimes or indebtedness, while others were kidnapped. What was important was an ability to survive the journey, which could be put down to good intellect, health and grace. Those not strong enough perished along the way, and that makes one think that the slavers who were trading in them targeted based on the ability to survive.

On arrival at the sales ground and the slavers’ destinations, teeth and eyes would be checked for weakness or disease. Imagine the confusion of people from different ethnic groups, speaking different languages, put together and suppressed with names and languages imposed, not able to dialogue. Would the breath of variety have been consistently retained even if they had an understanding of their cultures? We have evidence in Brazil where Yoruba culture has transcended generations. We can only imagine a large enough ethnic group that was taken at once, and so was able to preserve its culture. However, in the Americas, there must have been so much mixing that there just wasn’t the opportunity. This is what formed the first intellectual flight from our continent.

The Consequence

So what happened to those who were left behind? In my TEDx presentation, I spoke about this theory of Island Evolution.

The Island Evolution also known as Foster’s Rule is an eco-geographical rule in evolutionary biology, which states that:

A member of a species gets smaller or bigger depending on the resources available in the environment.  

I relate this directly to Africa and the external influences that have shaped and influenced our island/continent to date. Ethiopia, the only country that was not colonised has a very rich culture but unfortunately has struggled economically due to external wars and internal conflicts. As a landlocked country, opportunities for trade were stifled when all her neighbours were colonised. Liberia does not really count as a colonised country because she was founded by the American Colonisation Society, a group of white Americans established to deal with the problem of the growing number of free Blacks in the United States by settling them in Africa.  It was the second country created by such means after Haiti in the Caribbean. Maps of the 1884 Berlin Conference depict European countries carved out borders still existing today.

This scramble for the continent was in search of natural resources to develop their home country’s wealth and trade.

As mentioned earlier,  prior to the slave trade, the Europeans did not come to colonise but first arrived as traders – there was the Royal Africa Company, the Dutch West Indian  Company[iv] and others.  They came to trade in raw materials and eventually in slaves, which ties in with the idea of industrialisation. The world was moving from making small scale to mass production which started with mass manpower, before moving on to machinery. The early stages of the industrial revolution were fueled by the slave trade, this enabled the production of cotton and sugar en masse, and so on.

The process of global development was at the detriment of the African continent. In Nigeria, we had the Northern and Southern protectorates joined together only because they needed to get goods from the north all the way down the train line, to the port in Lagos and then out. This is the singular purpose of British presence. The missionaries had their agenda to save souls and civilise the savages, and all who conformed/adhered are celebrated by history. If you were the babaláwo (father of mysteries in the Yoruba language) in your village who was fighting against external change, you would not be remembered by history. The knowledge in most  such cases has been lost.

The Traditionalist

Before the European influences of the early 1400’s, we had cultural systems in place. Ron Eglash an American professor of science and technology studies has written and spoken extensively on the African fractals, geometries and algorithms, and how these manifest in our architecture, art, and religion. When you had a problem/challenge you would go to see Ifá (the oracle),  even the prayer of an expectant mother in Yoruba is ‘Ki Orisa ya ona ire ko ni’ – may Obatala fashion for us a good work of art[v]. We had systems, but now many of those cultures have been pushed to fringe society because they are considered ungodly and unworthy of appreciation. But these were our systems before the Europeans came and it is a shame that as a people we were so quick or so blind to accept what was brought.

We had systems particularly for addressing crime. It was not a courthouse with the judge wearing a wig. Yoruba culture has Ayelala, a powerful and widely respected deity.  She is known to be an effective one that punishes crimes of various types, and is invoked to unravel the causes of diabolical mysteries. My ‘traditionalist’ friend’s laptop was stolen and Ayelala exposed the culprit as is seen in the video. The accused is taken to a babaláwo to swear on his innocence of a societal or spiritual crime. In such situations, the babaláwo would knock on the calabash. If he is honest, the feather would remain down when the calabash is lifted, but if guilty, the feather would rise as shown in the video.

It is quite scary to watch, simply because we have been conditioned to understand that it is wrong. But this is how our people addressed criminal acts before the adoption of Christianity. We were not savages or monkeys in trees, we had systems in place. So it is upsetting for us to be blinded and completely erase our culture and way of understanding to do things in celebration of somebody else’s.

Imaginism

So I started to look at scenarios of ‘what ifs’. If the turn of events that brings us to our current situation as a continent had not occurred, if we had the opportunity of an island evolution, independent of external forces.

A typical example of the circumstance of an island evolution is the dodo bird from the island of Mauritius.

Though negative, it is a clear example of the effects of nil influence.  The dodo bird became extinct in the 1600s, and is described in Alice in Wonderland, as a fictional character, because it didn’t exist at the time the book was written. During the last Summer holiday, I saw a skeleton of the bird in the Natural History Museum in London; it’s the only complete form. When the Portuguese first arrived on the island, this bird had very small wings, could not fly nor protect itself because it had not evolved to deal with predators. Though it was not a particularly delicious bird, its gizzard was said to be quite palatable. Its last recorded sightings are in 1662.  The question is, could island evolution be beneficial? Could we have been on a path of advancement with the strides made prior to the 1500’s, showcased for example by the Ile-Ife sculptures? The idea is that something evolves differently when allowed complete isolation from when it is influenced. Would we have people on the moon by now? Would our language be the one spoken globally? We would never know.

‘Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything’, is a book written by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – two American economists in the United States who analysed that the crime rate in the United States dropped in the 1980s. They related it directly to the legalisation of abortion. Their rationale was that the crime rate dropped because there was a generation of unwanted pregnancies that were never born from ill-prepared parents.

Now here comes my hypothesis, what if Africa had never experienced the Portuguese arrival? What if we had not experienced the slave trade? What if Africa was never colonised? Who would we be today? Darwin’s Theory of Biological Evolution states that:

All species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive and reproduce.

In 1860, English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term Darwinism. Though Darwin opposed the brutality of slavery on moral grounds, his sympathies were blunted by the prevailing fatalism. Starkly displaying his own readiness to apply his ideas to society, he observed in ‘The Descent of Man’ that “the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world”. Though he hoped that man would by then have reached a “more civilised state … even than the Caucasian,” he expressed no hope that extermination might be prevented by the kind of moral and political pressure that had by then achieved the prohibition of slavery in the United States. It was simply inevitable. Nature would take its course.[vi]  Would the African have been damned with fatality or would we have evolved past the craft that brought about the great sculptures of the Ile-Ife and Nok cultures?  In Nigeria today, how many universities are actively doing research? How many universities or companies are advancing technology? We do however have a bottom-up development of the tech industries but struggle to replicate this in other sectors.  Is it because the best intellects did not develop here? Or is it just because we are ineptly unable to do anything better than where we are?

If Africa had experienced island evolution and not been exposed to the external influences that have marked our development, would we be better off? Indonesia, India, and even Ethiopia have cultural strengths. Ethiopians evolved culturally independent of external forces. They don’t celebrate Christmas on the same day as everybody else, in fact, they have their own calendar also different to China’s.  When we discuss African identity, we associate it with bright colours, fabrics and textiles, maybe we should be looking to understand who we really are.

Yes, we have been violated but it is possible that some elements of culture that we are not told about still exist. The same way you might have a child who is estranged from a parent he did not know while growing up having the same mannerisms when they meet. It would be great to know if these possibilities exist deeply rooted in our ways of doing things.  The sole purpose of this article is to therefore, set up a series of questions on possibilities.  Unfortunately, we will just never know… I can create every possible scenario of what it could have been but it will always be just a figment of mine or your imagination; a series of ‘what ifs’.  But in questioning that ‘what if’, it will help us centre on our identity and who we really are.

[i] The Metropolitan Museum of Art, United States https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/agex/hd_agex.htm

[ii] The History Channel http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-controversy

[iii] Understanding Prejudice http://www.understandingprejudice.org/nativeiq/weather.htm

[iv] Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trading_companies

[v] Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa pg 10

[vi] The Independent. Did Charles Darwin believe in racial inequality? His anniversary has thrown a fresh spotlight on ideas about race that still excite his friends and foes. Marek Kohn looks at a troublesome legacy, Friday January 30, 2009. 00:00 GMT

The Afro-Modernist: Architecture, Identity and Sexuality (Part II)

Identity

I want to talk about ‘identity’. I gave a presentation at TEDx Port Harcourt in November 2017, which focused on ‘African identity’, questioning in particular ‘who we are’.  I am currently on a self-discovery journey to understand what it means to be ‘African’ in the context of today’s world.  I read on Sola Akintunde’s LinkedIn page “The world takes too much from Africa, it is time to return the favour”. He is a designer and vice president of LEGACY 1995 – a historical and environmental interest group in Nigeria. As a continent, our generation needs to understand and redefine identity and the celebration of self as a people.

Internationally, there has been a strong affiliation with African identity. In December last year, Erykah Badu – an African-American musician, was at the London Fashion Awards where she showcased her threaded West African hairstyle. I have not found the exact origins of these hairstyles but it is safe to say that before ‘the scramble for Africa’ at the Berlin Conference in 1884, which marked the creation of African colonies and boundary lines, there had always been the free movement of people, culture, and trade across West Africa. In fact, my own ethnicity attests to this. My sister, Bami Oshinowo did an ethnicity make-up test. The result states we are not even 50% Nigerian. While Erykah Badu has been so bold to celebrate this ancient means of expressing our beauty, most of us home-grown are too scared to follow, apart from the likes of Chimamanda Adichie and Chidinma Ekile. We need to take on more opportunities to celebrate us, and this is what I spoke about at TEDx Port Harcourt. In preparation for the talk, I researched through this process of growth and understanding.

As a continent, so much occurred that has chipped away at our culture. We don’t actually realise how much is lost. We are so blind, that we don’t even realise it.  From research by the British Museum on the Ile-Ife bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures, there was much trade between the different empires/kingdoms in salt, gold, copper, tin, glass beads, ivory, kolanuts, palm oil, textiles and slaves. They were quite advanced, we have historical records of Timbuktu and how it was a trading point advanced in Islamic study. But it appears from records that from the 1500s, this advancement halts.

What is also interesting about the critique from the British Museum is that the Ile-Ife sculptures are carbon-dated between 1300 and 1400 AD.  They assume that they were produced by a specific group of people because there is no continued civilisation. Several of the sculptures were found in the ground or kept in shines, and so were not even available for people to see. By the time their existence became public, nobody knew enough about them and the information hasn’t been transferred down.  It is also not wrong to assume that because we have oral history as opposed to written, we have lost so much. I, however, put it down to external forces which ensured that there was lack of continuity. It is this lack that has affected us most as a continent.  To know where we are going, we must first look back at where we are from.

Industrialisation:  Transatlantic Slave Trade – Colonisation – Modernity

Industrialisation was the process that took an agrarian society (farmer and hunters) into a mass production one (labour and technology). Industrialisation which started in 1800 was the beginning of urbanisation/city growth. However, its prerequisite was the slave-trade, which allowed the production en masse of farming produce. The transatlantic slave trade began in the 1500s, and it was at this point the raping of the continent began.  Prior to slavery, there is record that the Portuguese were trading with Africa from the early 1400s as equals, and preferred to create alliances as opposed to colonies. They had an ambiguous relationship with their African trading partners. Many African cities at the time were deemed larger, more hygienic and better organised than those in Europe[i].  They traded predominantly in gold, ivory and pepper, and the earliest record of a lagoon on the coast of West Africa – Lagos in Portuguese history, is 1472.

The Portuguese trade with West Africans brought interest from other European countries and by the time the British and Dutch companies arrived, the growth of the transatlantic slave trade was fully fledged. The Spanish through Christopher Columbus can be credited for starting the transatlantic slave trade. In 1495, Columbus sent thousands of peaceful Taino “Indians” from the island of Hispaniola to Spain to be sold. Many died en route.[ii]  It was soon realised that the African had a stronger disposition and strength, and by 1509, Christopher Columbus had opened up an economy which launched one of the greatest waves of genocide known in history[iii].  Most of the slaves in the early years of slavery ended up in the Caribbeans and South America, replacing the indigenous Indian tribes. In 2007, I went to down-town Kingston, Jamaica on a university excursion and met a Rastafarian, who was very excited because he had never met a pure-blood African before. Through the course of 400 years, a population of over 12 million people was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. To put this in perspective, it was the estimated population of Lagos in 2011, the most populated city in Africa to date! Then, no town or city could boast these numbers. The forced potential brain-drain that would have existed is disheartening. Most slaves were acquired as prisoners from tribal wars, some as punishment for crimes or indebtedness, while others were kidnapped. What was important was an ability to survive the journey, which could be put down to good intellect, health and grace. Those not strong enough perished along the way, and that makes one think that the slavers who were trading in them targeted based on the ability to survive.

On arrival at the sales ground and the slavers’ destinations, teeth and eyes would be checked for weakness or disease. Imagine the confusion of people from different ethnic groups, speaking different languages, put together and suppressed with names and languages imposed, not able to dialogue. Would the breath of variety have been consistently retained even if they had an understanding of their cultures? We have evidence in Brazil where Yoruba culture has transcended generations. We can only imagine a large enough ethnic group that was taken at once, and so was able to preserve its culture. However, in the Americas, there must have been so much mixing that there just wasn’t the opportunity. This is what formed the first intellectual flight from our continent.

The Consequence

So what happened to those who were left behind? In my TEDx presentation, I spoke about this theory of Island Evolution.

The Island Evolution also known as Foster’s Rule is an eco-geographical rule in evolutionary biology, which states that:

A member of a species gets smaller or bigger depending on the resources available in the environment.  

I relate this directly to Africa and the external influences that have shaped and influenced our island/continent to date. Ethiopia, the only country that was not colonised has a very rich culture but unfortunately has struggled economically due to external wars and internal conflicts. As a landlocked country, opportunities for trade were stifled when all her neighbours were colonised. Liberia does not really count as a colonised country because she was founded by the American Colonisation Society, a group of white Americans established to deal with the problem of the growing number of free Blacks in the United States by settling them in Africa.  It was the second country created by such means after Haiti in the Caribbean. Maps of the 1884 Berlin Conference depict European countries carved out borders still existing today. This scramble for the continent was in search of natural resources to develop their home country’s wealth and trade.

As mentioned earlier,  prior to the slave trade, the Europeans did not come to colonise but first arrived as traders – there was the Royal Africa Company, the Dutch West Indian  Company[iv] and others.  They came to trade in raw materials and eventually in slaves, which ties in with the idea of industrialisation. The world was moving from making small scale to mass production which started with mass manpower, before moving on to machinery. The early stages of the industrial revolution were fueled by the slave trade, this enabled the production of cotton and sugar en masse, and so on.

The process of global development was at the detriment of the African continent. In Nigeria, we had the Northern and Southern protectorates joined together only because they needed to get goods from the north all the way down the train line, to the port in Lagos and then out. This is the singular purpose of British presence. The missionaries had their agenda to save souls and civilise the savages, and all who conformed/adhered are celebrated by history. If you were the babaláwo (father of mysteries in the Yoruba language) in your village who was fighting against external change, you would not be remembered by history. The knowledge in most  such cases has been lost.

The Traditionalist

Before the European influences of the early 1400’s, we had cultural systems in place. Ron Eglash an American professor of science and technology studies has written and spoken extensively on the African fractals, geometries and algorithms, and how these manifest in our architecture, art, and religion. When you had a problem/challenge you would go to see Ifá (the oracle),  even the prayer of an expectant mother in Yoruba is ‘Ki Orisa ya ona ire ko ni’ – may Obatala fashion for us a good work of art[v]. We had systems, but now many of those cultures have been pushed to fringe society because they are considered ungodly and unworthy of appreciation. But these were our systems before the Europeans came and it is a shame that as a people we were so quick or so blind to accept what was brought.

We had systems particularly for addressing crime. It was not a courthouse with the judge wearing a wig. Yoruba culture has Ayelala, a powerful and widely respected deity.  She is known to be an effective one that punishes crimes of various types, and is invoked to unravel the causes of diabolical mysteries. My ‘traditionalist’ friend’s laptop was stolen and Ayelala exposed the culprit as is seen in the video. The accused is taken to a babaláwo to swear on his innocence of a societal or spiritual crime. In such situations, the babaláwo would knock on the calabash. If he is honest, the feather would remain down when the calabash is lifted, but if guilty, the feather would rise as shown in the video. It is quite scary to watch, simply because we have been conditioned to understand that it is wrong. But this is how our people addressed criminal acts before the adoption of Christianity. We were not savages or monkeys in trees, we had systems in place. So it is upsetting for us to be blinded and completely erase our culture and way of understanding to do things in celebration of somebody else’s.

Imaginism

So I started to look at scenarios of ‘what ifs’. If the turn of events that brings us to our current situation as a continent had not occurred, if we had the opportunity of an island evolution, independent of external forces.

A typical example of the circumstance of an island evolution is the dodo bird from the island of Mauritius. Though negative, it is a clear example of the effects of nil influence.  The dodo bird became extinct in the 1600s, and is described in Alice in Wonderland, as a fictional character, because it didn’t exist at the time the book was written. During the last Summer holiday, I saw a skeleton of the bird in the Natural History Museum in London; it’s the only complete form. When the Portuguese first arrived on the island, this bird had very small wings, could not fly nor protect itself because it had not evolved to deal with predators. Though it was not a particularly delicious bird, its gizzard was said to be quite palatable. Its last recorded sightings are in 1662.  The question is, could island evolution be beneficial? Could we have been on a path of advancement with the strides made prior to the 1500’s, showcased for example by the Ile-Ife sculptures? The idea is that something evolves differently when allowed complete isolation from when it is influenced. Would we have people on the moon by now? Would our language be the one spoken globally? We would never know.

‘Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything’, is a book written by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – two American economists in the United States who analysed that the crime rate in the United States dropped in the 1980s. They related it directly to the legalisation of abortion. Their rationale was that the crime rate dropped because there was a generation of unwanted pregnancies that were never born from ill-prepared parents.

Now here comes my hypothesis, what if Africa had never experienced the Portuguese arrival? What if we had not experienced the slave trade? What if Africa was never colonised? Who would we be today? Darwin’s Theory of Biological Evolution states that:

All species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive and reproduce.

In 1860, English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term Darwinism. Though Darwin opposed the brutality of slavery on moral grounds, his sympathies were blunted by the prevailing fatalism. Starkly displaying his own readiness to apply his ideas to society, he observed in ‘The Descent of Man’ that “the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world”. Though he hoped that man would by then have reached a “more civilised state … even than the Caucasian,” he expressed no hope that extermination might be prevented by the kind of moral and political pressure that had by then achieved the prohibition of slavery in the United States. It was simply inevitable. Nature would take its course.[vi]  Would the African have been damned with fatality or would we have evolved past the craft that brought about the great sculptures of the Ile-Ife and Nok cultures?  In Nigeria today, how many universities are actively doing research? How many universities or companies are advancing technology? We do however have a bottom-up development of the tech industries but struggle to replicate this in other sectors.  Is it because the best intellects did not develop here? Or is it just because we are ineptly unable to do anything better than where we are?

If Africa had experienced island evolution and not been exposed to the external influences that have marked our development, would we be better off? Indonesia, India, and even Ethiopia have cultural strengths. Ethiopians evolved culturally independent of external forces. They don’t celebrate Christmas on the same day as everybody else, in fact, they have their own calendar also different to China’s.  When we discuss African identity, we associate it with bright colours, fabrics and textiles, maybe we should be looking to understand who we really are.

Yes, we have been violated but it is possible that some elements of culture that we are not told about still exist. The same way you might have a child who is estranged from a parent he did not know while growing up having the same mannerisms when they meet. It would be great to know if these possibilities exist deeply rooted in our ways of doing things.  The sole purpose of this article is to therefore, set up a series of questions on possibilities.  Unfortunately, we will just never know… I can create every possible scenario of what it could have been but it will always be just a figment of mine or your imagination; a series of ‘what ifs’.  But in questioning that ‘what if’, it will help us centre on our identity and who we really are.

[i] The Metropolitan Museum of Art, United States https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/agex/hd_agex.htm

[ii] The History Channel http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-controversy

[iii] Understanding Prejudice http://www.understandingprejudice.org/nativeiq/weather.htm

[iv] Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trading_companies

[v] Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa pg 10

[vi] The Independent. Did Charles Darwin believe in racial inequality? His anniversary has thrown a fresh spotlight on ideas about race that still excite his friends and foes. Marek Kohn looks at a troublesome legacy, Friday January 30, 2009. 00:00 GMT


Tosin Oshinowo holds a Master’s degree in Urban Design from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. She also studied architecture at the Architecture Association London. Since 2012, Oshinowo has been lead architect at the Lagos-based cmDesign Atelier (cmD+A). Prior to setting-up cmD+A, she worked in leading international practices like Skidmore Owing & Merril’s LLP London and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture Rotterdam, where she was part of the team that designed a proposal for the 4th Mainland Bridge in 2008. Upon returning to Lagos, she practiced at James Cubitt Architects and was team-lead on projects such as the master plan and corporate head office building for Nigeria LNG in Port Harcourt.

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