Looking back... Workshop on “Religious Architectural Heritage in Ibadan”
As part of its programme on Digital Humanities and thanks to the funding of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IFRA-Nigeria has launched a new research project on the religious architectural heritage of Ibadan. Drawing from the fields of Digital Humanities, Architecture and the Socio-anthropology of religion, the objective is to map out, research and analyse the rich history and diverse aesthetics of all religious buildings in the capital of Oyo State. This project will run until April 2024.
A workshop gathering academics and professionals with a specific interest in the topic took place on Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 October 2022. The objective was to sum-up the existing research and literature on the topic and map out key future topics of research and engagement. The workshop was well-attended, with more than 35 people physically present at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan and up to a dozen online.
Professor Cordelia Osasona was our guest speaker: she presented her work on the history and architectural features of selected Churches in Ile-Ife and explained how she was involved in several conservation projects.
Then, eight speakers in four different panels discussed various aspects of the religious architectural heritage of Ibadan, the challenges of conservation and the digital methods they’ve employed to document the sites, their history and their uses.
Panel 1 : Documenting a changing religious architectural aesthetics
- Dr Sogbesan Oluwatoyin (ÀṢÀ Heritage Africa Foundation / Ajayi Crowther University) : “Preserving the Past: the case of Hinderer House at Kudeti, Ibadan” (presentation)
- Ogunmakinju Olajide (Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan) : “Sacred Spaces and Belief, Self-Perception, and Experience”
Panel 2 : Conservation, religion and palaces in Ibadan
- Gbadamosi June (Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan) : “Perspectives of a tourist on the religious architectural heritage of Irefin Palace in Ibadan”
- Prof Kolawole Adekola (Department of Archeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan) : “Preserving the Religious Architectural heritage of Yoruba Palaces, a case study of selected palaces in Ibadan”
Panel 3 : Documenting the heritage of Demas Nwoko in Ibadan
- Lloyd Martin (LM Architectural Designer) : “New Culture Studio, The Architecture of Demas Nwoko”
- Rev. Fr. Francis Chiadi, OP (Dominican University, Samonda Campus / Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan) : “The Dominican Chapel : a prominent religious architectural heritage in Ibadan”
Panel 4 : Studying religious spaces with digital methods
- Deng Zheyuan (Department of Religion, University of Florida) : "'The Spirit of Place' and Everyday Religion: A case study on the Yidi Praying Ground, Ibadan”
- Toyin Ajose (Department of Music, University of Ibadan) : “Sounding Religious Architecture: Disruptions and Continuities in the Soundscape of Chapel of the Resurrection, University of Ibadan, Nigeria”
The workshop was concluded by a group visit, guided by Father Francis Chiadi, of the Dominican Chapel that was built by Demas Nwoko in 1970.
The general conversation revolved around several topics:
- firstly, speakers as well as participants talked about the importance of creating bridges and bringing together academics and professionals working on heritage issues, to avoid people working in silos without knowing of other initiatives. With this idea in mind, the IFRA-led project aims at being a platform for various colleagues to contribute to, in the course of the project’s duration and after.
- secondly, participants insisted on the importance of making the religious architectural heritage of Ibadan available to all, including the data produced through research and conservation efforts that must be open and free to use now and for the future. The targeted audience of the projects involves academics and practitioners but also the general public, including the media and students. A critical importance must be given to the communities who own and use these sites so they feel included and participating in the documentation projects.
- thirdly, many participants talked about the importance of looking at religious sites as made of both physical structures, spiritual symbolism, users’ practices as reflecting more global social, economical and cultural dynamics. The importance of the transcendantal as well as emotions in the course of the project was highlighted, stressing the importance to focus on the ‘spirit of the place’ when documenting the religious sites.
- fourthly, the participants insisted on the importance of the documentation process to keep the history of those sites and to document their changes - in their architecture and interior design and in their uses. They also argued that it is critical to look at all aspects that can generally be overlooked as ‘mundane’ including temporary constructions, uses of other sites etc. Yet, because of the limited resources of this IFRA project, documentation projects of sites that are endangered and/or unique will be given priority. Moreover, it has been agreed on that the project must be coordinated by a researcher or a professional (in this case a research component must be included) who already knows the site and who suggested the documentation process.
- finally, participants have insisted on the multiplicity of methods and approaches available to document and analyse the religious architectural heritage in Ibadan. While this pluralism could constitute an issue for the coherence of the project, it has also been agreed that it will considered as a ressource. Each participant to the project will pay special attention to their positionality and their own conception of ‘heritage’ so that these aspects can be documented and graspable by the people who will make use of the data collected at a later date.
The next steps of the projects will revolve around the implementation of documentation projects concerning some of the sites that were presented during the workshop. A call for other projects might also be open at a later date. Finally, training around the use of digital tools for the documentation of religious architectural heritage will also take place in 2023. Information will also be shared on IFRA’s website and socials so don’t hesitate to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook !
Opening words by Dr Barbara Morovich, IFRA-Nigeria's new director
Guest lecture by Prof Cordelia Osasona
Lloyd Martin and Father Francis Chiadi presenting Demas Nwoko's architectural heritage in Ibadan (Dominican Chapel and the New Culture Studio)
The audience during the second day of the workshop
Dr Ajose and Deng Zheyuan discussing digital methods to study architectural heritage.
Group visit at the Dominican Chapel
Group picture of speakers and participants of the workshop