In October 2016, with the support of the Prince Claus Fund from Amsterdam and in collaboration with the University of Calabar, TARA organised an expedition to survey and document the Cross River Monoliths, also known as the Ikom Monoliths.
This project is the brain child of Professor Solomon Abu Edet of the University of Calabar. These remarkable anthropomorphic and sometimes phallic monoliths have long been threatened by fire, theft and vandalism as well as neglect.
The project was a collaboration between TARA and the Factum Arte Foundation in Madrid. Factum are experts at 3 dimensional recording of art. The monoliths represent powerful ancestral spirits to whom offerings are still made. The total numbers of monoliths is now thought to be less than about 250. Some monoliths found their way out of the country and can now be found in major museums. Experts believe that some of the stones might be as old as 1,500 years of age. The Cross River is situated on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
TARA has been archiving high resolution images of the monoliths with associated data as well as 3D imagery of the stones. This project has shone much needed light on these endangered masterpieces of long ago.
TARA’s Executive Chairman David Coulson led the expedition to document little known anthropomorphic monoliths. The standard of carving of these monoliths is exceptional which probably explains why some of them have found their way illegally into some of the world’s most famous museums. The Nigerian government have historically neglected Cross River State, scene of the Biafra civil war of the 1960s and done little to develop the roads and infrastructure here, let alone developing the area for cultural tourism.
The team held important meetings with the community and David Coulson addressed an annual gathering of Chiefs showing them awareness banners in order to emphasise the importance of this heritage. Meanwhile with the help of a drone and other technology they were able to document the 3 dimensional aspects and context of the stones.