Ancient Rock Art of Nigeria

David Coulson and Terry Little attended the Opening of TARA’s Ancient Rock Art of Nigeria exhibition at the National Museum in Lagos on May 5th. This exhibition is now traveling around Nigeria and just opened at the Museum in Calabar, Cross River State where Terry Little represented TARA.

Calabar was where the Bakor (Cross River) Monolith project started in 2016.

Nigerian Rock Art Exhibition

Nigeria is home to some of the most unique, and vulnerable, rock art in Central and West Africa, including the Bakor monoliths in Cross River State in southern Nigeria and the rock gongs and painting sites in the Jigawa and Bauchi States in the North. This project, supported by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation and led by TARA (Trust for African Rock Art), aims to preserve this unique heritage through documentation and improvement of infrastructures, but especially through engagement of communities to increase their involvement in efforts to preserve and benefit from the heritage.

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments is the main partner in Nigeria providing expertise and leadership. By involving Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and the University of Calabar, the project also strengthened a national network responsible for the conservation and promotion of this precious heritage. Factum Foundation in the UK has provided valuable support in 3D and film documentation of the heritage and the communities.

The exhibition of photos and monoliths, some which have not been seen in public for decades, was launched at the Nigerian National Museum in Lagos on 5th May 2022 for one month, before traveling to the National Museum of Calabar in July and Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria in September. The exhibition highlights the beauty of this heritage but also the perils it faces from both human and natural forces. It is the first traveling exhibition of its kind in Nigeria.

In the words of one of TARA’s early supporters, the late Kofi Annan, “The rock art of Africa makes up one of the oldest and most extensive records on earth of human thought. It shows the very emergence of the human imagination. It is a priceless treasure. And it is irreplaceable. But Africa’s rock art is not just about the distant past. It is about today and tomorrow as well. It is the common heritage of all Africans, and of all people. It is a cultural gift from our ancestors that can bring diverse people together.”