Project Description

A brief History of Benin Kingdom (Nigeria)

Many centuries ago, at the time when Benin was called Igodomingodo, that geographical area now known as Benin was the hub of a conglomeration of little towns that developed into most of the areas of modern Edo and Delta states.

Throughout that period, Igodomingodo made steady progress especially in the area of spiritual, philosophical and administrative development. Its efforts were largely concentrated on the arrangement of human order so that by the time Europeans made contact with the people of Benin in the 15th century, they had already established an administrative system which till this day baffled the Europeans and earned for the capital of this African country, the name “City”. The nucleus of this great civilization was the monarchy which the Benins perfected around the 18th century after a series of experimentation with the Ogisos who introduced a monarchical system that is based on the principle of primogeniture.

Outline of the Benin and British Heritage Project

Nigeria (Benin) and the United Kingdom have continued to form strong ties since the sixteenth century. Mainly trading, social and political. These links continue to flourish to the present day. This heritage project will explore the rich cultural relationship between Nigerian and UK using the 4 key themes of Monarchy & Governance, Gender roles & Empowerment, Rituals & Traditions, Trading and Professional occupations.

These core themes will provide a guide for participants to understand, explore, record and share with the wider community, the cultural similarities and differences of their native and adopted countries. Leaving a rich legacy of cultural and educational resources accessible to future generations.

Sharing this understanding and an acceptance of these close links between Nigeria and the UK has become very pertinent to Swale at this time because of the unremitting influx of Nigerians over the last decade.

Project Delivery

The project is being delivered by Diversity House to at least 4000 people; which will include young people from Diversity House Youth Club, South Avenue Primary, Meadowfield, young people from across Swale local schools who will be privy to the worksheets and materials developed from the project; adult volunteers (from the diverse communities including Nigerians in diaspora in Swale), Swale Museums Group Swale Arts Forum, the African World (authentic African Arts and Fair-Trade), Powell-Cotton Museum, Sittingbourne Library Service, Swale Council for Voluntary Services, Swale Borough Council, Dr. Pat Robinson (Historian), Ikalanga, Jabula Arts, lianalareina and other professional partners.

Cultural Diversity in the Context of Social Cohesion

The Swale district has witnessed a sudden increase in the number of African, Nigerian minority communities (from 122,000 populations in 2001 to 135,000 in 2011, ONS, Census) moving from inner London and other places. This has presented challenges for both the mainstream and African Nigerian Community and has created needs which have yet to be adequately addressed. Cultural misunderstandings and tensions have arisen due to an absence of initiatives and projects in the area that offer opportunities to explore and appreciate a diversity of cultures, links between cultural heritage, and social cohesion.

These conflicts also manifest themselves in schools which were once predominantly white. Using the heritage-based themed workshops of the project; young people will gain a sense of belonging in a historical, cultural and traditional context, to gain confidence to explore and ‘feel comfortable’ to share their chosen cultural identity (this could be Nigerian, Nigerian-British, Swale, Isle of Sheppey or any other) and encourage exploration of this identity in order to share an understanding with the wider school community, thereby promoting interculturalism (a fusion of cultures). This project provides the opportunity to learn about cultural diversity through the appreciation of shared heritage.

Arts And Crafts

What are the aims of this project?

This project is focusing on African ethnographical collections, particularly those of Benin, collected in nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and held within the British Museum and Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, Kent. Using African artefacts from these collections particularly the Benin art to stimulate discussion and activities on events and achievements of the Benin Empire to inform the present and build the future. The project uses historical account of the Benin people and their art and culture to enable people of diverse cultural backgrounds in Swale to learn about the Benin Empire and embark on an exploration of cultures and interculturality. The aims are;

  • To contribute towards building a sense of belonging and attachment through tangible links to heritage, and places emphasis on a shared learning experience amongst people from different cultural backgrounds which will lead to greater social cohesion for Swale, particularly in schools and community centres.
  • This project provides the opportunity to learn about cultural diversity through the appreciation of shared heritage.
  • Implementing this participatory heritage project will expose young people’s contact with heritage and non-heritage professionals helping them broaden their outlook to future career possibilities, and enable them to develop new skills which will help them to compete in the job market.
  • To enrich students in their curricular activities under the National Curriculum in key stages 1-4 “understanding about places”, and key stages 1-3 which covers looking at the arts in different times and cultures, teaching young people to find out about the past from a wide range of sources of information using stories, pictures, artefacts, and visits.
  • To provide shared opportunities to reminisce, to learn about cultural heritage, to develop new skills and contacts through volunteering, workshops, talks and exhibitions.
  • To deliver a forum for cultural exploration, learning and sharing amongst mainstream and African community.

The relationship between these cultures is explored in 4 key themes of Monarchy & Governance, Rituals and Traditions, Gender Roles & Empowerment, Trading & Professional Occupation. These core themes will guide our overall project programme of activities.

  1. Monarchy and Governance: Using the Benin masks and associated artefacts as a focal point, people will learn about the influence of Britain on forms of governance in Nigeria and its impact on Nigerian culture heritage and judicial and military systems since the 15th This will highlight the wellestablished link between the peoples of these two countries. 
  1. Gender Roles and Empowerment: The project will examine the traditional and contemporary role of women in Nigeria and the UK, initially comparing and contrasting the Queen Mother, Idia and Queen Elizabeth II and their form of governance and the situation for women in their respective cultures and then examining, comparing and contrasting gender roles for women in contemporary Nigeria and UK. This is a particularly important issue for Nigerian women in Swale and the UK who are dealing with a shift from traditional subservient roles to becoming sole earner for their household.
  1. Rituals and Traditions: People of diverse cultural backgrounds and ages along with Nigerian people in Swale will learn about how Benin craftsmen were historians of their time, documenting important events as they happened for posterity. They will learn about rituals as expressions of divinity and magic that the purpose of sacred regalia for these rituals such as costumes and jewellery and the use of music, singing and dance. Creative workshops will provide people with the opportunity to learn how to design and make traditional Benin clothes, masks and jewellery, cook traditional cuisine from Nigeria, dance and play Nigerian music.

They will learn how many Benin symbols from costumes, dance and music have been Westernized and adopted by UK society.   Nigerians living in Swale have not had the opportunity to learn about and celebrate this aspect of their cultural heritage and people from other cultural backgrounds have not had access to this knowledge and experience.

  1. Trade and Professional Occupations: This theme will emphasise that current economic migration to Swale is part of centuries-old migration from Nigeria to Britain and trading relationships dating back to the 16th century, giving Nigerians in Swale a sense of history and place in the UK and demonstrating to diverse ethnic groups that these cultures have co-existed and benefitted from each other’s resources and skills from then until the present. Using as a starting point, the trading between the Benin Kingdom and the UK in cocoa, rubber, cotton, palm oil and palm kernel, ground nuts and ivory from the 16th century onwards, it will also look at the present day skills brought to Swale and the UK from Nigerian migrants.

Outcomes for Heritage

Heritage will be better interpreted and explained

Training for students and volunteers of all backgrounds on how to use the Time Spark Index at Sittingbourne Library will improve the way that people undertake research on cultural heritage, making it more accessible and engaging.

Heritage will be identified/recorded

Well-designed website pages for the Benin Mask project will include downloadable, user-friendly educational materials including text and pictures of Nigerian culture and its links to the UK to help people of both Nigerian and non-Nigerian descent learn about the Benin Mask collection and the cultural links between Nigeria and the UK.

Exhibitions of the art, crafts and photography created by people participating in the project’s activities and workshops will be displayed in local museums, libraries and schools in Swale providing visually engaging and interesting explanations of the heritage explored in the project, reaching a wider number of people.

Exhibitions of the art, crafts and photography created by people participating in the project’s activities and workshops will be displayed in local museums, libraries, community centres and schools in Swale, providing visually engaging and interesting explanations of the project, reaching a wider number of people who will not have had access to this cultural heritage. Videos of the interactive workshops will record customs and traditions of the Benin culture.

Outcomes for people

People will have developed skills

Participants involved in the project will have developed skills – a minimum of 469 participants (direct beneficiaries) will be engaged and receive training on ICT, secondary research method, interviewing skills, understanding and use of Time Spark Index of historical papers, researching local papers on microfilm reader, introduction to the collection of artefacts, archiving, photography, process documentation and presentation, etc.

People will have learnt about heritage (weighted)

Improved learning and embedment of cultural heritage – a minimum of 177 people engaged in the project will have opportunity to develop background understanding the culture of Nigeria and particularly Benin cultural artefacts, gaining understanding of symbols in Arts (looking at the three themes of the project). Participants will handle objects relating to Nigeria e.g. carvings, sculptures, clothes, musical objects, etc. and ask relevant questions. They will use this experience when undertaking future creative workshops and will replicate some arts and craft; also they will document and share their experiences with their colleagues and others in their community.

People will have changed their attitudes or behaviour

Increased interculturality and changed attitudes and behaviours -approximately 4000 participants of the project will have improved opportunity to recognise that culture is important and of equal value to all people, and that human beings are multi-dimensional in nature. They will be able to learn how to accommodate their expression, attitudes and behaviours in relation to other people’s cultural heritage. This will improve and reduce cultural conflicts and tensions between young people from diverse communities in the schools and neighbourhoods.

  • People will have had an enjoyable experience. Increased opportunity for enjoyable experience – 4000 people engaged in the project will have ample opportunities to interact and social with people from diverse cultures, take part in project activities, celebrate and be recognised for achievements within the project.
  • People will have volunteered time. Increased opportunities for volunteering – a minimum of 20 people will volunteer their time (2,025 hours by the end of the project) to the project in various capacities whilst training and gaining new skills.

Outcomes for communities

More people and a wider range of people will have engaged with heritage

As a direct result of the project, people from a wider range of social backgrounds, ethnicities and different ages in Swale will be engaging with the Benin cultural heritage that have never engaged with it before. Diversity House practices strong community consultation, but this will be increased in scope as a result of the project. This will be evidenced through the collection and subsequent analysis of information about people involved during and after the project

Your local area / community will be a better place to live, work or visit

People from diverse backgrounds in Swale communities will benefit from better mutual understanding, and the communities will enjoy an improved sense of social cohesion and a reduction in racial tension as a result of shared experiences in educational events, outings and workshops, and volunteering together. Engaging in the activities of the project will contribute to an improved environment of tolerance and respect for cultural diversity in schools in Swale. Local Nigerian residents will feel more secure in their cultural identity and a have a better sense of belonging to Swale.

Your organisation will be more resilient

As a result of the project, staff of Diversity House will have developed better research skills which will strengthen the charity’s ability to apply for research grants and funding for poorly researched BME issues that lack data. New contacts will have been made for Diversity House and the profile of the organization will be raised as a result of bringing position contributions and experience to diverse groups in Swale during the project’s execution. Ties with institutions collaborating in the project will be strengthened leading to improved opportunities to work together as project partners on future projects and share expertise and skills. Diversity House will benefit from having attracted new volunteers equipped with skills derived from training during the project.

Benin and British Heritage: A Learning & Engagement Project

Benin and British Heritage Project – Evaluation Report

Learning Legacies

Main Title Research Source Author Brief description No. of Copies Date of Event
The Art Of Benin The British Museum Nigel Barley- Photos by Kevin  Lovelock & Michael Row Book of Art and Crafts 2
Newspapers and worksheet The Library Past Newspaper articles Articles from the library 2
Civic Day Diversity House Event Agenda 1 8 July 2015
Comment Book Diversity House Visitors Book 3 August 2014
Photo Book Various Diversity House Pictures from all event 4
The Glory of the Benin Kingdom Diversity House Christine Locke & Alex Vandepeer A Short Ply 5 29 July 2014
My Big African Story Book Memories Of Africa Christine Locke A collection of African stories 5 31 st October 2014
Colouring Book African history Children African stories pictures 19 July2014-May 20016
Photo Picture African Artefacts Diversity House Ethnographical Collection 2
A Brief History of Benin Kingdom Various Diversity house UK Influence on Nigerian Culture 2
History of Benin Kingdom Benin Life Changes Christine Locke, Enrique Page, Tharma Kahira Benin Relationship with UK from 1897 to present 4
A Selection of EdoState & NigerianTraditional Cuisine Edo State Food  Traditions Christine Locke Food and Cooking in Edo/Benin 4 10th June 215
Photo Scrap Book Various Diversity House Pictures from all event 2
Teachers Scheme of Work Diversity House Benin& British Heritage Scheme of Work 3
Teachers Induction Booklet The Ancient Benin Kingdom Diversity House Benin History before Europeans  Arrived 1
Benin Learning Manual (Presentation) Benin Culture Diversity House Contrast Culture between Benin &British 3
Benin&British Heritage Project Diversity House Teachers Training Meadowfield School 2
Framed Artwork Diversity House Artwork 7
Benin Teaching Resources DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
 Benin Project Civil Day DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 3 8th July 2015
Benin Learning Manual DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Power Point DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Benin Art and Bronze/Benin city DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Benin Traditions & Culture DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Benin History DVD Alex Taylor Digitised learning aid 1
Influence Of Africa Arts on Western Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Power Cotton Museum DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Benin Project Test DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Benin DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
SA DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1 17th October 2014
Benin Learning Presentation DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Benin Sow DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Learning Resources Benin Project DVD Diversity House Digitised learning aid 1
Exploring The Arts of African Masks Diversity House Presentation 1 2014 – 2015
Historical Walks of Sittingbourne Pat Robinson, Jessica Worksheet 3
British Museum Worksheet Diversity House Worksheet 7
PCM Visits and Workshops Keith Dunmall Learning Resources 1
The British Museum Album The British Museum Diversity House Learning Resources 1
South Avenue  Part 1 Primary School Diversity House Learning Resources 1 3th-14th Nov 2014
Powell-Cotton Museum Album Powell-Cotton Museum Diversity House Learning Resources 1
South Ave.Primary School Album Diversity House Learning Resources 1
Celebrations of Cultures Part 2   Diversity House Learning Resources 1 3th-14th Nov2014
Celebrations of Cultures Part 3 Diversity House Learning Resources 1 3th-14th Nov2014
Celebrations of Cultures Part 4 Diversity House Learning Resources 1 3th-14th Nov2014
Meadowfield School Diversity House Learning Resources 2
Community Album Diversity House Learning Resources 1
Diversity House Youth Club Diversity House Learning Resources 1
Training CD Diversity House Learning Resources 10
QUEENS CANVAS Diversity House Learning Resources 1
Mask  on Canvas Diversity House LearningResources 1
Total 123


Project sponsors