By Armsfree Ajanaku
The rich and vibrant culture of the Original Inhabitants in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was again on display this weekend, when MacArthur Foundation staff from Chicago and the Nigeria offices toured Ushafa. Located in Bwari Area Council on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital, the community hosts the Ushafa Pottery Centre.
Pottery, one of the cultural treasures and repositories of the Original Inhabitants has attracted a lot of attention as one of the areas to focus on in terms of reviving the fast disappearing culture of FCT Original Inhabitants.
The Original Inhabitants in the FCT have been on the receiving end injustices, marginalisation and exclusion four over four and half decades. Despite taking over their lands to make way for the Nigerian capital following the promulgation of Decree 6 of 1976, the indigenes have not been fully compensated, just as they continue to suffer all manner of deprivations.
The challenges facing the Original Inhabitants have been further accentuated by the devastating realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since August 2021, the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) led by its Executive Director, Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. ZIkirullahi has been implementing a two-year project with support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to address the issues of FCT Original Inhabitants.
Through the intervention, 10 FCT Original Inhabitant Organisations have been supported with sub-grants and with capacity building to enable them lawfully and sustainably advocate for their political, economic and cultural rights.
At the Ushafa tour, which took place at the weekend, the MacArthur Team led by Managing Director of MacArthur Foundation, Stephanie Platz, Director Africa Office, Kole Shettima, Oladayo Olaide, Amina Usman, Erin Sines, and Jorge Lopez got a close view of the cultural treasures of the FCT. Apart from pottery, the delegation also witnessed the process of producing Ajecinda, the beautiful local fabric of the nine tribes of the FCT.
One of the project sub-grantees, Helpline Foundation for the Needy led by Dr. Jummai Ahmadu has been at the forefront of revamping the dying culture of clothe making in Original Inhabitants communities.
During the tour, FCT Original Inhabitants expressed appreciation to MacArthur Foundation and CHRICED for their support, which they stressed has rescued important Original Inhabitants cultural treasures from going into extinction.
This they noted is exemplified by the revival of the pottery centre. The Original Inhabitants who attended the event also stated that the project helped to rescue the Asumbo dyeing pits, which had been overrun by development. The pits, used for dyeing traditional fabrics are said to be over 400 years old.
Such cultural site, if not reclaimed and preserved for the benefit of future generations, would have gone into extinction. Little wonder, young people who benefited from the pottery trainings anchored by Mairo Women Foundation, one of the project sub-grantees had “a million” thanks for MacArthur Foundation and CHRICED.
The tour comes on the heels of the MacArthur Foundation Annual Grantees meeting, which held from October 5 to 7.