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Monday, January 9, 2017

UNESCO Attractions in Nigeria


Even though the government of West Africa's NIGERIA submitted a total of twelve potential UNESCO properties in 1995 and 2007 for review, only two architectural and cultural landscapes are official UNESCO World Heritage Sites (↗). Tentative sites of interest for Nigeria's list include Alok Ikom Stone Monoliths, Ancient Kano City Walls, Gashaki-Gumpti National Park, Niger Delta Mangroves, and Old Oyo city. By the way, Nigeria ratified the 1970 UNESCO Convention on October 23rd, 1974. The Osun Sacred Grove (↗) in Osogbo, Osun (state) and Sukur Cultural Landscape (↗) in Madagali, Adamawa were inscribed as official UNESCO sites in 2005 and 1999, respectively. Photographs and more information can be found with the two webpages linked in the previous sentence.

Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove
Located in southwestern Nigeria, this sacred grove is believed to be the Yoruba people's last remaining large spiritual site in the country. Comprised of shrines, sculptures, artwork, and a riverside landscape, Osun-Osogbo was dedicated to the Yoruba culture's goddess of fertility, Osun. The Osun River meanders its way through dense forests — prime, high-quality examples compared to most other Nigerian forests. About 400 years ago and after that, virtually every Yoruba community established a sacred grove to revere Osun. Unfortunately, many of these sites were destroyed or reduced in size. Fortunately, the Osun-Osogbo sacred grove continues to be a worship site and a vessel for new artwork — connecting Yoruba people to their history and heritage. An annual festival is held every July and August as a way to spiritually connect with Osun. Austrian-born artist and anti-Nazi civilian Susanne Wenger (1915-2009) was famous for her efforts in helping the Yoruba people elevate and preserve their artistry, history, and traditions. Finally, about 200 plant species in and around Osun-Osogbo are known and used for their medicinal qualities.

Sukur Cultural Landscape
Since the 1500s, the ancient hilltop Sukur civilization and settlement in eastern Nigeria (near Cameroon) established itself with a burgeoning iron-smelting industry and trading system. There was even an arguably strong, stable political structure governed by the powerful Hidi chief. Various topographic and cultural qualities make the Sukur site an ideal UNESCO Heritage Site — undulating peaks of the Mandara volcanic mountain range, stone-paved paths, well-built stone structures (including the Hidi Palace), ceramic shrines, and terraced farmland. Antique iron-smelting furnaces were found at the Sukur settlement and remain there today. Just like in Osogbo, people from the Sukur village and surrounding areas host ceremonies and festivals to celebrate local ancestry and traditions.

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