Capturing Nigerian histories before they disappear

In the previous installment of the Digital Archive, we spotlighted Liberian Journeys, a digital nationalist archiving project, collecting key artifacts from the country’s complicated history and combining those with reflections from contemporary Liberians to convey the importance of preserving the nation’s history. Other projects featured here on the Digital Archive, like Nigerian Nostalgia, show the potential for more contemporary histories to be preserved digitally. This week’s featured project, the Nsibidi Institute Memory Project, is yet another endeavor attempting to use digital forums to preserve memories of Nigeria, in addition to promoting the importance of capturing these histories before they disappear.

The Nsibidi Institute, based in Lagos, Nigeria, is dedicated to preserving Nigerian heritage through “homegrown knowledge creation.” These innovative materials are intended to be used to “foster a better understanding of Nigeria — its history, people, knowledge systems and possible futures.” In pursuit of these goals, the Institute works in numerous capacities, using their organization as a platform for rethinking space (as they did with their Open Lagos project and Makoko-Iwaya Waterfront Economic Opportunities initiative), Afro-futurism (read more about Lagos 2060 here), and the communication of culture through various mediums (for instance, check out the Nsibidi Film Hub). The Institute also focuses on the preservation of memory. Initially, their work on memory was funneled through the Between Memory & Modernity project, but has expanded into the Nsibidi Institute Memory Project, launched in 2015.

The Nsibidi Memory Project

The Nsibidi Institute Memory Project’s main goal is to “archive Nigerian history through the people’s voices.” Focused on creating dynamic interactions through audiovisual memory preservation, the project hopes to contribute to broader understandings of “the dynamic between our relative histories, as well as forms of memory and identity within Nigerian society.” The results of this initiative have produced multiple YouTube videos, including montages of responses to evocative questions to one-on-one interviews. In the interviews that have been made available on the Institute’s YouTube channel thus far, the topics of conversation have ranged from the personal (favorite television shows, first jobs, choice of hairstyles, bride price) to the political/historical (the effects of the civil war on their families). Check out a montage of the first year of the project below.

The Memory Project Nigeria: The Journey so Far

Follow the Nsibidi Institute on Facebook and Twitter. Users can find more information about submitting their own videos here. As always, feel free to send me suggestions via Twitter (or use the hashtag #DigitalArchive) of sites you might like to see covered in future editions of The Digital Archive!

*This post is No. 25 in our Digital Archive series covering African archives on the web.

Liz Timbs

PhD Candidate in History at Michigan State University, Studying precolonial Zulu history. Advocate for Digital Humanities.

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