Didi Museum at 40: No art No history

Didi Museum at 40

Didi Museum, the famous centre for art, culture and heritage promotion situated in Victoria Island Lagos, marks its 40th anniversary this month with a three pronged program themed ‘NO ART NO HSTORY’ that kicks off on 18 May – World Museum Day.

Recorded as the first private museum in Lagos and founded by foremost Nigerian Environmentalist, Dr Newton Jibunoh in memory of his sister Edith Jibunoh, who died at an early age.

DIDI Museum has become the nurturer of the careers of many artists and culture workers, who often identified themselves as either “DIDI Artists” or “DIDI Museum Children” due to the mutual affection and familial link they share with the facility over the decades.

Bolaji Alonge, Eyes of a Lagos Boy, says: “Didi Museum and its team have been wonderful. Our two last exhibitions, Greener Pastures and Iconic Lagos were a great succes, we look forward to the next edition in September 2023. Massive congratulations to Dr Jibunoh for his continued contribution to the cultural scene in Nigeria from one of the Didi museum children.”

The commemoration billed to kick off this Thursday is essentially to announce the new direction the museum intends to pursue in the coming decades of its existence.  In particular, it would announce the formal berth of the Museum in Delta State, the home state and current base of the 85-year-old founder.

Significantly too, the celebration will also mark the formal opening of the Nelson Mandela Garden & Resorts, the 40-rooom lodging facility of the vast nature-resort located in the premises of the Asaba International Airport, which will be the new home of the DIDI Museum going forward. The facility will be formally introduced by Dewald Dgruger, Managing Director of Silk Road Hospitality, the new managing partners of the resort.

“Without the art, there is no history as the art documents our culture and heritage, and therefore history of civilizations over the centuries,” said Dr Jibunoh, the soil engineer, and former Chairman of construction giants, Costain West Africa. He is also known as the ‘Desert Fox’, renown for his adventures of driving from Lagos to London and back three times. First solo trip was in 1966, 2000 and 2008 with some other desert foxes. Dr Jibunoh is also an avid  collector of both artefacts and contemporary art works in all its dimensions.

Management rolls out programs to celebrate four decades of art, culture and heritage promotion;

  • To announce the formal berth of the Museum in Asaba, Delta State
  • Opening of the Nelson Mandela Garden & Resorts
  • Theme of celebration: NO ART NO HSTORY.

At the heart of the celebration would be the opening of an exhibition of some of the works in the collection of the museum on Friday, May 20, which would be performed by the royal fathers of Kano and Benin. This is to honor and knowledge “the sustained contributions of the two royal kingdoms in the history of the museum, right from inception in 1983.”


Thursday May 18: Youth Day and Virtual  Conversations

The celebration kicks off at 11am with a Youth event that would see 40 students invited from four secondary schools in Asaba, who would make excursion to the nature-friendly Nelson Mandela Garden & Resort, during which they would explore its vast green ambience, including mini-zoo for animals – monkeys, crocodiles, peacocks etc — and produce drawings or paintings that catch their fancy. The students would later converge for a mentoring session with the Octogenarian founder of the Museum and the Garden, who started his life journey as an adventurer and art lover in his teenage years. The students have been drawn from 1. Graceville College; 2. Seashell School; 3. Young Achievers Model School; 4. Patricia School; 5. Royal Mira School – all in Asaba.

At 4pm would be held a virtual conversation that would feature some of the artists who had been part of the Didi Museum family over the decades, including those whose careers were either birthed or have been shaped through the support and operations of the art centre. The session themed, “MY JOURNEY WITH DIDI” to be prefaced with a keynote by Nath Mayo Adediran, the former Federal Director of National Museums and Monuments, who was key to gathering the earlier collections by the museum, would feature reflections by the two artists, whose works marked the inaugural exhibition of the museum: the cartoonist-painter-sculptor, Kenny Adamson; and the engineer-painter and photographer, Adamu Ajunam. Also sharing reflections would be the renowned painter-cartoonist, Josy Ajiboye, and the painters Lara Ige Jacks, Tunde Soyinka, Zinno Orara, Osahenyen Kainebi and others.

In addition, some friends and patrons, some of them media workers who had written consistently on its operations over the years, would also speak on their recollections of the operation and contribution of the museum to the Nigerian and African culture ecosystem. These include popular arts writers and documentarists such as Ben Tomoloju, Gbile Oshadipe, Akin Onipede, Tunde Lanipekun, Toyin Akinosho, Chuka Nnabuife, Bolaji Alonge, and Olu Ajayi, and others.  Some special guests and patrons are also expected to speak on their relationship with the museum. These include the art and culture patron Erelu Abiola Dosumu and the popular art entrepreneur, Bolanle Austen-Peters, who first visited the museum as a student on excursion.

Friday, May 20: Exhibition & Reception

Opening of an exhibition of 40 works that have been specially curated to represent the characteristics of the vast collections of the museum over the years. Essentially, the display would reflect the divergent tastes and artistic preferences of the founder, Dr Jibunoh, and the board of the museum. Conceptually, the works would be mounted as a mini-tour of the new home of the Didi Museum in the Nelson Mandela Garden & Resort. The works would eventually graced the walls of the exquisitely furnished rooms and conferencing facility of the Resort, according to Dr Jibunoh.

The exhibition opening would be performed by Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, CFR, CNOL, Sarkin Kano (The Emir of Kano); and the Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Ukuakpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II of Benin Kingdom. On record, the fathers of the two monarchs played major roles at the opening of the museum in 1983., and in subsequent years. His Royal Highness Alhaji Ado Bayero, the then Emir of Kano, inaugurated the Museum on April 11, 1983, and served as its first Chairman of the Board of Trustees, also serving as royal father at some of its functions. The former Oba of Benin, Oba Akenzua II, was a patron and collector of the Museum’s works, and had officiated at some of its functions too.

Grand Finale: (Date yet unfixed)

To be hosted in Lagos post-inauguration of new federal and state governments, this is the grand finale of the entire 40th anniversary celebration. With the theme: DIDI MUSEUM: THE VISION, THE MISSION, THE FUTURE, the largely media event will feature a selection of art scholars, journalists and patrons in live conversation session with Dr Jibunoh, and it will be broadcast via media platforms to friends and patrons of the museum located in several parts of the world. It is also designed to be a mentoring session for young Nigerians to dare to dream big and far into the future as exemplified by the life trajectory of Dr Newton Jibunoh, who started his career and mission in his late teenage years.

Didi Museum in History:

On  May 11 1983, DIDI Museum was officially inaugurated within the private house of the founder, Dr Newton Jibunoh in Victoria Island. The inaugural exhibition featured works by Kenny Adamson and Adamu Ajunam, and was graced by an estimated over 1200 guests.

Before its birth, there had been few indigenous efforts at patronage for the visual arts, especially to focus on the heritage art but also on the contemporary.

At the epochal event, Dr Ekpo Eyo, the then Director General of the national Museum and Monuments, stated, that the birth of then museum was “an excellent first attempt of this kind of venture by a private citizen.”

The primary objectives of the Museum at birth were captured thus:

  • To serve as a forum for the research and preservation of arts and culture and the exhibition of contemporary Nigerian Arts
  • To discover and contribute to the arts
  • To serve the young artists not only for the exhibition of art works but also to provide a forum for the maintenance research and preservation of art.

Over the years, the overall mission of DIDI Museum has evolved and now includes in addition to the above

  • To create the market for local collectors that would sustain the art market in the long run
  • To promote an environment where students can be tutored in appreciating their heritage
  • To promote our cultural heritage with the provision of programs and events
  • To contribute to the appreciation of poetry and literary

Moving to Asaba

The big announcement of the 40th anniversary celebration is the fact that the Museum is shifting its headquarters to Delta State, which is the home and current location of its founder, Dr Newton Jibunoh. The museum will be located in the Nelson Mandela Garden, sited in the premises of the Asaba International Airport. This would be the second time the museum would be attempting to locate itself in Delta State. A few years ago, it had opened a branch in Akwukwu-Igbo, the hometown of Dr Jibunoh, located a few kilometres from Asaba. In the earlier move, the museum management had held workshops on several areas of art making, including production of textile materials peculiar to the people of the Delta.

In its new home, however, the museum would eventually be resident in a Convention Centre, being built as part of the sprawling Nelson Mandela Garden & Resort.

DIDI MUSEUM @40 celebration

Topic: My Journey with DIDI Museum
(A Virtual conversation by select Artists of the Didi Museum)

Date: THURS. May 18, 2023

Time: 04:00 PM (WAT)

Join conversation at

Meeting ID: 812 8209 0231
Passcode: DIDI40

Find your local number: https://us06web.zoom.us/u/kwLsQARlz