The Olusegun Obasanjo Library (OOL)

The not-so-wobbly bridge

So, I made a recent visit to the Olusegun Obasanjo Library in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. Ogun State is in the south west part of Nigeria and Olusegun Obasanjo was a two-time president. Once as a military head of state and a second coming as a civilian president. There are a lot of materials on president Obasanjo so I won’t dwell on him much. One thing I can say is that he is placed himself on the Nigerian map as one of our progressive leaders.

 

Back to the library. I think it would have been better to call this a museum than a library but we would stick to the name here. I think it is referred to as the OOL. It is a collection of Nigerian history worth checking out.

The edifice is beautifully designed by the Jimmy Carter foundation I hear. I think it is underrated for reasons I will highlight later.

Every =thing the former president considered as public property is housed here. From the bjcycle he rode to his farm in the seventies to the armoured tank he rode in during the civil war. I think his first car is also here. A volkswagon beetle popularly called Ijapa in the yoruba language. By the way, Ijapa means tortoise. Makes sense now? It also quite a slow car if you think about it now. I think the name has to do more with the shape than its pace. Well, I never thought about its name coined from the pace of a tortoise until now.

I really have lost my memories of the library as i visited about two weeks ago. I know there are three sections. Maybe four. Can’t remember the categorization but I do remember the first section contained various vehicles the former president had driven or been in. Another section probably contains his personal effects and the third contains items that could be considered national treasures. there is even a section for his late wife Mrs. Stella Obasanjo. This section included various outfits she wore for different memorable occasions.

Yes, I recall a setup of his prison cell with a bed, a fridge and a writing area. The room had a cell number which was unique in historical terms. This number was probably used as an after thought for historical purposes but the number escapes me right now. 311, 322? Really can’t remember the number or the story behind it.

I thought pictures should have been allowed but this was not the case and I proved to be a very difficult visitor for this reason.

I did take some pictures of the exterior which I would share. I recall the man-made lake which is fed through a natural river. A nice architectural piece. It has a bridge across which is built based on some military design. It has a special name but let’s just call it the wobbly bridge. Don’t worry, this one does not wobble for obvious reason but the design is ingeniously made to look like a make-shift structure.

A few Issues worth investigating

  1. Considering this is a national treasure, I don’t think restricting cameras is in the interest of the library/ museum
  2. The tour failed to direct us to the store which sadly is sparsely stocked for its size
  3. Failure to combine the visitation fee with the Zoo visit probably misses and opportunity for suggestive selling.

The zoo in a moment

The Land of a Thousand Hills

Me at the DR Congo Border in Gisenyi

I really wasn’t sure what to title this post. I thought of “Rwanda Rwanda” but Wyclef might be upset. I also thought of “My Visit to Rwanda” but that also sounded cliched. So, there you have it. “The Land of a Thousand Hills”. This is actually another name for Rwanda. The reason is obvious once you visit. There are possible 5,000 hills or more. A thousand just sounds neat to say. It is not even an hyperbole. More of and under estimation. The title also rhymes with my title on Ethiopia, “The Land of the Walias”. Maybe all my titles will go this way but then again, it would be cliche.

So, my Africa journey eventually got me to Rwanda. I think travel should be a requirement for every important thing in life. The right to get a job, the right to get married and probably a requirement for an advanced degree. You learn a thousand things more than you learn reading a book. Now, that is probably an hyperbole but maybe not.

Like all my travels, Rwanda was loosely planned. I had made up my mind to visit after Ethiopia but I did not think it would happen so soon and so sudden. Travel just has a way of paling you.

A friend told me he was visiting for a wedding. I thought about going along and as they say, “the rest is history”. I hate cliches really but you just can’t run away from it sometimes.

I had heard so much about this land-locked country bordered by Uganda, DR Congo and Tanzania but I really did not know what to expect. Actually, I had an expectation. I had seen some of the most beautiful ladies ever on Instagram and they seemed to come from Rwanda. I wonder why this was rarely mentioned the way Ethiopians were mentioned. Did I travel all that way to see beautiful ladies? Absolutely not. It probably provided the push to go even if marginal. Travel to learn was my priority and nothing would stop it. Believe me on that.

Ideas evolve and TrekAfrik has evolved in a short time. In less that 8 months we have visited 5 African countries and spent a cumulative time of 4 weeks. Considering our expense and budget, that is a lot in a short time.

Let the journey begin

I would start straight at the Lagos airport. Arrived early enough. SO I thought. I had to haggle my way through. I was told I was 5 minutes late but eventually checked in. Half of the flight since Tuesday was going for the wedding. This was a Thursday. The 18th of May o be precise. Everyone wondered who the groom was. The problem was, I didn’t even know myself. For a moment, I seemed like I was crashing a party. Maybe I was.

On arrival in Kigali, visa was issued on entry. I assume this has always been the practice anyway but no info to back that up. The immigration official also knew about the wedding. it seemed everyone in Kigali knew about this wedding. I spent a night with my friend at the Radisson Blu but checked out the day after. My mission was beyond the wedding so I had to ensure I could carry myself through a week or more of vacationing.

My First Impression

The Kigali Airport is surprisingly smaller than I expected. I later realized RwandAir has only 10 planes in its fleet. You really don’t need so much to seem so big.

The city was as clean as described and your could feel the air of orderliness. There were cafes and stores here an there and it was all bright and beautiful at night. It seems Kigali and probably the whole of Rwanda is built on various hills. You can feel the roads undulating, steeping and sloping unexpectedly. Houses also had their entrances sloping upwards away from the streets. I seems like an engineering feat but it all probably happened overtime that Rwandans did not understand their genius in pulling of tis little miracle.

Moving On

I quickly got on to AirBnB and got a guest in. This was about $22 a night which seemed high compared to Ethiopia but well within budget. At least at this point. I planned my tourism trip and realized I had a week and two days to achieve all I could achieve. I would list my activities below and hopefully address them in subsequent stories.

  • The historical places (museums)
  • The markets for arts and craft
  • Places to visit for entertainment and art

I really can’t recollect how my first day went at the guest house. I assume I just checked in, had a bath and tucked myself in for an adventure I would’t be able to write until it happens.

 

The Land of the Walias

I visited the land of the Walias about two months ago. If you don’t know the land of the Walias, don’t feel too bad. I didn’t two months ago. I would have titled it the land of coffee before the trip but now we call it the land of the Walya.

Beyond trying to sound knowledgable, Ethipioa is the land of many other things. I didn’t know what Walyas were and you probably didn’t. Enough of the blab, Walyas are a rare specie of goats found only in Ethiopia. Yes, I was in Ethiopia and it was a worthy experience. I learn’t a lot of things about Walyas (enough of Walyas), Coffee, hand-woven Abesian dresses and Ethiopian wine.

Ethiopia is rich in culture and is the only African country which successfully isolated its culture (well, almost). They claim to be the only African country that was never colonized. Well, almost. They had a brief Italian job but were able to fight them off. That is story an Ethiopian can better tell you.

My Experience

I arrived Ethiopia at night and got the hotel to pick me up. It was a smooth entry with minimal custom challenges. The people were quite friendly and thankfully speak the universal English to get by across borders. One thing I observed though is that transportation is quite expensive so you need to plan these trips.

My first observation was the weather was reasonably cold. I hear the hottest time of the year doesn’t exceed 28 degrees Celsius. The hotels mostly don’t have air conditioners. This is a huge blessing as I assume power consumption can easily scratch of air conditioning which is a huge burden on any power generation service.

I spent the first two days in a pricy hotel (heeee, I can’t remember the name right now). I remember the rest of the trip though. I realize the memories in a trip don’t have to be the expensive parts of it. I console myself here but I digress.

I met a cabbie named Tesfaye (means “Hope” in Amharic) who was kind enough to introduce me to a hotel which was about $15 a night. Actually a guest house called Abel Pension. That’s not pension as you know it in English. I think Pension is Amharic for guest house. It is not pronounced as it is in English. The s, i and o are pronounced as-is. Sounding more like pensiyon. For that price, I get very good internet and room service (tidy only). It is strategically located and any traveler to Ethiopia would be better served staying here. It is a 30 seconds walk from a restaurant I thought served you pretty good cuisine. It’s a minute (or two) from a couple of night clubs that don’t sleep. I literally mean they don’t sleep.

I notice the Ethiopians go clubbing all through the week. I mean all through Monday to Sunday. Beware, it is noisy inside and out on the streets. I think I need to tell you a bit about where Abel Pension is located. The area is called Chechnya. When you tell people you stay in Chechnya, the first reaction seems like “Are you crazy?” It’s either a myth or historical facts or a bit of both. I suspect a bit of both and optimistically tilt towards the myth argument. The legend goes like this. The area used to be dangerous with gangs and guns. I doubt it still is and I wonder how bad it was because this looks like a traveller bliss (Probably traveller like me). Due to this dangerous environment, it was named after Chechya. You know the Chechnya, part of the Soviet Union. That Chechnya. It was like a war zone they say. I believe this was an exaggeration. I assure you will be short-changing yourself as a tourist if you buy this story. For me, it was the best place to gain local knowledge and really for the price, I was willing to get shot.

I didn’t mention one thing. Chechnya also has a red-light district. For a tourists, you shouldn’t miss the sight. The experience is your choice. Hehehe. One thing is obvious about the Ethiopian ladies. They are preeetyyyy. Be careful though, they marry very early so your first question should really be “Are you married?” before you go on a wild goose chase.

Sights Visited

I really would not brag much on visiting tourist sites. Remember I was there for a conference. I extended the stay to get a feel of the country. I would give myself a 5 out of 10 for that. It was not really a tourist visit so I console myself. I did visit some sites I would mention.

The Museum

There is a museum next to the university. It was the palace of Haile Selassie which was donated to Ethiopia as a museum. Like the story of the Italian job, I can’t really tell you much about Haile Selassie the way an Ethiopian would. I can say he is loved, he was sent into exile, Jamaicans love him and believed he was the beacon of hope for Africa. This is loosely related to the fact that Ethiopians were never really colonized. You see what I mean? I already sound like I am confusing you. I really suggest an Ethiopian tells you this story. I will post some pictures here.

Finding Mulu

The Chiromeda market is also a market to visit. Chiromeda is the market you go to seek the creativity of Ethiopians. I made a great friend there. Her name is Malu and she played a big role in my experience. I could easily have titled this “Finding Mulu” but hey, the Walya wins again. I will tell you a bit about Mulu. I bought this nice piece of earthen ware from her. I loved the way she approached and the resoluteness in her marketing style. I regretted not even doing a video of her. I had to send someone to do me a video but he failed in the assignment and ended up with a few picture. When I visit again, Mulu will be a point of call.

 

I also visited Marketo briefly. It is claimed to be the biggest market in Africa. I am not sure about this though but it must be big enough to be bold about bragging. It is not a market in the sense you think of. Looks more like a large expanse of area with all the buildings being shops similar to Idumota in Lagos, Nigeria. I did not see any entry or exit point anyway. Who says markets need to have an entry and exit point anyway?

Coffee Coffee Everywhere

I should mention this if you don’t already know. Ethiopia is the land of coffee. I just like the black swan argument for Walyas. Walyas don’t describe Ethiopia on bit. There is coffee everywhere. If you live in Nigeria and you see how you can buy groundnuts everywhere. That’s how coffee is. You see coffee beans in every stall you visit. I am not sure how it should look, but I suspect raw coffee beans is lighter than deep brown as we see it. It is literally everywhere.

Anyway, let me end this post so I have something new for you. I am yet to post on my Rwanda experience. I am also yet to post my commercial opinion on these trips. Enjoy reading this and please comment.

 

 

 

Susanne Wenger: white priestess from the Sacred Groves of Osogbo, Nigeria

Susanne Wenger also known as Adunni Olurisa (1915-2009) was an Austrian artist who resided in Nigeria. Her main focus was the Yoruba culture and she was successful in building an artist cooperative in Osogbo.

Born in Graz, Austria, she studied art  before travelling to Paris in 1949, where she met Ulli Beier, a German linguist. When he was offered a position as a phonetician in Ibadan, Nigeria, shortly afterwards, they decided to marry so she could accompany him.

The couple quickly assimilated in Nigeria, he as a teacher and she as an artist, but they moved from Ibadan to the nearby town of Ede in 1950 to escape what Wenger called the “artificial university compound”. In Ede, she met one of the last priests of the rapidly disappearing, ancestral-based Olorisha religion. She quickly became engrossed in his life and rituals, even though at that time she spoke no Yoruba. “Our only intercourse was the language of the trees,” she said later.

During this period, she and Beier mentored a group of local artists that later became the New Sacred Art movement, creating many of the giant sculptural works that beautify the sacred grove.

Tribes in Nigeria

I must confess, I got this list from a whatsapp broadcast. I cannot exactly confirm if this list is exhaustive or not. However, it is good place to start. I know my tribe is there though. My only litmus test. I would have have wished to credit the source to the sender who probably got it from someone else. Let’s just attribute it to Nigeria. Thank you Nigeria. I usually like to provide the source of the images but I really can’t remember where I got this. I know it is Nigeria though but I just don’t know what tribe this is. Anyone knows?

Afroelle Magazine

Oh well, this came up while looking out for AAKS  . Didn’t get the name right while watching CNN. So I did a google for Ghana + Fashion + Bag … (you get the idea?). I still missed though and came up with Afroelle Magazine . A blog site giving African women in Diaspora and in Africa an opportunity to showcase their talents and entrepreneurial spirit. This actually falls in line with part of what Trek Africa will  achieve. Provide an avenue for tourists to fulfill their dreams and also document for others to learn from.

Ok, let me get back to Afroelle. The site is a load of information to inspire African women (I think people in general after all, I was inspired) of life struggles and hidden opportunities (my words) and cursory observation. I won’t bore you with her life story. That would be plagiarism. You can learn more about Rita from her site here .

Now, I remember how google made the mistake. I was searching for Afua Rida. I thought I heard Rita (obviously). I put it in google as “Rita + fashion + Ghana” and your know the rest. Also means you should check out Rida’s site on Style By Rida .

Akosua Afriyie-Kumi (AAK)

Akosua Afriyie-Kumi established a firm called AAKS in Ghana producing beautiful handwoven bags which she designs. We stumbled on her via CNN African Voices and did enjoy the brief documentary. If you ever visit Ghana, I advise you to find her and own one of her collection. You don’t even need to go that far, you can shop for her beautiful bags online.