Ministry, CBAAC mourn late Eyo

Posted: June 10, 2011 in arts/culture

Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation and the Centre for Black and African Art and Civilization (CBAAC) have joined in the horde of condolence messages to the family Prof Ekpo Eyo, who died May 29 at his residence in the United States.

Prof Eyo, the first Nigerian-born head of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), and Patron of the African Refugees Foundation died in the early hours of Sunday, May 29, at his home in Maryland, USA.

Describing the curator as a pioneer, the ministry in a condolence message signed by permanent secretary Ibrahim Mahe, said the late Eyo’s action plan transformed the NCMM to what it is today.

“He was a pioneer in many respects, whose initial visionary action plan transformed the NCMM to what it is today. Professor Ekpo can be described as the doyen of museum administration in Nigeria.  Indeed, his era remains what even the harshest critic would call the golden era of the National Commissions Museums and Monuments.  From a few buildings in Lagos, Professor Ekpo Eyo oversaw the transformation of the Museums into a truly national institution with widespread presence in every part of Nigeria.

Continuing, the ministry commended Eyo as ‘an outstanding archaeologist and anthropologist’ who ‘left a legacy of efficient management system of the Nigerian Museums.  He is indeed a cultural colossus whose legacy would remain indelible in the annals of Nigeria cultural administration.’

On its part, CBAAC in a condolence message signed by its Director General, Prof Tunde Babawale, said the late archeologist was an ícon’ just as it described the death as ‘a big vacuum on the family, the art and culture sector of the Nigerian society and the entire Black and African culture community.’

“Prof Ekpo Eyo was a great intellectual, a renowned African arts and culture ambassador of no mean achievements. He was also a reputable author, archaeologist, anthropologist and first indigenous head of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM). He was the longest serving head of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) till date. He would always be remembered for being the first and only Nigerian Director of the Federal Department of Antiquities (1968 – 1979). We also recall his archaeological field work at three important Nigerian sites, Ile-Ife, Owo, and Ikom, findings from which are available in some major Nigerian museums with publications in different seminal papers and journals on the same subjects,” Babawale said.

Further describing Eyo as a ’pathfinder’, Babawale noted that: “Prof Ekpo Eyo never relented in his resolve to further the frontiers of the promotion of the significant contributions of Black and African arts and civilization. Through his writings and engagements, Ekpo bequeathed to the next generation enduring legacies worthy of commendation. Given his record of contributions to history and human advancement, especially Nigeria’s contribution to African art, there is no doubting the fact that he be sorely missed but we take solace in his inspiring footprints.”

Of Efik, Creek Town, Western Calabar, origin, and born July 28, 1931, Professor Ekpo Eyo attended Presbyterian Primary School Creek town.  He proceeded to Duke Town Secondary School; Calabar.  He then received his tertiary education at the prestigious Cambridge University in United Kingdom with a Bachelors and Master Degree.  He gained his Doctorate Degree at the pioneer University in Nigeria, the University of Ibadan.

He then joined the faculty of his alma mater at Ibadan.  His initial career as an accomplished academic soon translated into an administrative acumen second to none.  He was able to recognize human resources as the cornerstone of the NCMM and channel each human component into a career management line most suitable to their natural inclination and academic qualification.

He ran the NCMM for eighteen uninterrupted years which witnessed the publication of many monumental titles on Museum matters.   The travelling exhibition entitled “two thousand years of Nigerian Art” remains a flagship exhibition ever produced by any institution in Nigeria.

He was appointed Director of the Federal Department of Antiquities in 1967 and retired 1986.  He was made a fellow of the prestigious Smithsonian Institute in 1984.

Prof Ekpo Eyo is on record as Nigeria’s Museums Chief with the longest uninterrupted tenure until his retirement in 1986.

Ekpo Eyo was, until 2006, a Professor of Anthropology at University of Maryland in the United States.

He is survived by his wife and children.

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