C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
Emmanuel Nnakenyi Arinze
February 10, 2005
Emmanuel Nnakenyi Arinze, CAM's much loved and respected President died in Abuja, Nigeria on Feb. 10, 2005 after a valiant battle with cancer. He maintained an amazingly positive attitude and a continuing concern for others as long as his strength held out. He was one of the best known and effective leaders of the African museum and heritage community and was instrumental in training and in raising the profile of African museum professionals in the international community. He was always highly committed and worked passionately on behalf of culture and heritage in his home country, Nigeria, on the entire African continent and internationally, through his positions and activities with ICOM (especially CECA and ICTOP), AFRICOM, ICCROM-PREMA and later PMDA (Programme for Museum Development in Africa), the Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM) and WAMP (West African Museums Programme).
Emmanuel first received training as a teacher and then went on to complete a B.Sc in Sociology, an M.Ed and an M.Sc in Sociology. After teaching for a few years, he joined the Federal Civil Service becoming the first Nigerian appointed as Museum Education Officer in the Federal Department of Antiquities. He held many senior positions in the department including Curator of the National Museums in Jos, and Lagos, and Head of Administration, Training and Manpower Development for the Department. He co-ordinated the memorable major exhibition "Treasures of Ancient Nigeria" which travelled the world in the early 1980s and developed many other exhibits during his career. In 1974 he became Principal of the Regional Centre for Museum Studies founded by UNESCO in Jos, Nigeria. He later continued as Principal of the Centre for Museum Studies when it was taken over by Nigeria. After serving as Assistant Director of Museums and Monuments, at the age of 43 he was appointed Director of Museums and Monuments. After he left the Department of Antiquities, he established the Heritage Consultancy Bureau and completed a number of contracts independently. He went on to be Director, National Institute for Cultural Orientation and in 2000, Executive Director/ CEO of the National Council for Arts and Culture.
His direct involvement with museums and heritage as well as the broader cultural sector continued during this period and he was President of AFRICOM (2003-), President of CAM (1995-), on the Board of ICTOP (1998-) and on the Board of PMDA (2000-) at the time of his untimely passing.
Emmanuel Arinze was an articulate and compelling spokesman for Africa and African Heritage. In the words of Dr. George Abungu, African museologist and colleague: "We in Africa will deeply miss him. His love for the continent and its people, his courageous championing of Africa's cultural heritage and his uncompromising defence of the integrity of the African person, were unmatched."
While he did not have a chance to work diligently on behalf of AFRICOM, his contribution to the West African Museums Programme and to the Commonwealth Association of Museums was extensive. He was also a career-long member of ICOM and active first on CECA, the Committee for Education and Cultural Action and later in ICTOP, the International Committee for the Training of Personnel as he became further from direct museum involvement and more responsible for training other museum workers.
For the West African Museum Programme he worked with the Board and the Executive Director, initially Claude Ardouin, to initiate a significant number of programs including a series of seminars resulting in publications to which he contributed as editor and author: Museums & the Community in West Africa, Museums & Archaeology in West Africa, Museums & History in West Africa and Museums & Urban Culture in West Africa. WAMP at this time also produced a very good Bulletin containing serious papers as well as other news and views. WAMP also supported museums in developing their own programs through funds granted for the purpose.
During Emmanuel's career he continued an interest in research and publication through WAMP and CAM programs and several other projects among them his report for UNESCO on museums in Liberia, and his participation in the Anthropological Consultative Panel for the Horniman Museum which contributed to the African Worlds exhibit. He hoped to be able to continue when he was able to retire and concentrate on research and writing.
Emmanuel's life long interest and talent for teaching was also expressed through his lengthy association with ICCROM and PREMA programme (Prevention in Museums in Africa). He began by doing a feasibility study, partly with Claude Ardouin and partly with Catherine Antomarchi, travelling through Africa and considering whether ICCROM could make an impact by initiating such a project. He then became a consultant to PREMA and taught in the program in Rome, Jos and Ghana, as well as being involved in other aspects of planning and implementation. When the PREMA programme was integrated into Africa in the form of EPA, l'Ecole du Patrimoine Africain (French-speaking countries) and PMDA, Programme for Museum Development in Africa (English-speaking countries) Emmanuel became a member of the Board of PMDA. He also taught for them in Mombasa.
Emmanuel also spoke passionately on behalf of world heritage and within the larger context of contemporary life. He believed in the potential in the Commonwealth for improving human development and in the role that museums could contribute to this end within civil society. The importance of museums and their relevance to their communities and to contemporary life, the involvement of children in museums and the cultural understanding that can be enhanced through museums, were themes that he pursued through his work.
Emmanuel Arinze knew who he was and where he wanted to go. He had great faith and firmly believed in his own cultural values but had the understanding and openness to be a strong bridge between Africa and other cultures and forged many links with museum colleagues around the world. At the same time, he firmly believed that his abilities should be used in his home country of Nigeria and he remained there to bring honour to his country and his family.
He was impatient of pretence and prejudice but his warmth and generosity and his deep concern for the development of young museum workers earned him much love and respect. His vision, his passion for museums and heritage and his determination to accomplish results earned him a legacy of significant and memorable contributions to museums and culture. His ability to encourage and inspire left many colleagues with a commitment and vision for the future to continue working on behalf of African and world heritage. He will be greatly missed by his many friends around the world.
We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and join in their mourning for an outstanding leader. Emmanuel was laid to rest near his home village in Nigeria. May his soul rest in peace and his spirit and inspiration remain with us forever.