The Igbo of southeastern Nigeria have a proverb which states that one cannot stand in one position to view the masquerade dance. In other words, spectators standing at different vantage points see varying and unique perspectives of the dance. Likewise, one cannot stand in one position to understand or appreciate the complex events surrounding, leading up to, and occurring during the Nigerian-Biafran war. Ours is a visual and audial repository of varying perspectives of the Nigerian-Biafran conflict. We document, in digital form, the lived experiences of individuals on both sides of this conflict. By reconciling survivor and perpetrator perspectives, we hope to work towards forgiveness, reconciliation and nation[al] healing.
Our project will unfold in several phases. The first phase will include capturing oral histories of Nigerians currently residing in Michigan and/or those affected directly or indirectly by the Nigerian-Biafran War in Michigan. This will include digitizing photographs, artifacts, and manuscripts (newspapers, etc.) that add to the stories we encounter. Participants will be multi-generational and will draw upon versatile perspectives that can provide broader narratives to the project as a whole.
We will then present the audio and visual histories collected to an audience of MSU and the Greater Lansing community. This presentation will take the form of a West African masquerade dance performed to encourage discourse and dialogue among community members. In the tradition of masquerading, the event will feature Nigerian cuisine, music, and dance, as well as prompts which will guide the viewing, appreciation, and participation in discussions of the “masquerade dance” of the Nigerian-Biafran War.
Far from a mere consumption of the spectacle of the masquerade dance, this viewing will be a celebratory gathering for all sides of the masquerade dance to build comradery. The exhibit will be staged for at least a week, allowing access to a larger audience to view and participate in this masquerade performance.