About the Repository
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.
An interdisciplinary project team of faculty and staff equipped with technical skill sets and content knowledge will address the various perspectives of the masquerade dance of the Nigerian-Biafran War.
Nwando Achebe, the Jack & Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor of History, is a multi-award-winning historian. She is editor-in-chief of the Journal of West African History and author of six books. Achebe has received prestigious grants from Rockefeller Foundation, Wenner-Gren, Woodrow Wilson, Fulbright-Hays, Ford Foundation, World Health Organization, and National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to her expertise on Nigerian and Igbo histories, she has presented papers at International conferences on Biafra, and is also the beneficiary of salient information on the war from her father, renowned author Chinua Achebe, who was a roving ambassador for Biafra, and has written extensively on the war.
Philip Effiong holds a PhD in Drama from University of Wisconsin, Madison. Prior to joining Michigan State, he taught fiction, nonfiction, drama and writing at various Nigerian, Ghanaian and US universities. He is also on the faculty of University of Maryland where he teaches online classes in drama and African American literature. Philip’s publications include a book, In Search of a Model for African American Drama and several articles on drama, culture, literature and history. In addition to delivering lectures at conferences on Biafra in the US and UK, Philip’s publications on the War include, “Biafra and the Politics of Blame” and “Forty Years Later, the War Hasn’t Ended.” Philip received substantive information on the War from his father, Maj. Gen. Philip Effiong, second-in-command in Biafra, who led the delegation that negotiated peace with Nigeria in January 1970. He also edited his father’s war memoir, The Caged Bird Sang No More, published posthumously in 2016.
Michael Green, the Director of the Digital Media Lab at Matrix; Outreach & Development Liaison, has had extensive experience working on the African continent, including the production of the Africa Past & Present (Afripod) podcast, Exploring Africa, and Gorée Island Archaeological Digital Repository. His extensive work in Senegal has included technological workshops and trainings to empower partners and foster mutually beneficial collaborations. His participation on this project serves as one of his significant contributions to developing vital information on West African history and cultures.
Dean Rehberger is in the History Department; adjunct curator, MSU Museum; Director of Matrix, the Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences. Over the past 20 years, he has overseen numerous digitization and archival projects, application design and development projects, and large data and computational processing projects at Matrix funded by a variety of sources, including the National Science Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Archive and Records Administration, the British Library Endangered Archives Programme, National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services, among others. Projects include Oral History in the Digital Age, Overcoming Apartheid, African Online Digital Library, among many others.