African heritage project born in Newham wins Lottery award

An ambitious African heritage project which has received around �50,000 in National Lottery Funding was launched by West Ham MP Lyn Brown in the House of Commons last week.

The Echoes of Benin Kingdom/British Conflict 1897 is a new research project in partnership with the Newham African Caribbean Resource Centre in Plaistow and the British Museum among others to rediscover the history of the ancient West African kingdom.

Run by around 20 volunteers from the community, Ms Brown invited the delegation and their partners to her office Westminster to officially launch the heritage project.

Dennis Mensah, the project worker, created the “Echoes of Benin...” to promote Benin culture and history and leave a wealth of material and resources for generations to come.

Dennis said: “It was such a happy day and there were smiles all around. We were like kids in a candy shop to be honest! “It was such a special day for everyone involved in the project.”

It wasn’t the first time at Westminster for Dennis who has visited twice before. He joked: “I’m used to walking round the corridors of power.”

But it was a first for the other 22 people in the Benin delegation who were told at first that a committee appointment would prevent them from going on a tour of the House of Commons.

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In the end, they got to tour the House of Lords in addition to the House of Commons.

Dennis said: “Lyn Brown held a very nice launch for us. We had a bit of surprise when we were told that we could actually tour both Houses. Our delegation were absolutely delighted.”

But Dennis is now ready to embark on the research he has worked hard to get going along with his project co-ordinator Dr Sam Egharevba.

He added: “Now the real work begins. This month we are starting our volunteer programme, we are hoping to get the Benin website up and running this month, we have five different workshops to set up and we have our exhibitions coming up in April.

“The research will be put on the website but then we will also have the booklets and DVDs out by December. It’s a very exciting time.”