Newham charity awarded more than £83k to educate young people about African culture

Dr Charles Omorodion, coordinator of The Benin Trust

Dr Charles Omorodion - Credit: Karim Camara

A Newham charity has been given more than £83,000 to help educate young people of African heritage about their culture.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded The Benin Trust £83,574 for its Ebira traditional weaving research project.

The Ebira people of Nigeria have traditionally hand-woven textiles for clothing and customs.

Benin Trust coordinator Dr Charles Omorodion and his team spent two years networking with The British Museum, Newham Archives and other local charities to secure the funds. 

“This Ebira traditional weaving is relatable to the partners involved in this project and went down well with young Africans that we spoke to in a seminar,” he told this newspaper. 

The trust will use the funding to organise trips to The British Museum, hold classroom seminars and make documentary films.

Dr Omorodion said: “We are also organising a series of exhibitions where there will be a practical section where people can get their hands on looms and learn how to use them to weave.”

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With the project just starting, the Benin Trust is currently searching for two temporary staff members and 20-30 young volunteers to run the programme.

Hand weaving with looms is not limited to Nigeria and is recorded to have been a practice all over Sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Omorodion added: “We are not zeroing in on Nigerian culture but rather using this as an opportunity to get people of African descent to take interest in their heritage, to appreciate the values and symbolisms of the artwork.”

The trust will focus on African history pre-radio and television to highlight the culture before western media was introduced to the continent.

In addition to the Ebira weaving project, The Benin Trust has set up a programme called African Musicals, which uses African instruments and songs to further represent African cultures and traditions.

Dr Omorodion said: “The younger members of the trust have set up a cultural group where they use storytelling, drums and dance to tell their stories and they perform at different functions.”

The trust is constantly trying to find new ways to educate young Africans, he said.