Nigeria has gotten a lot of attention on this platform in the past few weeks, with the publication of a new e-book the week prior to the election of Muhammadu Buhari over Goodluck Jonathan. I have been wanting to cover the Nigerian Nostalgia Project since Sean brought it to my attention a couple of months ago, but I was waiting for the right time. This time of change and possibilities in Nigeria seems like the right time to look at a project that aims to preserve Nigerian pasts while also facilitating the development of national pride amongst members of the global Nigerian diaspora.
Nigerian Nostalgia has been featured on Africa Is a Country previously, but the project has expanded and evolved since that 2011 post. This hybrid crowdsourced digital archive and social media project originally launched on Facebook as part of an effort to use social media as as “place for the estimated 6 million Nigerian users online to gather and piece together, through commentary and discussion, the fragmented history of our collective recent past.” This emphasis on the psychological potential of this project, according to the Tumblr site, was meant to “reconnect the Nigerian psyche to pre-existent, indigenous and proper thought giving base to national pride and a foundation for a sustainable future.” This emphasis on reconnecting Nigerians to their past is linked to the founder, Etim Eyo, being called unpatriotic by a friend. Based on this, Eyo said that he “wanted to find inside myself what would I be celebrating? And I realized that we have to celebrate the values, history and the things that identify us.” That is the impetus driving the community-building activities associated with this project. Olayemi, the founder and administrator of the Tumblr site, similarly found this project to be an outlet to reconnect to her personal history, as well as challenging popular misconceptions of Africa.
For me, the purpose of this blog is simply to learn more about my history. Collectively, there is constant negativity that surrounds Nigeria and Africa as a whole, so the objective of this blog is to show Nigeria’s true beauty and richness in culture both in the past and at this very moment. And who doesn’t like to see old pictures of their beloved country? Haha.
As Olayemi’s comments indicate, the main focus of this project, whether on Tumblr, Facebook or Instagram, is on photographs as a means to preserve the past, in addition to inspiring nostalgia among Nigerians, wherever they may be located. The Facebook group (which requires membership) is host to a whole range of content, from advertisements in magazines to profiles of athletes to family photos. The Tumblr offers photographs, gifs, and videos that span the Nigerian past from the nineteenth century to the present. Between the two different platforms, users can explore a wide expanse of Nigerian realities, inspiring critical thought and nostalgic reflection. You can see a selection of photos pulled from Tumblr below.
Over the years, the project has jumped from social media to the art scene, being featured in art exhibitions in LagosPhoto 2012 and a “Native Nostalgia” exhibit in Johannesburg in 2013-2014. The Lagos event, in particular, marked the first time that the project left the confines of social media, with the “intimately scaled prints cover the walls of the exhibition venue to form an encapsulating mural.” Curator of LagosPhoto, Joseph Gergel, found that although there was doubt about the transition of the project into a gallery space and the ability to maintain the connectivity that marks the project online, but, he found, “it did: visitors conversed in person and exchanged their own memories of…cultural events.” The analog presentations of the fruits of this digital projects shows just how far an endeavor of this kind can go in forging community outside of physical boundaries.
Contribute to Nigerian Nostalgia through Facebook. You can also submit photos through the Tumblr site. You can also follow Nigerian Nostalgia on Twitter and Instagram. As always, feel free to send me suggestions in the comments or via Twitter of sites you might like to see covered in future editions of The Digital Archive!