Documenting Nigerian History: Five Questions with Etim Eyo
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Etim Eyo started the Nigeria Nostalgia Project after a friend called him unpatriotic. The Facebook group with nearly 50,000 members celebrates the history of the country through photographs. Eyo talked about the project during the Our Story – Connecting & Teaching Nigerian History with Social Media panel. He told us how he started the project, the trust he had to build with his audience and what’s next for the project.
How did you get the idea for the project?
The idea really came from a personal experience. There was a celebration in 2010 about Nigeria at 50 and I didn’t agree with all of the celebrations that were earmarked for that period. I was invited to a dinner in Washington D.C. where the president’s wife was supposed to be attending. And I said to a friend who invited me, ‘Well I’m not going.’ And he called me unpatriotic and all kinds of names. I 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.
So when you started the project in 2010, did it just start as a Facebook group?
Yes, The Nigeria Nostalgia Project was a Facebook initiative. I pinged all my friends and got them all to join. I worried them until they went and looked for photographs that they had in their family albums and shared. At first people started sharing photographs that were already available on the Internet. Then a year or two years after people started to share personal photographs.
Did you get any pushback from people in the beginning of the project? Comments such as why are we celebrating old news?
A lot of the feedback I got was very positive. We did get a lot of hesitancy of people, who had a lot of information, to share their private information publicly. We had to make people trust us. We had to make them feel ‘well if I share my information here its not going to be ragged on by someone else, or someone’s not going to say something stupid about my family.’ So we incorporated rules for what you could post. We don’t allow any kind of insults. Once you use a four-letter word we kick you out.
Is there something in the group that you learned that you didn’t know about Nigerian history before?
Absolutely. The fact that nearly two million people died in the Civil War from 1967-70. I had no clue that that many people died.
Okay and finally, you started as a Facebook group. Where are you now with the project?
Right now, we realize that we’re an identity project. And we’re collecting every thing that forms part of a collective identity for Nigerians and for Africans. We’re starting an Ethiopian Nostalgia Project also. We’ve had a bunch of Ethiopians who are interested in this. We’re also looking to start ones for Ghana and other African countries one by one. Our aim is to elevate the identity and perception of Black people around the world. Using these photographs, using every element we can share amongst ourselves to gain a better understanding of who we are and also promote the qualities and values we contribute to the world.
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