The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Bayelsa State Governor on Tourism, Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo has again stressed the importance and urgency of coastal communities in the country taking deliberate steps to protect and promote underwater cultural heritage found under their water bodies.
Speaking during a visit to the Regent/Chairman of Akassa Clan Amayanabos’ Council (ACAC), HRH, Ven. Princewill W. Consul-Oluku (rtd) in Yenagoa on Wednesday, in the company of the Acting Curator of the National Museum (Oloibiri Oil & Gas), Mrs Rachel Adelani, Mr Kiyaramo expressed deep concern over the seeming neglect of underwater cultural heritage at the former port of the Royal Niger Company in Akassa Clan in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
He noted that “underwater cultural Heritage is the witness of our common memory, for several millennia”, saying that the wrecks from the Royal Niger Company in Akassa remain an important resource for humanity and therefore needs to be protected and preserved for posterity.
The governor’s aide further observed that these underwater cultural heritage left behind by the then Royal Niger Company in Akassa Clan have invariably placed Bayelsa State as a key marine and coastal recreational tourism destination in the world, adding that: “We have a huge potential for marine recreational tourism in Akassa where tourists can visit to see these submerged cultural heritage”.
He explained that underwater cultural heritage encompasses all traces of human existence that lie or have lain underwater and have a cultural or historical character, such as the Titanic ship, Belitung and the 4,000 shipwrecks of the sunken fleet of Kublai Khan, including sunken ruins and cities , like the remains of the Pharoahs of Alexandria, Egypt, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and thousands of other submerged prehistoric sites around the globe.
Mr Kiyaramo regretted that over the course of the earth’s history, even entire cities have been swallowed by the waves, while thousands of ships have perished at sea.
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According to him: “Our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers have over time hidden from humanity this underwater cultural heritage, just to protect its priceless values, largely unknown and underestimated”, pointing out that coastal and marine cultural heritage is broad and encompasses a range of tangible and intangible artifacts.
He reiterated that while these wrecked ships, structures and other cultural items are not frequently visible from the water’s surface, they have survived at the bottom of lakes, seas and oceans, being safely preserved by the submarine environment.
Kiyaramo further noted that such underwater cultural heritage provides a testimony to the various periods and aspects of our shared history; for example, the cruelty of the slave trade, the ferocity of war, the impact of natural disasters, traces of sacred ceremonies and beliefs and the peaceful exchange and intercultural dialogue between disparate regions of the globe.
Responding, the Regent of Akassa Kingdom/Chairman of Akassa Clan Amayanabos’ Council (ACAC), HRH, Ven. Princewill W. Consul-Oluku (rtd), lamented the looting of the underwater cultural artefacts left behind by the Royal Niger Company in Akassa Clan, including submerged archaeological sites and monuments that have not been investigated and excavated by coastal archaeologists in the area.
While commending the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for recommending the Akassa Slave Trade Center to be updated to the status of National Heritage and Museum, he thanked Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo for drawing the attention of the Senate to the coastal and marine tourism potentials of Bayelsa State, particularly that of Akassa Clan.
The Royal Father assured the entourage of the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Tourism that he will ensure that all cultural heritage sites, especially the slave trade center and the underwater cultural artefacts in the Clan are given maximum attention with a view to protecting them from treasure hunters.
Also speaking, the Acting Curator of the National Museum (Oloibiri Oil & Gas), Mrs Rachel Adelani told the Royal father of her plans to visit the Akassa Slave Trade Centre, following a directive from the Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, to visit the Akassa Slave Trade Center for an on-the-spot assessment and report back to her boss in Abuja.
High point of the visit was the official presentation of a copy of a magazine by the Acting Curator of the National Museum in Yenagoa, Mrs Rachel Adelani to HRH, Ven. Princewill W Consul-Oluku.