Google Arts & Culture on Thursday announced a partnership with The Adunni Olorisha Trust and CyArk to launch the first and most extensive digital library of content showcasing the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove.
Located on the forested banks of the Osun river in Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria, the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Google Arts & Culture’s mission is to preserve and promote the world’s art and culture online, allowing anyone, anywhere in the world, to share in it.
The purpose of the Susanne Wenger Adunni Olorisha Trust is to preserve and promote the Sacred Groves of Osogbo and the New Sacred Art, Nigeria’s most important cultural site, celebrating the heritage and contemporary art.
CyArk, on the other hand, is a nonprofit in Oakland, California, United States, whose mission is to “digitally record, archive and share the world’s most significant cultural heritage and ensure that these places continue to inspire wonder and curiosity for decades to come.
The launch marks the digital preservation of one of Nigeria’s last remaining sacred groves and is part of Google Arts and Culture’s wider Heritage on the Edge project.
The project seeks to support site managers in digitally documenting heritage sites at risk due to climate change, using the imagery captured to support community maintenance and conservation further.
Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove project
Highlights include a 75ha Street View of the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove, including the Busanyin Shrine before it was affected by the flood and 3D models of four of the site’s dynamic shrines.
The collection allows people to view 900 high-resolution photographs of the site, contemporary and historical artworks and sculptures, artists and spiritual leaders.
It also tells 28 stories about art, community and spirituality at the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and the effect of climate change at the site.
It includes three audio interviews, including one with famous artist Jimoh Buraimoh about Susanne Wenger.
The project also allows visitors to watch 27 video interviews and see aerial views and 3D views of the site, while annotated 3D tours of the Busanyin and Iya Moopo shrines showcase the legacy of art and spirituality at the sacred grove.
Chance Coughenour, Program Manager and Digital Archaeologist, Google Arts & Culture, said, through partnerships, one of the most recognised, culturally rich Yoruba heritage sites, known for active traditional worship and contemporary art movements, can now be preserved.
“Through state-of-the-art technologies, site managers will be able to monitor and mitigate the effects of the changing climate and more broadly provide resources to support growing the capacity for the preservation of heritage sites”, added Mr Coughenour.
The Grove is several centuries old and among the last sacred groves of their kind, which joined the edges of most Yoruba cities before the mass shift from rural to urban areas.
On the site, Yoruba deities are embodied in shapely, sculpted shrines where creativity and spirituality come to life.
The Grove has been in danger of destruction due to flooding, heavy rain and climate change. The Busanyin Shrine was damaged in floods shortly after being digitally captured.
“The Yoruba community is one of the largest in Nigeria. The Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove is truly a unique and special place that embodies the essence of the Yoruba culture and heritage. We are excited about the digital preservation of the site and the partnership with Google Arts & Culture. It offers an amazing body of work that portrays the admirable culture of the Yoruba people to the world,” says Olufemi A. Akinsanya Akinsanya, Chair, Save Our Art! Save Our Heritage! Campaign.
Kacey Hadick, Director of Programs and Development, CyArk, said the work in Osogbo has been a true collaboration between Nigerian government officials, local NGOs, the community of Osogbo, and Jimoh Oyetunji Olanipekun Larooye II.
He said all the parties are working together to share the stories of Osogbo with a broader audience.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed thanked Google Arts and Culture and its partner for digitising the Osun Osogbo shrine and its surroundings, thus protecting them for posterity.
“I said during the visit to the Grove in 2019 that it was important to refocus national and global attention on this world heritage site. I am glad we achieved our purpose, as can be attested to by this project digitising the shrine and its surroundings. I wish to commend all the partners for this monumental work most sincerely,” the minister said.
Through past projects like Taste of Nigeria and Eko for Show, Google Arts and Culture says it has helped people worldwide experience Nigeria’s heritage and history.
The launch of the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove project allows new audiences locally and internationally an opportunity to experience its past, present and future, reinforcing Google’s commitment to preserving Nigeria’s cultural heritage.
Google Arts & Culture is accessible to everyone on the web or via the Arts & Culture App on iOS and Android. Google Arts & Culture is a new way to experience art, history, culture, and world wonders from over 1000 organisations worldwide.
The Osun Osogbo, Sacred Grove project can be explored via goo.gle/osun-osogbo
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