Our Shared Heritage (OSH)

Connecting cultures through stories, objects and artefacts

Our Shared Heritage Project
 
‘Our Shared Heritage’ project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund explores African stories, objects, tricksters, gods and goddesses and their counterparts in other cultures – Asian, Aztec, European and Islamic. Our project partners have included The British Museum, Barking Learning Centre, Vision-Redbridge Culture and Leisure, Goldsmiths University of London, Stratford Libraries and various schools. The research project featured exhibitions and performances of the devised music theatre piece, ‘The Green Stone Bead’.
'The Green Stone Bead' receives  
Take our OSH Fun Quiz
Planning
Publicity
Volunteers/Researchers
Cross Cultural Heritage Training
Cross Cultural Storytelling Training
Objects and Artefacts
Creative Process
Resource Pack and Learning Activities
Take OSH Fun Quiz
OSH Evaluation and Feedback

Planning

We held planning meetings with strategic partners, researchers and volunteers to review the project timetable, outputs and outcomes and also their implementation.

 

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Publicity

We publicised the project using various print and electronic media - leaflets, posters, email campaign, newspapers, e-bulletins, social media, radio and television.
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Volunteers/Researchers

16 volunteers were recruited and inducted to facilitate the smooth running of the project.  Six worked as researchers – Aby M’bengue (Rooster symbolism around the world), Vanessa Jubey (Coral Beads), David Garnett (Mami Wata), Sarah Okpokam (Gods and Goddesses), Edem Mensah (Stories and Tricksters), Ekua Agha (The shared heritage of Asante Kente).
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Cross Cultural Heritage Training

67 project participants from the community and heritage sector - volunteers, heritage officers, library staff, teachers, students of higher education, current and would-be storytellers, etc. took part in training at The British Museum to develop skills on connecting cultures through stories, objects and artefacts.
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The Gods, Goddesses, Objects and Artefact

We explored various myths, legends, objects and artefacts and identified their cross cultural connections.

Thunder gods
Our research revealed that quite commonly, thunder gods are depicted with a physical embodiment of their power – Sango, with his double-headed axe; Zeus, with a thunderbolt; Thor, with his hammer; Lei Gong holding a thunderbolt or a drum or axe or mallet.

Mami Wata
We also found that ‘Mami Wata’ is often personified in the rainbow python in various cultures. The snake is commonly used as well to illustrate life, rebirth and fertility. For example, the Naga water spirits from Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist mythology in India, have the head and torso of a human and the tail of a serpent, and live in bejewelled sub aquatic paradises at the bottom of rivers, lakes and seas just like the ‘Mami Wata’!

Coral beads
During our research, we learnt that Coral beads have been used for centuries in various parts of the world and in many cultures have become symbols of wealth and prosperity and are also believed to be of spiritual significance. Coral beads are the name for beads made out of ‘Corallium rubrum’ or ‘precious coral’, a species of coral known for its bright red or pink colour.From medieval times, Coral in Europe has been associated with healing properties; beads were often placed around children’s necks in order to keep sickness at bay. Did you know that?In modern Italy, people still wear ‘Corno’ meaning horn, which are little amulets of Coral, around their necks as good luck charms.

 

Cockerel

‘Because the cock is usually the first bird to be heard in the early morning all over the world, people regard him as a solar bird.’ [1]Since Antiquity, the cockerel has always been considered as a sacred animal and played an important role in many religious belief systems and god worshipping rituals around the world. In Africa, cocks are more often cooked or sacrificed than hens. Firstly, because hens are essential to replenish the stock, they lay eggs and raise chicks. Secondly, cocks are associated with the sun; in that sense they have a mystical value.

 

[1] Werness H., 2007.Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in World Art. P.89 2 Ibid. P.92
[1] Feng, X.,2012. Chicken and Family Prosperity: Marital Ritual among the Miao In Southwest China. p.3-4 4 Mac Mahon,M., 2014. What is a Cockerel?
 
Ares, Greek god of war Ogun, Yoruba god of war
 
Eben, Benin Ceremonial Sword Nalain, Islam
 
River goddess, Congo Ganga, River goddess, Hindu
 
Kente cloth, Ghana Various Scottish tartans
 
Red Igbo hat, Nigeria A felt fez hat, Turkey
 
Coral bead, Nigeria Coral bead, Holland
 
Bronze Rooster, Benin Bahuchara Mata, Hindu goddess
 
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Cross Cultural Storytelling Training

10 trainees accessing our training at The British Museum undertook additional training with IROKO exploring oral storytelling performance techniques in a cross cultural context.  Successful trainees received National Open College Network (NOCN) accredited IROKO certificate in ‘African Heritage & The Everyday’.
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Creative Process

We analysed all the research materials and used it to create a new play, “The Green Stone Bead”, a music theatre piece.  We then held a workshop audition to recruit performers for the showcase performances and exhibition. ‘The Green Stone Bead’ featured spellbinding cross-cultural storytelling. The performances and exhibitions of the project research material took place at The British Museum, Goldsmiths, University of London, Barking Learning Centre, Redbridge Central Library, Stratford Library and in various schools across London.

Track 2: We will charm Olokun with Love

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Downloadable Resource Pack and Learning Activities

We have put together a FREE Resource Pack together with fun Learning Activities that cover various curricular subject areas e.g. RE, Arts, History, Geography, PSHE & Citizenship, ICT, English, Literacy, Drama, etc.Please feel free to download and enjoy!
Final Resource Pack
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OSH Fun Quiz 

Participate in the Fun Quiz to heighten your understanding of our shared heritage!
Please allow few seconds for the quiz to load up.
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OSH Evaluation and Feedback

By: Orode Faka

OSH Evaluation and Feedback

 

About the project:

…We’d like to say how much we’ve enjoyed working with you on the training sessions and watching the way you’ve transformed your growing knowledge of the Museum’s collection into creative performances.
Siân Hunter Dodsworth
Former Head of Community Partnerships
Learning, Volunteers & Audiences, The British Museum
IROKO and the British Museum had worked together for several years, and this was a really nice way to strengthen the relationship and do something a bit different.
Lorna Cruickshanks
Community Partnerships Coordinator
The British Museum
Staff who attended either the training or the performance felt it was an excellent way to highlight different cultures using history/artefacts. The performance was well received by the audience, although it was a different style of performance than previous years, it encouraged families into the library.
Maria Barnes, Team Leader Area 1 Libraries,
LB Barking & Dagenham, Barking Learning Centre
The project has allowed us to explore how we can deliver information, cultural and educational activity in the library, using a creative dramatic performance.
Trevor Mbatha,
Community Hub Senior Officer, Stratford Library
It was very interesting to learn about different stories and connections within the British Museum’s collections, which our team can take forward when working with others.
Lorna Cruickshanks
Community Partnerships Coordinator
The British Museum
The OSH enhanced the service delivery of our organisation in two main ways. Firstly, staff were given the opportunity to learn about the artefacts of other cultures and how functional objects could be designed differently for different climates and cultures. This fostered cultural understanding and acceptance.
Rhonda Brooks, Development Librarian
Vision-Redbridge Culture and Leisure, Redbridge Central Library
 

About the performance and exhibition:

IROKO bring so much energy to anything! IROKO are so open to share fascinating stories from African culture and connecting this to other cultures around the world – a natural partner for the British Museum
Lorna Cruickshanks
Community Partnerships Coordinator
The British Museum
“The Green Stone Bead” combined many elements of ancient and contemporary mythologies with different styles of music and dance to tell a story of Anansi, Monkey and Eshu questing to retrieve a sacred bead… The bead around which the story was formed was an original concept but was based on collaborating research on the significance of beads for cultures all over the world.
Emily Feltham, July 2015
From her dissertation in partial fulfilment for the MA degree Advanced Studies in the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
By: Alvin Kofi
The OSH performance gave the local community the opportunity to learn about other cultures and experience them via performance, music and dance. This helped us to engage the community in a new way and interest them in a new area and promote tolerance and understanding.
Rhonda Brooks, Development Librarian
Vision-Redbridge Culture and Leisure, Redbridge Central Library
Before entering the auditorium the visitors were invited to explore an exhibition created by IROKO of textiles, objects and information relating to the performance. As well as reading about different cultural mythologies, visitors were able to hold objects and try on clothing, offering a more participatory experience than the majority of the museum’s galleries.
Emily Feltham, July 2015
From her dissertation in partial fulfilment for the MA degree Advanced Studies in the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
The performance was so much fun! And having the mini exhibition with objects and the research gave people a really nice intro to what had taken place in the lead up to the performance.
Lorna Cruickshanks
Community Partnerships Coordinator
The British Museum
It was really great to go to the British Museum and see the artefacts and actually be able to handle some of them. The translation of the artefacts into a performance was also really interesting.
Rhonda Brooks, Development Librarian
Vision-Redbridge Culture and Leisure, Redbridge Central Library
By far the most successful aspect of IROKO’s performance was the end sequence, in which the characters invited children from the audience to join them in a celebratory dance… Bringing the children to the stage one by one sent a clear message that they were welcomed and wanted, and believed to have something to contribute.
Emily Feltham, July 2015
From her dissertation in partial fulfilment for the MA degree Advanced Studies in the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
The beauty of The Green Stone Bead lies in its theatrical simplicity – and its rather more complicated background… This tasteful, family-friendly musical is well choreographed, well directed and well performed.
Chris Omaweng
London Theatre 1 Review
I think it was a great way of promoting cross-cultural understanding. Plus tolerance and acceptance and perhaps curiosity. It was also useful for participants to have the booklet to take away for future reference.
Rhonda Brooks, Development Librarian
Vision-Redbridge Culture and Leisure, Redbridge Central Library
Not since I attended a performance of Hair at the Gielgud Theatre in 2010 have I seen such a display of members of the audience taking to the stage. The big dance was kept simple enough for everyone to follow – and yes, there is a little part of me that regrets remaining seated!
Chris Omaweng
London Theatre 1 Review
By: Ololade D Ajala
‘The Green Stone Bead’ written and directed by Alex Oma-Pius FRSA was a unique production that seemed to evangelise the universality of cultures. It spoke about Man's seeming irresponsible drift towards self-destruction and the intervention of the spiritual powers of creation and administration.
Peter Olorunnisomo
Comments from Facebook
“I liked the music and felt good to witness a heritage I have never seen before.”
Anonymous, Redbridge Central Library
 
“I enjoyed the story itself, the engaging way it was shared and the fun ending with everyone joining in! Excellent job!“
Sarah A., Redbridge Central Library
“It is always a pleasure to join IROKO and very informative, especially the dancing + stories.”
Anonymous, Barking Learning Centre
“I am a 50 year old attended with my six year old and we both had an amazing experience. Fun for all ages as well as cultures.“
Mother, Stratford Library
“Best way of publishing Black history through performance and guest speakers (researchers) that does not happen through the education system.”
Anonymous, Goldsmith University
“A very effective and fun way of sharing our cultural heritage. I am Indian and loved the way you bought our world in to share.”
Anonymous, Goldsmith University
“This is a great way of sharing, shared culture in a fun way that keeps people of all ages engaged.”
Anonymous, Goldsmith University
By: Gillian Lawrence - Masterclass
“Excellent performance- brilliant way to have linked all object explored at the British Museum.”
Anonymous, Goldsmith University
“It was a beautiful experience, a good way to share the day with the children”
Mother, Goldsmith University
“Best way of publishing black history through performance!!!”
Olawale, Goldsmith University
“African art should be promoted and taught often because the roots of culture is fastly disappearing among the African in the diaspora”
Anonymous, Goldsmith University
I could not be there but am so very proud to be part of this successful venture- long may it continue!
Amanda Kipling, PGCE Drama Programme Leader, Disability Officer
Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
Well, congratulations on having such a success… The review is excellent - well done.
Chris Lawrence, London Drama
 

Need for wider sharing:

“This performance should take place in many more places.”
Anonymous, Redbridge Central Library
“This event defiantly needs a wider audience. The art and interpretation was beautiful and perfectly portrayed. Excellent Performance!!”
Anonymous, Stratford Library
“Would have benefitted from being on a stage. Lottery money well spent.”
Mechelle J., Stratford Library
“Fantastic show- Needs to tour!!!”
Child, Goldsmith University
I think it will be fantastic if we can have another opportunity to enjoy "The Green Stone Bead" one more time during the Yoruba Arts Festival 2015. I will appreciate if this request is considered …Thanks.
Omoluwabi Toks Soluade
Esoe Remo Network Int Projects& Yoruba Arts Festival 2015

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Please click here to give your feedback of your experience of Our Shared Heritage Project. Thank you.

Contact us now for bookings and more information.

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