Nigerian Rail Heritage: Past, Present, Future

As part of our new blog series that celebrates 7 years of building partnerships with the Heritage Sector, growing expertise, and sharing knowledge, the TORCH Heritage Partnerships Team is pleased to showcase this collaborative visual project between the Oxford Martin SchoolLegacy 1995 and the Nigeria Railways Corporation. The project, which was led by Dr Oliver Owen and Professor Wale Adebanwi, begun with assistance from the Social Science Division's ESRC public engagement funds, and continued with support from the Oxford Martin School's Governing the African Transition Programme, as well as facilitation from the TORCH Heritage Programme. On February 2020, Dr Owen presented 'Rail development and public heritage in Nigeria: Connecting past and future' in the last session of the Heritage Pathway series 'Authenticity'.

This project was an effort to engage with the history of Nigeria's Railways through the perspective of a conversation between past, present and future. It linked the documentation and conservation of Nigeria's railway heritage infrastructure with how it is used, experienced and imagined today, and how that interacts with contemporary conversations on railway development. This involved bringing up themes of history and identity, personal and official memory, colonialism and independence, ruination and reconstruction, and ways of thinking about and rethinking modernity and imagining pasts and futures.


You can see the full exhibition in the following slideshow: 

[Not for reproduction without permission. If you are interested in using any part of this slideshow, please contact Dr Oliver Owen.]

The exhibition organisers would like to thank the Federal Minister of Transport Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, the Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, the RDM Lagos District, Engineer Jerry Oche, The NRC/Legacy 1995 Joint Committee, the Trustees of Legacy 1995, the President Kofo Adeleke, immediate past President Sola Akintunde, and Public Relations Officer Mogbolahan Ajala of Legacy 1995, the site visit teams, the Oxford Martin School, the Oxford University African Studies Centre, The British Overseas Railway Heritage Trust, Mr Timi Amah, Ms Allyn Gaestel, Ms Benedicte Kurzen, Dr Kemi Rotimi, Dr David Pratten, Mr Giles Omezi, Bukola Bolarinwa, former Jaekel House curator Seun Ajagunna, Mr Adewale, Grace Michael, Matthew Otor, Mr Jide Bello, Mr John Smith, Professors John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood, Ms Ore Disu, Benjamin Aletofa, Dr Oliver Cox & Aikaterini Vavaliou, and all the current and former railway employees, passengers and families who contributed their knowledge, insights and memories.


We continue to collaboratively explore Nigeria's railway heritage in different forms. If you are interested to get involved, please contact Dr Oliver Owen or Legacy 1995.

Dr Oliver Owen's research interests centre on political anthropology and the relations between governments and publics in West Africa, the configurations of material interests and experiential meanings construed in these encounters; as part of an anthropology of the state which ‘de-naturalises’ governmental institutions to look at them as social formations.

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