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Brief Historical Background on the Establishment of the Centre

cbciu buildingThe Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, was set up in 2009, with the administrative building officially commissioned on January 7, by Koichuro Matsuura, the then Director-General of UNESCO. But the grand opening ceremony had been preceded by years of hard planning and by several visits by UNESCO officials to both Osogbo and Sydney, Australia; as well as by Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the Chairman of the Organisation and the then governor of Osun State, to Paris. The establishment of CBCIU was fully backed by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The ‘remote’ genesis of the establishment of CBCIU goes back to the 1950s, when Ulli Beier, then living in Osogbo, became a good friend of Oba Moses Oyinlola, the Olokuku of Okuku then. Such was their friendship that even though Oba Moses Oyinlola died in 1960, Ulli Beier never forgot him, still writing copiously and glowingly about him in his numerous publications on Yoruba society and culture decades after.

By 2005 Chief Ulli Beier had considered his life’s work done, and wanted to have his archival materials transferred from Sydney, Australia to Nigeria, preferably Osogbo, where he and his wife – Georgina, lived the happiest and most productive years of their lives. He got UNESCO involved so as to guarantee the safety and integrity of the materials and, eventually, the materials came back to Osogbo. Based on a feasibility report submitted by the team that Governor Oyinlola had put together, UNESCO sent two different teams between 2007 and mid-2008 to look at CBCIU’s proposed programme of activities, assess facilities on ground, advise, and make recommendations to UNESCO’s Executive Board. All of these culminated in a visit by the home team to UNESCO late in 2008, to present its case as a Category II UNESCO affiliate.

Former Governor Oyinlola himself was present at the meeting, where the Africa Forum of the Executive Board formally presented the case, and it was duly granted.

The Centre formally opened for business in March, 2009. It must be noted here that while UNESCO looked at the programme of activities, the body does not dictate what activities CBCIU should carry out, either on the short or long-term basis. However, CBCIU must give account of its activities to UNESCO’s Executive Board every two years.

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