This museum is important for the sole reason that it’s Nigeria’s first museum. It’s super important because it allegedly has the largest collection of soap stones in the world. Unfortunately pictures aren’t allowed but you can at least see what the compound looks like in our video.
Tradition has it that some rebellious people from Oke-Odo in Oyo state sent word to Elesie of Esie in Kwara State that they were coming to settle down in his town but were disappointed when they got there and there was no one to receive them. They thereby decided to settle outside the city of Esie.
These settlers started to become a threat to the security of the city as they were undermining the administration of the chief. They were all set to rebel and as a result, the god of the land who was on the side of Elesie of Esie, turned all 800 settlers into soap stone statutes.
These sculptures depict men and women sitting, standing, kneeling, playing musical instruments, holding machetes etc. Some of the female sculptures were even pregnant.
These soap stones were discovered by a hunter called Baragabon in a semi circular arrangement under a palm tree.
Till almost recently, the people of Esie worshiped the soap stones but the Elesie (king) wasn’t allowed near the statues. The king apparently stopped the worship of the soap stones and encouraged them to follow other ‘acceptable religions’.
the white man archaeologists dispelled the myths and said that they were carved by a human as there are traces of crude tools being used on the statues.
I prefer the traditional version as it sounds like something that could have been part of Greek Mythology except it ours.
Upon our visit to the museum while we were exploring Kwara, we were welcomed by the curators and told the rules of the museum with the most important being that PICTURES ARE NOT ALLOWED (can someone please stop this madness?)
We were then led into a building which was a new addition according to our curator. She mentioned that it was added as something extra so people didn’t feel like all they saw during their visits were the soap stones.
This building housed various things from the different tribes in Nigeria. From clothes to tools, jewelry to weapons, samples could be found there. We were impressed and I felt that in terms of artifact collections it was one of the richest I had seen. It definitely hurt Travel With A Pen and I’s souls that we couldn’t capture these things.
After going round we went to see the major attraction – the soap stones in all their glory. It was creepy and amazing at the same time. Some had lost their heads, some were broken but these were the famous soap stones of Esie sitting in their dedicated mud house.
Some of us found the story fascinating and the rest, well they flat out found it unbelievable. Whichever way, it was an interesting situation and we were also able to see old pictures of when they were originally found.
After this we went back into the compound and we were shown the palm tree that they were found under. The museum had been built around it.
We also saw a small shed that housed the names of all the Elesies of Esie and where people used to come worship.
While we might not believe the myths surrounding these soap stones, it was nice to see something so traditional and vital to the history of the town being preserved.
The museum could definitely do with a bit of a renovation but reports say they make about N10,000 monthly and that’s not nearly a quarter of what is needed to sustain the place.
So do we think Esie Museum is worth a visit?
Issa yes from us and remember to keep an open mind.
*Entry fee – N100 (they charge more for foreigners).
They open everyday from 8.30am – 5pm
Also the museum is not on the main road so you have to sort out proper transportation as it’s not easy to get transportation around that area.
Have you been to Esie Museum? Did you find the story as spooky/interesting as we did?
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*Reviews are based on opinions and personal experiences, and may differ from person to person
*prices written are based on the time the visit was made and is subject to change by the owners.