Colonial era carving, Nigeria

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Colonial era carving, Nigeria

This object commemorates a short moment in the British colonial presence in Africa. It is a relief carving of my grandfather, Dr Frank Fox (who was a district medical officer in northern Nigeria) and my grandmother (Mrs Peggy Fox). It was made by the schoolboys of Irrua and presented to them by the headmaster. My grandmother wrote of it in her diary (15.4.1934) "It is most amusing though not in the least complimentary!"
The object reminds me of the unsung footsoldiers of Empire who worked in distant, dangerous parts of the world (West Africa was known as "the white man's grave"), thousands of miles from their children, not for ideaology or personal gain, but out of a sense of duty. It opens a window for me into a period of British history that is still too close for us to face objectively. It brings to life the simple human relationships that bind together people of all races, ages and religions. Finally, thinking of my grandparents' beautiful half-Nigerian great-grandchildren, it makes me think of just how much the world has changed and improved in such a brief moment in history, and how much it might change in my own lifetime.

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Irrua, Nigeria


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