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Victor Uwaifo, the Highlife music legend from Benin City

Prof. (Sir) Victor Uwaifo playing Joromi
Prof. (Sir) Victor Uwaifo playing Joromi
Benin City is famous for its millenary culture that can be traced back to the beginning of the 10th century AD with a dynasty of about 30 rulers called Ogisos. They were followed by the Obas, that have been ruling until today. The city is famous for its bronze casting tradition and also for its music.

Prof. Victor Uwaifo is one of the musical legends of Nigeria. He was the first African to win a Record Golden Disc in Africa with a music title called Joromi back in 1966. He spearheaded Highlife music in his own way and represented Nigeria at Festac, Black and Arts festival, in 1977 in Lagos.
Music has always occupied a large part of his life but Prof. is also known to be a man of many talents. He was a good sportsman and he diversified his career by studying arts and sculpture in particular. He has taught for years at Uniben (the University of Benin City) and obtained a PhD in that field in the late 1990s.
Victor Uwaifo representing Nigeria at Festac 77
Victor Uwaifo representing Nigeria at Festac 77
Next to his mansion, located on Victor Uwaifo avenue - a private close-, he built the "Revelation Tourist Palazzo" where he gathered a number of his sculptures in fiberglass to teach visitors selected episodes of the history of Benin and Nigeria described as "the key to historical events, horrors, tragedies, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Beautiful". The street gate is made of iron and decorated with music instruments. It is dominated by a concrete arch onto which the head of a lion has been added. Once through the gate, one faces a concrete replica of an airplane which serves as concert room during the visit, as if one would enjoy a private concert in a plane (the pastor, who acts as a guide, is singing a gospel while playing the guitar for the guests seated on white plastic chairs covered by colourful plastic leather covers to emulate the atmosphere of an aircraft.
The palazzo contains a museum looking like an underground labyrinth. Before entering a patio containing sculptures depicting ancient Benin historical events, our guide is presenting the sculptures at the door: two men, one in traditional attire inherited from the missionaries and another one wearing a more african-looking robe, in the style of a roman toga, with a necklace of coral beads. Next to those statues is a lion tamed by a blonde-looking caucasian women with naked breast protruding out of her scanty dress, it would be an allegory of colonialism with European coming with attractive ideas and goods to subvert the African lion.
In the patio, there is a representation of Prince Odogbo. His father was the Oba of Benin at the end of the 16th century AD. Benin applies primogeniture to pass on royal charges (the first son will inherit the functions of his father). Prince Odogbo was a feminine looking young man so his father ordered that after his death the Prince should walk naked to unveil his manhood to everyone so that he could be succeed to his father as Oba of Benin.
Inside the museum, one starts with a few objects from Victor's youth, his bicycle, a phonograph from his parents' house. From there, a long corridor, leading to a room displaying all the post independence presidents from Nigeria, contains images of Victor as a young boy, then as a young and successful musician, notably the poster of Festac 77 where he represented Nigeria. There are also fiberglass sculptures of chained slaves. Other rooms, include a televised installation on the execution to death of a famous gang terrorising the region of Benin, a collection of Ukughe -wooden sticks containing the spirit of an ancestor - and representations of traditional legendary spiritual figures. A statue of Victor Uwaifo playing guitar was surrounded by a colourful serie of his best stage suits and guitars, among which the keyboard-guitar instrument he claims to have invented. Then comes his music recording studio and an access to the concrete plane. The encounter of Victor and the river goddess was materialised in a corner where Victor was lying in a river playing guitar to the Goddess erected in front of him. That last room had representation of what happened to people who lacked respect to the royal protocol and had to be disposed of, beheaded or hung in the nearby forest.
Victor Uwaifo is having an esoteric encounter with the River Goddess
Victor Uwaifo is having an esoteric encounter with the River Goddess
We bid goodbye to the Revelation Tourist Palazzo, grateful to have escaped a deathly destiny and went straight to Victor Uwaifo's nearby neo-classical mansion. We were ushered for an audience in his royal reception hall where he sat under a large green umbrella, dressed in a beige indian-looking embroidered suit, on a throne labelled "Honorary Ambassador Tourism and Culture". We watched a video of his last concert at Muson center in Lagos where he played "Guitar Boy" with elaborated dance and guitar moves, very fit for a 76 year old man! Prof. Victor Uwaifo gave us a live treat with "Joromi" on acoustic guitar.
Victor Uwaifo's selected guitars and outfits
Victor Uwaifo's selected guitars and outfits
Before leaving we could admire his 1995 custom car, Vision 01, that he designed himself and we parted after a brief benediction in his private "Soul Gate" chapel. This was an extra-ordinary encounter!
Victor Uwaifo's Vision 01
Victor Uwaifo's Vision 01


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