There may be few museums on this planet to rival the Nationwide Museum of Niger.
It has shows masking artwork, historical past, dinosaurs, nuclear power, craftwork and music in addition to reside animals, for it is usually a zoo.
Its clientele is equally numerous, encompassing guests who’ve trekked to the capital Niamey from throughout the nation, college teams, well-heeled international vacationers and avenue urchins.
The cultural gem of the world’s poorest nation, the 24-hectare (59-acre) museum survives on a price range that for wealthy counterparts is the equal to cash discovered down the again of the couch.
But it prices a rock-bottom entrance price — round 10 US cents — in order that even probably the most impoverished can stroll in and have entry to distinctive issues… together with wild animals. “Fauna and tradition,” because the museum says.
“It’s Niger’s mirror, its social and cultural reflection,” stated its director, Haladou Mamane, proudly ticking off its strengths in tradition, historical past, archaeology, palaeontology… not forgetting the zoo part, “a part of a multi-disciplinary custom.”
“Right here, each Nigerien, no matter their background, can achieve insights in regards to the nation,” stated Mamane, noting that many individuals in Niger have by no means been to high school.
Sizzling and arid, positioned within the coronary heart of the Sahel, Niger ranks the bottom amongst 189 international locations on the UN’s Human Improvement Index. Per capita revenue is simply $1,040 (855 euros) per 12 months — simply over $2.5 per day, based on the World Financial institution.
Including to the burden is a crippling jihadist insurgency. Two, actually — one coming from the southeast, from Nigeria, and one from the southwest, from Mali.
The state gives the museum with an annual subsidy of 327 million CFA francs ($610 000) and revenue from the meagre entrance price of 50 CFA francs covers nearly a 3rd of prices.
Avenue youngsters’ museum
Earlier than the pandemic, it obtained greater than 100,000 guests per 12 months, lots of them so-called talibe kids.
These are kids who’re distinctive to West Africa — their mother and father hand them to a sort of Islamic college, the place they’re purported to be taught the Koran.
However they sometimes spend their days begging within the dusty streets with a metallic receptacle strung round their neck, and plenty of discover the museum is an excellent escape.
One such was 12-year-old Ismael Mariama, who after enjoying on the slides and seesaws watched a big lion taking a day nap.
“I got here to see the animals. I paid 50 francs,” he stated, clad in worn, grubby garments.
“I got here from Yantala,” a rundown district in northwestern Niamey, “to return and see the animals, the monkey, the lions, the crocodiles,” he stated.
“I’ve seen every thing,” stated the lad, earlier than placing his hand between the bars of a cage to provide a biscuit to the monkeys.
He added that he had been to the museum’s part on Nigerien craftwork and was within the leather-based sneakers.
Mamane stated he was particularly happy with the craftwork space — a spot that gives a store window for sculptors, painters, potters and leatherworkers, who can promote what they produce.
The artisans come from throughout this ethnically numerous nation — an indication of “nationwide unity,” stated Mamane.
“It’s a bit laborious with the coronavirus, however the museum is an efficient factor for us,” stated Ali Abdoulaye, a leatherworker.
“Nowadays, artisans are shedding out to cheaper Chinese language merchandise — however you purchase a (Chinese language) purse, and it falls aside after a few days.”
Just a few metres (yards) from the museum’s primary corridor is a star attraction — the skeletal stays of three monsters from the Age of the Dinosaurs.
They embody Sarcosuchus imperator, an 11m (36-feet) -long crocodile, whose fossil was found within the Agadez area by a French palaeontologist, Philippe Taquet.
The museum, based simply earlier than Niger gained independence from France in 1960, is planning on a refurbishment and an enlargement subsequent 12 months with the assistance of worldwide donations.
As in lots of museums around the globe, it seems to sponsors for exhibitions.
A present on uranium, Niger’s excellent mineral wealth, is funded by the French firm Orano, beforehand Areva, whose subsidiaries function two mines within the south of the nation.
Subsequent to it’s an exhibition on oil, which has not too long ago been found in Niger. The show, which incorporates an unlimited mannequin of a refinery in Zinder, southern Niger, has been funded by the China Nationwide Petroleum Company (CNPC).
The museum guarantees that when the constructing work is full, the 111 species within the zoo will take pleasure in “improved residing circumstances”.
© Agence France-Presse