Ase Kingdom Movie Documentary Project: Examining Why The Canoe Carving Tradition Still Persists (Video)

The Oasis Reporters

February 10, 2020

Screenshot of canoe paddling on Ase River.
A camera man at the back.
Mr Tony Ibeni, movie director of the documentary project being paddled along the Ase river during the shoot.

When the Annual Congress of the descendants of the ancient Kingdom of Ase in the United States of America was convened in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2019, one of the resolutions adopted was to make efforts towards shooting a movie documentary that would tell the story of the riverine community, showcase it’s rich and variegated culture, kingship system that has survived for centuries, explore it’s culture, examine it’s economy and suggest the pathways to reinvent it’s future while proffering the ways to change and hasten modernity in its ways of life.

There have been a few raw clips of some shoots done by movie actor and producer, Tony Ibeni which were sent to the United States and the intense interest it generated took the organizers by surprise, and this was pleasant.

Indigenous Ase grandchildren born in the US who are American citizens were so excited about it and have submitted some of them to funding organizations and this is gathering huge interests, and Americans just can’t wait to see all of it.

Spearheading the project are Ebeneze Ozor, Kristy Ikanih and a host of other Americans, some of Ase origin.

The Director of Photography for the project sent an uncut clip of the Wooden Canoe tradition that has remained unchanged for over 700 years to The Oasis Reporters.

Despite surviving for centuries and still sustaining basic transportation needs on the river Ase, it’s fish harvesting methods and boat regatta cultural tradition, in the light of of today’s economy, there is a gaping need for change as observed by The Oasis Reporters, a media consultant to the project.

Watch the clip and notice that it took two young men to paddle the filming crew across the river on all sides during the shoot. Their cameras may be amphibious ones with excellent picture quality, but the risks seem enormous and the labor, intense.

Assuming that it was a motorized canoe, shooting time would have been reduced to a small fraction of the time spent. Enough resting time would have been saved and more work would have been achieved.

Curiously, Ase-American children who were given a sneak preview of the clip were enthralled to see how their ancestors travelled, the physical energy expended and how the economy was sustained for the people to get a good life.

The Canoes carved out of Iroko trees which abound in the mangrove swamps, logged and transported by pulling into the open for the wood carver to display his expertise on turning wood into canoes that can float on water is not a mean task, and certainly not a job suitable for the faint hearted. It gets done by the strong and the energetic only.

The Ase canoe used to be the sole means of transportation before the advent of motorized boats on water, Ships and other forms of transport.
Besides, being a predominantly coastal or aquatic community, Ase Kingdom was insulated from upland areas due to a lack of access roads, until the third republic when the government of James Ibori constructed a road to many riverine communities as well as building bridges across rivers. Still the tradition of canoe paddling persists.

Ase is one of the significant towns in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State in South South Nigeria. The kingdom was one of the earliest recipients of European explorers, the last wave being the British colonialists through whom the British Royal Niger Company built a trading outposts for the export of commercial farm produce to England in times past. The relic of their outpost still remains, two hundred or more years after.

Early contact between the British colonialists and the Ase Kingdom brought Christianity that coexisted peacefully with traditional modes of worship, education and a shift to commercial agricultural production that also coexisted with subsistence agriculture, fish farming inclusive.

In the coming weeks and months, funding would be eagerly awaited to complete the documentary project and showcase the rich reservoir of Ase depth in history, economy, culture, religion and much more.

Written by Greg Abolo.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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