Carved monolith made of monzonite with human facial features.

Past exhibition

23 February – 26 March 2023

Room 3

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The Bakor monoliths are among the most important standing stone traditions in West Africa, but their future is under threat.

The monoliths, you see, are precious to us. They were handed over to us by our forefathers. We don’t toy with them. They are significant to us… We look at the monoliths as our second God.

Ntol Emang, Clan head of Nnam and paramount ruler for Ikom Local Government Area


Listed as national monuments by Nigerian authorities and as endangered cultural heritage by the World Monuments Fund, akwanshi now face serious environmental, economic and cultural threats to their preservation. Exposure to sun, acid rain and forest fires have caused – and continue to cause – irreparable damage. Economic need has driven some communities to relocate akwanshi to main roads as tourist attractions, and many have been sold on the international antiquities market. Religious change has led others to abandon akwanshi due to their traditional association with magical power.

Collaborative Nigerian-European teams have undertaken comprehensive digital surveying since 2016 to gain a more detailed understanding of akwanshi. The collective results have contributed significantly to raising international awareness of the threats to their survival. The work of the Spanish-based Factum Foundation, supported by the Carène Foundation, has helped advocate for akwanshi to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Explore photographs of akwanshi in Cross River State in Collection online.

Exhibition supporter

Supported by

The Asahi Shimbum logo

These displays were made possible by the support of The Asahi Shimbun Company, longstanding corporate sponsors of the British Museum. The Asahi Shimbun is a Japanese leading newspaper and the company also provides a substantial information service via the internet. The company has a century-long tradition of philanthropic support, notably staging key exhibitions in Japan on art, culture and history from around the world. In addition to the Asahi Shimbun Displays, The Asahi Shimbun Company is a committed supporter of the British Museum touring exhibition programme in Japan, and funder of The Asahi Shimbun Gallery of Amaravati sculpture in Room 33a.

The Asahi Shimbun Displays