Onunekwuluora: The Legacy of Thurstan Shaw

share on:

Charles Thurstan Shaw was the first person to carry out an Archaeological excavation in Ghana, but later taught at the University College, Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan) from where he retired in 1974.


Ed Keazor, Nigerian Historian, tells the story of Thurstan’s work and personal life in this documentary captioned Onunekwuluora, meaning ‘The Mouth that Speaks for Us.  It is a film that reiterates the fact that before the coming of the white man, the Igbos in particular and Africans in general had their own civilization.


Shaw discovers that the Igbo-Ukwu artefacts date back 100,000 years ago to the delight of the people who confer on him the chieftaincy title of Onunekwuluora.  Isaiah Anozie had in the 1930s excavated bronze materials in his well, but lacked the archaeological knowledge to carry out the studies, which Shaw later did.  Incidentally, Frederick Anozie, Isaiah’s scion, who became of one Nigeria’s foremost archaeologists, was a protégé to Charles Thurstan Shaw.


It is surprising that Thurstan Shaw is not widely popular in Nigeria today, except maybe in Archaeology, despite the selflessness he showed in his work; especially by creating a local museum for the preservation of his discoveries rather than sending the items to the UK.


Keazor captures Shaw’s fascinating personal life vividly.  Having lost his wife in 1992 after 53 years of marriage, Shaw fell in love with a Canadian Student, Dr. Pamela Jane Smith-Shaw, whom he married in 2003.  Doctors had given Shaw a few months to live around the time he remarried.  However, he lived almost a decade longer, dying on 8th March, 2013 at 98.


Charles Thurstan Shaw (1914 – 2013) Commander of the British Empire (CBE) deserves more recognition from the Nigerian government and art associations than he already has.  The documentary by Keazor needs to be subtitled because one could hardly hear what the aged Shaw said his interview in the film.


Amarachukwu Iwuala

Amarachukwu Iwuala

A writer ... in pursuit of excellence

Leave a Response

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.