Feel Africa

The Nigerian ambassador's residence offers a touch of native style.

salon nigeria 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
salon nigeria 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
The Nigerian ambassador, Dr. Anthony Manzo, is actually a medical doctor - a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh - but took up diplomacy in order to play a wider role in helping his people. "Nigeria is a very large country and the only way he can help in a general way is to go into politics," explains his wife, Mary. "As a doctor he is able to help the sick, but as a politician he can affect the lives of all the needy and influence their lives in a positive way." The residence is in Kfar Shmaryahu and was acquired for the embassy about 10 years ago. When the Manzos arrived here two years ago, Mary, the mother of four small children, was somewhat dismayed to discover a western home without a touch of Africa. When she feels a need to "feel Africa," as she puts it, she dresses in colorful national dress - which is how she greeted us on a recent visit. "The previous ambassador had served in Israel without his wife and the residence lacked a woman's touch," she says. "But it also lacked an African touch and these were the two aspects I had to tackle when I arrived." First she went shopping in Israel and bought some three-piece leather suites for the different seating areas. Both are in very pale pastel shades, one green and one blue, and as I wondered how practical this was with four small children around, she assured me they have plenty of other areas to play in. The main sitting area is furnished with a glass and wrought iron coffee table and a massive plasma screen in the corner. Then it was time to bring in some artifacts from Nigeria, and for this Mary went on a shopping trip across the vast country. While the idea was to bring in traditional African art from the scattered villages, it was not always possible. "Most of what I brought is hand-carved and represents the traditional culture, but not everything is old," Mrs. Manzo tells me. "Unfortunately, much of the real tribal art has been bought up by foreign tourists and removed from the country." Nevertheless she made a game attempt, traveling for as much as nine hours across the country in search of authentic art to embellish the residence. She points out some of the highlights of what could truly be dubbed a shopping expedition. On a half-moon table at the entrance, behind which the portrait of the president of Nigeria hangs on a wall, are several statues of typical Nigerian women. One has a calabash on her head, another a pile of what look like clothes. "She is probably selling them," explains Mrs. Manzo. Other statues depict women warriors - she describes them as powerful women of old - and yet another is of a tribal warrior with marks cut into his face, a custom now more honored in the breach than the observance. One favorite carved wood statue is placed on its own in a niche next to the entrance, while another of three intertwined figures represents the three major tribes, symbolically dependent on each other. Between the lounge and the entrance, an artificial indoor garden adds a splash of color while real flower arrangements are scattered around. On the floor, a large African pot contains some sprigs of pussy willow, not often seen in this country. To introduce the culture of Nigeria to Israel, Mrs. Manzo and the Nigerian embassy have been very busy organizing several events at the Givatayim theater. Under the title "Exploring the Wonders of Nigeria," there will be two performances, on the 12th and 13th June, of native dancing and music, together with a fashion show of the brightly colored costumes typical of the region. Earlier on the same days there will be showings of a Nigerian film accompanied by a lecture on the Nigerian film industry, all under the title "Nollywood." An exhibition of Nigerian art will run from June 17th until June 26th and will include traditional and modern art. The residence gives, in a small way, a hint of the diversity and vitality of Nigerian culture. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: [email protected]