The Mysterious Symbol You Probably Haven’t Noticed in UCH
In all sincerity, I would have given anything to make this article come out sooner than this. In fact, I did give everything (as I know it) but it appears having a keen interest in symbolism is not enough to write about them. You have to know someone that knows someone that knows the person that gatekeeps the information. It’s like having the typical experience of the Nigerian labour market although as an undergraduate.
Previously, I had written about the confusion around the symbol of medicine and the not-so-famous backstory of the symbol of love. There were plenty of resources on the internet to help with those, but getting resources for the symbol we will be talking about today cost an arm, well not literally. It is a symbol with local correlation for members of the University College Hospital, Ibadan and apparently, much hasn’t been written on it. It is even doubtful if people pay much attention to this symbol at all.
I once tweeted that people hardly notice the beauty of the University College Hospital because it is either you are in the pursuit of something or something has you on the run. In my case, let us just say I have watched too many magic-themed movies to not notice this symbol when I saw it at the hospital that hosts the best College of Medicine in Sub-saharan Africa. What are produced here are medical doctors and allied health professionals, not Dibias and Babalawos. What exactly was going on?
You should understand my frustration then when I tried getting information on why this symbol is at the gate of the tertiary healthcare provider institution and my efforts proved almost completely abortive. We all know the logo of the hospital which is made up of the acronym, UCH. The logo of the University of Ibadan with its fiery book is no stranger to any student as well, including that of its close brother, the College of Medicine. But look, an impostor! Whose logo is this?
The first response I got came from a staff member who told me that the symbol is most probably the logo of the construction company that built the hospital. However, online searches revealed that the first architectural design was done by W.H Watkins and Partners and they also designed other hospitals like St. John’s Wood and London Colonial hospital, to mention a few, and this “logo” isn’t on any of these hospitals.
If we can’t trace the symbol to the construction firm, it leaves us wondering if perhaps there is something about the symbol that has a direct connection to the hospital? Or perhaps to medicine itself? It gets interesting if we consider the possibility that the symbol has some connection to magic which has been used as an agent of healing in ancient times contrary to what Nollywood would have you believe. To jump to this conclusion, however, would be to err on the side of details. On close examination, one will discover that the symbol associated with magic is a star with five points – a pentagram, while the symbol at UCH is a hexagram with six points. That is a difference that should not be overlooked lest we fall into another trap similar to the Caduceus and the Rod of Asclepius.
Now, at this stage, you may be wondering where else have you seen this in contemporary times? I did too and the answer took me to the Middle East. On the flag of Israel is a blue hexagram sandwiched between two blue stripes. This is also known as the Six-pointed Star of David, indicating its Zionism source. To highlight the importance of the number of points, imagine yourself to be a graphics designer and an Israeli client asked you to make a flier with their national flag. Now, due to some unfortunate circumstances, you used a pentagram associated with magic instead of a hexagram. Although there are indications that both symbols share a common source, you will need a lot of explanation to keep that client. This is why you should take these lessons on symbology that I give freely more seriously but I digress.
So, what ties does UCH have with Judaism? At the point of writing this, we haven’t found any because the W.H Watkins and Partners isn’t owned by a Jewish man and no records have been found indicating a partnership with the Israeli government. However, because Christianity developed from Judaism, some elements such as the hexagram have been adopted by Christianity, especially during medieval times. As Christianity spread to England, the hexagram flowed with it. It was even etched on the floors of the Church of England. Looking at the fact that the hospital was built based on strong ties with London, gives a strong clue to a possible explanation.
Regardless, the jury is still out. UCH is a hospital, not a church. Why is a religious symbol soldered to its gate? This writer will keep digging to find a concrete answer and if found, will be published in subsequent articles of the series.