By Prisca Sam-Duru
The out gone year would pass as one of the most difficult years in the history of Nigeria as it was characterised by serious hardship that affected virtually every aspect of life.
It was therefore with a lot of enthusiasm that Nigerians welcomed 2019 with lots of faith and optimism that this year would turn out much better.
In the art and culture sector, producers and stakeholders are no less optimistic that 2019 definitely, is a year that a huge progress will be achieved such that the impact will be felt internationally.
The general elections coming up in February not witstanding, it is hoped that inspite of who becomes the next president of the country or who is appointed to pilot the affairs of the art and culture sector, a lot of issues not addressed and areas left untapped or harnessed, will be given adequate attention.
Some stakeholders shared their thoughts and expectations for the year 2019.
Betty Abah, Lagos-based poet, activist and founder of CEE-HOPE, a child’s right and development NGO, begins on a sad note. “First, the tragic loss of NLNG award winner and one of the most profound poets of our generation, and my university school senior, Mr. Ikeogu Oke towards the end of last year has already cast a shadow on the literary scene.
Nevertheless, we will not lose hope. Nigeria keeps churning out the very best in the creative arts especially in writing and the rest of the world keeps wondering what is in our waters that keeps turning out these creative geniuses. Ironically, the challenges, indeed dysfunctionalities in our system are ‘perfect’ recipes for these compelling stories.
This year is an interesting one, especially if there is a change of government. In my estimation, the current government hasn’t done much in terms of promotion or support for the arts beyond the usual rhetorics and propaganda.
I believe the new government, or if the current one survives our angst and retains power, should reduce import tariffs on educational materials, set up literary endowments (it’s a shame that most of our biggest names including Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chimamanda, Helon Habila, Ibrahim Abubakar Adam are more honoured abroad while at home, social misfits and incompetent characters are controlling our destinies, via political machineries.
The Federal Government can do more to encourage writing and reading culture than the power pittances around in the name of ‘trader moni’.
Other stakeholders should also partner with governments at the various levels to initiate programs that would encourage especially young people (the bulk of our population) creatively, and that includes writing programs. That is a positive way to channel their restless energies and also produce positive results in the end.
Former Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (Lagos State Chapter), Mufu Onifade, said “In my candid opinion, we now have in the sector credible stakeholders and practitioners who are bent on redefining the industries – be it in the Theatre, Entertainment or Visual Arts. The performing arts have performed creditably well. So is the Visual Arts, and so is the Entertainment. There is a steady rise from the sludge of the economic recession that almost crippled the entire industries. The fact that the government has focused more on the industry rather than individuals has made the building of viable institutions more practicable and more result-oriented. Now, we can all look towards building enduring legacies as a progressive transition from the norm of the past.
As a former Association leader in the Theatre Industry and former Convener of the Coalition of Nigerian Artistes which attended to issues across the sectors and the industries, I wish to enjoin all Arts Associations in the Arts/Entertainment Sectors to forge an alliance with government in such a way that can build the industries above individual aggrandizement. We should discountenance the idea of individuals going to government for personal gains.
While the government has a responsibility to provide an enabling environment for the industries to thrive, the stakeholders should also cash in on such proactive and profitable developments to redevelop the industry.
It will be a thing of joy for us to see the industries now being more professionalized than ever before. Those who are worth their onions in terms of competences should take charge and recreate the kind of dynamism that can give us a brighter face on the international scene. We have great exports here in Nigeria, and that should be done in the way that garners respect and honour to us as practitioners and to our dear nation.”
Nzennaya Barry Ikechukwu, a visual Artist whose works of art project family affairs, social lifestyle , cultural values , and societal documentations, expresses most of his ideas through the use of shapes, that looks more of geometric forms, said “Producing work of art that projects our cultural values and heritage especially in schools should be focused on. My expectation is to see the art community host shows that will express more of our cultural values. I hope that art collectors and lovers will continue to patronize and place high value on art pieces that have to do with our cultural values. It will be good to have more programs or platforms created by the government to assist young artists who are creative, talented and vibrant. The assistance could be in form of funds as that is the major challenge most young and creative artists face .