This Day (Lagos)

18 November 2012

Nigeria: All Eyes On the Creative Industry

opinion

Away from oil wealth, the creative industry in Nigeria has been discovered as another great potential for money-making. Fashion designers, make-up artists, photographers, writers, filmmakers, actors, theatre practitioners, musicians and other key players have grappled with so many obstacles that limit their productivity.

Still, Nigeria has been rated as the world's second largest film producing nation, trailing after India. The music scene has also changed the trend in world music culture, making foreign music companies run after music talents in Africa. Nigerian artistes have earned their spot in the sphere of black music and the world is taking our art seriously.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of the attitude of the Nigerian government towards providing an enabling environment for the industry to grow without inhibition. Piracy remains a formidable monster that reduces many artistes to being "popularly poor". Works are frequently copied without artiste's permission and some film producers have been forced to become "taskforce men" during the screenings of their films at cinemas in the fear of some members of the audience who may attempt to record the movies for the purpose of unauthorized sale and distribution.

Lack of funding has crippled the film industry and many producers place the love of money over the love for the art in order to survive. It has also made job opportunities less in that the producer sometimes find it economical to also function as the lead actor, screenwriter, director or production manager. The effect is negative because the end-product of such process is often a shoddy production. For those in the theatre business, it is a battle not to switch to the, otherwise lucrative film industry. There are very few theatre structures available for use. For instance, in Lagos, the National Theatre building is a shadow of itself. It is common for power failure to interrupt performances and torchlights from the audience have always been relied upon for the performances to continue. Other places used in Lagos for stage production such as Terra Kulture in Victoria Island are not exclusive theatres and theatre directors are forced to remove the set designed for their plays after each performance to give room for others who have paid to use the halls for other functions.

These economic barriers formed the content of the talk shop held in Lagos at the 2012 Kuramo Conference. The stakeholders in the creative industry evaluated their performance over the years and discussed ways of lifting the creative economy. Makin Soyinka, a consultant for the Lagos State Government on the Lagos Film City, observed that many film producers in music and advertising deprive Nigerians of job opportunities when they source for film locations in South Africa and other places. The Lagos Film City, he said, was established to tackle this problem and to create a means of revenue earning for the state.

Mahmoud Ali-Balogun, a film producer called for a legislation that can support theatre in order to promote development, giving the Broadway example where the American policy allowed for rich private individuals to fund the art. The creative director of Style House, Omoyemi Akerele expressed her joy at seeing that more Nigerians have become fashion-conscious over the years. She was however concerned that only very few Nigerians wear clothes Nigerian fashion designers. Others, she said still lament that Nigerian-made designer clothes are too expensive.

Commenting on the profitability of music business, the Director of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Audu Maikori pointed out that the social media has had both negative and positive influence on the music industry. While music distribution is made easier through the social media, it is also a quick means of depriving the artiste of his rights to intellectual property. COSON is working on making sure that every Nigerian artiste reaps the fruit of his labour through his royalties. Foreign artistes rely on their royalties long after their active career life is over.

The conference chair and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka in his concluding remarks enjoined creative artists to be original in their creations. He noted that the term "Nollywood" is used in naming the Nigerian film industry after America's Hollywood and it should be embarrassing for any to be associated with such imitation. On the industry's size and fame, the Professor worried that the entire creative industry could end up being "big for nothing" if it fails to improve on the areas that the audience had mentioned.

Some members of the audience asked movie makers to pay attention to the little details of production such as make-up, costume, continuity and content. They were also charged by the audience to deliver stories that can drive policy change and attract investors by telling stories that focus on socio-economic realities. It has been observed over the years that most Nollywood movies tell stories of a man who sleeps with his sister-in-law, a woman who cheats on her caring husband, or undergraduate females who engage in prostitution rather than telling the story of a young boy from a very poor home that struggle to musical fame and lost it all to piracy or music company owners. The latter story is real and can spurn the relevant agencies to make a change in policy to reduce the activities of intellectual property thieves if only the creative artists will use what they have, that is their art to get what they want-their profit. It was also agreed at the conference that criticisms should be taken in stride and not ignored because constructive criticism is a tonic for growth.

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