Recently, art historians, curators as well as artists converged on Calabar for the 11th Edition of the Annual Distinguished Lecture on Nigeria Visual arts. CHIKA OKEKE writes that the stakeholders seriously strategised on possible ways of boosting the Nigeria's revenue generation through Visual arts.
The event which attracted eminent art historians and scholars was organized by the National Gallery of Arts at the Calabar Cultural Centre in Cross River state. It was targeted at educating stakeholders and the general public on the various aspects of Nigeria visual arts.
In addition to the lecture, the National Gallery of Arts collate materials generated from such discourse and distribute to arts institutions, artists, embassies and the general public.
The theme of the lecture, 'Imagination' was carefully chosen to advance the cause of knowledge in visual arts as well as seeking avenues to make the arts a major revenue generation base for the country apart from oil.
In his address, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Sen Ahmed Hassan Barata re presented by Hon Morauf Fatia reassured the National Gallery of Art (NGA) of its commitment towards the funding and passage of laws that will facilitate the growth of modern arts.
"I wish to reassure the commitment of the National Assembly to the sector in the area of funding and speedy passage of laws that will facilitate the growth of modern arts and put it in the stead as a viable alternative to oil.
"I like to commend NGA for the effort in organizing this all important event and the progress it has made in carrying out her mandate in spite of the budget constraint".
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke said that the ministry was determined to increase the nation's foreign policy earnings through tourism and arts.
"My Ministry is refocusing her activities towards contributing to government's effort at increasing the nation's foreign exchange earnings through the non-oil export; having understood the need to diversify by enhancing other viable means of revenue generation.
On his part, the Director- General of NGA, Mr. Abdullahi Muku stressed that the lecture was aimed at educating the stakeholders as well as the general public on various aspects of Nigerian Visual arts.
He reiterated the resolve of the agency at ensuring that visual arts becomes a dependable tool for wealth creation in addition to oil.
"I wish to reiterate NGA's commitment to ensuring that Nigerian visual arts becomes a veritable and dependable tool for wealth creation, self reliance, employment generation and a huge foreign exchange earner to the country in addition to oil.
"NGA recorded a flurry of activities in the execution of our mandate and it is our sincere desire to sustain and improve upon our achievements in subsequent years. I am calling on everyone to support and collaborate with us in order to move this subsector forward".
"We successfully carried out various art exhibitions and other art programmes across the 24 states of the federation where we have our outstations. We organized the first ever joint arts exhibition in collaboration with France, Italy, Spain and Korea at the Korean Cultural Centre, Abuja.
"The NGA in collaboration with the Australian government and Australian High Commission presented the Australian Tourism Exhibition which provided opportunities for 15 young Nigerian artists to exhibit photographic works that captured sub- urban life in Nigeria.
In his speech, Professor of Arts History at Miami University Oxford USA, Prof Dele Jegede said that the problems confronting visual arts in Nigeria were multi dimensional and called for the emergence of independent electoral body in Nigeria.
On her part, a lecturer at the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria; Dr Iyabo Khadijah Tijani frowned at the government's inability to give out grants that would boost arts researches in the institutions of higher learning.
"A lot of researches in visual arts have been carried out in the universities, they are all lying there and government is not patronizing the researches. There are many qualified professors around who don't carry out researches because they don't have any grant to facilitate their researches.