6 January 2013

Nigeria: The Need to Review National Policy On Arts and Culture

The current National Policy on Arts and Culture is at the front burner. CHIKA OKEKE writes that stakeholders as well as arts historians are calling for an urgent review of the policy in order to address the existing challenges confronting the sector.

For Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Ugochukwu Achebe; a lover of arts and culture, the urgent review of the National Policy on Arts and Culture and its implementation is to make arts and culture a key development resources as the defining elements of our identity.

Achebe who is the traditional ruler of Onitsha in Anambra state noted that the new policy should provide massive investments by government, agencies and private sectors in the areas of visual arts, saying that art and culture will only

"The policy should provide for massive investments by the government and its agencies; as well as the organized private sector, communities and wealthy individuals. The purpose would be to entrench and popularize arts and culture in our educational institutions as well as build relevant institutions and facilities such as museums, galleries, theatres, among others.

Stressing the need for all to appreciate arts, Achebe said; "After all, arts should not only be appreciated by the elite for its aesthetic potentials but should also be seen as a major defining element of a people's identity. It will only be a key to our development process if adequate steps are taken to reform the existing cultural laws".

He continued, "Nigerian arts provide ready made materials for campaigns to reposition and build a situational capital. Despite whatever notion foreigners have against Nigeria, the works of our artists have continued to receive worldwide acclaim.

"The challenge therefore is to identify the necessary measures while respective stakeholders should take proper measure to ensure that our art works are promoted worldwide so as to achieve the lofty goals of taking Nigeria to a higher pedestal among other countries in the world through the arts.

'Our Prominent Ancient's Artworks Reside Outside Nigeria'

Achebe regretted that Nigerian arts practitioners and prominent ancient's art works reside outside the shores of this country saying foreigners place higher premium on our works than Nigerians.

"Many of us recall with regret that best Nigeria arts practitioners and prominent ancient's artworks from Ife, Benin, Igboukwu and Nok culture today reside outside the shores through circumstances that were probably not wholesome. This is simply because some Nigerians and the foreigners place higher premium on the artworks than majority of Nigerians.

"It's imperative therefore that arrangement are established as soon as possible to ensure that the best of our artworks are held in Nigeria and our national collections are in the hands of NGA as well as the best works of all generation of Nigeria artists".

While encouraging stakeholders to persuade government to provide strong leadership towards the development of visual arts, he charged NGA to play its critical role of promoting the visual arts in order to project the corporate image of Nigeria.

"I call on all our stakeholders; individually and collectively not to relent in their campaign to persuade governments and arts institutions to rise and provide a strong leadership towards the development of visual arts in Nigeria as it's done in other countries.

Achebe's worries are similar to those of over 5,000 artists who believed that the current National Policy on Arts and Culture may no longer address some challenges in the arts institutions and there was a need for proper review to enable Nigerian arts take centre stage in the comity of nations.

It is pertinent to note that theNational Gallery of Art (NGA) whose office oversees the collection, preservation, documentation and presentation of Nigeria contemporary arts was established as a federal government parastatal by Decree No. 86 of August 1993.

This was in fulfillment of the provision of Nigeria's cultural Policy launched in 1998 and in accordance with the recommendations of the committee of patrons of the World Decade for Cultural Development (WDCD) that was approved by UNESCO. This decision was later reaffirmed by the report of the vision 2010 Committee to which the National Gallery of Arts presented a memorandum in 1997 and the Ahmed Joda Panel in 2000.

Change Of Attitude Not Review Of Policy

On her part, a lecturer at the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria; Dr. Iyabo Khadijah Tijani said that Nigerians needed to change their attitudes and not necessarily the policy, adding that the teaching of art at the primary and secondary levels of education has not been fully effected since it was not effectively implemented.

Dr. Tijani who is also a graphic artist added, "There is need to have a change of attitude and not necessarily changing the National Policy. The National Policy on Education (NPE, 2004) has provisions for the teaching of arts at all levels of education.

This is because the Nigerian Government recognised the role of arts education (Fine and Applied) as one of the powerful instruments for self-reliant economy.

She continued, "It is one of the discipline in our educational programme that avail trainees the opportunity to acquire appropriate skills, abilities and competences.

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