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This was the nitty-gritty of the 5th National Symposium on Nigerian Art held in Calabar, Cross River State recently. In this report, CHIKA OKEKE examines the stance of stakeholders towards rebranding Nigeria through the arts.
The theme, 'Rebranding Nigeria Through Arts', was carefully chosen to showcase the role of arts as a viable option towards self sufficiency and to serve as an avenue for the exchange of ideas and awareness for arts scholars that are dedicated to the growth of the genre.
The event, which was well attended by arts scholars, historians, artists, was organized by the National Gallery of Arts in conjunction with the Cross River State University of Technology (CRSUTECH) at the Calabar Cultural centre.
It is however, one of the programmes of NGA designed to bring artists and arts scholars together to present and discuss well researched papers on various aspects of arts.
Rebranding Will Encourage Innovation
In his speech, the director general, National Gallery of Art (NGA), Dr Muku Abdullahi said that rebranding of Nigeria through arts would encourage innovation by the sector promising to continuously collaborate with the diplomatic community in exhibiting Nigerian artists and art works.
"This event marks a new beginning for policy reengineering in ensuring that rebranding of Nigeria through the arts will enhance public welfare and encourage innovation by the sector for the economy.
"Our focus is to continuously exhibit Nigerian artists and art works. We shall strengthen our collaborations and associations with the diplomatic community in Nigeria as well as explore possible avenues for the Public Private Partnership to ensure that there is a tremendous rise in the appreciation of Nigerian artists and arts works both locally and internationally; and to achieve our collective dream of making visual arts a viable alternative to oil in creating wealth, generating employment and self reliance.
Seeks To Upgrade NGA To International Standard
He further sought the assistance of the government towards establishing a standardized National Gallery of Art in Abuja that would attract tourists to the country.
"I am appealing to the authorities that time is ripe to establish a National Gallery of Arts of International standard in Nigeria particularly in the nation's capital where tourists both within and outside the country can visit for sight-seeing. The edifice will house a hall of fame, an exhibition hall to display works of arts, a library and conference hall as offices for staff of NGA.
Need To Make Nigeria New Brand
Also speaking, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred NnaemekaUgochukwu Achebe said that there was need to rebrand Nigeria through arts if the necessary policies were balanced.
"The theme of the event is quite appropriate and timely in the transformation agenda of President Jonathan. We need to project a new image for Nigeria that is to say that we need to make Nigeria a new brand.
He continued, "Many countries of the world have their own brand. If you mention Japan, you will think of Fukisima Technology, in China; it is their cuisine because they have captured the world with their culinary delight, in India; it is also their cuisine and health care system where many Nigerians go for medical tourism among others. Many of us are wearing clothes made in China.
"Calabar is doing a good job in rebranding itself as a clean and welcoming city that invites tourists to visit for their holidays. The questions that come to mind is, can we or should we rebrand Nigeria through arts. My answer is 'yes' but only if the necessary policies are in place.
Our Artworks Receive Worldwide Acclaim
According to him, "Nigerian arts provide readymade 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.
"We should adorn our public places like the National Assembly, government and private offices, banking halls, hospitals and hotels even the presidential villa with artworks that will truly portray our image like what is obtainable in other countries like Ghana, South Africa.
"NGA should be congratulated in their publications but there is more that needs to be done. For instance, they should have a comprehensive list of Nigeria's present, past and practicing artists that will showcase the status of their artworks while exhibitions should be consistently updated because it can become a reference material for Nigeria visual arts. Private sectors are playing major roles in the presentation of visual arts alongside the public sector with the NGA.
"Considering the theme of this symposium, I charge all participants to consider the ways and means of supporting NGA to effectively play its leadership role in the promotion of visual arts in Nigeria so that they can be at par with other galleries around the world", he concluded.
Arts Requires Proper Training, Focus
On her part, a lecturer at the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, DrIyaboKhadijahTijani suggested that arts requires proper training and focus, when she added, "Many factors have contributed to the development of arts in our society.
Paramount among these factors is our traditional religion and culture which is based on expressions in arts. To get maximum benefit from arts, it requires proper training and if children's education in that area is channeled in such a way as to inculcate the attitude of expression right from the elementary stage.