Abuja — The National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), organisers of African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC) has announced its preparedness towards this year's edition of the Expo. The 2017 regional arts and crafts market, which is its 10th edition, holds between August 27 and September 17 at NCAC permanent site, popularly known as Arts and Crafts Centre.
To ensure a successful outing, the Otunba Segun Runsewe-led NCAC had been busy with arrangements, which included clearing and beautifying of the once abandoned site, building of pavilions ahead of participants' arrival as well as ensuring adequate publicity about the event.
Saturday's forum also served to unveil to the media some branded vehicles within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with the Expo's logo, as part of media and publicity campaign towards the three-week market. The regional arts and crafts market, which made its debut in 2008, began to lose steam after the first two editions due to poor publicity and apathy on the part of the organisers.
While addressing the media, Runsewe stated that the event was to update Nigerians on the activities of NCAC towards the Expo. Describing the coming event as the largest of its kind in Africa, he recalled his commitment to repositioning the arts and culture sector of Nigerian economy.
He said: "On my assumption of office about three months ago, I made a firm commitment to all Nigerians to reposition the arts and culture sector, as a key player in the nation's economy with the capacity to generate wealth and employment as well as contribute significantly to the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
"Accordingly, the new vision of the council under my leadership is encapsulated in the statement: 'Culture: The new revenue base for Nigeria.' This vision statement is far from being a mere slogan. It is borne out of our firm conviction that there are abounding opportunities in the arts and culture sector that could be harnessed and channeled towards reinventing our economy."
The former NTDC boss added that it was the determination at the council "to unbundle the huge potentials in this sector to strategically drive the process of economic diversification in line with the policy direction of this administration."
With 'Our Culture: The Untapped Treasure,' Runsewe said the theme was carefully chosen to draw people's attention to the vast opportunities in the sector, and mobilize Nigerians to take advantage of them for personal empowerment and the economic development of the country. He added that the council was leaving no stone un-turned in making this year's Expo a unique one, featuring unprecedented and memorable events, and richer in packaging and delivery.
"We have embarked on very wide and extensive consultations with stakeholders and key players in the industry, with a view to aggregating, harmonising and mainstreaming all shades of opinions in our efforts to rebrand the Expo.
"We are also carrying out aggressive communication and marketing campaigns to raise national and international awareness on the expo, to give it greater visibility and patronage.
"I am happy to inform you that the responses so far have been overwhelming. This has greatly encouraged us and further fueled our determination to expand the scope of the event and make this edition truly the best amongst its peers in Africa, in line with our leadership role in the continent."
MEANWHILE, massive construction and renovation works were ongoing at the venue of the market. Runsewe stated that it was aimed at giving practical expression to his determination to elevate the Expo to an international standard, which Nigeria and the whole of Africa would be proud of.
In place of dusty and uneven ground, the main bowl of the Expo, measuring about 1.5 hectares, has been graded and tarred. The council has also introduced specialised and collapsible pavilions that are of international standard while the centre has been fully illuminated with floodlights.
The culture boss also announced some introductions to the Expo, including skills acquisition programme. This, he stated, was to enhance the capacity of creative artists in various areas.
"Renowned craftsmen and women in Nigeria have been invited to assist in imparting their knowledge and skills to selected delegates from the states in various aspects of arts and crafts. In the same vein, the National Association of Nigerian Chefs has been invited to mount a stand to teach Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike the rudiments of Nigerian cuisines such as amala, tuwo, banga and edikangikon soup, among others."
"Similarly, experts would also be available to teach interested participants the simple way of communicating in our major indigenous languages. We expect that prospective beneficiaries of this training would be able to greet, exchange pleasantries, buy and sell in Nigerian languages outside their mother tongue."
Also, the Investment Round-Table, the intellectual segment of the event, will feature in the course of the Expo.
He explained, "As the intellectual component of the programmes, the round-table will provide a veritable platform for a robust and engaging discourse on the theme of this year's event. It will be a forum for cross-fertilization of ideas on how we can effectively explore the untapped treasures in the sector, to empower our people and drive the process of economic development.
"In line with global trends, we must continue to build diplomatic bridges across international frontiers. Accordingly, we see AFAC as a critical tool for fostering cultural diplomacy and engendering international friendship and goodwill.
"It is for this reason that we would be hosting Cultural Attaches in Nigeria to a pre-AFAC dinner. This is to engage the attaches in an informal setting and strengthen the cultural affinity between Nigeria and other countries of the world.
"This will, no doubt, greatly facilitate cultural exchanges and strengthen the bond of friendship between Nigeria and the rest of the world."
However, while the expo opens for business on August 27, the official opening ceremony comes up on September 5. According to Runsewe, the gap is to give adequate time for participants from all parts of the world to arrive and settle down fully for business.