Annual festivals play a key role to Nigeria’s economy as a non-oil revenue generator, as such, will do the same for Ondo State with the Ondo Arts Festival Summit (ONDOFEST), which provided employment, business opportunities, infrastructural development, marketing Ondo State to the world and providing food security for families across the state high patronage of small scale businesses. Truly, the theme of the festival, “Togetherness”, really brought indigenes far and wide to celebrate eight days of cultural extravaganza.
Some of the programmes that took place during the festival included Ondo Ethnotourism Carnival, Arts and Cultural Carnival Parade, Music Concerts, Fashion Culture Festival, Face Painting Fest, Food & Drink exhibition, Agrotourism Carnival, Boat Regatta, Photo Arts Exhibition, Books & Literature, Tourist Site Seeing, Open Air Film Show, Agrotourism Carnival, among others.
Co-organiser of Ondo ArtFest, Oshodi Seyi Paul, in his address of welcome, said, “Festivals promote cultural diversity. They are catalysts for intercultural dialogue, and they reach out to people from different backgrounds and across generations.”
Oshodi, founder of Oshodi Art Gallery in Ikorodu, Lagos State, added that festivals were engines for economic growth by creating jobs in our regions and cities, and attracting visitors from across Nigeria, Africa and world.
“All of these enrich our lives and allow us to enjoy a diverse range of cultural art forms. In many ways, our festivals are the embodiment of the Nigeria’s motto – united in diversity,” he said.
“Nowhere is this diversity better shown than through our cultural heritage. Our literature, films, art, music and, of course, festivals reflect the extraordinary cultural wealth of our state, yet none of these artistic forms has developed in a vacuum. The development of cultural heritage has always crossed Nigerian borders and being shared by Ondo State citizens.
Continuing he said, “Festivals bring people together in shared experiences at local, state and national levels. Festival is a perfect example of a small town attracting world-class musicians and visitors from all over Europe and the world. On a much larger scale, Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival sold a staggering 2.6 million tickets last year.
“Ondoartsfest will also travel beyond Africa, making our rich and unique cultural productions available to the rest of the world. “This global reach is essential to our international cultural relations, the value of which should not be underestimated.
Seasoned art critic, dramatist, playwright and folk musician, Ben Tomoloju, in his lecture entitled “Forging a New Economic Route for Ondo State through Culture, Tourism”, stated that the “Nigerian economic reality is not that rosy. Yet we should not allow our distressed economy to be an inhibition to noble aspirations. Rather, it should be seen as a challenge and a stimulant towards attaining higher goals.
“The Americans, during the Great Depression of the 1930s-40s, had their incomes subsidised in a programme called the ‘New Deal’ as implemented by the then President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The President was so determined to keep Americans working that creative individuals were paid simply to create.
“Ondo State can explore such value orientation through art and tourism for sustainable economic growth, because the creative industry is so resilient that, once it is set in motion, it will continue to absorb the shocks of the job-market and advance into prosperity.
“The Nollywood phenomenon, which has become a multi-billion naira industry in Nigeria, began in the years of the Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP) in the 1980s. The Nollywood breakthrough should clear all the doubts about the viability of the creative industry and encourage government and the private sector to invest in this sector.
“This should take place simultaneously with a strategy in social re-orientation through formal and informal education. For instance, such stars as are listed above can periodically be invited by the relevant agencies of the Ondo State government and non-governmental stakeholders to mentor the young ones on so many vital subjects in the area of art and tourism.”
Tomoloju recommend that the Ondo State Government should use the arts as a mobilising agent in all areas of development, tap into the abundant human resources of indigenes at home and in the diaspora to grow the local economy.
“Establish Cottage Theatres and Cultural Centres in major towns – with all the advantages of subsidiary industries cropping up – for job and wealth creation, take a holistic approach to training in all the disciplines within the tourism sub-sector for even and comprehensive development of human capacity and renovate and repackage all Heritage Sites to optimise their economic value,” he said.