One of the ways you know a serious country is when it has museums that house products of its human endeavours. These are places where we can always return for education, inspiration and road map as we chart our way to a better country or nation. But what do we find? Demolition of relics, artefacts, looting of cultural treasures, and sometimes executive dashing away of antiquities, among others.
I see Networking Nigerian Arts and Craft as identifying partners, sponsors and consumers of these creative endeavours to build our cultural heritage, tourism, economic advancement and national integration.
Networking requires the establishment of a coordinating structure informed by some policy backed by implementation strategies. NCAC has the opportunity and, in fact, it is its mandate to generate this network. In addition to annual festivals, competitions and exhibitions, what else can they do to improve on existing structures?
Networking is synergy and holds the secret of progress or development for any nation. We have a high deficiency of that in our country. The clean broom philosophy in governance destroys almost everything in governance and leaves behind abandoned projects.
Nigerian arts and craft
Nigerian arts and crafts come from a very rich traditional arid cultural history. Sadly, this enviable world heritage that we possess is more highly valued by foreigners than Nigerians themselves. Yet, from time to time, we cry about colonial plundering of our artefacts and make wise that they should be repatriated. But we hardly walk the talk, do we?
Consider the state of the artefacts that are still in our possession, the value we place on them can directly be related to the budget allocated to the organs that manage and preserve them. The value can also be determined by the way we as a people treat and handle the works. Most of what we have managed to keep or that the colonial masters have left behind for us have been plundered, ironically, by us. Furthermore, the value of a country’s arts and craft is driven, propagated or promoted by the leadership of that country. Sadly, here, under our very nose, we have watched how, as if the colonial plundering of our artefacts was not enough, as if the plundering of these treasures by us the managers was not enough, a former President “dashed” some of these works to the French government. Haba!!
Let us all note that the maker of a product significantly determines the value of anything, or the holder. If the maker places important value on it, it will be so taken. If he or she does not, it is very unlikely that others will. This is a perceptual matter and it is a key thing in product reception.
Commercial value of our arts and craft
Do our arts and craft have any commercial value? We have seen that historically they have. If that were not the case, we would not have produced them in the first place. Secondly, foreigners who do not even know what they are would not plunder them, or acquire them as a souvenir to take back home. Thirdly, if they do not have any value, they will not be objects of theft till date.
The critical question that we may wish to advance at this point is, how can we make our products commercially viable? To address this question requires a well-articulated marketing strategy that is driven by a complete reorientation of we the people, as it said in the preamble declaration of our Constitution. But perhaps more significantly the advancement of any national product should be the business of the political leadership of that country, leading by example, followed closely with the private sector. It also involves a leadership driven by every individual in that country. In Nigeria, we have very brilliant young men and women who are investment experts, some are even organized in groups. If only we can set aside the “Nigerian factor” and employ a square peg in its right place, irrespective of political considerations, imagine where we would be.
Role of packaging and presentation
The advancement of arts and crafts is about functionality, finishing, packaging and presentation.
I have observed that when it comes to these three FP & P in our built industry, we rely on our neighbours, Ghanaians, Cameroonians and Benin Republic. Nigeria has no masons anymore. We are rather clumsy and take things for granted when it comes to the finishing, packaging and presentation of our arts and craft. The art of packaging has become very elaborate, professional and sophisticated. We cannot continue to package our arts and craft in the same way we used to in the 1970s. Packaging requires professional finishing of product in the first place. The next is producing a container for the product that is suitable and appropriate. Then there is the question of how the product is presented or displayed. This is very important and determines the export value of any work. Consider why, rather shamefully, Nigeria at one point in time was obsessed with China and Dubai furniture. The attraction was on finishing, packaging and presentation. The furniture was a fraud. Sadly, some offices still patronize them. The colonial mentality is still very much alive.
The value of talk
We have come to realize that flowery words or oratory spoken through a microphone in a situation such as this are not enough. We must be seen to proceed by making clear declarations and time-based commitments to deliver on these speeches, backed by realistic implementation strategies. That is the way forward. Talk is cheap; action is different.
Investment in the creative industry
•The role of government in the promotion of arts and craft cannot be overemphasized. Imagine the establishment of friendly laws, infrastructures and, above all, government’s patronage of the arts and craft.
•Cultural inferiority complex is still one of the major hindrances to the development of arts and craft in Nigeria.
•Colonial hangover and blame-shifting have become easy and convenient strategies used, even by scholars, to justify or excuse our failures at nation-building or failure to make progress in self-development.
•To promote arts and craft in Nigeria, we need to return to the elementary economics of demand and supply. If we buy more of our arts and craft, especially if government and the private sector drive the consumption of our arts and craft, you can imagine the economic boost in the industry.
•Let us start with our personal lives.