Sometimes, it is very tempting to focus on speeches of government officials and top influencers and merely overlook the vibrations of silent achievers and templates of development on listening posts at public or private events. The just concluded African Arts and Crafts exposition remarkably tells a story of an emerging economy obviously neglected in the past and which international scavengers of ideas had exploited to the pains and disadvantage of Nigerians in particular.
For over 21 days, over 250 exhibitors, 17 countries, 18 states in Nigeria, 94 local governments and 200 non-governmental cultural organisations mingled with visitors to reshape the future of this neglected industry and also change its narrative. Director-general of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, spent the 21 days to preach and highlight the various opportunities and advantages inherent in Nigeria’s cultural products, not only as window of job creation but also as a strategic enabler and influencer of national unity. Come with us on this voyage to unveil the treasures of our cultural field.
El-Rufai’s Kaduna grabs attention
Kaduna State outclassed others in the design of its exhibition booth and so was adjudged the best in that category. The most interesting feature of Kaduna’s participation was its preparation as host of National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST). Governor Nsir el-Rufai might spring some surprises as host of the event, which could be turned into a platform to reinvent and reposition Kaduna as a tourism destination in Nigeria.
With the Abuja-Kaduna highway free of kidnappers and Kaduna Airport enjoying local and international passenger traffic, the Crocodile City would definitely boom during the festival as a springboard to change ugly narratives of political shenanigans of the past. This is to notify el-Rufai that tourism and culture media will be on ground to witness the sights and sounds of Kaduna.
Skill as pillar of job creation
One great success of the AFAC expo was the rich content, particularly in providing access to girls and women to acquire skills in producing perfumes, beads, cloth-weaving, hairstyling and other waste-to-wealth platforms. I was happy to see our hard-working women embrace the revolution and contribute to the future of our nation and families. Some of them who spoke with me expressed immense gratitude to Runsewe for providing the window to their empowerment.
The flower painter and his sales strategy
I met Kenneth Ifediba under strange circumstances. We sat apart under a tree in one of the many restaurants in the AFAC village. Ifediba groaned about the Chinese doing damage to Nigerian arts and crafts, which they copy and bring back to Nigeria to sell cheaply, thereby undercutting Nigerian artists and painters. I was touched and Ifediba took me to his booth to see various unique flower paintings, which he explained fetched him good returns. Ifediba called for more trade shows such as AFAC to enable Nigerian artists, sculptures and painters to showcase their works. To Ifediba, the copyright commission was not doing enough to protect artists from rampaging Chinese businessmen. He was also full of praise for Runsewe for the AFAC platform to mingle and interact with customers and share his flower painting experiences.
Lessons on collaboration
Otunba Runsewe’s tourism experience and events promotion in the past was evident in the success of the just-concluded AFAC expo. Culture and tourism, which has many students, one which is the collaboration with some enablers and influencers, Runsewe reached out to NEMA, which came to the event with a mobile intensive care unit, a vehicle equipped as any first-class hospital to handle emergencies. NIHOTOUR boss, Chika Balogun, overseer of Nigerian tourism schools, was there, the media, the powerful fourth arm of government, collaborated immensel, with NTA and AIT leading the way, over 16 culture and tourism journalists flew into Abuja from Lagos to tell the AFAC story to the world, the Gallery of Arts, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria, all joined in the revolution to make Nigeria a destination for art and craft tourism.
Unveiling nature curatives
Pharmacist Ben Amodu, also a lawyer, cut the image of a Nigerian inventor neglected by his own people but appreciated by the outside world. Amodu’s exhibition booth, like many others in the emerging Nigerian alternative pharmacology research and development community, showcased herbal products that could cure various health challenges ailments ravaging the poor and rich in our midst. Herb medication is a way of life in most rural communities in Nigeria and had become a strategic source of medical tourism traffic, particularly to most nations in Asia. The Nigerian example, as evident in Amodu and others, became a cheery presence at AFAC, and patronage and enquires were good.
WTM, ITB have come to Nigeria
From next year, the African Arts and Crafts expo would be transformed into an international arts and craft expo, to give it global flavour, like the World Travel Market and other similar tourism trade expos benchmarked in Germany, Spain and Dubai.
The organisation of AFAC in this outing showed signs that Nigeria would join the league of nations with global culture and tourism markets and, with over 200 million people and our diverse creative culture products and hospitable people, Nigeria is just a step away from stardom.
Kudos to Runsewe.