The Nigerian Creative Industry Needs Government’s Urgent Attention – Abiodun Olaku

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The role of the creative sector in an economy cannot be overemphasised but the Nigerian creative industry seems to have been abandoned by the government”.

This statement was made on Monday by a Member of the Society of Nigeria Artists (MSNA), Abiodun Olaku at Norbert Okpu’s solo art exhibition titled Breaking Boundaries which is set to run from the 12th to 21st of May at Terra Kulture in Victoria Island, Lagos.

Olaku talked about how art serves as a form of self employment and gives identity to those who make use of it as talents.

“When your talent is exposed and developed, it becomes a social unit. You are self empowered you don’t have to rely on anyone but on your talent. You just have to undergo some more experience to grow it so that it can become profitable.”

He further explained that this form of creativity revolutionise and helps the society grow.

“When you are a successful social unit, you take pressure off the system. It means you are not looking for employment, you are not a nuisance to your immediate environment as well as the society.

“An artist can be a social commentator. We are also historians because we freeze moments for humanity. Abroad, You will see ARTS from 600 years ago, which is to tell you art is timeless. Arts also records human revolution.

Olaku however, made his bitterness about the little role the government plays in developing the creative sector known stating that, “ if you look around, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t have a bit of talent in him or her, be it in the arts or sports but the system is not in haste to help us make this discoveries.

“We have a national gallery that is an embarrassment to us. The national gallery gets the budget every year under the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, but what do they do with it? Go to other National galleries in other parts of the world and see what stuff they are made of. We don’t update the national collections knowledgeably.”

He also said the the patronage the art works done by Nigerian artists gets is not good enough

“There are some works that are relevant in the industry that are not collected even by the national gallery; these are works done by people who have put in decades of practice and now, most of these people are in the other parts of the world. If they are not taking care of us, countries that understand and appreciate the works will do it for them.

“The National Gallery of Arts is so disconnected from the everyday happenings in the industry. Lagos is the Hub of art and art activities in Nigeria and without even being modest, we can say it is the number one in Africa. But what does the government contribute to it? Nothing. In some parts of Africa, the West and South Africa to be precise, there is so much support given to artists. I will focus on visual arts. I know of the French speaking countries, they do so much for their artists. But here, you are left on your own and no one will patronise you.”

Olaku said the creative sector is one of the most profitable sectors in any economy. He therefore advised the government to put necessary statutory guidelines for the sector to thrive.

“Fundamentally, we have a cultural policy. But most people don’t know this. What we do today is not properly directed. Most artists today is  just work based on intuition, passion and interest. The statutory guidelines are not being known. There is got to be a desired measure of control on how to operate.

“For example, if you have an international show or program, you cannot take your work out without a special permit from the National museum and that is ludicrous. If govt is talking about expanding the economy and is taking it away from the monocultural economy, then it is not okay. The creative sector is one of the most patent and underdeveloped areas that govt could really profit from, so they need to make this sector better.

“One of the things they need to do is to tariffs on imported art materials because close to 100% of what we use in the industry is imported. Whether fine arts or applied arts. We don’t have the industry for production back home here. By the time the taxes are removed from these goods, the prices will shoot up and bringing them here becomes expensive.

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“Students and professionals basically use the same materials, so even if a professional is a bit stable and can afford these materials, what of the students who study art, who have to struggle to make ends meet to go to school? Without these materials, you cannot carry out your assignments to start with.”

In helping boost potentials and prospects, Olaku said, “the government  must play a role. For example, they could create hubs of activities which supports artists overtime. We have tiers of government; Federal, State and Local governments who could delegate certain spaces for all these things to thrive and subsidise whatever needs to be subsidised as well as boost tourism. People can come in and say they want to see where these good stuffs come from. All we ask is for them to just put in some basic amenities there; provide electricity and others.”

Mr Abiodun Olaku is one of the founders and trustees of Universal Studios of Art, National Theatre, Lagos. The organisation for almost three decades, annually trains close to 200 students from various institutions in the country; Polytechnics, Universities and Colleges of Education.

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