Many of the developed countries particularly in Asia have incorporated their unique historical world of arts in the process of modernization and industrialization and this has sufficiently assisted them. For Nigeria, the world of arts and crafts have not been given adequate attention, until recently when the Federal Government decided to empower the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation with the right leadership to reposition the industry in line with its national policy.
Arts and crafts are part and parcel of a nation’s culture and they constitute an important components of the solid base upon which the economic and social survival of man through the ages was built. Arts and crafts are objects made by man for his own use and their main purposes are utility. Historically, they embody the science and technology used by man for the purpose of providing goods and services for a better life and human progress.
In the 1990s, which was the World Decade for Cultural Development as declared by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the importance of cultural dimension to development was stressed and countries were asked to assert and enhance their cultural identities thereby broadening participation in cultural life.
Nigeria has varied arts and crafts which have come to be appreciated and admired by different parts of the world. Arts and crafts like the stylized Nok terracotta sculptures, intricately designed and decorated Igbo-Ukwu bronze ceremonial vessels, naturalistic brass heads and figures from Ife, Owo terracotta animals, Benin bronzes, the famous Morrocan leather, Bida beads, Tsoede bronzes, etc all form part of the technological arts and crafts mysteries of Nigeria.
President Umaru Yar’adua’s seven-point agenda and the 2020 vision which seeks to transform the national economy is anchored on the diversification and development of the productive base especially the non-oil sector/informal sector. It is instructive to state that before now, there was no clear policy designed to use culture for economic empowerment and wealth creation. The present administration’s recognition that a nation’s culture constitutes an important component upon which any meaningful economic and social transformation could be based is indeed very timely.
It is in this guise that the efforts of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) in ensuring sufficient scope for the development and flourishing of Nigeria’s creative capacities for rapid socio-economic growth should be commended. The Council has through the African Arts and Crafts Expo which debuted/maiden edition took place in August 2008 once again bring to the fore the place/importance of arts and crafts in human development. By being proactive and building upon existing structures as well as initiating new ones, the NCAC seek/hope to reposition and revitalize our indigenous arts and crafts. The second African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC), which started on Sunday 31st is a timely and relevant intervention not only in reviving the industry to its glorious days but also in exploiting its creative and industrial potentials for economic advancement. AFAC aimed to chart new programme directions in the realms of handicrafts, arts, design etc, with particular attention to international markets and also to encourage small scale entrepreneurs to form production cooperatives towards the development of our arts and crafts industry as an economic base.
With globalization and the ever expanding market for finished products, it is only logical that the resuscitation and development of our indigenous arts and crafts be tied to modern techniques/ways of polishing, packaging, promotion and marketing to attract substantial/necessary investment and patronage. The expo is also meant to ginger and encourage cooperation between government, artists, designers, crafts people, the private sector and other NGOs by providing a forum where they could meet and discuss/talk as well as integrate and coordinate potential areas and opportunities by exposing Nigeria’s and Africa’s arts and crafts to local and international investors. One of the main objectives of AFAC is to provide an avenue/forum where marketing strategies could be developed for the sale of our arts and crafts products through trade fares, exhibitions, etc.
AFAC is indeed very relevant to Nigeria’s quest for cultural revival and sustenance as well as to the development of her human and natural resources especially at the grass root level. It is hoped that AFAC would immensely contribute to the improvement in the quality of Nigeria’s arts and crafts products to enable them compete effectively with products from other countries that have developed their arts and crafts industries. The target is to ensure that Nigerian arts and crafts are readily available at all times both within the country and beyond in all arts and crafts outlets and can easily be picked as souvenirs, etc, by people around the world.
Hafsat-Shehu is a staff of the National Council for Arts and Culture