With conscious effort, Nigeria is selling her culture and rich history to the outside world through cultural diplomacy. STELLAMARIES AMUWA (Abuja) in this report looks at the recently concluded International Arts and Craft Expo (INAC) organised by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the marks left behind.
The much anticipated International Arts and Crafts Expo (INAC) organised by the National Council for Arts and Culture has come and gone but left a memorable mark amongst participants and the global world.
The Expo which was the 11th edition with the theme: Networking Nigerian Crafts to the World, kicked off officially on Monday 19th November in Abuja with dignitaries like the publisher, LEADERSHIP Newspaper Group, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, who chaired the occasion; Mother of the Day, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, minister of Women Affairs amongst others added colour to the historic event.
At the opening ceremony, publisher, LEADERSHIP Newspaper Group, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, urged government at all levels to develop the arts and craft sector as a source of foreign exchange earner for the country.
Nda-Isaiah, who chaired the event, said that Nigerian Arts and Crafts remains the country’s `best kept secret’.
“But it is about time for our governments at all levels to know that this is a sector that can set the country afire if well organised and harnessed.”
Nda-Isaiah, also added that, the country’s arts and crafts sector should be developed along those lines and it would very easily become a major source of foreign exchange for the country.
He commended artists and curators for being super creative and resourceful as displayed in the quality of their crafts.
“It is the same spirit that has made Nollywood, Kannywood and our indigenous music global success.
“The few expatriate in the arts and crafts business who know this have kept the knowledge to themselves; sneaking into the country from time to time, trading in these invaluable goods and subsequently smiling to their banks.”
However, Nda-Isaiah commended the present administration for its efforts in the agriculture and mining sectors, saying, “The current government has succeeded substantially in the agriculture sector and the mining sector is picking up.”
Recall that, INAC was earlier known as AFAC. It made its debut in 2008, according to the director general, NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, the idea of INAC was to meet the international standard and to accommodate prospective participants and exhibiters beyond the shores of Africa.
Meanwhile, the exhibition actually opened a new window of networking Nigeria to the entire world. Runsewe, on the last day of the Expo, launched the historic Cultural Diplomacy Day for Peace worldwide.
The Cultural Diplomacy Day for Peace, according to the NCAC boss, will be marked globally every 24th of November courtesy National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).
Runsewe, stated that the launch of the International Cultural Diplomacy for Peace initiative is aimed at uniting the world via culture, arts and crafts.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, the minister of Science and Technology and chairman of the occasion, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu said, “Today, we are using culture to build peace in the world, we are using what is common to humanity, we are using our arts and crafts to bind ourselves together, to build the bridges that can unite all humanity, because no matter which country or continent we come from, we are all humans and we all have the image of God in us.”
He affirmed further that, “Culture can give us freedom and we had representatives of 27 countries from four continents of the world all saying that this message is one that will go not just from Nigeria to Africa, but from Nigeria to the world, and let it be known that Nigeria is the home of peace and culture and that all those who seek the best in the world should come to us.
“Our great host is opening a new window through which the rest of the world would see the best in Nigeria.” He added.
Ogbonnaya, expressed hopes that the annual event would continue in order to sustain the message of peace through culture, arts and crafts.
Earlier, Runsewe noted that the launch of the International Cultural Diplomacy Day for Peace is a way to demonstrate that Nigeria, Africa and the world loves peace.
“Nigeria has taken a lead by launching, for the first time in the history of the world, the International Cultural Diplomacy Day for Peace.”
Furthermore, Runsewe, noted that the expo was a platform for crafts men and women across the continent to showcase their arts and crafts products.
“Also, to exchange ideas, skills and network for investment that would stimulate rapid socio economic growth and contribute to the Gross Domestic Product of the nation.’’
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, during the occasion said that the creative industry was a strategic sector to boost competitiveness, productivity, employment and sustainable economic growth.
‘Nigerian artists have leveraged on our rich and diverse culture to create both tangible and intangible art content for socio-economic empowerment,” Mohammed said.
The permanent secretary of the ministry, Mrs Grace Gekpe, represented the minister.
Several countries, states and organisations went home with prizes for their performance in various categories at the INAC Expo.
First position of the overall Best Exhibitor of the year award went to Ogun State, second position went to Kano State and third position went to Kaduna State.
India and Bangladesh emerged countries with the Best Designed Pavilions with two states in Nigeria-Kano and Ogun along with an NGO; Le Look Nigeria limited.
Best Product Designs; Leather Works went to Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States; Textiles-Ogun and Kano States; Brass-Kano and Kaduna States; Metal Works-Kano State; Woodworks-Ogun and Bauchi States; Calabash Decoration-Gombe and Kano States; Ornaments, Beads and Jewelry-Ogun and Gombe States; Pottery and Ceramics-FCT and Katsina State; Raffia, Straw and Cane-Katsina, Gombe and Zamfara States; Fibre and Glass-Anambra State.
The overall best Product Design went to Kano State; Best Participating Countries went to China, Trinidad and Tobago; Best Participating Government Agencies and Corporate Bodies went to Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund, NTA, and AIT.
INAC 2018 special award for Special Days went to China, India, Bangladesh and Ogun State; best Participating NGO went to Arolokaso Art and Crafts and Aanang Festival of Arts and Culture.
Also, New Invention Award, Waste to Wealth went to Hungary; Most Innovative Products Packaging went to; Iran, Korea and Syria; Most Enterprising Exhibitors; Mexico, Le Look, Tanzania.
Best Country Presentation went to Sudan and Burkina Faso; Best Country in E-marketing went to China, Pakistan while Best Networking Strategy was awarded to Bangladesh and India.
The week-long event with the theme, “Networking Nigerian Crafts to the World”, attracted participants from at least 27 countries from four continents all exhibiting and showcasing their rich cultural heritage to Nigerians and the world.
Runsewe, encouraged Nigerians to take full advantage of the Expo by availing themselves with the free medical services and numerous skill acquisition components/waste to wealth initiatives carefully designed by the NCAC to empower Nigerians in line with the policy thrust of President Mohammadu Buhari.
The DG expressed confidence that Nigeria’s culture and living arts industry has made unprecedented economic gains with over 23 countries from around the world participating in this year’s INAC.
But it is about time for our governments at all levels to know that this is a sector that can set the country afire if well organised and harnessed