Thursday, 22 September 2011

ArtExpo, ARESUVA 2011


ArtExpo, ARESUVA… Dreams Dying Off In Arthouse
 By Tajudeen Sowole
 With no budgetary provision this year for the programmes of the National Gallery of Art (NGA), efforts are ongoing at getting alternative source of funding, at least, for one of the parastatal’s two major events. And if the culture agency succeeded in mobilising funds and, eventually, holds the programme, it would have prevented the loss of domestic and international tourism prospects, which these gatherings of artists have built in the past editions.

THE two international events: the yearly International ArtExpo Nigeria and the biennial African Regional Summit on Visual Arts and Exhibition (ARESUVA) which are though art-driven, but have tourism potentials and flavour, according to sources last week, “have been postponed indefinitely.”
  In fact, International ArtExpo Nigeria was scheduled to open today, Friday, September 23, 2011. Last week, participating artists and gallery owners were still hopeful that the event would hold until the news came, informally, that it had been “postponed indefinitely.” And a visit to the website of NGA showed that there was no rescheduled date as the ArtExpo logo, which, few weeks ago, had dates was now blank.
  Confirming the postponement, the Director-General of NGA, Abdulahi Muku disclosed that efforts were, however, ongoing to raise fund for one of the events. “We are still discussing with the Ministry of Finance, hoping to hold at least one of the programmes,” Muku stated via SMS, few days ago. 

President of AGAN, Chief Frank Okonta

 Few months ago, when there were no signs of preparation for ArtExpo, which holds every August, Muku had explained, “none of the gallery’s (NGA) programmes was captured in the 2011 budgets.” Despite this, he assured that the NGA would try and hold one or two of its events this year.
  International ArtExpo NigeriaARESUVA, which held twice: 2008 and 2009, did not hold last year as the NGA announced that it would henceforth hold as a is a concept of the NGA, but organised in collaboration with Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN). biennale, starting from this year.
  Critics of AGAN and NGA have, on several occasions pointed out the danger in relying solely on government funding for events that were designed to draw the private sector as part of economic leverage for the culture sector. When the event debuted as Art Expo Nigeria in 2008, the then DG of NGA, Joe Musa stated that partnership with AGAN was motivated by the government’s policy of Public/Private Partnership (PPP).
  At the 2010 edition last year, the Chairman, House Committee on Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Hon. K.G.B. Oguakwa urged the gallery owners and artists to source additional funding outside government’s support.
  In the past, laudable art and culture initiatives of governments with the aim of ensuring that the sector promotes cultural value of the people and make artists contribute to the growth of the economy, hardly succeeded because support of government in funding such events always diminishes drastically.
  Oguakwa noted that government had set the machinery in motion by bringing the idea to the table and creating the enabling environment, adding that it was now left for the private sector to take up the lead.
  ATO Arinze, founder and national coordinator of a grassroots art promotion group, Artzero, which is one of the participants in the 2011 edition, few days ago, traced the inability of ArtExpo to attract corporate support to the choice of venue. He argued, “ArtExpo should be organised on the mainland, close to the people for revenue generation to attract corporate sponsors.”
  For AGAN, efforts at getting corporate support was always ongoing, president of the association, Chief Frank Okonta insisted recently before the group’s maiden edition of ArtExpo Awards, aimed at raising funds.
   NGA is not alone in this frozen culture year: other parastatals such as the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), National Theatre and National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), according to sources, are affected by government’s non financial support for most of the regular events organised by these agencies.

At the 2010 edition last year (In front), the Chairman, House Committee on Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Hon. K.G.B. Oguakwa, Director-General of NGA, Abdulahi Muku and publisher of THISDAY Newspapers, Nduka Obaigbena
 There are indications that government’s plan to reduce cost of governance may have affected the culture sector this year. Part of the move was the setting up of Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalization of Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies. The committee, two weeks ago, closed submission of memoranda from members of the public.
  In its “invitation for Memoranda,” published in a national daily, the committee urged “the general public, groups, professional bodies and individuals” to, among other terms of reference, “examine critically the mandates of the existing Federal Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions and determine areas of overlap or duplication of functions and make appropriate recommendations to either restructure, merge or scrap to eliminate such overlaps, duplication or redundancies…”  

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