NGA hosts continental art summit and exhibition
By Tajudeen Sowole
(First published in March 2008)
AS African leaders’ vision for the continent’s revival, articulated about eight years ago, is yet to take the culture sector along, an initiative from Nigeria’s arts gate keeper, National Gallery of Art (NGA) may just be the much-needed contributions of artists.
The initiative, First African Regional Summit and Exhibition On Visual Arts (ARESUVA), according to the Director-General of NGA, Joe Musa is designed to use the visual art to attain economic growth in line with New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
The 37th Summit of the OAU (African Union, AU) in July 2001 adopted the strategic framework document, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as a vision and strategic framework for Africa’s renewal.
During the briefing in Lagos last week, Musa stated: "The First African Regional Summit and Exhibition On Visual Arts is designed towards the promotion of visual Arts as a strategy for achieving rapid economic development in the African region as envisioned in the New Partnership for African Development, NEPAD."
The theme of the event, he added is: "Promoting The Visual Arts For Sustainable Economic Growth & Development In Africa"
Scheduled to open in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja on September 7, till 13, 2008, the event, Musa explained, is to basically bring together stakeholders, dealers, traders and other professionals in art business. Also to develop programmes as models for both the organised private sectors of each participating countries and international business communities.
He also stressed that whatever the problems preventing the visual art in the African region from contributing to the global scene effectively would form part of the summit.
A central working committee, Musa disclosed, has been set up by the Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode.
Expected to host about 54 countries from the continent, participants, NGA disclosed would include top government officials and members of National Assemblies of participating countries, foreign and domestic investors as well as members of international organisations.
And to assure that the event is not another government jamboree, the organisers listed a number of benefits, which delegates and exhibitors to the event stand to gain. These, among others, include: "Help African countries to better understand how to harness their creative and cultural resources around sustainable tourism, provide a solid base of feedback and fore sight to inform policy makers into the future of the visual arts.
"To encourage, in practical terms, the movement of the visual arts sub-sector towards export oriented production.
To enhance the prospects and opportunities of visual arts on the African region towards export trade.
To promote the opening up of the African region’s economy to the participation of foreign investors in visual arts."
These would address the fears of professional artists and other stakeholders in the aforementioned areas and deliberate extensively on the importance and centrality of visual arts in African countries' economies.
Specifically, the visual art, NGA stated, would receive attention in such areas as funding; artists registration council
standardisation of works of art, poverty alleviation programmes and environmental issues, among others.
In addition to expected tourism potential, which the NGA said it has articulated, the event could turn out to be a biennial or triennial for the continent.
For a gathering of this magnitude to be a success, perhaps other models elsewhere, particular in Africa needs to be taken as a guide. The immediate example is the Dak'art biennial in Dakar, Senegal. Regarded as the largest gathering of artists and other stakeholders in Africa, Dak'art, over the years has enjoyed an impressive participation of Nigerian artists.
A Nigerian delegation comprising of government officials, artists and the media, Musa said would be at Dak'art 2008, with the hope to learn one or two things towards the organisation of a similar event back home. This year edition of Dak'art which opens on May 9 and ends on June 9, 2008, he added, is expected to host a Nigerian pavilion with an exhibition to open on May 12, 2008.
Still on the learning process, a Nigerian delegation under the sponsorship of NGA would be part of another international art event, ArtExpo New York, Musa said. He used the forum to revisit the proposed and rescheduled art expo earlier planned to hold in Lagos this year. The event, Musa said "is now Art Expo Africa and a new date would be announced soon."
As the gate keepers of the nation's art gallery, NGA has the utmost priority to provide a befitting national gallery for the nation. And if land is an issue to get the proposed NGA's National Gallery built, a former Federal Director of Culture at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos and poet, Frank Aig-Imoukhuede, present at the gathering as an observer, had a revelation. Aig-Imoukhuede used the forum to disclose that a mass of land acquired for all the units of the culture sector in Abuja is being used for another purpose. He and advised Musa to see if the current situation of the said property could be revised.
Whatever problems confronting the culture sector, cannot be separated from funding. This brought a revisit of the moribund Endowment Fund for Art. A document in this respect, Musa said, was recently sent to the NGA from the presidency to make input. While hoping that a new era has emerged for the art, he urged stakeholders to keep faith with the new positioning of the sector.