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Performing arts: To rebrand Nigeria

By Larry Williams

It will be a great responsibility squarely placed on the Nigerian artists head but the ministry of arts and culture bears the full responsibility of holding up the neck on the shoulders.

Enough is enough! The artist has taken so much knocks, humiliation and pains for the failings of other parties, all because they are dedicated and brave enough to serve. Many may be brave enough to steal, brave enough to kill, even brave enough to fight and die, but are they brave enough to serve?

The Nigerian artists have proved beyond doubt that they are brave and adventurous enough through sculpting, music, dance, drama, painting, writing, they have served Nigeria, even if like ‘puppets on the string’. This is the time they need the full support of the government and the people, to serve the nation, indeed to rebrand Nigeria.

The government has set up machinery for this purpose which is the ministry in charge of the arts.

The practitioners in this industry and I mean the true professional artists have done plenty over the years, indeed, through generations and through individual efforts and sweat; to serve mankind and to help emphasize the identity of their people.

Now standing on the stagnant and watching the stunted growth of the industry, we have identified the reasons for the lack of progress as the inefficiency of the ministry for Arts and Culture in putting things in their right perspectives and to fuel the functioning of such components. This calls for the understanding of the science of arts, before applying the mathematics of administration.

Over the years, the Arts Council under the umbrella of the Arts and Culture ministry has not developed enough to export one stage play or a musical, yet there are people employed, and paid, pittance as it were to keep warming the building in the name of Cultural Officers. The national troupe set up since FESTAC fever, is not sufficiently funded to make any impact even within the country.

The film cooperation has almost been forgotten but for individual efforts put in by the pioneers of the body.

The marginal interest from the ministry in the individual art groups like NANTAP, PMAN, AGN, ANA, and Dance groups is so poor that it is helping to destroy the arts by keeping the artists poor, spiritually, mentally and ostracized from society and their families. Some of the artists that made strong impressions on the society were recommended for presidential handshake and they proudly walked off with medals only to keep trotting the streets and jumping on buses.

The arts ministry should be in position to make the presidency understand that the successful artists have only succeeded by exhibiting toil, sweat, and endurance not wealth and not the same as long serving contract awarding and contract awarded merchants or the exgovernors and permanent secretaries.

The presidential handshake should be with gold or platinum, spell out in cash enough to cushion the rest of their working lives, not just empty dangling medals. The ministry should ensure that the deserving awardees are provided for, not just decorated with fancy certificates of honour. It is national insensitivity and disgrace when a time honoured, and nationally honoured artist cannot afford himself a cup of tea at a VIP lounge. He deserves to be there but he has not got what it takes to be where the medals placed him.


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