By JAPHET ALAKAM
The National Gallery of Art NGA, one of the parastatals of the Culture Ministry is noted for a lot of programmes geared towards the promotion of art and artists in Nigeria. But, for long, art and culture stakeholders, especially art writers have been worried over the absence of such vibrant activities.
As partners in the promotion of the Arts generally and Visual Arts in particular, NGA Director General, Muku Abdulahi, recently had an interaction with art writers where he explained some issues, pointing out few areas that NGA is focusing on at present.
Muku stated that the Abuja Biennial which is scheduled to hold in 2017 is a programme NGA is committed to both for its economic benefits to the country generally and the artists in particular. The programme which will last for 14 days, will bring together renowned artists from Nigeria, Africa, the Diaspora and the world in Abuja to showcase the best of the their works with art collectors, art dealers and art lovers buying these works.
According to him, “having participated in the Dakar Biennale almost from inception, we discovered that they have been able to make good money from organising the event compared to what they spend. We are hoping to do the same by getting the private sector fully involved and other key stakeholders.”
The Abuja Biennial which is named after its host city is an art market that will bring together artists, art and culture administrators, art collectors/connoisseurs, political leaders and administrators, tourists and tourism practitioners.
On the Art Embellishment and artist royalty act which is a dream NGA are hoping to realize with this 8th Assembly. The Act if enacted will make it mandatory for every public building as well as bridges in Nigeria to have some kind of embellishment especially art works with a percentage of the construction cost set aside for this purpose. When this happens, you will agree with me that our artists would never lack.Apart from the fact that the pool of money set aside is going to be available to the artists to access through the sale of their works, it would make them sit up and bring out the best in them.
With the Artist Royalty entrenched in the Act, if an artist sells his work to somebody and that person resells it, a percentage of it will go to the artist or his/her family. This is a residual income that will benefit artists just like royalty that performing artists enjoy for the playing of their musical works in any medium!
Other innovative programmes and activities towards promoting and propagating the Visual Arts sub-sector by NGA includes: Nupe Art Conference/Exhibition which took place in the ancient city of Bida, Niger State which interrogated the place of Nupe Art in Nigeria. It featured works of traditional artists from the old Nupe kingdom who displayed different works ranging from paintings, sculptures and textiles. At the exhibition,Dr. Ndagi Abdullahi, Secretary, Nupe Culture & Resource Centre, Bida in his lecture titled,”Nupe Arts: A Renaissance”,asserted that the ancient Nupe people were not just the masters of Arts, but were by and large the originators of the Arts of ancient Nigeria.
The Art of Friendship exhibition initiated in 2012 as a platform for Nigerian artists to cross-fertilize ideas with their counterparts from other nations through their embassies in Nigeria took place last year. It featured 40 works of art , comprising paintings, mix-media, drawing, sculpture and printmaking from Nigeria and four other countries: Republic of Czech, France, Italy and South Korea.
Another programme is NGA Children Funfair which took place last year at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja. Tagged, “Rainbow Art Children Art Expression,”with the theme, “Unlocking Creativity-Christmas through the eyes of the child” it is geared towards stimulating values, identifying talents, motivating parents to love art and encouraging young ones to choose art as a career.The Fair featured six segments: Art Competition, Folktale, Face Painting, Hat/Bead Making, Head Tying and Cartoon Characters. Each category has specific tasks for the children to bring out their innate talents.
Other programmes include, the Art Fair, inaugurated by NGA in 2013 as a deliberate move to encourage professional artists in its employ to produce works for public exhibitions thereby sharpening their skills and developing bodies of works just like their peers in studio practice.
While, the Visual arts competition, in its 5th edition took place at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre featuring works in the Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and Professional categories. The exhibited works showed great promise from the budding artists. The winners were rewarded with cash prizes as incentive to do more and a motivation for others to strive for excellence.
Despite all these laudable programmes, the DG is not happy that since the gallery place at the National theatre was destroyed, all efforts to get another beffitting place from the federal government has yielded no results. This to him is seriously affecting the business of the parastatal and therefore calls on the new administration to do something about that.