Some bronze casters at the Arts Village in Benin, the Edo capital, said they were experiencing a lull in their business, barely two days to the end of the 32nd edition of the National Festival for Arts and Culture, taking place in the ancient city.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent, who visited the popular tourist site on Thursday, learnt that the artists were recording low sales.
It was further gathered that the much expected influx of arts lovers and culture enthusiasts, who were in Benin for the festival, was a mirage.
A cross-section of those who exhibited their works, anxiously waiting for patronage, blamed their woes on the alleged blockade of the entrance to the village by security operatives.
One of the artists, Mr Johnbull Enobakhare, told NAN that his expectations from the festival was completely shattered.
Enobakhare said: “We were fully prepared to take advantage of the opportunity of the hosting of the festival here in Benin to make good sales.
“We have two days left yet there is nothing tangible to show for it. Even our regular customers are scared to enter the village because of the heavy presence of security personnel.
“We beg the police authorities to relocate their men away from the gateway to the village so that prospective customers can come in freely to patronize us.”
Another artist, Mr Aigbe Godspower, who also lamented the low patronage being experienced at the village, said that they needed government’s assistance to be able to compete favourably with their counterparts in other parts of the country.
“Bronze materials are not readily available here because they are exported outside the country, while the available ones are very expensive.
“We now buy condemned and disused bronzes from scavengers and then smelt them to
produce our own artworks.
“It is worrisome that government does not recognise our worth. We need government’s support because our trade has to do with our cultural heritage,” Godspower said.
Also, Mr Anthony Osemwengie, an elderly bronze caster, expressed disappointment that even the discount on the prices of most of their works to attract customers during the festival yielded no result.
Osemwengie appealed to the state and federal governments to subsidise the cost of bronze materials to boost their business.