The Arts

September 11, 2023

INAC 2023 & revival of Abuja Cultural Market

INAC 2023 & revival of Abuja Cultural Market

From left: Mike Yousuf Ugwu (Zheng Xiapeng), a chief in Enugu, Anambra State and Vice Chairman, Nigeria-China Business Council; Prince Stanley Ifeanyi Ogbuewu, Commissioner for Culture & Tourism, Ebonyi State; Rev. Hon. Joseph Titus Nagombe, Commissioner, Ministry of Heritage & Ecotourism, Taraba State; and Otunba Segun Runsewe, during the tour of the renovated Abuja Cultural Market as part of activities of the 2023 INAC. PHOTO: Osa Mbonu-Amadi.

By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor

The 16th International Arts & Crafts Expo, INAC, which began on Thursday, September 7, 2023, ended on Saturday, September 9, 2023, but what it achieved, as usual, for the country’s image and future economy remains permanent.
Titled “Networking Nigerian Crafts to the world”, this year’s INAC, which Otunba Runsewe, Director-General of National Council for Arts & Culture, struggled to convene against all odds, on account of the present deplorable economic situation in Nigeria, added some significant milestones.
The 2023 INAC was used to launch the revival of what the D-G said “used to be the cultural market in Abuja” – an expansive arts and culture space with massively renovated facility located in the heart of Central Business District, after the Yar’ Adua Centre, near Abuja Continental Hotel and Shoprite. Among the dignitaries that toured the new cultural market were Prince Stanley Ifeanyi Ogbuewu, Commissioner for Culture & Tourism, Ebonyi State; Rev. Hon. Joseph Titus Nagombe, Commissioner, Ministry of Heritage & Ecotourism, Taraba State; Mike Yousuf Ugwu (Zheng Xiapeng), a Chief in Enugu, Anambra State who is also the Vice Chairman, Nigeria-China Business Council, and other important personalities.
Conducting the media and the dignitaries round the facility, Otunba Runsewe explained that the place used to be the cultural market in Abuja: “The cultural market was not giving us a good image. The diplomatic community used to come to shop here. That time, there was not even enough toilets in this place. Now, I have built 20 modern toilets here.
“This main road is named Diplomatic Drive. We have South-South, South-East, North-East, North-Central – all the zones in Nigeria are represented here. Now we are going to have a pharmacy, a business centre, a photo shop, and a lot of other things. Where we are now is what we call Birthday Arena. So, instead of you going to celebrate your birthday elsewhere, spending a lot of money, you can just come here.”
The Birthday Arena, an open space, is decorated with beautiful sculptures, discarded vehicle tyres that have been repurposed into chairs and tables, and other artworks.
“These are what we want to replicate in every state,” Runsewe said. “Government is trying to help the ordinary Nigerians. The shops here will go for N200, 000 per year. Some plazas around here go for 2 or 3 million naira. But this one is to empower the ordinary Nigerians; to help them to make a living. This will reduce unemployment, crime in our society and make our country a better place.”
The D-G urged Indonesians, Malaysians and people from other countries who have their national days “to come and see what we have for them.”
The party also visited a mini-Amphitheatre built within the cultural market complex. “We can organize shows, plays, etc. here. Like today, you saw Nigerians performing the Malaysian dance, Japanese dance, Indonesian dance, Ghanaian, etc. So, it can be like a weekly event,” he said.
Runsewe also took the guests and media to the block of halls (supposedly for accommodation). He disclosed that the halls were built during the 2003 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGOM, held in Abuja. “God has a reason for everything,” Runsewe said. “I was the one God made to handle CHOGOM for Nigeria in 2003. That was when we built these halls. I never knew I would come back to be part of it. So we want to encourage all the foreign embassies to come and enjoy Nigerian cuisine, culture, etc.
“We can create 145 employments directly in one day; indirectly, it can go to about 300! If you do that in every state, this country will be better for it. So, this is the sector that can save this country. You had better tap into it before it is too late.”
Vanguard asked the Director-General, Otunba Runsewe, how he intends to ensure that after investing so much resources into the cultural market, the facility will be put into full use, and not allowed to lie idle and rot away like so many other government facilities in Nigeria. “That takes the grace of the almighty God who owns life and gives destiny to everyone. We pray he will give us a direction,” Runsewe answered. “I have three officers I am training. Even without me being here, they know what to do.”
Runsewe said the place used to be a hideout for armed robbers. “In fact, some (powerful) people who had interests (in taking over and selling this government land) attempted to lock me up. I said to them, if this is the only thing I will do for this country, I will recover this property.
“Some of you may not know the story. I succeeded in recovering the property. They threatened me with court cases. I said I will be happy to be the first Nigerian to be locked up for protecting the interest and integrity of Nigeria. They didn’t succeed. That means the grace of God is still working. In two weeks’ time, this place will be functional. Many countries have their own. We should also have our own.”
Overall best exhibitors
Ogun State, which has become serial winner of events at INAC and its sister show, National Festival of Arts & Culture, NAFEST, once again emerged as Overall Best Exhibitors at the 2023 INAC.
Taraba State came 2nd, while Katsina and Kwara states tied for the 3rd position. Kaduna and Ebonyi shared the 4th position, while Borno State emerged 5th best exhibitor at the expo.
Awards for other states & countries
India and Taraba State clinched the Best Pavilion award, while Indonesia and Kwara State carted away the Best Pavilion in Merchandising. Yobe, Katsina and Anambra states were adjudged the Best in Leather Works. But in Calabash Design and Decoration, Bauchi, Adamawa and the Philippines carried the day. The Best in Pottery and Ceramics went to China, Kaduna and Bulgaria, while Lagos, Ebonyi and Korea won in Woodworks.
The Most Innovative Products Packaging Award went to Bangladesh, Iran and Burkina Faso. Syria, Niger and Kano won the Best Product Design in Metalworks. For Special Appearance, Kogi and Egypt were awarded prizes. Special Days Awards went to Rivers, Ogun and Taraba.
The Best Exhibitors Awards were handed to Ethiopia, Botswana and Trinidad & Tobago, while the INAC Special Award went to the Indian Contingent, Le Look, Nike Art Gallery.
Mexico and Malaysia clinched the Special Day Performance awards. But the E-Marketing award went to Cuba, Columbia and Lebanon, while Indonesia, Ogun and Burkina Faso went down history as the Most Enterprising Exhibitor at the 2023 International Arts & Crafts Expo held in Abuja, Nigeria.