An arts group, Golan Heights Renaissance, on Sunday urged the Federal Government to redouble its efforts at preserving and promoting the nation’s arts for cultural and economic development.
The group, comprising old students of the Auchi Polytechnic Arts School, made the plea at the close of a 3-day workshop on drawings in Lagos.
It said the reinforcement would make Nigerian and African arts to gain international values.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the workshop, tagged “Re-union of Strokes (Drawings)’’ was attended by some of the early 1990s students of the school who have carved a niche for themselves in the arts industry.
The workshop featured exhibitions of series of drawings, painting and other artistic works by different artists depicting symbols of authority, deities, epic designs, traditional stools, environment and figures among others.
The artists, who commended Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode for his strides in the promotion of arts and culture, said that the country must document its history and day-to-day life activities.
The Chancellor of the group of Sculptors and Artists, Mr David Abdul-Jabba, said the government needed to redouble its efforts at the preservation and promotion of African arts which, he noted, were becoming extinct.
Abdul-Jabba, who specialised in metal construction arts for the preservation of the lost African cultural heritage, noted that most of the African arts had been lost to the western culture.
“In the past, the government shut all ears to artists in Nigeria, but in recent times, we are beginning to have civilised government which now pay some attention to arts.
“The government must encourage artists because without arts there is no tourism. If we want to develop our tourism industry, we must develop arts.
“Arts and tourism go together, to us the past and present government have not done enough to preserve and promote our arts for the younger generation and the world at large.
“I think the federal and other state governments should take it upon themselves to promote arts by sponsoring arts programmes,’’he said.
The sculptor, who said he had got reached the advanced stage of exhibiting his arts works on “Meeting of African gods’’, said the focus was to preserve African culture, norms and identity.
“We don’t value what we have, our heritage has been relegated for western culture which makes us to look at what is ours disdainfully instead of synchronising African culture with western ones.
“I feel pained with the state of the National Arts Gallery and National Museum and others. It is part of the harm the government has done to arts and culture.
“We have to wake up, we have to sensitise ourselves and our educational institution should do more in the promotion of arts and culture,’’ he said.
Abdul-Jabba, however, said that the group came up because the government could not do it alone.
“Arts and culture play a very major role in the society in the empowerment of people. There is unemployment. Many of us here are employers of labour,’’ he added.
He said that development of arts could help revamp the economy through skill acquisition and jobs creation.
Another Sculptor and Painter, Mr Francis Denedo, said: “Arts is beginning to gain the attention of the government nowadays.
“If government can tap into the art, there are so many profits.
“Most countries are known for their arts. Some countries’ main exports is arts and they get their foreign exchange from arts in form of tourism.
“The government should tap into the potential of every artists to get the best via tourism. Government should move from just making statements to taking practical steps to reinforce arts.’’
Denedo, who urged the government to reach out and collaborate with the real artists to propagate African culture, called for grants to practitioners to advance arts.
The fine artist, who also appealed for the restoration of the National Museum and Arts Gallery’s glory, said that historical centres and figures should be preserved for posterity.
Also, Mr Heymann Ogbemi, another fine artist, said: “There is so much noise about arts but the nation does not have structures on the ground yet for it to profit from the gains in arts.
“The present government seems to be making some emphasis, but it should be more than rhetoric. There should be contact with genuine arts groups.
“In other climes, government actually supports arts by giving grants and scholarship to artists and this should be encouraged if we want a sustainable arts and culture industry.
“Mere pronouncement won’t solve any problem,’’ Ogbemi said.
Reviewing the exhibition, Mr Luciano Uzuegbu, an Art Consultant and Curator, said the group had revived the artistic tradition, adding that artistic works remained the food for the soul.
Uzuegbu, who noted that arts remained a tool to strengthen cross-cultural ties, commended the artists for using western techniques to showcase African heritages. (NAN