Ahead FESTAC@40, CBAAC ‘s Anikwe urges private sector support for culture
The Director-General of Centre for Black African Arts and Culture (CBAAC), Sir Ferdinand Anikwe, has decried the low support and involvement of private sector players in culture production in the country. Anikwe, who paid a courtesy visit to The Guardian office at Rutam House recently, said culture had been relegated to the background by policymakers.
Anikwe gave a quote from Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who said, “‘Seek ye first the political kingdom and every other thing will follow.’ We sought and got the political kingdom and nothing followed, almost in the entire African continent. So, I thought the only alternative is to seek ye thee cultural kingdom and every other thing will follow.”
He said countries like Japan, China and Singapore sought the cultural kingdom first and every other thing has followed ever since, adding, “What about Britain? The only thing they did wrong was slave trade and imperialism, they were transferring their cultures to others.”
Anikwe stated that the purpose of the visit to The Guadian was to discuss contemporary African problems, the place of culture during recession, and the 40th anniversary Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), which Africans converged on Lagos to celebrate 40 years ago.
“But since 1977, nothing of such has been performed anywhere on the continent. I asked Admiral O.P. Fingesi, who was the President, International Committee of FESTAC, what happened, in spite of the beautiful arrangement, why nothing like the festival followed years after. He said there was a careful arrangement of rotation from one country to another, and Ethiopia was to host it the following year, but unfortunately, the Lion of Judah was overthrown, and the whole arrangement collapsed. I also took Prof. Wole Soyinka to task, when we played the clips of FESTAC for him and he was delighted. It came through during Murtala Mohammed’s era, he was short-lived and Olusegun Obasanjo saw it to fruition. But after that, FESTAC did not continue due to the fact that many African countries had economic issues.”
Anikwe, who is currently the Chairman of Pan-African Cultural Congress Bureau, said other African countries respect Nigeria for FESTAC and Nollywood. “I think our inability to come to terms with what we have in history and culture has kept us where we are,” he said. “And unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The policy formulators are not trying to show us the way in terms of realism. That is why, we at CBAAC, felt the need to tell the world that FESTAC had a lot of potentials, which have not been realised and harnessed.
“We have sent letters to 59 countries to participate at the 40th anniversary. Former presidents of 59 countries have their portraits on the walls of FESTAC and, of course, the collection of ideas that were the compendium of beautiful contributions by African scholars. Soyinka was a fire brand contributor and it’s still there; Chinua Achebe is there as well”.
He stressed that one of the most important things the country could fall back on are the collection of ideas and genuine contributions of peoples of African descent from the different colloquiums that were held at the festival in 1977.
According to him, “The issue of creative economy today has taken the front pages of papers and across the continent, but earnings from the creative economy is low across the continent. But in the whole of Europe and North America, you will see that creative economy is rising. And, this is the area where we have an advantage, naturally and historically. So, why are we wasting time on oil?
“When we say government has relegated culture to the background, it doesn’t mean that those in the private sector are doing better. The National Troupe has danced all over the world; my friend, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, has done well for national development through his works. For intellectualism to exist and thrive, there must be criticism”.
Anikwe also tasked Nigerians on investing and patronizing the different indigenous fabrics like adire, akwa ocha, aso oke, which could attract foreigners and could be exported to earn foreign exchange.
As he noted, “Look at textile and our designs; when we visited Jamaica, they took all our clothes from us and gave us coats to wear. Indigenous fashion alone is enough to attract foreign exchange for Nigeria. If you go to Equatorial Guinea, they are wearing old coats. Beauty is cultural; when we observe FESTAC 77 at 40, you will have an idea of what this is about.
“When we played the clips of FESTAC to Obasanjo, who oversaw the festival, he could not talk. Miriam Makeba of South Africa was showing her music mastery, her beautiful voice and demonstration of African steps; it is wonderful African music. Just playing the clips during the celebration is enough celebration. I don’t know how else the people of Africa can come together to showcase what we saw during FESTAC. It is a harvest, culturally, politically, intellectually and socially. We need to liberate our people socially through cultural promotion. Nigeria is the pride of Africa, both economically and socially. So, why should we lose the thing that gives us first position? There is a rising wave of cultural revolution, and we want cultural independence.”
Anikwe said there is need to create a synergy of culture enthusiasts, a forum that promotes cultural values, adding, “Culture will survive only when the private sector decides to fund culture”.
He expressed grateful to The Guardian for identifying with CBAAC, and said, “This means a lot; we need more of such”.
CBAAC D-G also canvassed support for his programme on using culture to fight corruption. According to him, “I began a programme on my own, ‘Using Culture to Fight Corruption.’ I went to the Obong of Calabar and we were able to trace the history of how Calabar culture fought against colonialism even at the wake of destroying every other person in Calabar. The Onitsha history is very interesting.