Ambode, Mohammed lift arts sector at exhibition in honour of Rasheed Gbadamosi
• ‘Nigeria’s oil is in the creative industry’
One Lagos Fiesta,’ which took over from ‘Lagos Countdown,’ has eclectic music performances in five diversified centres across Lagos State that usher in the New Year and has entertainment at its core. Music artistes are chiefly at the centre of this celebration extravaganza that is also a crossover from the previous year to a new, jubilant one. With ‘One Lagos Fiesta,’ makers of music in the state are assured of patronage and support.
It left many other practitioners within the arts and culture spectrum reeling from lack of equal patronage and support. Until organisers of the maiden edition of Rasheed Gbadamosi Eko Art Expo, also an offshoot of Lagos@50 Anniversary celebration, stepped into the fray to diffuse the state’s government intervention for a more robust artistic engagement. So that when a visual arts expo held recently, many skeptics were convinced the Centre of Excellence is, yet again, blazing the trail of responsible, inclusive governance.
It gives hope that some day, perhaps, thespians and writers will have a look in from the same government for a better deal for their sub-sectors to have a day in the sun. However, with the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode’s promise to renovate the Main Bowl and Cinema Halls I and II of the National Theatre, theatre practitioners can heave a sigh of relief and be assured of the return of their premium performance venue that has been left in disuse for decades.
That was the jubilant mood and expansive spirit of Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at the event, and he was beside himself with gratitude to Ambode for what has become a source of embarrassment to the Federal Government the inept management of the country’s foremost culture edifice.
According to Mohammed, “I thank Ambode for being one of the most passionate governors for the creative industry. One of the low-hanging fruits is the creative industry. Ambode has demonstrated this in so many ways, one of which is the enhanced security; without security, no nightlife and no cinema-going culture. The Light Lagos Project is one of the best ever.
“Ambode is the first governor on record to build theatres in Lagos. He is giving Nigeria a brand new museum. Ambode is recreating infrastructure that has been missing, bringing the creative industry from the backwater to the centre. ‘One Lagos Fiesta’ is doing a lot. He has changed perception of Nigerians about the creative industry. Ambode is starting a great revolution to help unleash the potentials of young Nigerians.”
Mohammed praised the performances of the night that included Titi Sonuga, who stunned the audience with her ode to the resilience of Lagos as first choice city and Akeem Lasisi, who paid tribute to Gbadamosi for whom the exhibition was held, with his piece, ‘His signature is very bold and rare,’ and a Iwalewa performance by Qudus Onikeku-led QDance Centre. The minister expressed displeasure with the national school curriculum, saying it is outdated and that there is “no link between town and gown, no subsidy from government and no access to funding” for the sector, a situation he said needed to be redressed.
“Nigeria’s oil is in the creative industry,” Mohammed declared. “It’s pro-poor, pro the people.” Also notable art collector, Prince Yemisi Omooba Shyllon, commended Lagos State Government and its governor for honouring Gbadamosi with a quality exhibition that exemplified who he was as an arts patron and culture enthusiast. According to Shyllon, “You have started a movement; everything done here is a representation of what he stood for. He was into visual arts and literature.”
Shyllon reeled off statistics and figures of earnings of countries that pay attention to its artistic traditions, as drivers of tourism. France, he said, attracts 85 million tourists yearly to experience its artistic and architectural showpieces, which earn France a tidy sum. U.S. earns some handsome $1.44 trillion from tourism, he said, adding that Lagos could earn N8 billion from tourism if the city gave enough support to its arts sector.
He declared, “What lifts tourism is the arts of a city. If Lagos invests in arts, Lagos will generate N8 billion. Lagos can feed Nigeria in terms of revenues if it invested in the arts. Ambode, you are the Moses we have been waiting for. Joblessness will be reduced. At the national level, Nigeria has ability to generate N500 billion from the arts and tourism sectors alone. The largest industry in the world is arts.”
In his address titled ‘Lagos- megacity with an Art,’ Soul, Ambode said, “The Rasheed Gbadamosi Eko Art Expo is an important event for us in Lagos State because it seeks to play three important roles. The first is the obvious reason why we are all here, which is, to appreciate the great talents that abound in the state. Many people have acknowledged and celebrated our modest support to the musical art as well as the motion picture industry, particularly through our annual ‘One Lagos Fiesta’. But others have wondered that if our intervention in the creative sector excludes the visual arts. This exhibition is our response to such well-meaning enquiries.
“Creativity is the most valuable asset in any progressive society. Progressive governments must embrace creativity. We are committed, and we must reward contributors of creative ideas with incentives. “This is why you will find on the same platform a good spread and mix in the sheer variety of the works of masters that have defined the arts landscape in our state over time with those of more contemporary candour as well as those that are emerging but which packs a lot of promise in their expressions through photography, paintings, installations and sculptural works. We are very proud to have such a rich list of artists and galleries participating in this epoch-making event. I am happy to inform you that this marks for us the beginning of an enduring relationship with the arts sector and the arts intelligentsia that make this sector such an important partner in the development of our state as Africa’s largest, busiest and, perhaps, the most lucrative creative hub.
“In due course, you will begin to see that our interest as well as our engagement with the arts community started a while ago, and it’s just about to bear good fruits. We have commissioned several artists to decorate various parts of our state with landmark installations, which are in addition to the six arts theatres and cinemas we shall open across state before the end of this year.
“Lagos is, indeed, a state with a vibrant artistic soul. This exhibition exposition shall immortalise the name of Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, an illustrious Lagos man, who served the state to the very end with his talent and passion for the arts, and with his time and resources. There can be no better way to honour such a rare breed than to institute an annual arts fiesta in his memory. Today’s event, however, bears more significance. It is the first event of the New Year to remind the world that this year is special to us, and that art will be an integral component of the golden jubilee anniversary of the state.
Our administration believes that no nation or state can achieve its full potential without adequate attention to matters of heritage and culture, or without due encouragement for the teeming youthful population that sees and seeks opportunities in the creative industries. This is why we are keenly interested in further development of our creative talents in providing them with support and opportunities to be engaged, in helping to create platforms, such as we have just shown today, to excel and compete globally, and in showing to the world that Lagos is more than ready to announce its arrival as the continent’s frontline destination of choice that gives arts and culture their due.”
Young artists like Chigozie Obi, Oluwasegun Akan and Naomi Oladipo also expressed delight at their inclusion to exhibit alongside the masters.