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‘Creative sector must reinvent itself in post COVID-19 era’

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The National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), last week Thursday, May 14, 2020, held a conference to set agenda for the creative industry. Titled, COVID-19: Impact on Nigeria’s creative sector, the virtual conference was convened by the Director-General of NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, and it had Israel Eboh, president of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) as guest speaker.

According to Runsewe, the conference is geared towards repositioning the sector following the manner COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the arts and cultural heritage sectors.

Runsewe, who is also the President of World Crafts Council, African Region, said the creative industry is not only the cement that binds together not only hearts and souls but entire societies and nations.

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He noted that the industry’s contribution to economic growth is humongous. It is estimated that the industry generates $250 billion in revenue every year, creating 29.5 million jobs worldwide.

He said, “the creative industry offers vast opportunity in our search for economic diversification. About $250 billion yealy revenue is generated globally from the sector. It also accounts for about 29.5 million jobs.”

Runsewe said, “there is global health emergency occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. “This has imposed severe economic burden in virtually all nations of the world. Nigeria is a mono-economy almost entirely dependent on oil revenue for its mainstay. The shock of the effects of COVID-19 in the Nigerian economy is devastating. There is, therefore, the urgent need for economic diversification. This is why we must now think outside of the box,” boss of country’s foremost culture agency said.

According to Runsewe, “Nigeria must take advantage of the potentials available in the sector.

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To him, “nothing succeeds in this world without proper planning and effective coordination. This makes the need for agenda setting for the sector imperative, to harness and channel the vast opportunities in the sector to empower our people and strengthen our economy. This online Zoom series Agenda Setting for the Nigerian Creative Industry is a platform to engage with critical stakeholders in order to aggregate views and opinions of industry players in various sub-sectors to set agenda for the creative industry.”

He noted, “Our documentary on experiences before, during and after COVID-19 will help us keep history to enable people to have a detailed understanding of how it has affected the creative industry.”

The gust speaker, Eboh, urged art community to embrace digital exhibitions as an alternative platform to market their works of art.

Eboh, who is a producer and director, said this would mitigate the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian creative industry, which had great potential of generating huge revenue and employment for the nation.

On how to get the best from the culture sector, he called for “the creation of a separate Ministry of Culture in order to focus effectively in the serious business of promoting the nation’s heritage.”

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According to him, “keeping culture as an appendage to Information will continue to make it the poorer brother of that relationship.”

He also called for the creation of skits and performance that could be showcased online to attract tourists and visitors to the country. He noted that these visuals would be in the minds of people.

He stated that the visual artists can showcase their works on virtual platforms while performing artistes can also produce play lets to be exhibited on different social media platforms such as YouTube for viewers to appreciate the talents of Nigerians.

“Our artists need to practice even at home. In fact, they must be socially relevant to their work.”
He said that tour operators, travel agents and other tourism practitioners could have video clips of destinations to be exhibited on different digital platforms to create awareness of the existence of such sites.

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While saying that to create wealth, “we must find new ways of expressing our art,” he added, “through this, businesses can still continue in the industry, rather than the total collapse we are experiencing. COVID-19 has seriously dealt with the creative industry because the industry is people-driven. That is the reason digitalising our crafts has become very necessary.”

While commending NCAC for showing a commitment to grow the sector, said government has always adopted the attitude of reaction, and not being proactive.

Eboh urged the Federal Government to create a sustainable infrastructure that would grow the sector at such a critical time as this, such as electricity, Internet connections and more. He also called on the government to give some monetary palliatives to the creative industry as done in some developed countries to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.

While complaining of poor patronage due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemicChairman, Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA-Lagos chapter), Mr. Idowu, urged government to cushion the effect of the pandemic on the Nigerian artists by providing palliatives

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“Galleries are at stake. They don’t have money as a result of the lockdown.”

He also called on the Central Bank of Nigeria to make the already available palliatives provided for artists accessible to all without partisanship.

“We are seriously affected BY this lockdown; we need help from government; we need to continue having collaboration with international artists. Most artists do not have money to produce works, we need some palliatives,” Sonaya said.

One time chairman of Lagos State chapter, SNA, Mr. Olu Ajayi, called for the establishment of Virtual Museum for Arts and Culture, capable of projecting works of Nigerian artists.

He said artists have to consistently engage technological innovations and exhibit their works in response to the lockdown. This, he said, would enable artists across the world to have access to works collected from Nigerians as well as give room for collaboration.

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Pointing to the challenge of not having a physical space to exhibit, he said technological space should be considered. He noted that with such a virtual museum in place, Nigeria could generate over N100 million within a week as individuals who assess the platform pay.

According to him, this would help the artists cushion the effect of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, as they would also get a share of whatever revenue was generated.

“With COVID-19 ravaging the world and social distancing, artists can no longer have exhibitions in the conventional way. We need virtual museum where our works can be exhibited,” Ajayi quipped.

He retorted, “Nigerian crafts, sculptures, paintings, local fabrics and more will be displayed on such a virtual platform. The establishment of the virtual museum will help the artists to stay in business at such a critical period. There are virtual museums in other developed countries, it’s time to have ours,” he said.

For Mr Rockson Igelige, the challenge of piracy was his concern and he, therefore, urged the Federal Government to enact laws that will protect works of arts, which are usually put online to guide against duplication and piracy. He, however, charged practitioners in the sector to embrace technology. His words: “there is a need to domesticate laws signed by the government, especially copyright laws.”

Jensen Okereke, however, called for a vibrant partnership between the media, government and the artists to develop a robust template for the creative sector that will emerge after the pandemic might have become a thing of the past.

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