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How INAC is networking Nigerian crafts to the world

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja Bureau Chief)
18 September 2022   |   2:45 am
The 15th International Arts and Crafts (INAC 2022) Expo was recently held in Abuja with over 32 countries of the world in attendance.

The 15th International Arts and Crafts (INAC 2022) Expo was recently held in Abuja with over 32 countries of the world in attendance.

The expo, one of the major programmes of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), took place between August 18 and 20, with a theme, ‘Networking Nigerian Crafts to the World.’

Runsewe addressing foreign participants at the expo

This theme, many believed, best suited the level of participation, exchange of ideas, expertise, as well as, individual networking that the expo provided for three days.

Unfortunately, while some Nigerian states continued to show apathy, the international community dominated the expo. Only about 17 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory attended the three-day event.

They include Yobe, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Ogun and Katsina. Others are Anambra, Delta, Kano, FCT and Lagos State.

As host of the 2022 National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST 22), coming up in November, the expo gave Lagos State a unique opportunity to market its potential ahead of the fiesta.

The countries that participated include China, Spain, Sudan, Cameroun, Ghana, Togo, Cuba, Republic of Benin and Iran. Others are Syria, India, Congo Republic, Mali, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, Sudan, South Korea and Bulgaria.

The expo featured the best of arts, crafts, apparel and embroidery, brass and metal designs, coral and jewellery designs, classic ceramics, decorative pottery, cultural souvenirs, leather and interior designs, beads, handmade bronze, cane, raffia and wood designs as well as cuisines.

While exhibitions continued on the second day, the expo’s intellectual segment – the Investment Forum – with a theme, ‘Culture, Peace and National Development, held alongside a skills acquisitions programme for youths.

The choice of Ladi Kwali Hall of the Abuja Sheraton Hotels and Towers as a venue for this year’s outing was applauded by participants and guests, who noted that it was a relief from the rain, which has been a major distraction to the expo since its inception in 2008.

The Director General, NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, noted that the partnership and participation of the international audience, particularly, members of the diplomatic community in Nigeria, has been very encouraging.

“It is heartwarming that 32 countries attended the year 2022 edition of our Pre-INAC dinner, a programme that sets the pace for this very important exhibition,” Runsewe stated.

Welcoming guests, Runsewe recalled the rigours of the last two editions of the Expo, which were held as ‘Drive-In’ event in strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols. For him, it was better than outright cancellation of the programme, and according to him, it was sane to return the expo to its traditional indoor setting.

Speaking on the theme of the expo, which has been running for four consecutive years, Runsewe noted that it was in recognition of the fact that no nation is an island.

“For us to take full advantage of the diverse arts and crafts products in Nigeria, we must open our doors to the international audience and engage with industry players and global stakeholders in arts and crafts.

“This will enable us to showcase our unique cultural manifestations and tap into the global best practices.

“In fact, the whole essence of the exposition is to provide a platform for all stakeholders to exhibit their products, interact and network for business partners as well as foster international unity, understanding and partnership.”

Speaking on the security challenges confronting the world, the NCAC boss called on culture enthusiasts and stakeholders to engage the cultures and cultural manifestations to engender sustainable peace and social cohesion.

“It is in strategic response to the realities of our time that I launched the campaign ‘International Diplomacy for Peace’ at the closing ceremony of the 2018 edition of the expo. Culture, with all its manifestations, is a very strong vehicle for propagating and promoting peace. We must continue to use it in dousing tension, suppressing violence and propagating peace in our land,” the NCAC DG admonished.

Considering the large turnout and the success that greeted the edition, Runsewe charged Nigerians to protect the country against negative impressions. He noted that if there were no relative peace in Nigeria as portrayed by some sections of the media, it would be almost impossible to record over 40 countries in attendance.

“So, we must be aware that making Nigeria great is the responsibility of all of us,” Runsewe stated.

Some participants, who spoke to The Guardian, expressed satisfaction with the organisation and commended Runsewe for activities such as this, which is a fillip for cultural growth.

Aliu Kulibali, a Malian, described this year’s outing as impressive. He also commended NCAC for choosing a ‘fantastic’ venue and for bringing together so many countries. According to him, this was the best edition since he started attending the expo.

Is there any area he would like the organisers to improve on?

Kulibali asked for an extension of days from three to at least, five days.

Francis Iba, from Akwa Ibom State, said the programme is a unifying instrument for the country.

On what interested him most in the expo, Iba identified the glamour introduced by the Chief Executive of NCAC “who understands what he is doing.”

According to Iba, Runsewe at the helm of affairs, the organisation would not be as beautiful as it was.

“He knows what he is doing. He brings people together and shows them what he knows about culture. That is what I am seeing today,” he said.

Iba is comfortable with the number of days but feels the expo should be expanded beyond its current size.

“The organisation was wonderful and the venue provided a very conducive atmosphere for the exhibition. This is rainy season, and you cannot achieve this kind of exhibition outdoors because of the rain, and considering also the insecurity in the country, this is the best venue for such an exhibition for now.

“Also, many Nigerians have benefited from the skills acquisition programme. Most people will leave this venue to start up their private businesses; this is an advantage for the youths. So, we encourage this kind of programme to hold from time to time so that our youths can benefit more.

“Imagine the number of youths that attended the training. Both secondary school students and their counterparts in tertiary institutions held down by the ASUU strike benefited from the skills acquisition programme.

“Beyond the benefits, I have listed, the contacts generated were numerous. I know the number of contacts I made here that will add value to my work as a culture officer.”

About 180 youths participated in different trades and at the end of the training, they were awarded certificates and provided starter kits by NCAC.

Skill acquisition programme was one of the greatest innovations introduced into the Expo by Runsewe, and since then, more Nigerians including youths and women have benefited from it.