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A Time To Fight For The Arts

“If we cannot fight for our arts, what, then are we fighting for?

Save the future, promote arts and culture

To fight for arts is to fight for the salvation of humanity.”

– Winston Churchill

2017 was an outstanding year for the arts and culture community in Lagos. Being the pulse of the country, the state saw tremendous developments in the arts and culture community. In May, Nigeria made its debut at the Venice Biennale Festival which was the harbinger of good news and further exciting activities for the arts community.

Another major event of 2017 was the extensive wield of public space for arts by the Lagos State government. It featured art installations around major local government areas in the state. But, what if some of these installations reverenced the culture or history of these areas?

Liberation At Allen Junction, Ikeja. Photo: Terra Kulture (The Nigerian Cultural Center)

The Lagos @ 50 celebrations aimed to celebrate the history of Lagos as well as sell its content to Nigerians in the diaspora. Yet, the celebration came and left without a trace for posterity. Was this because of the replacement of the word “arts” with “entertainment”?

Art is not entertainment. Art is art, entertaining due to its appeal but art is art.

The Nigerian art scene saw a development in Lagos as well as other major cities in the country, yet the effect in the core is still cosmetic. Majority of people still believe that government has an important role to play in the course of the development of arts and culture.

Our history and heritage as Nigerians span back to thousands of centuries before the arrival of white traders. The great wall of Kano was built in the 14th Century, the same century that the celebrated the walls of China by the Ming dynasty.

King Jaja Of Opobo. Photo: Good Books Africa

We boast historical landmarks and tales as magical as the tale of Ali Baba and the Arabian Nights. From King Jaja of Opobo who defied British merchants by shipping oil from Opobo to Liverpool, to the inspiring story of Queen Amina of Zazzu who fought and conquered great kingdoms in her early 30s. We also have Da Rocha of Lagos Island, who was so rich he sent his laundry to London. These stories are the stuff of legacy films like Titanic, Star Wars or franchises from Marvel or DC.

The year 2017 saw some staggering developments in the tourism industry. Private organisations and tour guides with good social media clout showcased breathtaking landmarks across the country in spite of the risks and insecurity in major parts of the country.

The year 2018 is a year of return to our roots, culture, and heritage in Nigeria. A year to harness resources from our local market and industries for greater development. Our history, culture, and heritage are dying and we can do more than fold our arms and watch.

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