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INAC 2023: Networking Nigeria to the world through arts, culture

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie and Daniel Okejeme, Abuja
18 September 2023   |   3:25 pm
In spite of the harsh economic reality and the prevailing socio-political climate in Nigeria, the Otunba Segun Runsewe-led National Council for Arts and Culture, hosted the world to the 16th International Arts and Crafts Expo (INAC 2023).

As Runsewe finally revived Abuja Cultural Market

In spite of the harsh economic reality and the prevailing socio-political climate in Nigeria, the Otunba Segun Runsewe-led National Council for Arts and Culture, hosted the world to the 16th International Arts and Crafts Expo (INAC 2023).

The arts and craft market, which opened on Thursday, September 7 and lasted till September 9, had in attendance, local and international participants, diplomats from more than 38 countries and 22 states across Nigeria.

There were also over 30 Non- Governmental Organizations, who participated actively through their exhibitions.

The event featured apparels and embroideries, brass and metal designs, captivating music and dance, coral and jewelry designs, classic ceramics, decorative pottery, cultural souvenirs and delicious cuisine across the world.

It also featured exquisite leather and interior designs, fascinating beads, bronze, magnificent cane and raffia designs.

Beyond exhibitions and funfair, over 200 participants were trained on different crafts during the event and the best among them were given a starter packages to help set up their own businesses. This has become the tradition since Runsewe took over the leadership of NCAC.

He felt that empowering Nigerians to become economically self-reliant is the best way to address youth unemployment, insecurity and youth’s restiveness in the country.

With the theme: “Networking Nigerian Crafts to the World”, this year’s forum equally served to launch the revival of what used to be the Abuja Cultural Market, located within the Permanent Site of NCAC and strategically behind the famous Yar’ Musa Adua Centre.

The Director General, NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, explained what led to the close down of former Cultural Market. Recall that prior to his assumption of office as NCAC boss, the space was allegedly occupied by hoodlums and served as a hideout for armed robbers, who the D.G said, painted the image of the country in bad light.

“In fact, some powerful people who had interest in taking over and selling this government land attempted to lock me up. I said to them, if this is the only thing I will do for this country, I will recover this property.

“Some of you may not know the story. I succeeded in recovering the property. They threatened me with court cases. I said I would be happy to be the first Nigerian to be locked up for protecting the interest and integrity of Nigeria. They didn’t succeed.

That means the grace of God is still working. In two weeks’ time, this place will be functional. Many countries have their own. We should also have our own.”

“The Cultural Market was not giving us a good image. The diplomatic community used to come to shop here. That time, there was not even enough toilets in this place. Now, I have built 20 modern toilets here.

“This main road is named Diplomatic Drive. Now, we have South-South, South-East, North-East and North-Central. All the Geo-Political Zones in Nigeria are represented here.

“Also, we are going to have a pharmacy, a business centre, a photo shop and a lot of other things here. This place is called ‘Birthday Arena’. (An open space, beautifully decorated to serve the purpose).

“So, instead of going to celebrate your birthday elsewhere and spending a lot of money, you can just come here and celebrate”, the D.G said.

Adding: “These are what we want to replicate in every state. Government is trying to help the ordinary Nigerians. The shops here will go for a reasonable amount unlike plazas around this area that are so expensive. This is designed to empower the ordinary Nigerians; to help them make a living. This will reduce unemployment, crime in our society and make our country a better place to live in.”

Runsewe also used the occasion to beckon on other diplomatic missions in Nigeria, including Indonesians, Malaysians and all who observe their National Days to visit the Birthday Arena.

The Mini-Amphitheatre built within the Cultural Market complex was also toured and according to the D.G, shows, dramas and other entertainment activities can be hosted in the mini-theatre.

He said: “Here, you saw Nigerians performing the Malaysian dance, Japanese dance, Indonesian and Ghanaian dances. So, such activities can hold here like a weekly event.”

There was also a tour of the administrative block that houses halls, built during the 2003 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGOM). Coincidentally, Runsewe handled the event for Nigeria then.

He said: “God has a reason for everything. I was the one God made to handle CHOGOM for Nigeria in 2003. That was when we built these halls. I never knew I would come back to be part of it. So, we want to encourage all the foreign missions in Nigeria to come and enjoy Nigerian cuisine and culture here.

“We can create 145 employments directly in one day. Indirectly, it can go to about 300. If you do that in every state, this country will be better for it. So, this is the sector that can save this country. You better tap into it before it is too late”, he said.

Some of the countries that attended this year’s cultural market include, the People’s Republic of China, Columbia, America, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mexico and Burkina Faso.

Others are Botswana, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Lebanon and Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Philippine, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Bulgaria, Bangladesh, Venezuela and Ethiopia.

Some of the participants who spoke at the close of the market commended the organizers for the consistency and attempt to expand the scope annually. Ana Flavia represented Cuba, described the expo as a better way to showcase Nigerian culture and tradition. According to her, the event was colourful and well packaged.

Also speaking, Mr. Noor from Indonesia gave kudos to the organizers for the opportunity to attend and the impeccable display of Nigeria’s art and culture.

For Jaafar Shafig Ibarhim, an Iranian exhibitor, “The event brought together divergent cultures and provided a platform for participants to learn from one another.” He stressed that the Embassy of Iran was delighted to be part of the event.

Also, a representative of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Liu, who commended the DG for the opportunity, admitted that the event not only introduced them to Nigerian culture but also showed them different cultures from the different states that made up Nigerian.

The Head of Chancery, Bangladesh High Commission, Mr. Ahoduzzarnan Liton,

extended his gratitude to Otunba Runsewe and the entire NCAC team for availing him and his country the opportunity to introduce Bangladesh culture, heritage and products to the people of Nigeria and other participants from other parts of the world.

At the end of the three-day event, Ogun State emerged the overall best exhibitors.

It is followed by Taraba State, which took second position while Katsina and Kwara states grabbed third place position.

Meanwhile, Kaduna and Ebonyi States came 4th as Borno State emerged 5th best.

Other awards include the Best Pavilion Award, which went to India and Taraba State, Best Pavilion in Merchandising went to Indonesia and Kwara State; Best in Leather Works award went to Yobe, Katsina and Anambra states; awards for best Calabash Design and Decoration went to Bauchi, Adamawa and the Philippines while the Best in Pottery and Ceramics awards were clinched by the People’s Republic of China, Kaduna and Bulgaria while Lagos and Ebonyi States as well as Korea won in Woodworks.

The Most Innovative Products Packaging Award went to Bangladesh, Iran and Burkina Faso. Syria, Niger and Kano won the Best Product Design in Metalworks. Award for Special Appearance went to Kogi and Egypt while Special Days awards went to Rivers, Ogun and Taraba States.

The Best Exhibitors Awards went to Ethiopia, Botswana and Trinidad & Tobago while INAC Special Award went to the Indian Contingent, Le Look and Nike Art Gallery.

Also, Mexico and Malaysia took the Special Day Performance awards while the Marketing award went to Cuba, Columbia and Lebanon.

The award for the Most Enterprising Exhibitor at the 2023 International Arts & Crafts Expo, went to Indonesia, Burkina Faso and Ogun State, Nigeria.