‘Government should place embargo on importation of foreign art’
By Tajudeen Sowole
Godwin Archie-Abia is a mixed media artist who has used bone collage in a resilient form to enrich his art. Having combined studio practice with the business of selling art through his Ikeja, Lagos-based Win Arc Gallery, for almost two decades, he recommends the current state of the arts in Nigeria needs to be reviewed so it could be contribute to the growth of the economy.
Archie-Abia’s art, history and nationhood.
I am an artist, but have strong interest in history and international relations. I have established my art by converting waste and discarded materials into art.
Based on my focus, most of my works have themes on the Nigeria question. Among my well known works are Is 1914 a Mistake? Dialogue, Is oil A Curse or Blessing? Never Again, Peace and Harmony.
I also realised that artists need to suggest to government what to do to move art beyond the current stage. I am worried that Nigeria at 51 has no reason to be where we are considering some factors such as our geographical position, large population, natural and human resources.”
How does the arts play its part in the growth of the economy?
I like to look at the American model of 1930s. Currently, the U.S. is a leader in the arts. How did they get it right? In the 1930s during the American depression, Work Projects Administration (WPA) engaged thousands of unemployed writers on the federal pay roll.
Also a similar initiative, Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) produced about a thousand publications. This bred interest in American history and prompted the FWP to collect folklore, study ethnic groups and record writers both young and old who are ready to contribute their talent if the right incentives are given.
There was also, Federal Music Project (FWP), which empowered about 15,000 out- of -work musicians. And Federal Arts Project (FAP) helped water colorists and drafters offered elaborate illustrations of American materials. At night, artists teach sculpture, painting, clay modeling and carving in county churches, settlement houses and schools.
The most notable contribution of the FAP came in the form of murals under the influence of Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera and Jose clement Orozco.
American artists covered the wall of airports, post office, and other government buildings with paintings, glorifying local life and work. Most of the murals stressed the enduring of American life.
Also, the country’s Federal Theater Project (FTP) reached a large number of people – and aroused the consciousness of the people. It also played a crucial role.
In Nigeria government should identify writers, visual arts and other groups in the creative sector and put them at work and see what will come out of them. Thanks to the LNG Literary project.
Artists should be trained to create job on their own as any economic growth without job creation is a mirage.
One must however commend few corporate groups and government agencies such as GTBank, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Diamond Banks, Niger Insurance and a few more who are using art as part of their identity. Sculptures, for example, are important as part of beautification of the environment and creating job for the people. Lagos State and few other state governments are doing this as we have seen in such sculptures as Tai Solarin at Yaba, Dr. Beko Ransom Kuti at Anthony-Oke and great statesman Obafemi Awolowo at Allen Roundabout in Ikeja.
How to improve art collections in Nigerian.
Do you know that a lot of Nigerians import works of foreign artists into this country? Government should place embargo on importation of foreign arts. Government should encourage research on arts materials; we have competent hand to do this. It’s wrong for people to make money in Nigeria and go abroad to import arts. This helps in growing the economy of other countries. Check some of these big hotels and houses of top elitists, you will see that the works on the walls are imported and are of foreign artists. Thanks to Yemisi Shyllon, (an engineer) Chief Raheed Gbadamosi, Sam Olagbaju and few others who have been patronising Nigerian artists.
Nigerian government should come up with a policy of art embellishment for our foreign embassies as well as encourage them to organise show for the artists thereby exposing them to foreign art market.
With this, more artists will stick to their creativity and get better value. Population of over 140 million should be our market strength for arts. In a country of 60 percent unemployed of which seven percent are youth, we need to do something about the rising unemployment.
One of the renowned names in the corporate world, Wally Olins is right by noting that wealth used to be best on ownership of land. He argued that more recently wealth is created based on the capacity to make things; based on knowledge and ability to use the knowledge. Fine artists in Nigeria are knowledgeable people in the field who can be self-employed.
But thank to President Goodluck Jonathan who promised 110,000 jobs in four years with the launch of youwin to empower youth. We pray he succeeds; we all should support him by bringing our ideas to the table to drive the nation forward.