Saturday 4 August 2018

Artists visit VP Osinbajo, demand Endowment for Art, National Gallery building

Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (right), receiving honour, Grand Patron, SNA, from Oliver Enwonwu, President of the association at Aso Rock, Abuja...recently. Pic c/o SNA.
Again, pending demands of the culture sector, particularly, National Endowment for The Arts was brought to the attention of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo during the visit of Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) executive members, few days ago. Led by its president, Oliver Enwonwu, SNA also demanded that the government heed the call of artists for a befitting National Gallery of Art.
Enwonwu's address to the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo:
"Established in 1963, the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) is the umbrella professional body for all Nigerian visual artists. It seeks to engender the highest ethical standards in the practice and teaching of the visual arts in Nigeria. The SNA has over 4,000 members across the country including painters, sculptors, art historians, art administrators, critics, writers, conservators, curators, academics and students.
 "We, the national executive of the SNA, are here to communicate the warm greetings and good wishes of the members and leaders of the visual arts community to the Federal Republic of Nigeria through Your Excellency’s good offices.
 Indeed, Nigeria's visual artists commend this present administration for its visionary and timely Economic Diversification Agenda. In line with this laudable national advancement initiative, the Society of Nigerian Artists continues to:

"1.    Hold nationwide competitions and workshops especially across primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, as well as exhibitions and conferences on the role of art in shaping society, including our international Convention on Art and Development (CONADEV), which serves to bring together academic researchers in the visual arts, literature, music and the performing arts. Today, it is one of the most important events on the Nigerian arts calendar. The most recent was held in collaboration with the University of Benin in 2016.

"2.    Work with relevant regulatory bodies like the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to re- articulate the art curricula in all categories of art schools in Nigeria, in line with 21st- century standards. To date, representatives of the SNA accompany these regulatory organs on accreditation exercises.

"Despite these achievements, we have our challenges including:
•    Non-implementation of various endowment funds and policies on the visual arts
•    The dwindling enrolment for the study of the visual arts in tertiary institutions across the country
Many of these problems can be directly traced to inadequate appointments of professionals to boards or the headship of relevant agencies concerned with art and culture. The results are to be expected, including the unfulfilled potential of a viable creative sector to lift Nigeria out of an almost sole dependency on crude oil.

"Indeed, the visual arts has its peculiarities and art professionals themselves are best positioned to improve its understanding and proffer solutions to challenges within the sector. Indeed, the fact that today, we do not have a separate ministry of arts and culture, away from information, might be enough evidence of the poor appreciation of the visual arts as a tool for socio-economic development.

"In other climes, the visual arts sector is one of the biggest employers of labour and reformers of public attitude. Examples abound in institutions like the Louvre in France, the Statue of Liberty in the United States and with artists like Picasso in Spain. In these examples, we witness the phenomenal power of art to brand a country and improve her image, a situation much needed in a Nigeria dealing with the scourge of Boko Haram.

"It is also the SNA’s aim to work keenly with the federal government to rebuild our nation for not only the present but also for future generations of Nigerians. In achieving this, kindly allow me to outline a few areas of partnership:

•    A structure befitting for the National Gallery of Art, located in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja to house and promote the national collection of artworks.

•    A regular art biennial or triennial such as Dakar Biennial in Senegal; Bamako Photo Festival in Mali; FESPACO in Burkina Faso; and Black Heritage Festival 'Akwaba' in Ghana.

Members of SNA with VP Prof Yemi Osinbajo, during the visit to Aso Rock...recently.

•    An artists’ village, complete with studios and technological hubs to not only facilitate the production and dissemination of the visual arts but to employ art and design to dream of a better future for all Nigerians; a future of eco- cities, alternative models of democracy, domestic robots, smart appliances and self- driving cars.

"These initiatives will improve tourism and gain foreign exchange for Nigeria, as well as foster deeper understanding and unity amongst our diverse cultures, an efficient solution for Boko Haram terrorism, which emanates from an ideology based on social and religious intolerance.

"Other partnership initiatives are:
•    The appointment of artists and art professionals to the headship of federal cultural agencies tasked with the promotion of the visual arts.

•    A National Endowment Fund for the Visual Arts, established in collaboration with the Society of Nigerian Artists.
•    The embellishment of public buildings and spaces with artworks.
•    Artists’ royalties on the resale of artworks in Nigeria.
•    Tax rebates for corporate organisations to facilitate the consumption of artworks
•    The establishment of a Presidential Art Advisory Committee.
•    The establishment of a committee in collaboration with the Society of Nigerian Artists, to work with relevant federal authorities in overseeing the export of artworks. Presently, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments wrongly charges on export permits for contemporary works of art".        

Enwonwu highlights these as "successes" of the visit:
"1. Investiture of the VP as Grand Patron of the SNA.
2.Appointment of a representative of the SNA on the Presidential Advisory Group on Creativity and Technology, in the Office of the Vice President.
Here, the SNA would advise the Federal Government in formulating policies to guide the; embellishment of public buildings and spaces including foreign Nigerian embassies; increased representation of artists/ art professionals on the board of federal cultural agencies; artists’ royalties on secondary sales; tax rebates for corporate organisations, to facilitate the consumption of artworks; and export charges on contemporary artworks.
The Advisory Group is part of the larger Industrial Competiveness Advisory Council inaugurated by President Buhari in 2017, to enhance industrial policies and performance in Nigeria.
3. An endowment fund, supported by His Excellency, and driven by private sector partnership. Objectives include the establishment of a gallery of modern Nigerian art with a secretariat for the SNA, an art academy, the publishing of critical texts and the provision of grants for artists".

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