- Prof.Kila’s CIAPS moves to change situation
Stories by Samuel Ogundipe
nitiate a discussion on the highlights of a football match played on a Saturday at a Sunday evening picnic with your friends and family members and you’ll discover that you’ve just started a topic that will probably outlast not just the picnic but the entire get- together.
Now, turn around the following Sunday and tell the same group of individuals how fascinated you are with the ingenuity of Theo Van Gogh as manifested in his artworks and you’d be surprised to see how fast you become an outcast, and that’s if your mental stability is not put into question by each and everyone of them.
If that sounded like an exaggeration, then you have no idea how strange and boring some Nigerians view the work of arts.
In almost every part of Nigeria today, discussions about the importance of art hardly come up, if ever. In the country’s education system, fine art is still mildly taught in some government-owned secondary schools but never in public primary schools, meaning a child would have spent almost half of his formative years with no ample knowledge about the arts. Most private schools are believed to be offering the subject from primary two through senior secondary level. In schools where fine arts are taught, most important aspects are often left out. These include the type of painting? Is it abstract or representational? When was the painting created? By who?and so on.
Arts experts say the government is partly to blame for the nation’s seeming indifference to visual and literary arts education because it finds it boring coupled with the fact that is has no immediate pecuniary value.
It has n’t always been like this.
Mr.ChukaNnabuife, a journalist and public affairs analyst, who’d written extensively about arts and literature, told the WESTERN POST that government stopped paying attention to the arts almost at the same time as when oil revenue became the sole sustainer of the nation’s economy.
“Historically, Nigerians were a lover of the arts. Benin people were in possession of one of the greatest work of arts anywhere in the world. People will come from all over the world to purchase Benin artworks. The people of Ile-Ife also had a large market for their artworks in the olden days because they were very good at it.
“Nigerians of nowadays no longer care about artworks. Those who care are the ardent lover of arts and they’re very few and far between. They like artworks naturally and are fanatical about it. Other than those few, nobody in Nigeria cares about arts and it’s very sad.”
Indeed. So much so that the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies, CIAPS, a public policy think-tank dedicated to promoting visual arts and literature, is now on a quest to reverse this forlorn situation Nigerians now find themselves.
Speaking during the ongoing maiden edition of the centre’s arts exhibition, which it dedicates to the life and works of Professor Wole Soyinka, Anthony Kila, a University of Cambridge Professor of Strategy and Development who’s also the centre’s director, said the CIAPS had concluded plans to partner schools across the country to inculcate the appreciation of both visual and literary arts on every Nigerian child from preparatory school stage.
“We’re partnering with schools to make sure that there’s an arts teacher in every school. We’re going to provide all necessary materials to teach pupils in primary schools and students in secondary school and tertiary institutions across the country.
“We must begin to appreciate the work of arts because it enables us to broaden our thinking.”
Professor Kila also lamented the palpable negligence Nigerians demonstrate towards the arts.
“An average Nigerian doesn’t care about artworks. As poor as Nigerians are when it comes to reading, you’ll be shocked to discover that they don’t even know anything about arts at all. This is a very pathetic situation.
“We’ve decided to put this together to let arts meet souvenir. Literature and arts work together.”
He noted that the lack of awareness of the importance of arts from childhood is also to blame for the nonchalant attitude the affluent show towards arts in Nigeria.
“There’s a big disconnect between the affluent and visual arts. They will rather spend their money on practical things than on aesthetics. This is because we’re lower human beings and I think this should change. We must begin to understand that there are opportunities in appreciating arts” he said.
This is a clarion call we should yield.
We all interpret art in our own way, adding our own unique flavour to our interpretation. There are no contenders to art when it comes to her ability to make us realise our uniqueness while still retaining our identity with a universal whole. While enjoying an artwork, we lose ourselves in a tiny self-created world, where there is just us and the work before us.
Art is a celebration of human achievements; a proclamation that we managed to go beyond fulfilling just our basic primal needs. It is to us a luxury that is rewarded for many strides we’ve made as humans. It is the golden star that makes us unique from other fellow beings and lends us an air of superiority.
We need to begin to appreciate arts beyond a quick glance at Mona Lisa or about how we could acquire over a stand at Sotheby’s or Terra Kulture.
Since appreciating art is, like most human endeavours, learnt, you can begin a journey into the fascinating world of arts by visiting the exhibition, which opens 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, from November 13 through 17, at CIAPS, 21, AdekunleFajuyi Crescent, off Adeniyi Jones Street, Ikeja, Lagos.