The just ended African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC 2017), organised by National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), in Abuja, witnessed some introductions, as well as a record high in the turnout of government officials at both state and federal levels. Apart from the 17 states that participated, several African nations came with their goods and services. Some of them include The Gambia, Ghana, South Sudan, Mali, Republic of Niger, Morocco, Senegal, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. The market was, however, dominated by private sector participants, who not only marketed their wares, but also made contacts and exchanged ideas on the production, finishing and packaging of indigenous arts and crafts.
In fact, over 49 non-government organisations registered and participated at the expo. There were also some tertiary institutions in attendance as well as foreign embassies. Some of the products on display included herbal medicine, indigenous fabrics, jewelries, various crafts and pottery wares. Services such as dental and optical were also provided free while over 200 pairs of medicated glasses were distributed to individuals following optical examination.
Also of interest at the fair was the provision of free skills acquisition for women and youths. The segment provided training in various skills to over 500 candidates. Organised by NCAC, in collaboration with experts in various arts and crafts, the aim, according to the Director-General of NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, was to equip participants with enough capacities to be economically self-reliant.
The fair also provided free skills acquisition training for women and youths. Over 500 candidates were expected to benefit from this opportunity. Organised by NCAC, in collaboration with experts in various arts and crafts, the aim, according to the Director-General of NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, was to equip participants with enough capacities to be economically self-reliant.
Some of the skills included bead making, head-gear tying, make-over, painting and card making, head-do as well as making of body cream, air fresheners and detergents. At the end of the three weeks, practical tests were conducted for the best candidates, who would be accessing soft loans from the grants provided by the Bank of Industry (BOI).
Interestingly, AFAC was the first major outing organised by Runsewe since he assumed office as chief executive of the organisation. The NCAC permanent site was given a face-lift shortly before the event. Despite the fact that AFAC had been introduced eight years ago as a regional market for arts and crafts, past chief executives have not been able to utilize the opportunity and as a result the market suffered neglect.
On assuming office, Runsewe had pledged to boost the market, first by ensuring government participation and also by ensuring that programs were packaged to entice both private and public patronage. At the official opening ceremony, government officials had pledged to devote greater attention to the arts and crafts sector of the economy, as an alternative revenue generation platform.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Culture and former director in the then Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mrs. Grace Gekpe, lamented that the sector had been neglected by previous administrations and that it was time to direct attention to the arts and crafts sector of Nigerian economy, especially considering the drop in the price of crude oil. She further appealed to state governments to pay proper attention to the development of arts and crafts in their respective states and advised stakeholders in the sector to form cooperative societies so as to have full access to the sum of N200 million that the National Council for Arts Culture (NCAC) signed with Bank of Industry. She also called on traditional rulers, to make available to the people, the raw materials needed for production of indigenous crafts that can be found in their domains.
In his remarks, event chairman and Deputy Governor of Edo State, Hon. Philip Shuaibu, canvassed massive investment in arts and crafts sector, as a panacea for unemployment. According to him, failure to do so might spell doom for the nation’s economy. Also, former Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, who served as mother of the day, commended the efforts vested in this edition of the expo by Runsewe in the three months of his appointment as the chief executive of NCAC. She urged Nigerian youths and women to embrace the opportunities offered by the expo to develop their talents in various areas of arts and crafts for individual development and economic self-reliance.
On his part, Runsewe was positive about the immense potential and gains to be made if AFAC was properly funded and developed. He felt that it could serve as catalyst that would contribute greatly in speeding up the growth of the nation’s economy as well as helping in the diversification of the economy.
After the official opening, states took turn to celebrate their days at the market. Nasarawa, Kano, Bayelsa and Ogun States celebrated their days with funfair and cultural performances.
On Nasarawa Day, Runsewe restated the role of arts and culture in the peaceful co-existence among Nigerians, noting, “We in the council are doing exactly this. We will go places to use culture and crafts from the various states and Abuja to promote unity in the country.”
At the end, certificates of participation were awarded to both local and foreign participants.