s American Poet, Ralph Waldo once said that the love of beauty is a taste, and the creation the beauty in a work of art; art can widely be seen as an indispensable aspect of human life in every society. This is on the premise that no society can be worth living in without the presence, showing that art indeed defines a society, be it a state or a nation.
Since the creation of Anambra State in August 1991, art has been a major contender of the government’s attention and resources. To this end, understanding fully well that art is life, virtually every government that has come and gone in the state played her own commendable beats in given the sector a facelift, given its varied impingements and significance in the development of man and his society. Hence, every government brought her own changes in their own unique ways in the art sector of the state.
Notwithstanding how Lilliputian or leviathan the respective efforts of these past governments towards promoting art in Anambra state may be, it was a daylight truth that the sector still did not wear the much expected beautiful outlook, and consequently did not attract any much, be it in terms of factors or in terms of actors. This only suggested nothing but that the sector had not been given the needed touch at the ‘sensitive’ places. To start with, there were no blueprints with which the governments were working on the sector, there was an objective — to revamp the sector — but there were no goals and strategies through which the objective was pursued. In addition to these, the environment was never supportive nor conducive for the sector to thrive.
Among all these, insecurity was one of the most threatening challenges that impeded the progress of art and social life in the state, as the security situation in the stare then was nothing to write home about. Criminality, kidnapping and other security challenges were the order of the day, and hence marred social life and never granted art balance in the state.
As at then, hardly could people be seen gathered at a particular place to celebrate one thing or the other, be it in the day or at night. Hardly also could any star come/doze his head into the state and go freely, let alone performing in the public; he would either be kidnapped or robbed of one thing or the other. All these impeded the progress of arts and social life in the state, until 2014 when H.E Governor Willie Obiano came into power.
The governor who never underestimated the value of art first started his own beat in the sector by rolling out a blueprint of what he intended to achieve, after which he ruled out the goals and strategies through which that could be pursued and achieved. One of these strategies was to entrench a strong security situation in the state, understanding fully well that art and life are inseparable, and that for both to thrive, security is a requisite.
His intention to leverage the art sector of the state is no doubt, tightly clinched to his administration’s broader objective of making Anambra State a number one investment choice for investors.
With the viable security structure now entrenched in the state, social life, nightlife, literary events, entertainment, etc which are all parts of arts then began to creep in, while the hitherto latent ones began to resuscitate and recuperate comparably swiftly.
Baring his mind on this, and art enthusiast in the state who is the MD/CEO of the Anambr Broadcasting Service, Chief Uche Nworah highlighted some of these art related activities that have taken and are still taking place in the state over the years, which included: the first ever Made in Anambra Jam Blast Festival And Concert in December 2014 (supported by Governor Obiano), which was well attended, drawing the participation of popular Nigerian Superstars and legends; Miss Anambra Beauty Pageantry; Anambra Book and Creativity Festival; 2014 first ever book reading in Anambra State in which a literary connoisseur, Prof Okey Ndibe was hosted, plus numerous other book readings; in which many other distinguished and burgeoning literary stars were also hosted or featured; first and second editions of Return To Idoto (being hosted in memory late renowned Poet Christopher Okigbo); Superstars of the 70s Concert, in which Igbo Superstars of the 70s were hosted and featured; and Creative Forum, being hosted every Saturday by the Anambra Broadcasting Service on Radio and Television, in which many established and budding stars — writers, musicians, artists, craft makers, sculpturist, etc are featured and given voices, among others.
Chief Nworah also noted that nightlife has suddenly begun to gain life in the state, referencing the now 24-hour-busy Abakaliki Street in Awka recently renamed ‘Club Road’ by Governor Obiano as a place where so many structures, bars, lounges, hotels and restaurants have now been sited, and a place where many social and entertainment activities such as concerts, music show, now take place (as seen in other developed cities and developed countries of the world).
On her own part, another art buff in the state, Prof. Ngozi Chuma-Udeh who also doubles as the Dean, Faculty of Arts Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, rolled out some more art-related activities that have taken place in state over the years, to include: celebration of sixty years of Chinua Achebe’s Magnum Opus — Things Fall Apart; Faculty of Arts International Conference, held at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University; among others.
In addition to these, there have also been: first, second and the Chinua Achebe Literary Festival, which is a great literary event hosted annually by the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, (Anambra Chapter) in collaboration with the Anambra State Library Board; National Light Art House Poetry Slams; annual Poetry Slam by Poets In Nigeria (Awka Connect Center); Anambra Book Readings, by Anambra Literary Society, Monthly Book Readings by the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (Anambra Chapter); Monthly Book Readings by Association of Nigerian Authors (Anambra Chapter), the Chinua Achebe Essay Writing Competition, hosted by the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, plus other art activities and events.
All these, according to Chief Nworah, did not only prove the authenticity and viability of governor Obiano’s security architecture, but also showed that art is gaining life in the state, and hence its impacts being felt in a plethora of ways, given that investors are now attracted, Anambrarians now come home seasonally to witness or celebrate various cultural activities, and the GDP of the state marginally improved. Anambra is now a tourist destination, there is now a database of Anambra State home coming festivals, conglomerating all the festivals celebrated annually by different communities in the state, rebranding of the various tourist sites is not left out of these.
Notwithstanding how improved the art sector of the state may have been, there are still some challenges enervating its growth.
Prof. Chuma-Udeh highlighted some of these to include lack of professionalism, impatience and wrong mindset on the part of the burgeoning enthusiasts like young writers, musicians, etc, who she lamented join the field with the wrong notion of becoming millionaires at a blink, forgetting that money should not be a driving motive for every work of art, as according to her, art is meant for people who primarily want to make society a better place to live; though some rewards may come in the long run.
She also lamented that most upcoming art enthusiasts now find it difficult to bend down and humbly learn or undertake the relevant courses and tutelage, and further described that as a major cause of unprofessionalism, which is currently eating deep into the art sector.
Adding to these, Nze Nworah hinted on low/lack of sponsorship as among the threats faced by art sector in the state, which he noted was not so in the Lagos and other places where private organizations undertake to sponsor various art events, without leaving it all alone for government; even as he called on private organizations to learn such, as there are some many ideas and events in the fields waiting to be sponsored, and which should not be left for government alone.
Additionally, though much have been done in discovering, grooming, harnessing and rewarding the potentials of the upcoming art enthusiasts in the state, enough has not been done or achieved in that respect, as there are still many of them scattered all over the state, especially in the hinterlands, without knowing their left or right in the field.
Mapping out funds annually in the state government’s budget for sponsoring art activities, organizing annual statewide contests in various fields of art, as well as setting up Art Institutes in the state could help in significant ways in solving these challenges.
There is also a need to celebrate the living art legends in the state, and immortalize the fallen ones, such as Achebe who up till now does not have even a single monument to his name, despite his great deeds in the field of art at the state, national, international and global levels.
This would not only give the sector a more befitting weight and outlook in the state, but will also help to attract and retain others in the field when they must have seen the life and the posthumous rewards of being an artist.
With all these being given proper and urgent attention, and with the giant strides already recorded in the art sector of Anambra state within the last five years of Governor Willie Obiano Administration, there is indeed a brighter future and luminous prospect for the sector, as thrice of these achievements will, no doubt, to be recorded within the next three years of the governor’s second term in office.
Art is life and should be regarded, sustained and protected as such.
About The Author:
Izunna Okafor is an award-wining creative Young Nigerian Novelist, Poet, Essayist, Journalist, Editor, Translator, Publicist, Igbo Language Activist and an Administrator who hails from Ebenator in Nnewi South L.G.A of Anambra State Nigeria. He writes in English and Igbo languages, and has published enormously in both, nationally and internationally. Izunna has received over 25 awards, and has over 800 articles published online. He can be reached via: [email protected]