Last week’s arts and craft exhibition organised by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) in Abuja was a departure from the previous ones before it.
Held under the theme, Networking Nigerian Arts and Craft to the World, the week-long event was a first for the organisation as it moved from a national (and sometimes continental) event to one with participation from countries across continents, with African, Asian and American countries ably represented.
In line with its mandate to coordinate, preserve, promote and present the best of Nigerian crafts, textiles, cuisine, dance, photography, folklore and literature, and deploy them as tools for forging national unity and identity, the NCAC under its bullish Director General, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, made sure to put Nigeria’s best foot forward, not just with products displayed, but also with presentations at the numerous workshops held to educate and empower participants and guests that thronged the venue, the FCT Exhibition Pavilion next to the International Conference
Centre in Abuja.
By recognising the power of culture as a tool of both diplomacy and tourism, the NCAC actively sought and got the participation of more than 20 countries including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; China and Korea; Iran and Syria; Mexico, Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago, Hungary and a host of African countries; Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso and more to participate in the International Arts and Craft Expo (INAC).
According to Runsewe, considering the number of countries with embassies in Nigeria – well over a hundred – and the international airlines that do business in the country, there is no reason why the expo shouldn’t be bigger and better in coming years.
Already, the world’s most populous countries, China and India, have taken their participation up a notch with themed nights at INAC. China Day and India Day were both celebrated, with music, dance and cuisine from both countries thrilling visitors.
During China Day, Li Chuda, the Cultural Attache for the Embassy of China, said the cultural exchange between Nigeria and China has come to stay and would lead to better cooperation in future.
Chuda, who is also the Director of the Chinese Cultural Centre, said that the embassy’s major objective was to achieve cultural exchange within the local community in Nigeria and also to ensure safe integration.
According to him, having China Day at the cultural expo is a dream come true, as it suggests the aim of having cultural exchange has been accepted by Nigeria.
“We applaud the apex body of culture in Nigeria, the council for arts and culture, for giving China a day. It shows that the Chinese culture has come to stay and heading for a better cooperation in the future.
“As part of the cultural integration programme, we have what we call the ‘Chinese Corner’; we have a platform where we take Chinese close to Nigerian schools through dance and songs.
“We have 12 of them fully established, and material given by the embassy,” he said.
Dance and song are a part of every culture, hence the initiative of using these elements to catch the students young, Chuda explained. He disclosed that whatever was taught the students was from the angle of the Nigerian culture, like the Dragon Dance which has a similar dance in Taraba State.
India Day also featured a delightful and colourful mix of music and dance as well as instructive lectures on the country.
Delivering his address on the occasion, the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, B.N. Reddy, commended the NCAC for its efforts at organising INAC.
He maintained that Nigeria and India have had a mutually beneficial relationship since the latter first established a diplomatic house in Lagos in 1958.
Speaking further, the envoy observed that India’s Bollywood and Nigeria’s Nollywood share common ties and both enjoy leading status in the global movie industry.
According to Reddy, India is excited to participate at INAC as it offers a platform to demonstrate Indian handicrafts, cuisine, fashion and hospitality.
Meanwhile, Dr Sam Nda-Isaiah, the Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, urged government at all levels to develop the arts and crafts sector as a foreign exchange earner for the country.
According to him, Nigerian arts and crafts remain the country’s best kept secret.
”The few expatriates in the arts and crafts business who know this have kept the knowledge to themselves; sneaking into the country from time to time and trading in these invaluable goods and subsequently smiling to the bank,” he revealed.
The pull of the INAC Expo was also responsible for other tourism-related events held in Abuja over the past week. Immediately preceding the expo at the same venue was Abuja Jabamah, a travel expo put together to drive domestic tourism to Abuja and its environs.
At the event, Travellers magazine inducted tourism personalities across sectors including government, hospitality, tour operators and the media into its Tourism Club 100.
Also, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) held a tourism investment forum and exhibition concurrently at the Sheraton Hotel Abuja.