Visual Arts in Nigeria: The Next Big Thing?
Terracotta art was designed by the Nok culture in Nigeria (HiztoryBox, 2020)
Art according to the English dictionary is a wide range of human activities that involve creative imagination. While to others art is a form of expression,
However one describes it as I believe that visual arts are a way of life presented or portrayed in a way that is pleasing to the eye.
Arts originated in Nigeria Millenniums ago. Ancient Nigerian Nok Sculptures date back to the 5th Century BCE (500 BC) (Potter, 2011). Early Nigerians used these art pieces to express their cosmological and religious views on life(Affinity art gallery, n.d.).
About 2500 years later and the creative arts sector is the second-largest employing industry in Nigeria(Oluwole, 2021). The visual arts sector alone added about 239.4 billion NGN to the national GDP in 2020 and is expected to hire 4.2 million people by the year 2025 of which 0.8million would be in the visual arts sector(Oluwole, 2021). Asides from its wonderful economic contribution the Nigerian visual arts sector is growing in recognition and importance. For example, Christie’s gallery auction Nigerian crypto-artist Osinachi’s NFT series titled “Different shades of water” in their 1 – 54 London fair (New African, 2021).
This shows the current weight and capability of the Nigerian arts sector but considering its population size and the talent available Nigeria has the potential to make visual arts the biggest and most valuable sector in the Nigerian economy. Still, the country is faced with many maintenance and growth challenges in the visual arts sector as almost one-quarter of the workforce in the visual arts sector isn’t being paid properly. These are pretty low standards for a sector that should be doing much better than it is.
Take the Coming 2 America movie released earlier this year produced by Eddie Murphy which shone a light on numerous African cultures and traditions. Asides from its entertainment aspect we can agree that Coming 2 America was a movie that gave a lot of African acts such as Nomzamo Mbatha and Nigeria’s very own, Davido worldwide exposure. This platform is one that is there for mass consumption, in other words, the visual fine arts industry could have benefited from this. Activities like art fairs, exhibitions or conventions during the time of the movie’s release would have really benefited the visual arts economy.
Jimoh Buraimo’s Work ‘Meeting of Elders (Adebowale, 2018)
Failure to seize opportunities like these when they come might prove detrimental in the years to come. Nigeria which has one of the best visual art sectors in Africa has to provide better support to its upcoming visual artists. Although there is a presence of established and talented visual artists like Bunmi Agusto and Julius Agbaje, multiple brands and artists have failed to establish themselves due to the current challenges(A2.0 magazine, 2021).
Challenges being Faced
As much as the visual arts industry shows promise and potential, it also faces some major challenges of which I have highlighted three.
Firstly, the industry has a high percentage of intellectual property theft(Editorial, 2014). One of the problems running down the Nigerian visual arts industry is a high rate of piracy. “The world bank in a recent survey estimated that nine pirated copies are sold for every original one”(Editorial, 2014). This problem begins from the values of everyday Nigerians who would always want a “cheaper” option and this mentality is leaving the sector with very big problems(Editorial, 2014).
The second challenge is low government investment(Editorial, 2014). The creative and visual arts sector in Nigeria is run mainly by private institutions, organisations and companies. The reliance on the private sector is not sustainable as the industry is vulnerable to different problems(Editorial, 2014). There are barely available funds provided by the government, the funding is mostly from art galleries. The government mostly invest their time and money into “short term art success”(Editorial, 2014). There are not enough resources available for the facilitation and experimenting of young talents. This is one of the causes of a lack of originality because “artists copy other artists style just to get their work out”(Editorial, 2014).
Lastly, there is a large skill gap present in the visual arts sector(Oluwole, 2021). The Nigerian visual arts sector lacks professionals in major fields such as law, business and talent management. The lack of representation in these sectors come mostly from the stereotype that “there is no money in creative arts”. The lack of representation in these sectors also leads to a very poor structure in the visual arts industry in the sense that job bookings, hiring for gigs and art displays are approached in an informal manner. This problem although it seems trivial is vital to the development of the visual sector as there is a need to close the skills gap and it will also help to take the industry seriously.
Solutions to the Challenges
The following are some solutions provided to the problems highlighted.
Making of Laws and Policies
The Nigerian government need to pass a law that restricts and prohibits intellectual property theft and piracy in the visual arts industry(Editorial, 2014). These laws would let people know that piracy is an offence that is punishable by law and perpetrators would not be left scotch free. The laws would preserve the value and originality of art pieces all around Nigeria. This would certainly help reduce the threat of piracy diminishing the economic prosperity of the visual arts sector.
There is no doubt that there is a need for proper government investments in the visual arts sector(Editorial, 2014). These investments have to be long term investments in order to see a continuous growth of the visual arts in Nigeria. They could be in the form of art festivals, art fairs, art exhibitions. e.t.c. Investment in art is an investment in the future of the country’s sustainability and economic productivity. These long term investment=nts would stand the test of time and aid the development of visual arts.
Establishing educational institutions would help close the skills gap in the visual arts industry(Editorial, 2014). In Nigeria, the educational curriculums and institutions if properly invested in could be a major way to breach the gap. Offering courses in talent and business management would help leverage the gap between talent availability and representation. This would not only be valuable to visual artists but to the visual arts sector as this would provide structure and ultimately restrict informality.
In conclusion, the Nigerian government should step up, grab these opportunities by the horn and invest in the visual arts sector. I believe if these challenges and solutions are addressed it can without a doubt lead to the economic prosperity of visual arts and even Arts in general.
A2.0 magazine. (2021, January 31). 7 Nigerian Visual Artists to Watch in 2021. A2.O Magazine; A2.O Magazine. https://www.a2omag.com/stories/7-nigerian-visual-artists-to-watch-2021
Abbott, E. (2021, September 29). Nigerians Offer British Museum Artwork in Return for Looted Benin Bronzes. Impakter.com; Impakter. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fimpakter.com%2Fnigerian-artwork-for-benin-bronzes%2F&psig=AOvVaw1e25-fEQEbwKZAcbyHyoNA&ust=1639169430465000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAsQjRxqFwoTCMCD9e7L1_QCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAR
Adebowale, O. (2018, August 26). A Journey Into The World Of Nigerian Art. The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News; Guardian Nigeria News. https://guardian.ng/life/a-journey-into-the-world-of-nigerian-art/
Affinity art gallery. (n.d.). Nigerian Art; a Short History «Affinity Art Gallery. Affinity Art Gallery; Affinity art gallery. Retrieved December 8, 2021, from https://affinityart.gallery/nigerian-art-a-short-history/
Editorial. (2014, December 18). Creative Industry Poised To Contribute More To GDP. International Centre for Investigative Reporting; International Centre for Investigative Reporting. https://www.icirnigeria.org/creative-industry-poised-to-contribute-more-to-gdp/
HiztoryBox. (2020, June 3). THE NOK PEOPLE AND CULTURE. HiztoryBoxTM; HiztoryBoxTM. https://www.hiztorybox.com.ng/the-nok-people-and-culture/
New African. (2021, October 1). Osinachi’s work to be first NFT auction for African artist. New African Magazine; New African Magazine. https://newafricanmagazine.com/26976/
Oluwole, V. (2021, May 10). New report shows Nigeria’s creative industry is the country’s second-largest employer and has the potential to produce 2.7million jobs by 2025. BI Africa; BI Africa.