For NAFEST 2016, Akwa Ibom, the land of promise, beckons

Crafts on display at a past NAFEST Expo

Crafts on display at a past NAFEST Expo

All is set for the 30th edition of National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST). The event, which holds in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State, begins officially on October 2 and ends on October 9.

This was disclosed by the Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), organisers of the festival, Mrs. Dayo Keshi. She said the final decision was reached at the 45th meeting of Chief Executives of Culture held from August 23 through 26 in Uyo.

Deputy Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Mr. Moses F. Ekpo, was on ground to receive the delegation. He urged them to strategise on how to reposition the country’s cultural products to attract global patronage. Ekpo said Nigeria could become a global power in culture as well as a major exporter of culture with the right mix of resources and tourism integration.

On his part, Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Akwa-Ibom State, Otuekong Emmanuel Ibiok, called on stakeholders in the culture industry to explore the option of partnering with corporate and private investors for the annual hosting of the event.For Keshi, the core agenda of the meeting included the adoption of NAFEST Syllabus, assessment of the preparedness of the potential hosting state as well as to solicit necessary support from the state towards a successful outing.

Meanwhile, NAFEST Syllabus for the year focuses on arts and crafts competition, indigenous poetry performance, drama, traditional wrestling and indigenous cuisines. There will also be children’s competitive events. The young ones would be expected to interpret NAFEST 2016 theme through essay writing, painting and drawing.

In view of the urgent need to diversify the nation’s revenue base, culture ambassadors have chosen as this year’s theme, ‘Exploring the Goldmine Inherent in Nigeria’s Creative Industries.’ It was also resolved at the meeting to introduce innovations and creativity into designing, packaging and interpretation of the syllabus’ contents.

But the DG was rather concerned about the low turn out of culture chiefs at the meeting. According to her, only about 13 states attended, saying that chief executives of culture were prepared to attend but could not be mobilized financially by their respective governors.

While admitting that the country was going through a difficult moment, she felt the culture sector appeared the major victim.“I said so because when you think of NAFEST, a festival that unites the nation and the fact that the chief executives of culture representing the entire nation come together in one place to decide the way forward for the sector, I see no reason a state should be absent on the ground of lack of financial mobilization. For instance, our major focus at that meeting was on the development of cultural industry and we resolved that states should showcase the best of crafts from their states.

“Although it sounds funny but the way things are going, a situation where members are struggling to attend meetings, I feel it is better we merge the two CEC meetings and have a major CEC meeting annually.

“But there was a reason for meeting at least twice each year; one was for the general assessment of the sector and to chat ways forward while the second meeting precedes NAFEST and it’s mainly to deliberate on issues affecting hosting, such as venue and other logistics needed for a successful outing. Unfortunately, states are finding it more and more difficult to attend.

“What we can do again is to appeal to state governors. There is need to make them realise that this sector is one that touches the heart of the people and generates income for grassroots dwellers”.On the facilities for this year’s festival, Keshi said the state has the ability to host the festival considering the elaborate arrangement on ground and the fact that it hosted the same festival in 2010.

She noted, “What we were shown during the inspection tour looked adequate. Yet, the state government has promised to beef it up so as to make artists more comfortable. To be candid, the state is doing its best and we are also prepared to put in our best. The good thing about NCAC is that NAFEST has come to stay as the biggest national festival in the arts.

Keshi, who will be hosting the festival for the second time since she assumed office in 2014, said there would be innovations and new additions in the children’s programming.According to her, more emphasis should be placed on children’s programme because the cultural heritage of the country could go extinct if it is not transmitted to the younger generation as they grow, noting, “They should become the custodians because that is the only way it will outlive all of us.”

As the nation’s art sector gets set for Akwa Ibom 2016, Keshi said she was looking forward to a better outing. She, therefore, invited multi-national companies to avail themselves of the opportunity of the large turn out of participants to sponsor events at the festival.

The D.G also said African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC), one of the major markets for arts and crafts in the region, will still hold. According to her, the expo will hold in November and preparations have reached advanced stage.

“This year, we have drawn the attention of NGOs and other members of the private sector and they are enthusiastic about it”, she noted.AFAC made its debut in 2009, as a regional market for arts and crafts. Since then, it has continued to expand in participation as more countries, even beyond Africa, participate yearly.

In this article:
Mr. Moses F. EkpoNAFEST
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