- Nigerian Artwork Can Make the Country Centre for World Tourism
Chief Solomon Agbonna is another Nigerian worried about the level of development in the country especially the area of tourism in spite of the resources the country is blessed with. The DOYEN of arts and founder of Aguene Arts Foundation believes that promoting Nigerian artwork, culture and tradition is capable of making Nigeria a tourism centre that would earn the country foreign exchange for economic growth.
Ogbonna, who had supported many foundations and institutions to provide youth empowerment also sponsored different groups to Europe for arts exhibition, auctions and cultural dances, all to impact on economic development via art. Recently he was given award as Agu Oyoyo of Ekeoba Kingdom, Umuahia, Abia State for his numerous contribution to the country through artwork, culture and tradition alongside former military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon who now preaches peace and unity was also awarded as Ochi Igbudu Chukwu.
Excerpts: You’re passionate about artwork, culture and tradition, how can it impact on the economy?
It has a lot of economic values, numerous benefits as seen in other countries where governments have interest to harness the potentials. But the major challenge here is that our government has shown little or no interest in artwork, cultures and tradition. In other African countries even Asia, governments take time to develop artwork, cultures and is promoting their economies. Again, you can’t govern your people without understanding their cultures and traditions no matter how educated and experienced you are.
For instance, if you don’t understand my culture and tradition, how do you live with me or govern the people? This is a challenge today. So, the misunderstanding, corruption will continue if we don’t understand and respect our cultures and traditions. It’s a duty our leaders should carry out to secure a conducive environment that promotes economic growth and peace in the land. Artwork can produce a lot of handwork, create ideas and employment. In ancient days, African arts stood as the only means people record history. Right from the time past, artwork is been used for decorations anywhere in the world.
Many Nigerians are no longer placing value on culture and tradition, how can we reverse this?
That is why Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is one of my best friends. He said, ‘if an African who is educated, well exposed decides to change his chieftaincy title to Mr. his people should not allow him to take over leadership because he is going to westernise it. Most of our leaders are not doing well because they don’t understand what values culture and tradition add on development. Our cultures and traditions will go along way in developing the country, so we should stop emulating everything from the western world that colonised us.
Developing artworks to attract tourism…
Let me start by saying that most people employed to manage our museums who claimed they studied in abroad don’t understand that tourism must be first priority when developing a country. When you visit museums in the country, people working there don’t understand anything about artwork and they frustration their following Nigerians who want artwork as souvenir for Nigerians abroad, even an artwork of 4 weeks old when you take it to museum they condemn it as an antic. Nigeria has over 300 languages with different cultures and traditions. Do you know that Nigerian artwork is the most valuable artwork in Africa. For instance, Igbougwu bronze and museum in Anambra state that dignified Ndigbo. Igbougwu was discovered in 1938 in Isaiah Anozem compound by a retired cool miner hired to dig a system. Where is Igbougwu today?
In 1952 an archaeologist was invited from the University of Ibadan to observe the object. But today nobody cares for it and you can’t find any bronze or metal of Igbougwu and its museum that was set up by the Europeans. Today, it’s a big challenge that our government has lost interest in artwork and idea to develop it so that it can attract tourism which helps a country earn foreign exchange for economy development. A building contractor can’t deliver result in the field of medicine. With wrong people in charge of museums it is difficult to develop and attract tourism.
Kidnapping, armed robbery, killing, unemployment on the increase…
If our leadership as a matter of urgency would start doing something on the welfare of poor Nigerians that are hearing all kinds of loot going on in the country, crime will reduce. It must be a collective efforts. The increase in crime today is as a result of many Nigerians living in the land blessed by God but can’t afford a meal, suffering hunger, unemployment, poverty.
What role do you think past leaders like Gowon who is preaching peace and unity in the country and others can do to improve development?
There is need for them to advise present government on the right way to go since they were there and have had experience of leadership for the interest of the people and not their friends in government. They should offer and proffer solutions to help move the country forward. We should imbibe the spirit of forgiveness so that we can live together.
Creating jobs for our youths…
Asians, Europeans, third world countries recognise that artwork is something humans can produce with bare hands and it creates jobs. Artwork increases in value the longer it stays. Government should also encourage other hand works that can create jobs among our youths. We should not rely on education alone where there are few jobs in the country. Some people who are creating jobs in China and other places are not university graduates. We need more practical things to create jobs.