Inaugural Edition Of The Art Summit

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“At the moment we have 3,000 young men and women in animation skills 3D and 2D skills, storyboarding skills, screenwriting and script writing and voice acting as part of our N-Power programme.”

 “Today the FG is investing substantially in technology. We have partnered with local and international tech companies and innovators, in the building of tech hubs, and promoting innovation. Our aim is to completely democratize access to and support for innovation and cyber commerce and create opportunities around there.”



It is my very special pleasure to be here. I must say that Lagos is fast becoming the creative capital of Africa, just last week I was at the Ake Arts and Book Festival here in Lagos, also last week the Lagos Fashion week was on, and here we are today at the inaugural edition of the Art Summit. It is a summit that challenges us to envision the future, ‘The Future of Art: Artist as the Nucleus.’

The convener, the ever hard-working and forward-looking Denrele Sonariwo says that the summit has set for itself the task of re-imagining the Nigerian Art Scene.

So, everything we see, every piece of art, every bit of technology, every architectural achievement, the iconic bridges, all first existed in the imagination of someone somewhere. The ability to imagine – and I must say that the ability to create things in our minds is possibly what distinguishes us human beings from every other creature. And this is not a light matter at all, it was Prof Olumide Olusanya who noted that in the past 6000 years, the chimpanzee or the gorilla has not acquired a single capacity that was not inherited in the same time frame man has learnt to build pyramids, skyscrapers and also to blow them up, invented the aircraft, landed on the moon and even sent spacecraft to Mars.

But what is more, fellowship, that is the coming together of human beings has released a sort of creative energy that has never ever been seen in any other creature that inhabits the earth. A creative energy to build things, a creative energy to do incredible things in various aspects of life. Science, Technology, name it has been because of the collaboration, the coming together of one, two people, three people and in some cases, more.

Which is why thinking together as this opportunity affords us is critical in shaping the future. And I must say that these are exciting times for Nigerian Creatives. Your sounds, paintings, films and stories, fashion and ideas are catching on everywhere. We certainly are impressing ourselves on global imagination in ways that are unprecedented years ago, or unknown years ago.

Everyone is catching the Nigerian bug. Even the Nigerian wedding is emerging as some form of popular culture. In the same way that the world’s imagination was once caught by Oriental Art, the tide is rising for Nigerian creatives. So, what do we do at a time like this?

I think that we must reflect as this summit calls us to do. But we must also deal with the complex issues of putting in place the infrastructure for enabling the creative industry function effectively now and especially in the future. How do we do that? I think that a good step is working with the government to develop policy, to strengthen the institutions that will guarantee the prosperity of the industry. And you don’t have to try too hard, the creative, the commercial, the diplomatic and celebrity powers of the arts indeed compel Governments to pay attention anyway, but the creative industry must be attentive in exploiting that relationship for the best results.

In the past two years, I have engaged actively with the Creative industry and also in the Tech space. One of the key results of that is the inauguration of the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group, as part of our larger Industrial Advisory and Competitiveness Council.

So, just to explain that we have an industrial competitiveness council, that council is the council of businessmen, some of the most notable businessmen in Nigeria and the most noticeable businesses in Nigeria. It’s a regular meeting of those businessmen and women, government ministers and heads of agencies etc., but now we’ve created a sub-group and that sub-group is the Technology and creativity Advise Group and that group of course also brings in representative, from the Technology and Creative arts and relevant government ministers and heads of agencies as part of a fairly high-level body, and I have the privilege of chairing that body.

The focus of the advisory committee is to work on policies, rules and even legislation for both the creative and technology industries. We’ve had several meetings and the Society of Nigerian Artists is represented and they’re several other practitioners in technology and the arts and entertainment who are members of that advisory group.

Now, it’s important for you to be at the table, and when I say you, I refer to Creatives and persons engaged in the industry in one way or the other. It’s important to be at the table where policy that will concern the industry is being discussed.

But there is also hard infrastructure to consider. One of the conversations I had with the society was how to create a visual arts centre, investing in museums, putting aside money for subventions to the Arts. I am personally committed to working on these issues and there’re several others in the creative industry who have also joined in trying to see what can be done, to create the right environment for the creative industry to thrive.

Now is the time with the incredible advances in technology, museums, for example, have become immersive experiences. The other day I was looking at a video of the new interactive digital art museum recently opened in Tokyo. And all of that is entirely conceivable and doable right here. And just as we were coming in, just seeing some of the technology-facilitated works just a few minutes ago, brings that home, that it is possible for us to do whatever we want to do, there’s enough energy, there’s enough intelligence, there’s enough creativity, everything we need is right here and I’m sure that we can achieve all of that.

Today the FG is investing substantially in technology. We have partnered with local and international tech companies and innovators, in the building of tech hubs, and promoting innovation. Our aim is to completely democratize access to and support for innovation and cyber commerce and create opportunities around there. We have established hubs in collaboration with the World Bank, with the Lagos Business School and these are some recent collaborations, and with several State Governments, several international organizations, local organizations, local entrepreneurs.

One of the more innovative ones is the Climate Change Innovative Hub where we have all manner of innovations that are important to climate change. Incidentally there some that have to do with art and music and how arts and music can contribute to climate change and innovation. In Yola, the North East Humanitarian Hub, we also have a collaboration there, where we’re looking at how art and technology can be useful in resolving some of the conflict-stricken areas and that is the work of the Hub in Yola.

We also have a collaboration with the Civic Hub, which promotes technology and innovation and creativity in universities with the Students innovation challenge in the six geo-political zones today, and we have three technology hubs, and one of them is the UNILAG hub which is due to be ready by the end of November.

The BOI in response to the direction has launched a N10billion technology and innovation fund. We believe that like technology, entertainment and the arts require active support, especially in the development of policies and also in investments in the kinds of infrastructure that would be useful for those who want to participate in the industry, or those who are just thinking about what to do.

In the coming years, I think that we must begin to think in terms of training; training more people especially in the area of technology that would influence one way or the other, the arts. For example, we’re training at the moment, 3,000 young men and women in animation skills 3D and 2D skills, storyboarding skills, screenwriting and script writing and voice acting as part of our N-Power programme. This phase of that programme starts in Benin, on the 1st of November, and it really is an opportunity for very many young people who want to get involved in animation, who want to get involved in all of the science and technologies around animation. I think that it’s a really good programme and its one that I think will really be effective in doing something new for the creative industry.

Of course, there are several other ways we’re trying to support not just entertainment, but support the industry generally, especially those who are innovative and want to do various things.

Some of them are as simple as the ease-of-doing-business. So now you are able to register businesses, there’s more access to financing, registration of property etc. In fact, now there’s a promotion for those who have not registered their companies, to register your companies at half the cost until December 1st. So, you’re thinking of registering your company and you didn’t have enough money, you can do so now, there’s a small window till December 1st  for you to pay half of what you would have paid to register.

By investing more in infrastructure, we believe that it makes life not just easier for everyone, but it just makes business easier, especially for small businesses. Imagine what you would be able to do if you didn’t have to think of fuel or maintaining generators? Think of the creative concepts that you come up with if a functional national rail network was in place. This is why infrastructure is critical. Right now, construction work as you know is going on, a railway line that will connect Lagos to Kano. The Lagos-Ibadan line should be completed by the end of this year and would change a lot of things.

I would also like to congratulate Adenrele Sonariwo and her team, on successfully pulling this off. Last year, she curated Nigeria’s first ever showing at the Venice Biennale, which was widely regarded as the Olympics of Visual Arts. And in 2016, she curated an Exhibition at the State House in Abuja, where she took me and the President on a tour of some of the creative things that were being done round and about us.

Today is another opportunity to celebrate the vision of young Nigerians like her, and many others, who strive, day in and day out, to advance the frontiers of what is possible in our country. It is the sum total of their many efforts that propel our nation forward and makes us all proud to call this land home, to believe the best about it and to be assured that it will fulfill all of its promise and all of its potential.

So really it is my very special pleasure, to declare this Art Submit open, and wish you all a very exciting time here.

Thank you very much.