VP’s Remarks At The UAE-Nigeria Cultural And Arts Exhibition

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I’m truly thrilled to be in your midst today at the first UAE-Nigeria Cultural and Arts Exhibition. Nigeria and the UAE have a deep and fruitful relationship that is growing at a promising rate, especially with His Excellency, Ambassador Al Taffaq, estimating this year that our bilateral trade is valued at about $1.2billion.

As both our countries are major regional players, a relationship of this depth is necessary and we are truly grateful that it is one that many sectors where we can cooperate. Nigerians make up some of the most frequent African visitors to Dubai, many of whom are visiting for tourism, but I am sure that many in the years to come, will be visiting both countries for Arts and Culture in particular.

The UAE has also been particularly supportive of Nigeria in many ways, in harder areas of terrorism and in the aiding of our recovery of stolen funds.

But one area where we are also beginning to see exciting collaboration with the UAE is in our Creative Industry. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the movie “Chief Daddy”, or even the “Wedding Party” movies, the sequel of which was set in Dubai and went on to become Nigeria’s highest-grossing film ever.

These movies were the results of partnerships between Nollywood’s EbonyLife Films and Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing.  We are excited that these collaborations are bringing in not just money, but perhaps the cultural links between our people.

This is also our reason for being here today, to celebrate the art and cultures of Nigeria and the UAE, through the works and performances of a mix of talents from both nations. The artists, dancers, filmmakers, photographers and musicians that will be showcased at this exhibition, give us a glimpse into the richness and power of art and the arts in both cultures and what collaboration can do and what the future is in terms of working together.

One of the most fascinating features of what we will see today is how it is that for the Arts, as with everything else, we are in the most innovative moment in history. So, the artists use a variety of mediums aside from traditional painting, tapestry and calligraphy. We now have also mixed media, photography and digital arts, headlining the creative experience. It is no longer art as we used to know it. I have been through the exhibition, looking at some of the incredible innovation in so many different ways.

I am extremely excited for the presentations this afternoon and we will see more, especially some of the live performances.

The line-up that we have today is an impeccable mix of Emirati and Nigerian artists, who use their work to tell a variety of these stories about identity, language, otherness and contemporary contexts, just to name a few themes.

I am excited to see how the artists choose to open a dialogue with us, through their works but equally, how this event will enable us, Nigerians, open a dialogue with the UAE about how we can ensure that our relationship is always of creative and has some cultural value. This is not going to be at the diplomatic level, rather at the more interactive, person-to-person level.

I’m not much of an artist myself, although I always wish I could paint, I tried my hands at poetry, most of it written to the lady who is now my wife. Well that I ended up in politics must tell you that I didn’t make a great success of my artistic endeavors.

I am always fascinated by how the artist can say in words, paintings or drama, what we really want to say but can’t find the right words or expression. How they help us to connect with ourselves, especially our common humanity. In paintings, we see that the love of an Arab mother for her children and family is as deep as that of an African woman for her children and family.

Our hopes and fears are the same, so artists help us to laugh at our racial and other prejudices, they show us just how stupid discrimination is when the diversities are really created by God to be celebrated and enjoyed.

So as we celebrate our artistes today, Isaac Emokpae, Maisoon Al Saleh, Nelly Ating, Laju Sholola, Husain Al Hashmi, Bolaji Ogunrosoye,  Hamid Al Ali , Ama Ejiogu, I urge you also to be keen supporters of the Arts, to propagate their messages of tolerance, compassion, unity and hope.

Before I sit, I must commend the hard work and sincerity of purpose of Ambassador Al Taffaq and his team, not just for putting this particular event together with their Nigerian counterparts, but for the personal commitment he has shown to deepening the bonds between the UAE and Nigeria.

It is now my special privilege and pleasure to invite you to enjoy the rest of this UAE-Nigeria- Cultural and Arts exhibition.