Nigeria’s thriving arts and culture industries

September 6, 2017

Contemporary Nigeria is home to a wide range of creative arts and industries, from world-class films, visual and performing arts, to publishing industry. Those of us familiar with the industry across Africa know Nigeria has a vibrant arts, culture and entertainment community which is known internationally for its unique cultural style and enriched tradition history. Nigeria also plays a key role in the education, training and development of future leaders across all arts and creative industries. As the global contemporary art market seems to be becoming saturated with art fairs, thats not the case with Nigeria.There is a clear pattern which shows Nigerians have been careful not to create a market that is bigger than the demand and carefully integrated art stage into the Nigerian environment. Many local events are supporting and bringing up the market and are contributing through education. There’s however signs that market will eventually be flooded and the problem will be that there are too many which are similar. An art fair cannot just function to fill a perceived hole, a strong and unique concept is essential for success. Nigeria need diversity and events that analyze the market and make the right conclusions. Art players can only survive in Nigeria if it remains at the heart of a healthy African art so it is important Nigerians support the market all levels of galleries and the industry. Stakeholders have to show art in the right context and have to educate the growing market, build it up and have a long-term approach. Nigeria’s art stage has to offer plenty to keep ahead of the rising competition from countries like Ghana, South Africa and Kenya when it comes to Sub Saharan Africa market. Nigerians have to be one step ahead of main African competitor in South Africa, not copy, but be more creative and find new and exciting artists by continuing to create own identity, not competing but complementing. Nigeria is an emerging market, which needs interesting fairs on different levels and for different audiences.Also, collectors in Nigeria need to create an entire new model and experiences targeted at the collectors. Most collectors want specific programs. Art players needs to build up a non-commercial program while providing collectors unique experiences. It is very important Nigerians work with others who share their vision and Nigeria is a good place, there are museums, institutions, important collections and exhibitions.In an ever-changing globalized society, contemporary art is driven by the market more than the academies.The emphasis is more towards artist rankings, with information portals delivering statistics from auctions and fairs which Nigerians are yet to fully embrace. The country has to build up brands as art fairs, galleries and artists more than it has done so far.

Art players has the responsibility of educating the market and public because this essential factor is not coming from the public sector.If South Africa is successful, Nigeria will be successful and vice versa. There is much to learn from South Africa, even though it is purely market driven, while Nigeria has a different market balance with institutions. Nigerian market has an ongoing and increasing collectors base with many new first time buyers with art becoming more and more a lifestyle choice. Nigerians need diversity and more creativity. Everywhere art scenes have their complexities and challenges and must have a certain sense of self-criticism.Nigeria is a self-functioning ecosystem and now with the onset of globalization, Nigerians see their chance to go international. But with a weak infrastructure in between two strong pillars, artists and collectors, without a strong gallery scene that is due to go international, some of the Nigerian artists will never be competitive on the international market. In addition, Nigerian galleries must take more risks and act strategically to bring artists to fairs and access international collectors. The domestic market strength in Nigeria has not encouraged the need to develop an international business model. Nigeria is the strongest market in Sub Saharan Africa because artists have a place in society. Established artists build centers to support young artists. However, Nigerians have to do everything to achieve a balance and be responsible for making a selection of what is saleable and what is good. That is important and art players must give this to their audience. Without a gallery scene investing in young artists Nigeria will lose a lot of artists. The country has to build the market and generate momentum while being orientated upon a vision and accompanying strategy.Nigeria is home to a vibrant community of artists like painters, photographers, potters, printmakers, glassblowers, sculptors, weavers, and digital and multimedia artists working in a wide variety of genres and styles.For all the talk about the importance of the art industry, the fact remains that young people in Nigeria are often left alone to make a solid career out of their talents, with jobs commanding poor financial reward and an industry that is still largely unsupported by the government. The arts industry is still among some of the lowest paid in Nigeria.Unlike many of their elderly contemporaries, their works always misses out on being touted by savvy curators and art dealers. Which also goes to show, the whimsical nature of how Nigeria’s artistic creativity is priced and monetized. The government need to recognize that a creative economy contributes to cultural diversity, social inclusion, environmental sustainability and technological advancement. Creativity is key to innovation, driving sustainability and prosperity. Creativity and innovation play an important role in Nigeria’s resilience to recent global economic challenges.The arts and creative industries are integral to contemporary Nigerian values, self-expression, confidence and engagement with the world.

Contador Harrison