Antia tasks youths to think outside the box
Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Victor Antia, has described arts and tourism as money-spinning ventures, and called on youths, with innate talents in those areas, to develop them for their own benefit and the entire country. Antia spoke with The Guardian at the just-concluded arts exhibition held at the state’s Unity Park, Uyo. He challenged youths in the state to think outside the box and create something extraordinary that would attract traffic to whatever there were doing.
Antia explained that the state decided to hold the exhibition for the first time in order to attract people within and outside to what the state was capable of doing in the area of arts.
“Government was inspired to doing this so as to make Akwa Ibom preferred destination, as art is something that can draw traffic to the state and make it a global brand,” he noted. “We also want to really show the people that the government of Udom Emmanuel means well for the people and we are also trying to reposition the state in terms of culture and tourism.”
Tagged ‘Usoro Uso’ (Celebrating craftmanship), it has ‘Celebrating Creativity in Akwa Ibom State’ as theme, the commissioner stressed that the exhibition was aimed at showcasing talents in art and craft in the state.
Also lending his voice to the innovative venture almost 30 years after the state’s creation, a renowned artist, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya, described the exhibition as possessing international standard.
According to him, “The economic benefits of the exhibition are multiple; this place has multiple advantages. It advertises the identity of the people, creates jobs for the artists, puts Akwa Ibom and Nigeria on the international map. An exhibition like this becomes one of the greatest publicity that Akwa Ibom can have as an identity and a culture place, what they are thinking about and how they regard life and aspirations.”
He said as a teacher of arts for decades and initiator of Harmattan Workshop, where artists meet to learn skills and share ideas, the exhibition would afford craftsmen opportunities to showcase their work. According to the man described as ‘Living Human Treasure’ by UNESCO, ‘Usoro Uso’ would bring out the identity of Akwa Ibom people and show them who they are, thereby providing opportunity for foreigners to visit the state and invest in the local economy.
“You find that the exhibition itself will attract both indigenes and foreigners,” he noted. “As you can see now, there are many people from town. If this exhibition was not here, they will be drinking, either in the clubhouse or wasting away their time in other places. With this exhibition, they are here to enjoy the arts and feel the pulse of the state and the nation. “As a product, whatever we have seen here can be used for tourism that will bring a lot of people and money to the state and, therefore, be responsible for the betterment of the state and the whole of Nigeria’.
The exhibition, Onobrakpeya noted, would enable traditional men and women, who produce crafts to be recognised and patronised, adding that art and craft are avenues of creating wealth and reducing youth restiveness in the country. Onobrakpeya noted that Akwa Ibom state was the first to organise an art exhibition, adding that the exhibition had multiple advantages to the state, as the people could now use their hands and create something that would bring wealth to them.
Also, the state’s Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party, Comrade Ini Ememobong, observed that materials used by artist the world over are expensive, saying that government should direct efforts at making these materials cheaper. He called on everyone in the country to value art works, as developed societies do.
“Exhibition like this raises the value of art,” Ememobong said, “when people come to see it, they now want to own it. You don’t own what you can’t see. You cannot futurise in a future you cannot picture. Therefore,the exhibition provides avenue for people to picture so that they want and then own it.”
He described the exhibition as first class though a strange occurrence to the people, as it does not fall under the basic needs of man. He, however, added, “Man was created to enjoy bliss but since man had fallen from grace, man has not enjoyed bliss. Only through exhibition like this can man see
nature in real perspective.”
He urged the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to make the exhibition an international one that would attract foreigners from across the globe to the state so as to write the name of the state in the world map of art.Nsikak Essien, Ubong Ekuere, Nsikak Otu, Bruce Onobrakpeya were among those, who participated in the week-long exhibition event.