IN spite of the challenges of funding, the Centre for Black and African Art and Civilisation (CBAAC) has done remarkably well in 2012.
Disclosing this in an interview, the Director General of CBAAC Prof. Tunde Babawale however noted that the arts and culture sector did not fare better this year than it did in last year. He said they were able to hold major conferences, lectures, cultural festivals and workshops, as well as open the Pan-African Heritage Centre in Lagos.
“I think, primarily, what affected us significantly was the slash in the budget of Culture agencies which reduced our level of activities, and affected our performances. Even in the midst of a very strangulating budget, I am happy to say that CBAAC is still able to hold its head above water in 2012. We have held about four international conferences. We had the UNESCO Slave Route Project conference in Calabar in March, followed by the Conference on Slavery and Slave Trade in the Arab Islamic World, within the same period.
In July, we had a conference on Africa and African Diaspora which is called TOFAC, Toyin Falola Conference; and of course, the flagship of our programmes which is the one we hold outside the country, was held in University of Minsorri, St' Louis, U.S., between October and November this year.
“In addition to these, we have participated in a number of international conferences and workshops. We participated in a workshop on the Role of Traditional Institutions in Conflict Prevention, Resolution and Reconciliation in Africa in Kigali, Rwanda in June. We also participated in UNESCO conference in Cote de' Voire and Brasilia, respectively. All these are in addition to our local programmes such as the Black History Month, the Children Cultural Festival which we have just finished.
“So it is a miracle that we were able to do all these. Fortunately, I think God having seen the kind of efforts that we have put in, crowned our efforts with success,” he said.
Continuing, the CBAAC D.G. disclosed that at the meeting of African Union in October in Kinshasha, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Centre made two proposals during the Ministers of Culture conference.
The first was that CBAAC be adopted as a Pan-African Cultural Institution which was postponed for another year; while the second was that pending the time that approval is given, CBAAC should be given an observer status. “It was unanimously approved. This is why I said God has a special hand in what we have done, and particularly crowned our efforts with success.
“And I am hoping that next year we will do better than we have done this year, especially with increase in our budgetary allocation for 2013. An increase in budgetary funding will enhance our activities.”
According to him, without adequate budgetary support there cannot be the kind of transformation that is expected to happen. “If you look at all the indicators that you need to study for measuring the performance of the sector, it will be very hard to rate these indicators high. And much as I agree that there is budget constraint in virtually every sector, and government has competing demands, the disparity between the culture sector and other sectors is so wide, so big, that it is almost indescribable and unimaginable.
According to him, what government needs to realise is that “we may not have the tangibles to show in terms of roads constructed, in terms of buildings erected, but at the level of intangibles, culture is higher than any other sector. Indeed, what is saving Nigeria from social implosion today is the existence and vibrancy of the Culture sector.
Because that is the only avenue that people have to let off steam, to experience some form of happiness and inner joy, in the midst of the social gloom that is enveloping our society. Culture provides relief in the area of music, in the area of dance, in the area of traditional festivals, carnivals, and so on. Can you quantify what these carnivals have done in saving Nigeria from social crisis?
Babawale urged government to give more support in 2013 to the culture sector, adding that for CBAAC, 2013 will be better than this year.
“We hope and pray that the National Assembly and the government will try to give more support in 2013 to the culture sector. Without culture, our hope for transformation will remain a revolving mirage. We hope that the National Assembly and Government will be kind enough to increase our budget to give greater visibility to our programmes, to increase our capacity to undertake cultural diplomacy. I am hoping that next year will be a harvest of successes too, over and above what we have recorded this year. In the coming year, 2013.”
He disclosed that the Centre is working with other organisations to bring about projects that are going to form the cultural landscape of culture in Nigeria. “In the coming year, we are putting in place some projects; for example, we are partnering with an organisation within the Diaspora to organise a major conference to commemorate the death of D.O. Fagunwa.
“It is my hope that in the coming year we are going to see a rejuvenated CBAAC and we are going to consolidate on our objectives of taking CBAAC to the man on the street. My mission is that by the time I leave office, CBAAC will be to the African Union what UNESCO is to the United Nation. And we are on the part of achieving that objective.”
On the much talked about and anticipated National Cultural Policy, Babawale also expressed hope that it will be ready in 2013, adding that the cultural policy is very significant. “A cultural policy is a compass to navigate through the labyrinths of culture which is what we have in our society. You cannot embark on an adventure without a compass. Without that compass we won't be able to navigate our ways.
This is one of the reasons the cultural policy is very significant. And I think the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation is committed to finally producing a very comprehensive cultural policy for Nigeria. I believe that should be completed within the coming year.”