Sunday, June 20, 2010

"We are making prostitutes of our artists"

Chika Unigwe's essay in The British Guardian on cultural and creative revival in Nigeria against the overpowering demand for money teeters on the edge but ultimately avoids the now-classic Nigerian self-congratulation. Thank God.

Money quote:

In a society where the pursuit of money takes precedence over everything, one can expect a decline in culture and in the quality of cultural production. Regrettably, this is going on. People are reading, but it's a different sort of literature: self-help books published mainly by evangelical pastors eager to win souls over to the gospel of prosperity. There is art on the street, but it is splashes of paint on trucks and buses, outsized drawings (usually religious, with a blonde Jesus). There is nothing of the grandeur and quality of Ife art in it.

Yea, basically. This also caught my eye.

And there is the resilience of the ordinary Nigerian, who remains unbowed, who still thinks of Nigeria as the giant of Africa, even when a sick president disappears for 52 days only to turn up when he is at death's door, and sectarian violence consumes the once calm city of Jos. All these make me optimistic Nigeria will rise to fulfil the promise it showed at independence 50 years ago. My only wish is to be a witness to that fulfilment.

Does it not bother anyone that Nigerians still think the country is the Giant of Africa? Looking your problems in the eye and claiming them to be a minor flaw, a speck in an otherwise-flawless design, is always dangerous, because it ignores the gravity of the problem. And the sooner this "ordinary Nigerian" wakes up to that fact, the better for all of us.

Maybe we should start investing in smelling salts, hmm?

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