• Generally, it is acknowledged that African people are creative, citing their long history of unique cultural goods and performances accepted around the world.

    Over the years, however, the industry has been lagging behind compared to the same in other parts of the world.

    African art and crafts, films, music, textile, architectural designs among others have the potential of telling ‘the African story’ if only they were competitive enough.

    As it has been argued in the past, these skills sets which could bring economic benefits to the artists, as well as the society, are declining owing to marginalization brought about by globalization which has undermined the creativity of traditional societies.

    Apart from the many positive impacts modernization has on the people, it has also had a negative impact on African societies. It has tended to destroy local creativity and subjugated local peoples to foreign culture and mindset, a research paper into The Impact of Arts, Culture and Creative Industries on Africa’s Economy argues.

    Reviving the art industry is not only crucial for the modern society to learn from the customary forms of art but could also promote economic growth and contribute to poverty reduction in the region.

    To address the situation, there is a need to incorporate art in the education systems.

    Empowering students to be creative

    The significance of art in the development of a child can not be underestimated. It is through art that a child is able to understand and clearly arrive at meanings of their surroundings.

    In a study on the importance of visuals in primary and secondary schools in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, scholars concluded that students performed better using visuals and illustrations to learn than those who learned without them.

    In addition to enabling students to understand better, art education also stimulates children to discover their talents through such exposure.

    “Art empowers individuals with creative skills that widen the base of participation in the society, create jobs, self-reliance, identity, communicates by creating, recording and transferring ideas,” Bojor B. Enamhe writes in an article.  

    If well packaged for the modern society, art can contribute to building and perpetuate social, religious, political and economic stability of a society.

    As such, Enamhe argues that art should be given premium like other subjects in the school curriculum. It should reflect a study of all ages as this is vital in the development of individuals.

    Quoting Ajibade and co-authors in their article, “Is fine arts inevitable requisite for bachelor’s degree in visual arts? Notes from the admission policy of a Nigerian university,” argue that art helps students to develop the necessary imaginative intellectual, theoretical and practical skills to equip them for continuing personal development and professionalism.

    Although this backdrop reflects Nigeria’s situation, the state of art education in Africa mirrors that of Nigeria and needs to be improved.

    Through various education ministries across the region, governments need to enhance art education by incorporating it into the curriculum and availing necessary resources to ensure a smooth running of the process.

    Developing policies to improve art education

    Governments and non-governmental organizations have devised strategies aimed at promoting education in Africa, one of them being the Millennium Development Goals. But what further instigated the promotion of arts in the region, is the 2010 World Conference on Arts Education which provided a unique platform for Africans to devise and implement appropriate policies, strategies and concrete actions to respond to the needs and opportunities of the 21st Century.

    In a bid to provided strategic guidance for promoting qualitative development and growth of arts education, UNESCO hosted the first World Conference on Arts Education in Lisbon in 2006. The roadmap laid emphasis on developing human capabilities; improving the quality of education; promoting the expression of cultural diversity, and the development of materials to support teachers in their teaching as the primary aims of arts education.

    From these international cultural policy instruments to which many African countries subscribe, as well as the African policies and plans created by Africans themselves under the auspices of the African Union, the need for arts education is clear.

    Speaking at a UNESCO Regional Conference On Art Education in Africa, Mr Salah Abada, Director of the Section of Creativity and Copyright, UNESCO, Paris, noted that art is a fundamental element of culture and plays an important part in people lives “since every society promotes the arts through the education of its children”.

    According to Mr Abada, art and culture engender the intellectual and emotional development of individuals, hence, the perception in society that art education from an early age is the key to the preparation for citizenship.

    A number of presentations were given at the UNESCO meeting with emphasis on how African can harness its art into businesses for the economic value of the countries.

    On realization that art is key in driving the economy, Lesotho introduced arts in schools under the creativity and entrepreneurship syllabus. Although there is more work to be done, Africa should realize that art is an integral part of African heritage as one writer puts it, “it presents alternative tangible and intangible means of sustaining, conserving and continuing our cultures.”

    Apart from rejuvenating the mind, body and soul, art can be used to criticize the ugly and hail the beauty of environments we live in.

    As such, it should be prioritized in every country’s development goals.

    A cultural scholar, Emma Wolukau-WanambwaI when re-evaluating the educational theories of Margaret Trowell, founder of the Makerere School of Art in the Uganda Protectorate, has written that “The imperative, in Trowell’s own words, to “keep the children’s work really African may partly have been borne of her love and respect for indigenous East African cultures, but it was also motivated by her desire to instill in her African students an idea of their culture as static, primitive, and naturally subordinate to a wholly distinct and superior European culture”.

    Art should be supported in schools like sciences are

    The successful implementation of the arts education on the continent must, therefore, be “informed by dismantling and unlearning Eurocentric ideologies in the African-aesthetic realm,” argues Lineo Segoete.

    Moreover, there is need to encourage students to embrace the arts as is done with mathematics, economics, and sciences. There is a need to change the perception that the arts are for those who lack the intellect or fail to get better results in education. Hence, they pick art careers as an alternative.

    The growth of art industry in today’s world can be seen by how the corporate society heavily relies on the creative industries to drive their marketing campaigns and Public relations strategies.

    Tourism is highly influenced by how creatively a location is set and creative people have to be engaged in ensuring that aesthetic values are incorporated in tourist destination locations. A place with thriving cultural scenes tends to attract more tourists who not only spend their money on the events but also make purchases of artifacts, dine and lodge in hotels which have a direct impact on the economy.

    Most of Africa education is carried out at three levels: primary, secondary and tertiary levels. In all these stages, students are expected to learn their potentials. But this cannot be realized in full when some subjects like art are sidelined.

    Governments should develop policy guidelines in favor of art education and the subject should be compulsory in all primary and secondary schools. That way, art students will be able to recognize and be molded into great artists while they are still young.

    Art is not only beneficial to practicing individuals but also to the rest of the society and drives the economy of a country through its different fields. 

    Image credit: www.goabroad.com