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How we’ll boost culture, tourism with Ondo ARTFEST —Oshodi

The maiden Ondo State Festival of Arts, Culture and Tourism held in December demonstrated how excellent stakeholders’ collaboration can help develop the sectors. Gallery owner and artist, Seyi Paul Oshodi, who partnered with the state government for the festival, shares more about the relationship and plans for the 2019 edition

LAST December, Akure, the Ondo State capital was sent agog for five days as the maiden Ondo State Festival of Arts, Culture and Tourism (Ondo ARTFEST) held. The festival themed ‘Togetherness’ was a partnership between the Ikorodu, Lagos-based Oshodi Art Gallery owned by artist Seyi Paul Oshodi and the Ondo State Ministry of Arts and Culture.

Held from December 15 to 21, the festival featured activities including an exhibition of 500 artworks, music concert, cultural day, carnival parade of the 18 local councils of Ondo, performances, food fair, economic summit and a gala/awards night. The veteran journalist, artiste and culture activist, Ben Tomoloju also delivered a keynote entitled ‘Forging a new economic route for Ondo State through culture, tourism’ at the event that further affirmed that the private sector can work with the government to grow culture when there are a will and mutual understanding.

Though it’s not all the time that the private and the public sector cooperate to such good effect in the art, culture and tourism sectors, this particular collaboration appeared to have been fruitful. But then, what could have inspired it? Three months after, has the festival been worth it? Is there a sustainability plan? These were some of the questions that one resolved to ask Oshodi upon arrival at his gallery which holds about 15,000 artworks during a recent visit.

After a tour of the compact but rich gallery, Oshodi began on why he partnered his home state for the festival, disclosing that it was to promote cultural and socio-economic development. “We are getting it wrong in today’s society, and without culture, we can never get it right. Culture is critical. People don’t know how to behave to elders, manners are poor. Leaders don’t know how to approach younger people, and all these are as a result of a culture that we don’t have. We started from Ondo because charity begins at home. Wehose the theme ‘Togetherness’ to highlight our similarities.  Despite being a Yoruba-speaking state, there are different dialects in Ondo.  I think we have about four different dialects in a local government; within Akoko alone, we have about seven dialects. If you go to Ilaje, we have two or three dialects. This was why we chose the theme, and we brought everybody together in Akure. The concept is quite different from what they were doing before. They had ‘Mare’ to celebrate the rock in Idanre, but ours is about bringing all the people in Ondo together, and the content is different.

“The content is about human value. People brought artefacts, tangible and intangible cultural assets and we discussed them at the festival’s economic summit.  It was participatory with experts, academics and ordinary people as we discussed the values of these assets as well as Yoruba qualities of integrity and hard work among others. We asked critical questions about our culture and why we are neglecting them. We discussed them because we wanted everybody to go back to the root so that we can stop immoralities. We need to manage our character and culture before we can succeed in whatever we are doing. We also need to teach our culture to our children because the future is the key. Part of the programme was also to re-introduce culture into the primary and secondary schools’ curriculum as well as promote cultural and socio-economic development of our state.”

Commendably, Ondo ARTFEST is just the beginning of the cultural renaissance that Oshodi and his fellow artists at the gallery want to initiate.  “What this gallery wants to stand for is not mercantilism.  I mean it’s not a place you will just enter, see work and price it. Our focus is on quality cultural content and programming such that at least in a year, we will have 12 quality arts/culture programmes monthly.  These will impact people’s lives like the Ondo Art Festival. We are planning another one in Lagos that will be advocating issues like peace, child abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking. We are going to use art to communicate these issues

“After the Lagos event, our next programme will happen February 2020, and we will be displaying 1000 crowns of Yoruba kings. We will highlight the significance of each Oba and his crown. For instance, the Ooni of Ife has about 1,000 crowns, and each of these represents something at the particular time it is worn.   People don’t know all of these, but we want to expose them so that they can appreciate our culture.

“You won’t believe that most of the Kings in Yorubaland don’t know what their stool is made of because they were not grounded, they don’t even know the importance of the crown and shoes they wear. They don’t know that in those days, Kings didn’t just put their feet on the ground, they had a small pallet that they put their legs on. We need to bring all these back so that we can begin to appreciate our culture because culture is wide and cuts across every aspect of life.”

On this year’s event, Oshodi said: “Ondo ARTFEST  2019 will play a crucial role; we shall experience an outstanding festival, providing locals and visitors with world-class performances. We are committed to building on last year’s achievements as we plan to transform it by making it bigger. Ondo ARTFEST will also travel beyond Africa and make our rich and unique cultural productions available to the rest of the world. But most importantly, we will use it to promote cultural and socio-economic development.”



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