The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part three in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
Despite Nigeria’s turbulent history of military dictatorships and bloody coups, culture has retained its importance. The right to culture is anchored in the constitution and plays an important part in retaining the national unity in the most densely populated country in Africa.
Nigeria has a rich cultural heritage of some 250 different ethnic groups. Saving the cultural heritage therefore receives the most attention from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which revealed its new master plan for that purpose early in March 2005. Under the supervision of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria also enforces a strict regiment of rules to prevent art theft.
The Ministry’s policy is implemented by the National Council for Art and Culture (NCAC). In addition, the 36 states in Nigeria each have their own arts council for the development of the local cultural sector. The National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) is a research and training institute that has monitored the cohesion between cultural policy and social integration, peace and national unity since 1993. The Center for Black and African Arts and Culture (CBAAC), established after the famous Festac 77 Conference in 1977, strives to improve understanding of African cultures. The center is also home to valuable archives.
The Nigerian cultural policy is currently under revision. The government wants to place more emphasis on cultural cooperation with businesses and local communities. These communities have virtually no contact with the art circuits in the cities and make little use of modern technologies.
Nigeria has strong ties with Unesco. In recent years this UN organization has concentrated on copyrights, the documentation of oral traditions and the establishment of a virtual library.