As we near the general elections to be held in December this year, one thing that stakeholders in the arts and entertainment industry should be thinking about is what to expect from our politicians as regards their dreams and policies for the creative arts. And as part of the “NO ARTS, NO VOTE” project initiated last year by Voice of the Arts, an advocacy group for the creative industry, to nudge presidential candidates to include the arts in their manifestoes, we present our worldviews and outlook on the New Patriotic Party’s 2012 Manifesto which was launched on 29th August, 2012.
Preamble: If voted into power, this is what the New Patriotic Party (NPP) intends to do for the creative industry as captured in their manifesto christened the “Transformation Programme”: Read on…
“Arts and Culture play a major role in the establishment of our cultural identity and are foundations for peace and unity among Ghanaians. Before the year 2001, the Arts and Culture industry was a marginalized sector of the Ghana economy. This was evident in lack of patronage and support from government as well as the little attention given to organizations operating in the sector.
However, the cultural dimensions of national development need to be recognized and enhanced, as cultural dissemination and promotion are vital to national unity and cohesion. Greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity in our nation by our people and by the foreign community, provide a strong foundation for cultural development and national pride. In addition to these, the contribution of Arts and Culture to the economy of Ghana needs to be appreciated, particularly in the areas of tourism and job creation.
We will increase budgetary allocation and needed support to the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Cultural affairs in order to:
(1) preserve, sustain and employ the traditional and cultural values as well as practices to accelerate wealth creation and social harmony for total development.
(2) support traditional leaders who are the pivot and custodians of our culture and a active catalysts in moral transformation of our society.
(3) formulate a national vision and unified plan for cultural development in consultation with the various cultural stakeholders.
(4) provide mechanisms, institutions and infrastructure for the development and promotion of culture.
(5) promote good governance in Arts and Culture.
.i. The Arts
The arts are an important aspect of our culture and can be described as the soul of our society. The Arts are a powerful medium for a country’s social history, cultural tradition, political values and changing civilization and preserve our heritage. Despite the recent dynamics of urbanization and change in our societies, the Arts gives us our identity and have the potential to create jobs. Moreover, the Arts are a critical medium for teaching our children various aspects of our culture. However, a number of problems in the sector have not augured well for its development. These include lack of strong database on national creative cultural assets, inadequate funding, poor infrastructure and lack of well-equipped theatres and museums, and poor marketing for creative cultural goods and services.
We will create a department under the ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture to oversee the development of all creative industries and the development of a national creative development plan. Additionally, we will encourage the integration of Arts and Culture in all school curriculums and also integrate Arts and Culture into the transformation programme. We will build and support more museums and libraries, and promote a system of networking and linkages among members of artistic communities.
ii. The Performing Arts
We will put in place additional measures to uplift the performing arts industry:
(a) build a multi-purpose theatre in Kumasi for the northern sector.
(b) encourage educational institutions and support artistic cultural projects
(c) promote regional and district literature, music dance and drama competitions, particularly on schools and colleges.
(d) formulate a unified plan for Arts development
(e) encourage registration of works by Ghanaian artistes
iii. Our Music and Musicians
Music plays an important role in society. The industry has immense potential for accelerated national development. However, the music industry is bewildered with numerous challenges. The copyright sector of the industry is challenged with piracy, inadequate technical and professional knowledge, lack of enforcement of existing laws, inadequate infrastructure as well as lack of documentation.
The music industry under the NPP government will be given a boost because of the potential it has to create jobs and wealth for Ghanaian talent. We will support and enforce anti-piracy laws for the industry to protect our musicians.”
Voice of the Arts’ Outlook: After trudging through this aspect of the manifesto about arts and culture, and analysing its content and concepts, Voice of the Arts found out that there were some quite plausible provisions as it was also awash with vagueness or misleading claims.
One thing we have always been fighting for is the creation of a ministry for arts and entertainment, disparate from Chieftaincy. The chieftaincy institution is buffeted with maladies, which make it absurd to add a whole arts and entertainment. The litany of chieftaincy disputes and feuds are too much for that ministry. There is a yawning chasm between the entertainment business and the Chieftaincy institution. Again the arts and entertainment which encompasses music, movies, painting, creative writing, radio, TV, fashion, sculpture, modeling, dance, comedy is a broad field of endeavour which needs a separate ministry, not “a department under the ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture to oversee the development of all creative industries and the development of a national creative development plan.”
We don’t see how effective this department is going to be as it still will be subservient to a bigger ministry which is inundated with issues that may be considered more pressing than that of the creative industry. The existence of Ministry of Arts and Entertainment will pare down the countless instances of we being almost invariably consigned to oblivion, despised and marginalized. We need to rule our own world. Obviously, the NPP could not defer to our laudable proposal of creating a separate ministry for us.
Additionally, they intend integrating the study of arts and culture into the curriculum of all schools, promote district literature, drama and cultural competitions in schools but failed to tackle the biggest problem of schools not having teachers who are well-versed in creative arts courses to deliver. Are we still going to have, for instance in the primary schools, the same classroom teacher who knows zilch about music, dance or drawing to teach these children? Are we still going to teach the arts without requisite teaching and learning materials? How effective will that be? This is a huge problem which needs to be tackled from the colleges of education which train the teachers who impart knowledge onto our kids. Just as we have students specializing in Science and Mathematics in these colleges, so should we have others specializing in the various rivulets of the arts so we have competent teachers to teach the creative arts courses in our schools.
Another thing Voice of the Arts expected the manifesto to address was giving scholarships to students who excel in the arts. There should be ‘affirmative action’ to these ‘neglected’ students, who almost invariably are seen as scatterbrains. How many times haven’t theatre arts students in our universities been ridiculed and derided? Should everybody offer a maths and science course? And who says arts related courses are not difficult? Frankly, the problem is bigger than the Akufo-Addo and his NPP see it.
Perusing the “Transformation Programme”, we could not find where it stated anything concerning transforming the film industry. This means it gave particular prominence to some sectors of the arts and culture and neglected others. The music sector for example, seems to have featured prominently in the manifesto. So we ask: whither art the fashion, film, painting, sculptor and creative writing sectors? The district literature competitions for example, aren’t enough to deal with the problems of the conspicuously missing creative writers.
On the issue of fighting piracy, we don’t know what the NPP is going to do to arrest it. Saying you are going to give it a ‘’boost’’ is too vague and unconvincing.
Conclusion: As already stated there is vagueness in the manifesto and demands that the presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo is quizzed by stakeholders of the arts to explain some of the things they say they will do. This is what Voice of the Arts mean by organizing a “Presidential Debate on Arts”, so all presidential aspirants come to defend what they want to do for the arts. Very soon, other political parties will also be out with their manifestoes and Voice of the Arts will be glad if the media uses their platforms to analyse these manifestoes so we see whose holds bright future for our industry. We, as arts people have waxed ”unserious” and selfish for long and need to come together to make this debate work.
Isn’t it a shame that none of the noisy groups in the arts could fight their way to be present at the Institute of Economic Affair’s (IEA) Encounters with the Presidential Candidates to ask questions that bother them? You ask some of them and they say they were not invited. So you never knew we have always not been on these people’s agenda so it was expedient you went there to lobby as you lobbied for the budget money you virtually claimed sole ownership of? It’s sickening! And when Voice of the Arts need platforms to proffer brilliant panaceas to some of these problems, some so called big entertainment radio presenters feel it is useless to talk about NO ARTS, NO VOTE on their platforms. This is what is killing us! The selfishness and “I know-it-all” syndrome will not do us any good. Let’s get the NO ARTS, NO VOTE project recharged, marry ideas as one people and put these presidential aspirants under one roof to we have time to ask them to tell us the HOWS of their dreams for the arts. We have no time to waste.
Mr/Madam musician, actor, film director, artiste manager, music or movie producer, radio or TV presenter, publisher, writer, dancer, sculptor, painter, comedian, fashion designer, don’t forget your vote is your power. Before you go out to vote in December, you should have analysed the manifestoes of all these presidential candidates to make an informed decision. Let’s be serious!
: Kwame Dadzie,
Leader(Voice of the Arts)
Tel:0242778469, 0243514732, 0265068979