36 —VANGUARD, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2018 08070524223 By OSA AMADI The journalist walked from one artisan’s shop at Alaba Rago, Lagos, to another in search of a workman that could repair his imported Compaq laptop bag which he so much cherished. He was directed to the slummiest part of the slum known as Alaba Rago. All kinds of dirt and fouled waste water dominate the place. Smoke emitting from cooking, meat and fish grilling activities filled the whole environment and flies swarmed everywhere. Anyone who is not used to such condition could easily choke to death from the smoke. If you survived, the horrible odour of smoke that clings on your clothes won’t let go until you wash the clothes. Inside and outside squalid shops, men worked: bags, footwears, belts, boxes, etc. The journalist approached one of the men, Sylla Mactar, a Senegalese. He was so quiet and soft-spoken. Sylla was sewing a bag with a sewing machine. “Sir, can you repair my laptop bag?” the journalist asked. “We don’t repair bags. We make new bags,” Sylla said softly as he sewed. “But you can’t make new one of this my Compaq laptop bag.” “He can make it. Even better,” the only apprentice Sylla has, Aminu, said. “You can make new one of this?” the journalist asked turning to Sylla. “Even better,” Sylla repeated what Aminu said. “But it will be pure leather, not cloth like that.” “For how much money?” “Twenty thousand naira” “Don’t say that! Why so costly?” “Leather, sir; high quality leather; high craftsmanship, and the art. It is handmade,” Sylla explained. “Then make it with cloth so that I won’t have to pay so much.” “We work with leather only. No cloth or rubber, it is waste of time and skill,” Sylla said. To test Sylla’s skills, the journalist gave N10, 000 advance payments. When Sylla finished the laptop bag, the journalist could not believe it. Truly, it turned out to be better than the imported Compaq one. Next shop near Sylla is John Adili, who makes footwears of all kinds. John also works with leather only. He, too, made sandals for the journalist – sandals bet- •John Adili Artis tists ts obsessed with leather ter than those made in Italy! John and Sylla are artists in their own right. Their works fall into the handicraft category, more precisely expressed as artisanal handicraft or handmade. Products of arts and crafts are useful and decorative objects made completely by hand or by simple tools. There is a certain fascination to leather. First, leather is durable. Then, it has aesthetic values, and products made of real leather speak of high quality. When bags, footwears, belts, wrist watch straps, glass cases, Bible covers, and many other personal items are artistically made of real leather, they stand out, bear the marks of quality and stand the test of time. These are the areas where Sylla and John specialise. John, Sylla and many others like them who work with leather are addicted to leather. So also are those who patronise the products of their creative endeavour. When they take your order, you need not fear whether they would use real leather or synthetic leather, given that it is not always easy to ARTS AND CRAFTS differentiate between the two at sight. Their obsession to real and high quality leather is your guarantee. Even when you request that your job be done with synthetic leather, “Sorry, sir, we work with only leather” is always the reply. And real leather it must be. Animal skins, the source of quality leather, abound in Nigeria. Nigeria’s Sokoto red goat skin is said to be one of the world’s best and attracts huge demand by global fashion houses. Developed countries, especially Italy, are major consumers of Nigerian leather. According to reports, “Nigerian leather is still mainly used in the production of shoes and bags, resulting in thriving local production and exportation to the West African region, yet, the country still imports about 0 million worth •Sylla Mactar of leather products annually.” Arts and craftsmen like Sylla and John who insist on best leather qualities are among those who patronise imported leathers. Unfortunately, Sylla and John have only one apprentice each, which shows that not many people are willing to learn their skills, even though the two craftsmen cannot fill the deluge of orders they get from customers. While unemployment is squeezing life out of the nation, the arts and crafts industry in Nigeria, one of the major drivers of every economy, is left untapped. Recently, an IMF research investigated why China’s economy has done so well. The research team reported thus: “Although capital accumulation – the growth in the country’s stock of capital assets, such as new factories, manufacturing machinery, and communications systems –was important, as were the number of Chinese workers, a sharp, sustained increase in productivity (that is, increased worker efficiency) was the driving force behind the economic boom. Between 1979 and 1994, productivity gains accounted for more than 42 per cent of China’s growth and by the early 1990s, had overtaken capital as the most significant source of that growth. This marks a departure from the traditional view of development in which capital investment takes the lead. This jump in productivity originated in the economic reforms begun in 1978.” In a more direct statistics, “the results of a recent study into the economic impact of the arts and crafts industry show that more than million is contributed to the state economy each year through the sale of arts and crafts in West Virginia, USA. The study, sponsored by six state arts and crafts organisations and the Small Business Development Division of the West Virginia Development Office, is the first of its kind to measure the arts and crafts industry in West Virginia.” Arts and craftsmen such as Sylla and John who dot the country need support. John told Vanguard Arts & Reviews that he first learned how to repair footwears before graduating to making brand new ones, and that he has been on the job for 10 years. With his one apprentice and simple hand tools, he makes about five pairs of footwears a day. But with more workers and better machines, he could produce up to 25 pairs a day. Sylla does not like the environment where he works. “This is not the right place to do this type of work, because what we do here are quality works.” He would prefer to move to a more decent environment in order to attract more workers and customers. Both Sylla and John desire to pass their crafts and skills to as many people as possible, but unfortunately, where they are is so hidden and squalid, and Nigerian government, which makes empty and endless promises of job creation, is not interested in them and what they do, at all. We apply creative means to keep urchins out of street – Tony Rapu ... unveils ‘My Lagos Dairies’ series 2 •Fatima, a reformed patient •Dr. Tony Rapu and one of the street boys In its second billing after a tremendous impact in the first edition, My Lagos Diaries is making a second come-back with another series as sequel to the former coming on local televisions in Nigeria. Filmed in a diary-like format, My Lagos Diaries chronicles a 12-year journey embarked upon by Dr. Tony Rapu and Freedom Foundation to highlight the myriad struggles of residents of Lagos’ poorest communities. This was unveiled to the press on Friday, February 16 at FilmHouse IMAX Cinema, Lekki, Lagos. Dr Tony Rapu, a pastor and social reformer, in a chat with Vanguard Arts & Reviews, passionately disclosed: “It is easy to take for granted the privileges we enjoy often forgetting that the difference between us and many of these poor people is just the exposure to education and opportunities we have been blessed with. That’s why it becomes a responsibility for those of us who have these privileges to create lasting opportunities for others, however small.” He said that My Lagos Diaries’ ultimate goal is to sensitise the general public about the struggles of these underprivileged persons while providing an opportunity for interested individuals and organisations to support Freedom Foundation’s vision via donations and funding. According to him, the media screening officially launches the 13-episode documentary series, which will begin airing on Saturday, February 24. It will tell some of the real stories of rehabilitated prostitutes, armed robbers, drug addicts, beggars and other neglected individuals in the society. “In this new series, Fatima, a drug addict who resides in Ipodo, Ikeja, dropped schooling and ran away from home at form four. She joined a bad gang. After a hellish life, she cried out for help which came timely through the foundation and was moved to Genesis House where she became new treasure in the eyes of man and God. One case too many, in the whole scenario a relapse from drug addiction pervades but was adequately taken care of,” Tony said.
VANGUARD, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2018 —37 08070524223 Africa and the observation of Black Histor ory y Month •Prof Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Dr Wale Okediran comment By Chris Onuoha Black History Month or ‘Black Achievement Month’ is an annual event that started in America in 1929 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. It is celebrated annually in the United States and their embassies across the globe including Canada in the month of February; United Kingdom and the Netherlands in October, and other parts of the world as a way of remembering prominent black people and events in the history of Africans in the diaspora. Carter Woodson, born to slave parents in America was a Harvard history scholar. In the course of his studies at Harvard, he was disturbed at the discovery that history books largely ignored the black American population which, according to him, generally reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time. At the time of Negro History Week’s launch in the second week of February to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas’ birthdays, Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to ensuring the physical and intellectual survival of the race within broader society. Although the celebration was met with enthusiasm and grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with endorsement as a holiday from President Gerald Rudolf Ford, the 38th US President during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial, it has attracted criticisms in some quarters querying the continued usefulness and fairness of a month dedicated to the history of one race when other races do not have such singular month anniversary. It was hence branded as pure racism. Similarly, Morgan Freeman, an African American actor and actress Stacey Dash had criticized Black History Month, with Freeman saying, “I don’t want a Black history month. Black history is American history.” Freeman has argued that there was no White History Month, because white people did not want their history relegated to just one month. It’s pure racism.” Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, former Dean, English Department, University of Lagos is of the opinion that such celebration is only observed by Americans as a holiday. She faulted the name ‘Black History’ saying it should have been African-American history celebration because the blacks in America wanted an identity. “In Nigeria, we have so many ways in which we celebrate similar events by way of African cultural festivals. We don’t call it black history celebration but African festivals. That can possibly represent the making of African history. If we call it •Fela Anikulapo Kuti black history, it limits its significance, judging from the fact that other races such as Asians, red Indians, etc., do not have such designated celebrations. There’s nothing wrong if a holiday would be declared continental-wise to have a proper African history day. We are Africans and we represent African race everywhere. Celebrating black history is somehow racist to me because in America, Afro-Americans want identity to hold on to.” For Dr. Wale Okediran, “It was originally meant to be an Afro-American month of History celebration and that’s why it is not widely celebrated in Africa. It’s only the scholars of Afro-American literature that celebrate it here. It will not be a bad idea to have it widely celebrated here as a way of identifying with the spirit of the whole concept. Nigerian teachers of Afro-American literature alongside other members wish to start something like that here in the country to create awareness.” Talking about the concept, it is also argued that removal of history as a subject from Nigeria’s school curriculum has affected knowledge of African history among the youths, while cultural values and appreciation of our heritage seem to be waning. In Africa, proponents of black consciousness, Negritude movement and great nationalists such as, Olaudah Equiano, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Herbert Macaulay, Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Sédar Senghor, Felix Houphouet Boigny, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Shaka Zulu, and Nelson Mandela, to mention but few, are not celebrated enough, though •Dr. Carter G. Woodson •Nelson Mandela some public spaces have been named after them. In the United States for instance, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, W E B Dubois, Booker T. Washington and others, are celebrated beyond recognition with public holidays and sociopolitical and cultural movements assigned to some of them. In Africa, it is a different story except the Afro beat maestro, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, whose family has instituted an annual ceremony called Felabration, to immortalise him. Meanwhile, the February 2018 ‘Black History Month’ was celebrated in American embassy in Nigeria and also at the Centre for American Studies, University of Nigeria Nsukka. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, said to be the first black African to teach Negro Studies at Lincoln University in the United States of America in the 1940s alongside Kwame Nkrumah before the struggle for Nigerian independence in 1960, was the focus in the lecture series delivered at the center during the commemoration. Zik was observed to be the pioneer of intellectual freedom who used his academic prowess together with Kwame Nkrumah to liberate Africa from the shackles of colonial imperialism. The core highlights of the lecture centered on repositioning the states of Africa through the review of the achievements of the pioneers of freedom and emancipation of black consciousness. With the theme: The United States Civil Rights and African Liberation Movement, speakers like Mr. Lawrence Sotha, Cultural Officer of United States Embassy in Nigeria; Prof. Daryl Zizwe Poe of Lincoln University Pennsylvania and Prof. Jonah Onuoha, director of the center, stressed the need for Africa to say no to injustice and discrimination in the continent. They added that time has come when Africans should write their own history and present it to the world, a true story about Africa, and also that Africa should use education acquired to bring freedom to the oppressed in the society. “People from different parts of the world may have written the history of Africa – how they feel and perceive the continent. Africa has produced people who have made many contribu- •Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe •Kwame Nkrumah tions to the world, so it is time for us to correct the wrong impressions about Africa by writing the correct history of Africa,” Sotha said. Down the lane, lack of substantial developments has continued to remain an issue. Challenges such as unstable democracy, high poverty index, poor education and health system alongside low esteem syndrome have beclouded the states of African continent. It is not the wish of these great African men to see their efforts in emancipation of black consciousness become a waste or for Africa to remain underdeveloped for decades.