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Resourcing arts and cultural institutions to enhance unity and development 24/07/2008 Page 1 of 1
RESOURCING ARTS AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS TO ENHANCE UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT
By Nelson Kofi Akatey
Once again the critical issue of resourcing adequately the country’s art and cultural institutions to enhance their performance and contribute more effectively to promote national unity and development has come to the fore.
On most occasions, whenever the opportunity offers itself, these institutions have made passionate appeals to the government to consider increasing their budgetary allocations so that they would be able to position themselves well to implement their programme and policies. Their appeals have been supported by many well meaning Ghanaians and relevant institutions but the situation has not improved significantly over the years.
The latest individual to throw his weight behind these calls is Mr. Isaac K. Asiamah, Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Youth, Culture and Sports, at a public workshop for members of the Select Committee at Koforidua. The workshop was organized by the Cultural Initiative Support Programme (CISP) under the auspices of the National Commission on Culture. It was to sensitize the MPs on the country’s cultural policy and the activities of the CISP so that they could be more resourceful to advocate cultural issues in Parliament.
The Arts and Culture sector plays a major role in our quest for socio-economic development. It is perhaps the single-most important medium we can effectively utilize to facilitate national unity and development. It is the bridge the cuts across every political and ethnic divide, and an essential ingredient for national integration. Unfortunately, state resources to this sector and especially to the various institutions mandated by law to promote the development of arts and culture have not been very encouraging.
Most times, when it comes to discussing issues relating to culture, the perception by many people is that the sector is outmoded and has no relevance to contemporary times. Culture has been erroneously perceived as the realm of drumming and dancing, and of festivals and funerals. Even our schools, especially at the basic level, are guilty of this. Cultural studies times are only for entertainment and story telling, accompanied by drumming and dancing. This is unfortunate.
For a better understanding, culture is the totality of our way of life, evolved by our people through experience and reflection in an attempt to fashion a harmonious co-existence with our environment. Culture gives meaning and order to the social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious practice of our people. It is manifested in our ideas, beliefs, values, folklore, science and technology. The artistic form of culture, which gives meaning and expression to our every day life include our dance forms, drama, music, architecture, carvings, paintings and others. Simply put, our culture comprises our core values, norms, expectations and behaviours, all of which impact greatly on our way of life either positively or negatively. It is the bedrock for the socio-economic development of every nation. And Ghana is indeed blessed with a variety of rich attractive culture which has become the bait for many tourists from all over the world.
Think of our cuisine, festivals, historical sites and monuments and indeed the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality. Our culture has always been the source of our strength and unity. It has carved an enviable image for us as a nation of peace and stability. It has played the pivotal role of our socio-economic and political achievements over the years. In spite of these achievements however, we need to do more to revitalize the sector to become the indispensable foundation for achieving greater heights. The realization of these objectives, to a very large extent, depends on effective and adequate funding by the state.
One writer recently described the sector as the sleeping giant, the untapped gold mine. This cannot continue to be so. If the argument that countries such as Japan, China Korea, India, Malaysia and Singapore have attained their present level of socio-economic and political development because of the importance they attach to their culture is anything to go by, then it is a wake-up call for our policy makers to inject more funds to the sector.
Since independence, various governments have established institutions for the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes to build a viable and vibrant cultural sector for the country. It started with the Arts Council. Then the ministry of Arts and Culture attached to the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture from 1972-1979. The Ministry of Tourism lasted briefly and it became the Ministry of Education and Culture from 1986-1989. In 1990, the National Commission on Culture was established.
Among other function, the Commission is expected to initiate policies and programmes for the dissemination and propagation of ideas for the promotion of national pride, solidarity and consciousness. Since it establishment, it has facilitated the construction of infrastructures at both the national and regional level to promote arts and culture. Some of these facilities are however yet to be completed. There have been series of work shops and seminars throughout the years to enhance our national cultural life.
In 2004, the Commission organized the first ever National Congress of Artists and Cultural Workers in Ghana at the magnificent National Theatre and it spanned over one week. A new Cultural Policy document was launched at the congress. In 2006, a national website came into being. The website has become an important nerve center for education, information dissemination and research on Ghanaian and African culture.
In its effort to accentuate development at the sector and to facilitate the formulation of national policies, the government in 2006 established a full Ministry for chieftaincy and Culture. Besides the issue of policy formulation, the ministry is responsible for supervising and co-ordinating the programmes and activities of all the agencies and institutions under it. They include the National Commission on Culture, National Theatre of Ghana, National Dance Company, National Drama Company, National Symphony Orchestral, Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, Bureau of Ghana, the Folklore Board Regional/District Centers for National Culture and the Chieftaincy Secretariat. They have all contributed meaningfully towards the realization of the country’s cultural policy objectives.
Their activities always ensure that arts and culture remain a formidable agent of change and development in our national life. For instance, the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC), not withstanding its challenges and criticisms, has always being a source of hope and platform for national cohesion, expressing our diversity in unity as a people of one nation with one destiny. The achievements of these socio-cultural institutions have been laudable, but they can do far better when given the required resources.
Almost two years down the lane, the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture has made its impact. Many chieftaincy disputes which otherwise could have resulted in conflicts to threaten national security have been amicably settled. The ministry has also instituted the national celebration of Cultural Awareness Month every November to reawaken our cultural consciousness and revive our dying heritage. The first celebration was held last year to coincide with NAFAC. A new Chieftaincy Bill which amended the Chieftaincy Act of 1971 (Act 370) was recently passed by Parliament and is awaiting Presidential assent. The Ministry continues to hold consultations with all relevant stakeholders including the Regional and National House(s) of Chiefs with a view to promoting the ideals of the sector.
The 35-page document, officially outdoored in 2004, was the result of several workshops at the national and regional levels to solicit the input of stakeholder towards the realization of the vision of Ghanaians to respect, preserve harness and use their cultural heritage and resources to develop a united, vibrant and prosperous national community. The objective is to put Culture and the Arts at the center stage of our national development with the establishment of the appropriate structures and in collaboration with all other stakeholders.
The Policy document goes to fulfill the Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 39 of the Constitution. It is a document whose impact would be felt only when the programmes are translated into real and practical activities. Again this fulfillment depends on adequate resource funding to institutions which are the implementing agencies.
We are always admonished by the Biblical fact that “Heaven helps those who help themselves”. And we also take a cue from the proverb that “when you carry your load to your knee level, you will always you will always find someone willing to put it on your head”. The National Commission on Culture in this respect made some interventions towards resource mobilization for it programmes and the cultural sector as a whole. One of the interventions was the proposal to the government for the establishment of a Cultural Trust Fund. It is hoped that the proposal already endorsed by the government, would become operational soon.
The other initiative and intervention is the Cultural Initiative Support Programme with a grant of 2.5 million Euros by the European Union. The money would be disbursed to individuals and organizations who are into the promotion of the arts and culture, provided they satisfy the criteria established. These are meant to complement the budgetary allocation by the state in meeting the resource needs of the sector.
Thanks also to non governmental organizations such as Konard Adeneaur Stiffing which continues to support the Commission. Now with a full ministry in place, it should be possible for the sector to benefit from more state resources in view of the fact that the sector Minister, Mr. S. K. Boafo, also an M P, would play an advocacy role in Parliament to get the funds released. It is hoped that the members of the Select Committee would identify with the Minister and give him the necessary push to achieve his objective for the sector.
The Arts and Cultural sector, considering its all embracing role in national development,certainly needs more resources and funds. Culture is in health, agriculture, education, tourism, security and a lot more and all these sectors would reap the benefits of increased cultural activities. It is not asking a mountain out of a mole hill. The government must provide. And the time is now.
The Ghanaian Times page 9 Thursday, July 24, 2008 Page 1 of 1 1
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