Opinion

State of the Creative Arts (SOCA) Address: An Exercise in Futility

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

Andy Dosty and his able producers, in their bid to be creative, decided to offer listeners what they called, SOCA – State of Creative Arts Address on Hitz 103.9FM, just days after the President of the nation, H.E. Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, gave us his 4th State of the Nation address.

Good Attempt, Confused Direction

For the sake of programming, this move was heralded as being creative; that’s okay, but what’s the point if the direction of the motive is confounding – at least, I was jaded with the exact intent of this move.

From get-go, the objective of the episode was not made clear; as to whether the Speaker, Mark Okraku Mantey, who is the Head of the Creative Arts Council, was going to give the state of the Creative Arts Council or he was indeed, going to give us the state of the creative industry.

The confusion stemmed from this simple fact; the President of the country, who has the oversight responsibility over everything in the country had already given us his commentary on the Arts. He presented the current and relevant situation regarding the arts that the citizens ought to know. He did just that!

As done in the past, if the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture felt the need to engage the media to provide further clarity on matters relating to the sector, it does that too!

At the end of the exercise on Hitz FM, Mr. Okraku Mantey, in all his confidence and eloquence gave us an overview of what the Creative Arts Council has been up to and very little on the entire sector.

Aside some of the ‘praise singers’ who were present in the studio, majority did not really appreciate the outcome. It was not convincing!

‘Praise Singers’, Please Shut Up!

Praise singing is okay, it is allowed, just as it was witnessed at the Hitz FM studios after the address. However, what is irritating is when these ‘praise singers’ create the impression that any critic of the actions of the Council, its Head and the government is on some sort of a  personal vendetta, especially against the Head of the Council.

Shut up over there!

Most of these guys are shouting unnecessary praises and appellations all for their parochial interest. We see through you!

Mark Okraku Mantey is highly revered in the industry and beyond. Aside his stellar contribution to the industry, he is also renowned for his sharp and uncompromising criticism over the years.

He is also experienced to know that the Office he occupies would definitely encounter scrutiny, inquisitions and some backlash. He knows!

So, if the one in charge does understand and welcomes such constructive feedback on his sector, how less you hangers –on? Find somewhere and sit!

Let’s get into matters of the address.

No Law?

Speaking on why the Council has no Communications Manager, Mark stated that, it would have been appropriate to have one, but there is no law to back it up.

On the mandate given to his team during the inauguration of the Council, which included the setting up of the actual Creative Arts Council as well as the setting up of the Board of Directors, he stated that efforts were made to consult some astute personalities to make the Board but, there is no law to back it up.

There is no law?

So, if virtually everything concerning the Council cannot be achieved due to the unavailability of the law, then why do we even have the Council in the first place?

There is no law to support to appointment of a Communication Expert, no law to espouse a Board, so what law is supporting the existence of a President, Secretary and other members of the team?

Which law is supporting the establishment of an edifice for the operations of the Council and which law supports budgetary allocation for it?

Council to Agency

Mr. Okraku Mantey was buoyant as he touted how the Council is becoming an Agency and even explained how advantageous it is to have an Agency instead of a Council.

According to him, this arrangement is in the Bill? Yes the bill, the same old bill that has ‘gallivanted’ from Parliament to Cabinet to Attorney General and now back at Cabinet.

My bewilderment hinges on why this Agency should even be a matter for discussion. It is inconsequential, considering the fact that, the majority of members of the industry are not privy to the ‘confidential’ Bill, plus the obvious fact that the bill has not been passed.

When the Creative Arts Bill it is given prominence and properly passed into an Act, then it becomes relevant to discuss its content.

Noise on the Creative Arts Bill

Candidly, credit to Mark for exhibiting some determination in trying to ensure that the Bill is passed. He seems serious about it, however, I did not get his complaint of media folks not making a lot of noise about it.

The question is; what level of noise has Mark and his team made in the media about the urgency of the passage of the Bill?

Which conference, whether press or industry gathering, has ever been organized by the Creative Arts Council, just to talk about the Bill and how crucial it is for the Government to pass it?

At the March 2017 inauguration of the Council, Mark was given a topmost priority; to see to the revision, ratification and implementation of the Creative Arts Bill and its passage into Law.

Clearly, the onus is on him to make the biggest effort and the loudest noise in executing that mandate. Yes, the media must definitely push, but it starts with him and his team.

Achievements

This was also quite confusing, seriously!

According to Mark, his achievements thus far as leader of the Council is giving the industry the privilege to have one leg in government, the fact that, the industry now has a representation in government.

Wait, wait, please wait!

With all due respect, the representation of the creative industry in government commenced when President John Dramani Mahama set up the Ministry of Creative Arts in 2013. We have had representation, in fact, we have had legs in government for the past 6 years.

The Ministry has been our voice and still our voice. Stop playing!

He also talked about the Council being made an Agency as an achievement.

Again, which ratified document has this Agency and why is it being tagged as a feat?

Knowledge, Our Weakness

On the Master classes organized by the Council over the period, Mark gloated as he basked in the glory of providing knowledge to the industry.

According to him, the moment he assumed office, without the backing of the law, of course – he realized that, knowledge was the weakness of the industry and he and his team decided to develop the minds of the people in the industry.

Bravo to him and the Council; knowledge is good!

The question is; after the various Master Classes, did the Council do any empirical analysis to figure if indeed, the knowledge given were being put to proper use? If indeed, we have the structures to ensure that such knowledge is being implemented?

Has the Council provided that enabling environment that ensures that our weakness is turning into strength?

Other Matters

It was quite uncomfortable listening to him as he tried to touch on other projects, like the Copyright Court. His explanations on why we still do not have copyright courts were uninspiring.

He also explained expertly how it is the Ministry that control the budgetary allocation to his Office, yet, he was not given the opportunity to account for and how much his Office used for its operations.

Conclusion

Great attempt by the ‘Daybreak Hitz’ team but to put it bluntly, it was just another exhibition for listeners to reckon that Mark is a good orator and has Academic credentials. That was all!

If the Council wants to organize a proper address, it should, in conjunction with or at the behest of the Ministry, organize a well-prepared forum, give us a detailed account of the state of the industry including the Creative Arts Council and open the floor for a healthy debate on how well we can all contribute and push the industry forward.

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