IT MUST COUNT! Beyond The Celebrity Visits To The Flagstaff House

Another week and Shatta Wale and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo have dominated the headlines again – and it’s for a good reason.

Two weeks ago, after the birthday tweet from the President to Shatta Wale generated so much hoopla, I wrote for this column, “We Need More of Such Moves, Mr. President”  – an article that commended the Presidency for opening its doors to the creative industry and the purveyors within..

In the piece, I also wrote;

Sending birthday messages in pidgin, gracing funerals and talking to beauty queens in the Flagstaff House are good but the progress, sustenance and elevation of the arts and stakeholders go beyond smiles, handshakes and tweets.

The arts/entertainment industry in Ghana needs a jolt, where the government would provide an enabling environment for entertainers to achieve their full potential and where stakeholder would get benefits from the sector.

Shatta Wale’s visit to the Flagstaff House, just like the famous tweet, did generate an inestimable level of delirium among the populace – and obviously causing many other celebrities to also call for an invitation to the Presidency.

Shatta’s visit is not the first of any entertainer or personality within the arts industry and he won’t be the last, but indisputably, that visit made the President and the artist look good, a situation that is likely to instigate more celebrity visits.

With the possibility of much other celebrity visits to the Presidency, which is supposed to be a customary phenomenon, it is important to remind the Presidency of the other equally important matters in the creative industry that need fixing.

It is imperative for the President and all his lieutenants assigned for the creative industry not to be carried away by the positive feedback that accompanies their hosting of these celebrities and attend to the core issues that need urgent attention.

Legislative Instrument For Film Act

The power and influence of film in the shaping of a country’s values and drive cannot be overemphasized and that is the reason there’s a Film Act, which took years to attain. After the attainment, it is taking years to get the LI passed in order to ensure the smooth operation of the film industry.

For an industry that employs so many hands and has the potential of generating so much revenue for the economy of the country, it is confounding how the promulgation of the law should be relegated to the background.

The Film Act, among many other provisions, addresses various control mechanisms that will ensure that films produced in the country are adequately reviewed to ensure that they are of certain quality, which will also ensure that sanity prevails in film production in the country.

There’s also the setting up of the National Film Authority to regulate the industry as well as the initiation of the Film Fund to provide succor to film producers in churning out quality works and elevating our filmmaking to a different level.

The panacea to the incessant complaints and demonstration against the dominance of telenovelas and foreign culture in our space lies in the Film Act. All it needs is attention!

Most importantly, there are provisions that are aimed at protecting the national interest and also to give the opportunity for practitioners of the trade to take control of the industry.

The Creative Arts Bill

Presently, there’s Creative Arts Council that was formed by the Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture without any legal backing, making it an illegality and causing some level of angst in the industry.

Ideally, the Creative Arts Bill should have been passed first, a document that would give a legal backing for the setting up of a Creative Arts Council, which would be a regulatory and advocacy body for the arts industry in addition to assisting government in the development of the creative arts industry.

Clearly, the Ministry consists of three different sectors but Tourism is given more premium than the Arts and Culture sectors respectively and one of the principal reasons for the Bill is the alignment of the Arts and Culture to Tourism with regards to governmental support, policies and empowerment of stakeholder within the fields, taking into consideration, the importance of the sectors with regards to job creation, income generation and its potential of marketing Ghana internationally.

There’s so much activity in the creative industry; talent development, production, marketing, distribution, collection societies etc., therefore, there’s the urgent need for a legal and regulatory framework, which would streamline the sector.

Thankfully, a Committee was set up by the previous administration that drafted the bill, prepped for passage. That Committee has since been dissolved since the change of government, which is quite understandable, but it would be unfathomable, if the work that was put in is also disregarded completely.

It would be waste of money and resources if another Committee is set up to go back to the drawing table and come up with another draft, which is sure to take years, fraught with agitation, miscommunication and misrepresentation to make. It would be a complete waste!

Implementation Of The Cultural Policy

Anybody that peruses the Cultural Policy of 2004, drafted under the leadership of Prof. George Hagan would be crestfallen, considering the fact that, almost all the teething problems with the industry are adequately addressed by the Policy, yet, the document continues to gather dust.

It is quite upsetting to figure out the brains that have worked extensively on this Policy, for it to be given this kind of treatment. Elsewhere, this Cultural Policy, first drafted by Emeritus Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nkekia in 1957 and adopted by UNESCO, would be treated as the ‘Bible’ for the sector.

In 1983, the first elaborate work on the Policy was made under the political headship of Mr. Asiedu Yirenkyi, the then Secretary for Culture and Tourism in the erstwhile Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). His successor Dr. Ben Abdalah, ably assisted by Dr. (Mrs.) Esi Sutherland-Addy and Mr. Walter Blege, reviewed the document when PNDC Law 238 established the National Commission on Culture in 1990. Prof Kwame Arhin and his success or Nana Akuaku Sarpong undertook a series of revisions and had the Draft Policy discussed at Cabinet level but it did not receive assent then.

In the year 2004, under the Presidency of His Excellency J. A. Kufuor, George P. Hagan, Chairman of the NCC supervised the revision of the Policy, a document that was also overseen by this assemblage of Ghanaian brainpower; Hon. Samuel Nkrumah-Gyimah, Emeritus Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Prof. Kofi Anyidoho, Prof. Kwesi Yankah, Mr. Kwaw Ansah, Dr. (Mrs.) Esi Sutherland-Addy, Mr. Haruna Attah, Alhaji Abdulai Bawa, Mr. Suuribataribum Soyiri, Mac Tontoh, Rev. Dr. Mensah Otabil, Nii Adote Obuor II, Nana Ama Ayensua Saara III, Ms. Marigold Akufo-Addo and Nana Kwame Kyeretwie.

Creative Arts Fund

Mr. President, there’s been lots of chatter on the creation of Creative Arts Fund to support and augment the efforts of practitioners within the industry. Thus far, it’s just been talk, talk and more talk.

The industry needs the implementation of this initiative and a disclosure of its modalities, rudiments and operation. It’s time to move from the now-boring narrative to action, an accomplishment that would see the industry and its practitioners perched at a very gratifying position.

Sir, the celebrity visits are good, but if these issues are attended to with a sense of urgency and alacrity, you and your Office will endear to our hearts more and you will look very good in the eyes of creative industry and the entire populace.

Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo


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