by Peace Oluwadara, AJALA  

Economist Review[1]

Home is where the art is: Modern sculpture helps revive a dying corner of Japan

Summary

A small island in the Seto Inland Sea in southern Japan, has been said to have three stylised ships’ hulls sway in the breeze. They are suspended on poles and fixed to the sand with four rusty anchors each. The oval mirrors underneath, reflect the tangled red netting from which the hulls are made and the lead-coloured sky above the deserted beach. The ships are reportedly the work of the Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev, and they form one of many sea-themed artworks displayed during the Setouchi Triennale, an art festival. The triennale and more permanent museums and installations on some of the bigger islands have turned Setouchi into a tourist destination. Honjima has thus become a hipster hot spot, as stylishly dressed visitors traverse the island on rented bicycles looking for scattered artworks before cycling back to the harbour to relax over a cappuccino in a café that also peddles designer furniture. This is a major change, as before the artists and their fans arrived, Honjima was in apparent terminal decline, and even its main local industry, fishing, was dying. The locals had been leaving in droves to seek opportunities elsewhere and the remaining islanders, who were mostly old, were left with crumbling houses and the environmental fallout from defunct industries.

Investment in Tourism; a goldmine

In 2013, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reported that travel and tourism’s total contribution to the global economy rose to US$7 trillion, about 9.5 per cent of global GDP[2], not only outpacing the wider economy but also growing faster than other significant sectors such as financial and business services, transport and manufacturing. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in 2014, also envisaged a growth of 6 percent per annum, for a period of ten years for the Nigerian tourism industry.[3] It therefore goes without saying that globally, tourism has become a sustainable revenue earner competing favourably with the manufacturing sector, especially in the developed countries[4]. For Israel in fact, tourism was the core of its economic strength, and prosperity, until the Oslo peace process crumbled, as a wave of suicide bombings temporarily wiped out the tourism industry and contributed to its economic recession.[5] Asides the benefits tourism bodes for transport companies, particularly airlines-according to Strange-tourism in the 1970s and 1980s became a principal source of growth in the market for air transport,[6] it also contributes to closer international relations. Cultural, civilizational and economic relations between the various countries, are facilitated, especially between neighbouring countries, which help to guarantee peace and stability between nations.

The influx of foreigners as tourists into a country, directly translates to increased foreign exchange transactions in many other sectors, as the naira would be used increasingly; all contributing to the country’s revenue and GDP. Despite the beauty of the Nigerian landscape, rich and diverse cultures and folklores and the many other inherent tourism potentials: the sector has not been fully harnessed and adequately maximised. Worse off, existing infrastructure and facilities have been so poorly managed and preserved, such that there remains no form of aesthetic appeal whatsoever.

Months into 2019, a picture was posted on twitter, and it was unbelievably the building of a major Ministry parastatal in Lagos State. So odious was the sight, that it was difficult to imagine how members of staff conveniently inhabited the building, on a daily basis; what with food sellers clustered round the building’s entry point. In May of the same year, the Punch reported that over 45,000 artefacts and paintings are at risk of being damaged due to the poor maintenance of the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.[7] To say that the average Nigerian has a lackadaisical attitude towards maintenance, is putting it mildly.[8] From flower trimming, to daily watering of flowerbeds, gutter-cleaning and literal washing of his trash can, the typical German has a thorough maintenance culture. This culture is however largely lacking in the Nigerian clime, and its absence has negatively affected infrastructural development, talk less of beauty worthy of tourist attraction.

Rural areas of the country are more in dire need of these innovations, more than the cities. There is a constant emigration of locals from villages and towns to industrialized cities, resulting in population explosion in cities and scarcity of jobs. Like the organisers of the triennale festival however, domestic skills and trades of the people can be beautified and made more attractive, such that the people find a reason to stay back and build a life there. For some, sculpting and moulding is an indigenous prowess of the people; the political economy tool of stakeholder engagement can thus be put to use, and beautiful sculpted works be constructed with the help of local craftsmen to boost trade and revive economic activities. The Federal Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Investment alongside relevant agencies, may need to pay specific attention to several of such locales, which are potential goldmines and attraction centres, if helped and invested in. This approach will also help to decongest the cities and provide a livelihood for those in the rural areas.

 

[1] Economist article, culled from: https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/11/21/modern-sculpture-helps-revive-a-dying-corner-of-japan. Date Accessed: 29/11/2019.

[2] HospitalityNet; Travel & Tourism Contributes 9.5% to the Global Economy in 2013 – WTTC Reports. Available at: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4064541.html. Date Accessed: 29/11/2019.

[3] Yusuff Mulkat A. and Akinde Mukail A; Tourism Development and Economic Growth Nexus: Nigeria’s Experience. Available at: http://www.eajournals.org/wp-content/uploads/Tourism-Development-And-Economic-Growth-Nexus.pdf. Date Accessed: 29/11/2019.

[4] O. O. Ovat; Tourism and Economic Development in Nigeria: an Empirical Investigation.  Available at: https://www.ajol.info/index.php/gjss/article/view/22765. Date Accessed: 29/11/2019.

[5] Dan Senor and Saul Singer; Start-up Nations: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. Available at: https://epdf.pub/start-up-nation-the-story-of-israels-economic-miracle.html. Date Accessed: 29/11/2019.

[6] Susan Strange; States and Markets. Available at: https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/states-and-markets-9780826473899/. Date Accessed: 29/11/2019.

[7] The Punch Newspapers; 45,000 Artefacts in danger as National Museum Decays. Available at: https://punchng.com/45000-artefacts-in-danger-as-national-museum-decays/. Date Accessed: 29/11/2019.

[8] Tijani Saheed Abiodun, Adeyemi Akinwale Olayemi and Omotehinshe Olusegun Joseph; Lack of Maintenance Culture in Nigeria: The Bane of National Development. Available at: https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/CER/article/view/32321. Date Accessed: 29/11/2019.