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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Columnist: Obeng, Samuel Kwasi

“Storms”; the creative arts industry in progress

By Samuel Kwasi Obeng

They longed and waited for this day. Suddenly the day which heralded a significant progress in the creative arts industry came like the rains in the harmattan. At the Exhibition Hall of the National Theatre on May 15, 2015, stakeholders in the creative arts industry were presented with the drafted Creative Industry Bill (CIB) and their inputs solicited. The sensitisation workshop which was opened by the Hon. Minister for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare would be replicated in the other regions of the country.
But before that, they barked, yapped, whined, buzzed, growled and mooed; the same people who shouted hosanna when she was appointed were now calling for the head of Hon. Abla Dzifa Gomashie, the Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts. She met some of the stakeholders in the industry and made issues clear to them. They left her office as if they were leaving a deliverance service healed only for them to use their media platforms to call for more deliverance. In fact some of them boomed like Papa J.
In all that, yours truly never batted an eye because I knew the stage in which we are, the Storming Stage as I recalled my Human Resource Development and Management lessons in the University of Ghana. The Storming Stage is one of the earliest stages after the Forming Stage in group or organisational development. Essentially, it is characterised by discussions on rules, responsibilities, leadership, authority, criteria for evaluation and reward systems. Discussions at this Stage are normally antagonistic. Perhaps that is why it is called the Storming Stage.
The creative arts industry, which gained a ministerial status in 2013 after 21 years of the Fourth Republican dispensation, couldn’t leapfrog this Stage. Stakeholders in the industry have “Stormed” on a number of issues which they believe are militating against the progress of the industry.
One of them was why the ‘Creative Arts Ministry’ has preceded the Creative Industry Act (CIA) which is the legal and regulatory framework for the management and development of the industry. Even though this hurdle has been crossed, I want to throw more light on it since some still hold the view that government has put the cart before the horse. May be my views will bring to light the initial explanations given and put paid to the issue of government putting the cart before the horse in the minds of the doubting Thomases.
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts (MOTCCA) was given birth to with the formation of a new government in 2013. It has however been in existence since 1993 as the tourism ministry until it was realigned in 2013 via Executive Instrument (E.I 1) with a new mandate - “to provide a firm, stable policy environment for effective mainstreaming of Ghanaian culture in all aspects of national life and to ensure the strong emergence of a vibrant creative economy to improve and advance the tourism industry”.
Government did not create a new ministry called creative arts. It is the old tourism ministry which has been given an additional mandate in the name of creative arts and culture for the advancement of the tourism industry in the country and this has been clearly outlined in the mandate of MOTCCA.
Thus, the approach in my view is to leave the formation and promulgation of the Creative Industry Bill (CIB) into an Act under the leadership of the already existing tourism ministry and a creative arts practitioner elevated to the status of a minister. This is to ensure the effective marriage between tourism, culture and creative arts for the overall development of the tourism industry. Is the cart really before the horse?
Another “Storm” which is still raging among some stakeholders in the industry is that the “Creative Arts Ministry” should be scrapped because according to them it is not making the expected progress. This point is made as if it is a separate ministry. Be it as it may, how can the industry make progress if the Ministry which is the most effective conveyer belt between government and the creative arts practitioners is scrapped?
I say it is the most effective conveyer belt because of its easy accessibility to cabinet than any other group or agency of tourism, culture and creative arts. Scrapping it is synonymous to rolling back the incremental gains which have been made so far. What the industry needs now is the ideas and suggestions that would make it a major driver of Ghana’s development.
These were the major “Storms” that came before the stakeholders’ sensitisation workshop at the Exhibition Hall of the National Theatre. “Storming” continued at the Exhibition Hall but on the substance of the CIB and it is expected to end after the other regions have had their take on the CIB.
This stage of group or organisational development is very important because it can make or unmake the creative arts industry. In fact what is needed now is not rabbit trail “Storms” that leads to nowhere better but objectivity in the sharing of ideas or suggestions, tolerance of divergent views, practitioners and stakeholders exercising their rights with responsibility and respect and support for the leadership, especially Hon. Abla Dzifa Gomashie who is one of you. Accountability from leadership is also very important.
The desire is to move to the Norming Stage where the CIA would be well established and be made part and parcel of the professional lives of the creative arts practitioners and stakeholders and then to the Performing Stage where all we would hear of is positive results and results and results. You should note that ‘actions taken in anger seldom achieve desired results’
A very disturbing development worth bringing to the fore is the divided front of the various subsectors within the creative arts industry. GHAMRO, MURSOG, MUSIGA, GMA, FIPAG, FDGG among others must close their ranks to increase their legitimacy and force in making demands from the government. I’ll also entreat all the various groups who haven’t joined the Ghana Culture Forum, a network of creative arts groups in the country which is highly recognised by government to do so.
Remember that it is in unity you shall stand firm but fall with a divided front. Arise creative arts practitioners; the nation demands your valuable contribution to its development.