Ndidi Dike: the Cultural Diplomat
‘Tapestry of Life: New Beginnings’ is not just another documentation or portraiture of exquisite works of art by a Nigerian whose creative genius is widely acknowledged. It is not just a work of art. It is also an instrument of diplomacy.
It is often forgotten that art has throughout history been associated with diplomacy. Great empires have used their great artistic accomplishments to express their grandeur and greatness. The Renaissance art of Michelangelo showed the greatness of the period when Europe rediscovered the classical tradition after the ruins of the Middle Age[s]. When you walk through some of the ancient cities of Europe, you see clear evidence of art expressing history, the history of nationalism, the history of internationalism; the history of human civilization and human degradation. Nothing has better expressed history and politics than art and artistry.
Here in Nigeria, we have plenty evidence of the diplomatic verities of art and artistry. The colonialists did not come only with gun-boats and gun-powders. They also came with their art and culture to enchant and seduce the natives, and to humanize their brutality. And as Anthonio Gramsci, the Italian Philosopher and Marxist Scholar argued, empires do not rule through force only. They rule also through the hegemony of ideas. Art- whether as literature or sculpture or painting- is an instrument of maintaining the hegemony of imperialist power. It is in this wise that the British, the French and the Germans established cultural centers to propagate imperial ideals and values in the colonies.
Just as art and artistic expression could become instruments to reinforce oppression, they could also become great forces of resistance and liberation. Art has always been at the vanguard of liberation struggles. The Pan-African and Negritude struggles in Africa were sustained by artistic creativity. Our humanism, our idealism expressed through our literature, our sculpture, our paintings and our bronze works, were great resources that helped us to overcome the cultural nihilism of colonialism. With our great art we recovered courage and affirmed our humanity.
I intuitively identify the foreign policy value of the great artistry of Ndidi Dike. As a former Minister of Culture and Tourism I can easily understand what art has got to do with Foreign Policy. The whole work of a Foreign Minister is to project the greatness of his country. In today’s world of global competitiveness when tourism has become the greatest revenue earner, every country should be marketing its cultural and artistic resources. Citizen Diplomacy aims to project Nigeria’s greatness so that we can gain the competitive edge in global political and economic transactions. Such competitive advantage results in enhanced economic and social welfare for the citizens.
“Tapestry of Life” is a collection of diverse statements of the cultural greatness of Nigeria. It is a sublime expression of the artistic genius of Ndidi Dike, a Cultural Ambassador who is project Nigeria to the world through visual arts. I fully support her aspirations and commitments.
- Speech by Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe CFR at the opening of Ndidi Dike's 'Tapestry of Life: New Beginnings' exhibition at the National Museum, Lagos.
On the right, the artist Ndidi Dike is shown with students of Yaba Tech painting Goriola Street in Ajegunle, Mushin, Lagos - during a workshop organised by the Goethe Institute, Lagos, in 2006.
- Installation images by Don Barber.