Financing the Creative Arts

Panelists: Ojoma Ochai, Tom Ilube, Henry Bassey

Moderator: Olaokun Soyinka

“If I get 30 seconds with the person who can fund my project, what am I going to say them”

Tom Ilube one of the panellists in the financing the creative arts panel begins his advice to a room full of creatives interested in knowing how they can access finance. He does not stop there. He goes on to emphasize the need for brevity in the summary of your funding need, and the importance of infusing your craft and creativity in your application for funding. Tom Ilube having worked in top executive positions in Banks in the United Kingdom and having pitched to 200 people and organizations, knows the ropes of financing and understands when he says to keep trying despite rejections. He says: “Your 30 seconds pitch must be one that will get them [sponsors] interested.” He tells about his elevator experience with a potential funder, in which he had no pitch for a project he needed funding for. He has since learned from this experience he says.


This conversation about funding and financing the creative arts is an important one seeing as accessing finance in the creative industries can be tricky business. This is despite the fact that creatives are taking over the world and becoming an increasing source of revenue. The panel is specifically designed to help creatives understand the complexities of finance and for them to understand how to access the money they need to make their ideas a reality.

Yemi Odubiyi from Sterling Bank uses the work Sterling Bank does in financing creatives to answer questions posed to him, in order to explain how creatives should approach investors. He says: “Sterling is setting up a studio and has an in house radio station. People do not do their research before approaching potential investors. The importance of research cannot be overstated as it is only when you research you know what the investors are interested in. We at sterling are interested in fashion, football and film.”

Building a list of people to approach is another important step to take before approaching them. “If one cannot invest, ask them to tell you others who might,” Tom Ilube advises. Creatives should not be afraid of getting answers in the negative and being rejected by funders. They instead should milk such experiences and learn from them. He continues that creative people are not necessarily business minded and they might need to partner with someone who is business minded who can focus on the business side of the idea. Tom mentions four necessary points: awareness, interest, desire and action: “Your first job is to make them aware. Secondly express your creativity in a way that will catch their interest. Ensure that it is desirable. And finally, take action. This may take more than a year.”

When the moderator Olaokun Soyinka opens the panel up for questioning someone asks what can make banks support creative in that where he’s from, Ghana, Banks aren’t that supportive of creative people. Yemi Odubiyi answers this by stating that the buying decision is an emotional driving force. People connect from two perspectives – pleasure and pain and how people tell stories in a compelling way. This, he says, helps us support. Sterling tries to distinguish itself by doing what the target market is interested in.

In general and much needed advice to creatives, Tom says to push yourself. Ojoma Ochai the one woman on the panels says: “Even when you’re asked to do something for free, try to negotiate.  Be confident. Be good at what you do. Hone your craft.” According to her, competence in creativity is everything.  The other panellists agree with this.

Particularly because the theme of the 2017 Ake festival is the “F-word”, the moderator asks the only woman on the panel for advice for women in the creative industry. Ojoma Ochai says: “Without disregarding the challenges a woman has, a typical organization wants someone that can achieve its goals. As a woman you need to be competent. Do not play the gender card. Be competent. Do not desire to be selected just because you are female. Desire to be chosen because you are competent, before anything else”



Women and Spirituality

“Yoruba is well connected to brazil”

These are the opening words of moderator Olaokun Soyinka in a panel with Ms. Marta Celestina, an Iyalorisha from Brazil and Mona Eltahawy, a feminist. The panel titled women and spirituality explores how different religions interfere with and affect women’s lives positively or negatively. The discussions centre about Abrahamic religions and the Candomble religion. Marta Celestina is a Candomble which is the Brazilian branch of the Yoruba traditional religion. She has been intitated for Ogun since 2001 and has been a Candomble devotee for most of her life. Mona Eltahawy, who introduces all her panels with the three words: fuck the patriarchy, is a freelance Egyptian-American journalist and Muslim feminist.

In introducing herself and her religion, Marta points out what Orishas do. She says “Orishas independent of religion are the way to connect with ancestors. Through Orishas we can put part of us inside of us.”

Historically and even in this day, religions are used as instruments of patriarchy and to control women. For Mona who is a Muslim and who writes extensively on feminism and on how she manages these apparently “conflicting” identities, anything that will hold women captive, whether it is a mandate from God or man, should be done away with. She says “I straddle various disciplines and identities. My move to Saudi traumatized me into feminism and I learned there are different ways to be muslim. I am constantly questioning the concept of choice, with reference to Abrahamic religions. I question what choice we really have. There is a burden that is particular on girls and women – the modesty culture. We must dismantle patriarchy by the dissection of misogyny – the state, the street and the home (bedroom)”

Marta tries to juxtapose this conundrum of oppression in other faiths with what operates in Candomble and finds that though existing, it is not the same as what women in other faiths experience. She says: “In terms of oppression, Candomble is different from Abrahamic religions. Though there is patriarchy in Brazil, there isn’t so much of this in Candomble. Three women slaves from Africa formed the religion when they were brought to Brazil during the slave trade. There are brotherhood problems as well, but this is little as compared to Muslims.”

Women are very important in the Candomble faith. Services are usually led by women, called 'mothers of the holy one', and it is the women who are responsible for ensuring the training of future priestesses. The Candomble religion is a very inclusive religion with women holding several influential positions and not discriminating against members of the LGBTQ community in Brazil. It is the first religion to embrace them. She however mentions that men do try to take away this power from women.

Mona insists that it is important to challenge the religion. “If anything is used to harm women or girls, it must go. Whether it is from God, prophet, or man.” She says. She shows off her fair arms covered in tattoos and her uncovered red hair. She defies the rules men make. Men have an obsession with the bodies of women. Once when she prayed on her period, a man told her that he had found this appalling and she wondered how her period had anything to do with him. “Women need to stop waiting for permission. Do not ask for permission to be free,” She says. 

She ends the conversation by answering a question from the audience about the part women play in promoting patriarchy. She says that some women are told they would be protected from patriarchy so they act as foot soldiers of patriarchy. “We have to tell them patriarchy will not protect them. Men too will be liberated when patriarchy is dismantled.”



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