Nobody owes you anything: A Discussion on Financing the Creative Arts
Panelists: Henry Bassey, Ojoma Ochai, Tom Ilube
Moderator: Olaokun Soyinka
In a furious fusillade of f-word and righteous indignation, Mona had declared the ultimate task of the feminist to be seizing the day—because waiting for the patriarchy to fix itself on its own terms was an exercise in f is for futility. Uncover your hair, become an Imam, pray during your period. Seize the day! A line of Muslim girls walked out; it pained them deeply, these things Mona was saying. The rest of us erupted in applause.
The consensus was the same—and different—in an earlier panel on Thursday, where finance was the f-word of the moment. The relationship between finance and the creative arts has always been fraught, and that relationship was under the microscope.
The moderator was Olaokun Soyinka, the panelists Sterling Bank’s Henry Bassey, British Council’s Ojoma Ochai and Tom Ilube the philanthropist. The room, encircled by busts of Ogun State’s good, great and male, might have elicited a tirade of f-words from Mona. Prompted by a question off the floor, the conversation soon turned to what obligations financiers have to the creative arts industry.
When the answer came, it was cold.
Nobody owes you anything, certainly not organisations with a bottom line to pad. The onus is on creatives to attract funding. Raising finance, said Ilube, is a sales project, and any successful sales project conforms to a model: operators in the creative industry are condemned to create awareness, interest and desire in potential financiers—like Sterling Bank, who then take action.
A more difficult question soon surfaced. What if creatives and their financiers differ on creative direction or significance? What if the art subverts its financiers’ assumptions?
With a panel like that, the response to this one was predictable. The business of business is business, and creatives are not necessarily the most business-savvy people, which financiers tend to be. That of course raises the question of artistic integrity, conveniently elided here. Can the vision survive the onslaught of profit? The intersection of art and corporate finance has never been smooth, and nobody owes you anything. The end.