Coffee with Ojoma
If you were having coffee with me we would be having an easy chat over coffee with Ojoma Ochai. Ojama is the Director Arts and Creative Economy West Africa British Council
B: A pleasure to have this chat, thank you for your time Ojoma, first question tea or Coffee because there are only two kinds of people in the world.
O: Coffee – No sugar, no cream; so real coffee. Haha.
B: Your title has us impressed but, what exactly do you do? We are intrigued by the Creative bit especially.
O: I lead the British Council Arts and Creative Economy programme in West Africa which essentially means leading design and delivery of skills programmes, artistic showcasing and other activity that connects the arts sectors of the UK and West Africa. We work across film, music, fashion, visual and performing arts etc. so quite a wide range of work. I also lead our policy advocacy, partnerships in this area and work with partners and funders across both locations.
B: Most times the creative arts are viewed more as an aside project than something taken seriously any ideas how we can change this perception?
O: we need to provide evidence to the contrary and make the case every time. Economically for example, the UK creative Economy contributes half the size of Nigeria’s GDP to the UK economy every year. It’s hard when confronted with such figures to see it as a side hustle. We need to have the evidence and say it over and over again till it gets through.
B: How do you see the future of the creative arts in Africa especially in this digital global world
O: There is a lot of evidence that shows the rising trajectory from East, West, Southern Africa – I think with growing internet penetration, the talented youth, it can only grow. My only concern is where the value will be created. If we don’t find ways to capture the value here on the continent, it will be capitalised on for value elsewhere. It is not either or but Africa should benefit economically ad socially form its creative outputs but if we don’t own the means of production and distribution, we won’t.
B: You were in Harare; Zimbabwe for the 2018 Global Report of the 2005 Convention launch how was your experience, country people culture?
O: I loved, loved loved Zimbabwe and I will come back!! You hear a lot of stuff in the media and the experience wasn’t as dire as the media paints it. And yes, the work I do for UNESCO on the global panel of experts for the 2005 convention is very stimulating and so I enjoyed the workshops and talks thoroughly.
B: I watched you deliver a presentation during a panel discussion at the launch of the 2018 Global Report; could you just briefly outline how stakeholders would best work together to make creative and cultural industries work?
O: yes, the main gist of my presentation was that there are many stakeholders that can work together to make the culture and creative industries work – education, trade, finance etc but we often leave them out of the conversation and so we should do more to bring more people around the table. To do so, we need to have evidence of course of the value so back to the point about making the case to show why the arts are important. That’s always a starting point.
B: You were once nominated young person of the year in Nigeria by the Future Awards once; wow! Do share what had you done?
O: ha ha. Just for being fabulous… seriously – it was for my work creating opportunities for young Nigerians through my work in British Council…
B: Its inspiring when the young can make an impact in the world around them and not only that you were on a list of most influential women in Nigeria tell us about that; Do you consider yourself a big deal?
O: I really don’t consider myself a big deal or take myself too seriously. What I do take seriously is the quality of my work and I guess people notice that. I have been lucky to be in a position where I can visibly do good thing and create opportunities but for everyone visible me there are hundreds, maybe thousands, doing great things in their closets everyday…
B: Most of our audience are of the writing persuasion; and sometimes it does feel like an art the world forgot about; any words for the Literary Activists
O: I leave them with a quote credited to the English journalist Jim Murray : Learn to write. Never mind the damn statistics. If you like statistics, become a CPA.
B: As a woman; have you felt you had to prove yourself more to be who you are ? What can you say to the fellow sisters?
O: Not really and I suspect I am the exception. I have been lucky I have had the opportunity to be in spaces where my work and contribution speak for themselves.
B: How do people get in touch with you?
O: twitter – @ojomaochai
B: Any people you want to give shout outs? feel free to wave like they can see you…
O: Hello world! Haha.
B: Its been awesome having you thank you for your time; Last Question; What is the weirdest question anyone has asked you?
O: they asked me what’s the weirdest question any one ever asked me. -_-
Ojoma Ochai is Head of Arts, West Africa for British Council. In this role, Ojoma works with public and private sector partners in the UK and West Africa to develop and deliver programmes that build skills, international and local networks and other capacity that promote the growth and collaboration potential of the arts sector and creative economy between the sub region and the UK.
Ojoma is also a member of the UNESCO global expert facility on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression. From 2014 to 2016, she was Entertainment Specialist for a World Bank Growth and Employment project in Nigeria, advising on cluster based approaches for film and music sector development in Nigeria.
Nominated Young Person of the Year in Nigeria by The Future Awards in 2010 and listed on the YNaija list of 10 Most Powerful People In Nigeria’s Arts and Culture (under 40) in 2014, and YNaija 100 Most Influential Women in Nigeria, in 2015; Ojoma is also a Fellow of the DEVOS Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, USA and an Associate of the Nigerian Leadership Institute (NLI). She is chair of the Lagos Theatre Festival Board until July 2018, Chair of Open House Lagos Board ( 2015 – 2017) and sits on the board of Music Museum Foundation of Nigeria
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