The Arts have Significant Roles to Play in Achieving the SDGs

Panelists at a Roundtable discussion have unanimously posited that the Arts have huge part to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals(SDG). The roundtable, which was organised under the SDG –Graduate School, has three main collaborators in University of Cape Coast, University of Maiduguri, Nigeria and University of Heldsheim, Germany. Under the collaboration, 12 PHD students and 6 masters students will be trained in the first instance. The theme for the discussion was “The Role of the Arts in Sustainable Development” and had panelists drawn from both academia and industry. It was held to find the possible contribution that the Arts could make towards the achievement of the SDGs. In his presentation, Prof. Victor Yankah of the Department of Film and Theatre Studies, UCC, indicated that the Arts has since both pre and post independence era been used to educate the masses on patriotism and nation building. He said Kwame Nkrumah for instance had the belief that drama and songs could be used to create awareness in what it meant to be the new Ghanaian after independence. He wondered whether it was not possible to revisit the period of mobile cinema concept in the light of the apparent devastation of the country’s forest resources through illegal mining (galamsey). Prof. Yankah said, “When we do that our future generations will be disinherited. One day we will have to show pictures to our children to say this is how a forest looks like or direct them to Nageo world”. He said, for example, in Burkina Faso the Arts was used to educate farmers on how to do an all year round planting and said a similar effort could be made to tackle the devastation of the environment. He bemoaned the practice where funding was mostly given to the Sciences to the detriment of the Arts. “Unfortunately, for the Arts funding eludes us, the Sciences are often given funding for research because of the contention that they rather contribute more to the SDGs”. “This is even more in our institutions where they give more funding to sciences than the Arts. We always misconstrue the role of the Arts”. Contributing, Prof. Brigit Mandel of the University of Hildesheim, said the word sustainability originated from forest economy and therefore, we can experience the entire spectrum of human diversity and emotions through the Arts. “The Arts can show different perspective of the world, in Germany for example we use the Arts to preserve our Heritage”, she added. The Vice-President of the Musicians Union of Ghana, Mr. Bessa Simons called for the reintroduction of Music as an examinable subject in basic schools to whip up interests in the youth. Mr. Bessa Simons advocated for the collection of comprehensive data to convince policy makers on what the Arts could offer with respect to the SDGs. “We have to get data and research that will support what we are saying and again, the decision makers when they see our data, what we have gathered they will believe us more,” he added. Mr. Simmons said he has taken it upon himself to showcase what the Afro-Rock Band, Osibisa, did it all over the world by going around tertiary institutions in the country to hold workshop on their works. He said the group was dedicated to their culture and therefore made it to the top. Mr. Bessa Simons said he did not think after the discussions, things should remain as they were and therefore, suggested the setting up of a committee of both academia and industry players to shift the agenda forward. He pledged the support of the Musicians Union to any such committee in their work. The Executive Director of the National Theatre, Mrs. Amy Frimpong-Appiah, said it would be beneficial to look at areas in the SDGs where the Arts could fit in and find effective ways of meeting those targets. “We have to look at strategic partnerships that will help us make a mark, how can we use the Arts related work to make it beneficial to all of us. We just need to look at those areas to fulfill our part of the goals”, she asked. She said people in the Arts have sat back for too long a time in talking about what could be achieved through the area. Due to this she said, people who work outside the Arts see those in it to be living on a different planet. “The way we think does not seem to connect with anybody in the world. So we need to develop those relationships and educate them on the importance of the Arts”, she stressed. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Prof. George K. T. Oduro, who also spoke at the programme, said the University was committed to the partnership and called for the cooperation of all stakeholders. “Knowledge is like a Baobab tree, no one person can embrace it. So even as we think about promoting the Arts and using Arts to promote SDGs, we need the cooperation of all. We need disciplines to come together and also understand how to bring cultures together, and this is why we in UCC think this partnership should be supported”, he said.