This report, titled An Assessment of Artistic Freedom: Nigeria, offers a comprehensive overview of the current state of artistic freedom in Nigeria. It provides valuable insights into the status of freedom of artistic expression and offers practical recommendations to support artists, audiences, and advocates in safeguarding their rights to artistic expression. The report aims to guide the government and other stakeholders in effectively promoting and protecting these rights, benefiting both the creative community and society as a whole.
The study employed both qualitative and quantitative research methods, examined the political, religious and cultural, as well as economic and financial factors influencing artistic freedom in Nigeria.
By conducting a comprehensive SWOT analysis, the study identified the strengths and weaknesses of the data collected, aiming to uncover the untold stories of harassment experienced by artists at various levels. To ensure a robust legal framework, a legal practitioner collaborated with the research team to propose ways in which a creative freedom licence can be established in Nigeria.
In terms of political factors, freedom of expression has become increasingly limited for artists worldwide. In Nigeria, bloggers have been arrested and even killed for expressing their views. Religious and cultural factors also play a role in limiting artistic freedom. Artists may face opposition from religious leaders and institutions if their work is seen as disrespectful or offensive. For example, a skitmaker in Nigeria was warned by the Catholic Church to stop creating comedy skits that made fun of religious rituals, such as confession. Religious leaders can bridge an artist’s freedom by imposing restrictions based on their beliefs.
Economic and financial factors also pose challenges for artists. The cost of registration and sponsorship to protect their work may be prohibitive. Without proper support, artists may struggle to market their creations and find patrons. This often leads artists to rely on other sources of income instead of making their art their main livelihood.
Sociological and psychological factors also influence artistic freedom. Artists may face pressure and criticism from the people around them, including fellow artists. This can create a climate of fear and self-censorship, where artists conform their work to avoid backlash or persecution. Some artists may also feel psychologically impacted, limiting their creativity and imagination due to the fear of repercussions.
The research study revealed several key recommendations for fostering artistic freedom in Nigeria. These include the need for more advocacy projects on artistic rights, increased enforcement of copyright issues by relevant law enforcement agencies, and the enactment of a “Creative License Law” to safeguard the interests of artists. Additionally, capacity building for stakeholders in the arts and policymakers, as well as active engagement of all involved parties in policy-making processes, were highlighted as essential steps towards achieving artistic freedom.
The report was formulated between August and November 2022 through desk research, statistical data and qualitative interviews with creatives and chairpersons representing various art forms as well as policy makers who provided personal stories and insights. A research validation meeting took place in January 2023 to present the report to key stakeholders for verification and comments, which were then incorporated into the final report.
The PANAF project is being implemented with the support of the Swedish Arts Council. This research was commissioned by Selam through its Pan African Network for Artistic Freedom (PANAF) project and implemented by its partner in the Gambia, Team Gom sa Bopa.