As long as Nduwhite Ndubuisi Ahanonu can remember, he has only wanted one thing: to make a career from creative arts. Not for him the indecision and game of chance which many young people go through.
Reminiscing on his early years, Nduwhite narrated how the Arts had always been a part of him. “If I can remember, I have always been artistic. Back in my primary school days, I remember drawing things like the map of Nigeria and the digestive system on the walls of our classroom. The funny part is that other teachers also wanted me to draw on the walls of their classrooms too and I saw it as a burden at first. When I grew older, I discovered that it was the most important part of my life. It is like everything I am and the reason that I am.”
It was therefore not surprising when Nduwhite chose to study Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Upon graduation in 2000 and having completed his National Youth Service Corps year in 2001, he decided to settle down and do arts in Abuja, a rather awkward decision considering the derisive perception of Abuja as an uninspiring city of politics and government contracts.
However, Nduwhite had a clearly different impression about the nation’s capital.
He said, “Actually, I visualised a city where women could spend $500 on a scarf as advised by Napoleon Hills in his book, Think and grow rich, and I realised that the closest city to that description was Abuja. I have never looked at the city from a government contract or political perspective. What I see is a city with a lot of opportunities if you understand how it works and you are honest about what you do.”
In 2012, Nduwhite registered the International Institute for Creative Development (IICD) with the aim to train, promote and present creative persons and works for worldwide visibility and to ensure that Nigeria’s arts and culture community effectively meets the global demand for art and creativity.
According to him, the challenges he faced were enormous. “Finding art and cultural workers and funding were a huge challenge,” he revealed, “Although we tried to train workers, they were random persons who were seeking employment and not passionate about the industry. Funding was a challenge because it depended on me selling my works.”
The IICD’s chief executive officer’s faith in Abuja soon paid off when in October 2013, he moved to his current location at 4 Oguda Close, off Lake Chad Crescent, Maitama.
Nduwhite had just sold an art for around N500,000 and spent about N450,000 of it on purchasing a framing machine. Since then, his centre has attracted art trainees, individual artists, exhibitors, individual and corporate clients and the general public. With performing art, book reading, music, movies and fashion to go with it, the IICD could be said to be Abuja’s one-stop shop for creativity.
Asked if he considered his centre elitist, he said, “Creative arts are not only visual arts, it comprises other forms of art as well, including music, drama, dance and even functional arts like fashion. We are creating new citizenry for creative arts, that way we get to inspire new interests and take advantage of the fluidity of today's social citizens. Creative arts don’t necessarily have to be elitist.”
With embassies, big hotels, foreign cultural institutes and wealthy individual art collectors topping his clients list, the IICD could be said to have conquered Abuja.
Nduwhite believes now is the time to take his business to other parts of the country. “We have plans, first to own our permanent art space and build a strong corporate team. Then we intend to begin to replicate what we are doing in Abuja in other parts of Nigeria.”
“I have never looked at the city (Abuja) from a government contract or political perspective. What I see is a city with a lot of opportunities if you understand how it works and you are honest about what you do”
There are many things which inspire Nduwhite, but nothing gives him more joy than the fact that his “dream is someone else’s need” and the platform he has created for up-and-coming artists to flourish. He foresees the emergence of creative arts disruptors on a scale never experienced before in Nigeria.
His words: “I have always admired the roles of people like Bisi Sliva, Victor Ehikhamenor, Bruce Onobrapkeya, Tantua Diseye, Bishop T.D Jakes and Olu Tayo, but I see new players coming; I see great artists emerging and a higher interest in the industry.”