Eze Ngene
Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education


This paper surveys Art and Religion and their implications for national development.  It briefly discussed Africa and its rich Art, Religion and Cultural practices which paved the way for African explorations in Europe.  It explains the relevance of art and religion in Nigerian national development and States that some of the artifacts excavated and collected in some ethnic groups in Nigeria portrayed the life, art, religion and cultural practices of the people.  They gave insight into the way they lived and developed in the past.  It briefly explains that in contemporary Nigeria, Art and Religion are contributing meaningfully to development of Nigeria.  The Art provides useful utilitarian articles, entertainment and enlightenment.  Religion uplifts the soul of the citizenry in a hard economic situation.  It corrects and helps to discipline people’s behaviour thereby contributing effectively for national development.  Some important literatures were reviewed and surveys were conducted using simple opinion poll.  The result shows that Art and religion contribute to national development of Nigeria.  Art produces the aesthetics and useful objects used in national development.  Religion preaches the words of faith to believers which uplift their spiritual feelings making them to possess good morals which aid in national development.  The paper ended with the conclusion that Art and Religion are the engine which propels the national development when adequately used.

Keywords: Art, religion, development, national

Africa has variety of Arts, craft and Religion which had contributed to the popularity of its society.  From the investigations made by archaeologists and anthropologists into the life of the people over the years, Art and religion had played major roles in the development of the continent in the past and present life of the people.

The African masks which were used for religious and social purposes pioneered the European art.  Picasso and other artists preferred it to artistic expression of the classical and Renaissance art.  According to Smeets (1975) “our generation, in fact has only just discovered the magnificence of the so-called primitive cultures.  In the Paris of the young Picasso and Breque, African masks and sculpture had the impact of thunder.”

In Nigeria some early artifacts which were collected by K.C. Murray and some excavations which revealed the Nok, Igboukwu and Ife artifacts to mention but a few gave insight into the rich heritage of Art objects, religion and cultural practices which made the society a dynamic socio-cultural religious entity.

The ancestors of the Nigerian ethnic groups bequeathed objects especially sculptural forms in wood, metal, ivory and terracotta.  According to Eze (2008) “These materials were used by early sculptors using simple tools and hands to turn them into sculptural pieces.”  Symbolism was the driving force which produced the art works that were used for utility, religious worship and the development of the ethnic groups.

Art, religion and the development of Nigerian ethnic group is not separated from each other.  They compliment each other and keep the traditional society going and alive.
Anyachonkeye (2006) states:
Our people are guided by their ethos, the things they value and revere.  They are firm believers in their cultural heritage the things that hold and bind them together.  The norm and moral ethics can not be extricated from their material and non-material culture-morals, religion, food habit, dialect, values system and others.

Many Nigerian traditional ethnic groups in effect practiced art and religion in order to communicate with their gods because of their belief in the human soul and spirit which are ever at work.  Some of these gods were worshipped in shrines with art objects.  This kept the societies intact and developed.
Ademakinwa (2004) states:
The religious art works are those identifiable with particular shrines and deities.  The paraphernalia of each shrines and its god can be differentiated from other sets of artifacts.  Included here are the objects of deities in different forms.

The traditional Igbo society, for instance has craftsmen who work under the spirit force, Agwunshi (traditional deity of creativity) to produce wood carvings for use in shrines for religions worship and the spiritual development of the society.

In Nigerian contemporary life where one form of national development or the other was introduced, Arts and Religion contributed to the programmes.  Their impact may not have been felt or realized as when the Nigerian satellite was launched in China.  The two human activities are in full force every time to strengthen national development.  The Arts produce Fine and Applied Arts objects used for aestheticism and pragmatic use.  Religion uplifts the religious belief and faith of members of the nation making them to be individuals with good character contributing to the national development.

Nigerian national development focus
National development when simply put means to advance a nation.  To many Nigerian people: politicians, social analysts, businessmen and contractors, national development only means the economic and political factors.  National development is more than this.  It involves the socio-cultural factors and the development of the cognitive, affective and psychomotor aspects of nation building.  When the various factors are considered they advance a nation. Okonkwo (1998) associated development to positive growth of a peoples livelihood, economically, politically, culturally, technologically, educationally, and socially interwoven and intermingled to form a whole. How rapid are Nigerian developmental programmes?  To what extent were some of these developmental programmes achieved?
Akunya (2006) quoting Philip 1997 states:
In spite of whatever growth Nigerians economy has achieved over the years, the people have hardly developed, as evidence by the relatively low quality of their social and economic life in many areas, such as real per capita income, employment, literacy, access to safe water, housing, education, healthcare services, electricity, telecommunications, transportation services, public safety and so on.

Since her independence in 1960 till date Nigeria is still rated as a developing nation and a third world country.  To understand why she was rated a developing nation, it is necessary to look into some of the national developmental programmes initiated by past and present governments.  From the day of her independence till date, she has had eight military regimes between 1966-1919 when the fourth democratic elected government was sworn in under president Olusegun Obasanjo.  After her independence many programmes, policies and schemes were formulated and operated to boost national development.

In her bid to develop the nation, there were such programmes as: Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, Technology Transfer, Health for All, Food for All, Shelter for All, education for All achievable by year 2000 and in recent times Vision 2020.  They were some  of the national developmental initiatives which were formulated to develop the nation into a buoyant economic nation with rich national product to boost development.  According to Black (2008) “national products is the total value of income produced by factors of production owned by residents of a country.”

It is unfortunate that apart from “vision 2020” which was just introduced and as such will have some year’s to assess its performance.  The rest of the programmes, policies and agenda have failed to develop the nation in spite of her huge national product.  Unemployment, corruption lack of infrastructures, moral decadence are among the many problems facing the nations development.  This calls for a rethink in formulating policies that are meant to make an impact on national development.  Art and Religion must be integrated when formulating national policies meant for development, because they are the human and spiritual experiences which serve as the machinery that propels successful developments.

Effect of stress and national development
Stress means feeling of pressure, anxiety and tension which makes it impossible for an individual to cope with demand made on the body or job.  These feelings are generated in the individual in degrees depending on their experiences, activities and perception.  The causes of stress are many and include; stressful job circumstances, need for time to rest and privacy, lack of fitness and lack of skill to resolve conflicts.

In Nigeria today we live in a world of staggering adversities such as: economic depression and underdevelopment in human resources and social infrastructures.  The events of the past years in the Nigerian national developmental programmes were characterized by economic, political and social issues.  They have put unnecessary stress on the citizenry who are the power house to achieve the national development.  No nation develops without first developing her citizens and getting them stress-free by making them happy.  According to Akunya (2006) “Man is central to the development process.  It is man that manipulates the environment in a productive manner to produce the goods and services that enable him to live a more comfortable life on earth.”

Stress is among the cankerworms which impede the Nigerian national development.  In order to address this stress, Art and Religion the two activities which appeal to man’s emotion play important roles.  They reduce stress from the people  because both possess therapeutic powers to relax the mind.  The issues of stress and how to remove it have been with man centuries ago.  That is why St. Paul advised “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 14.


Art and its contribution to stress control for national development
To remove stress from the citizenry who are the active force of the population that develops the nation, Art plays an important role in religious worship of some Christian churches.  Art produces the images, symbols and visual illustrations which are used for teaching and preaching in some Religion.  One might say that where religion becomes artificial, it is reserved for Art to save the spirit of religion by recognizing the figurative value of the mythic symbols which the former would have us believe in their literal sense, and revealing their deep and hidden truth through an idol presentation.

The art works which are aesthetically produced as naturalistic, realistic or semi abstract symbols may appeal to the sense of worshippers.  They may be in form of paintings, sculptures, mosaic images and in recent times fiberglass windows with painting illuminations.  They are made to serve as major sources of enlightenment and encouragement for the citizenry and they reduce stress from them.  When they are relaxed and are stress-free, they contribute meaningfully to the national development.  Generally, Art produces beautiful artworks, designs and decorations which are acquired by the citizenry for purely aesthetic perception, enjoyment and joyful experiences.  The works relax the citizenry making them capable to contribute to national development.  Music, dances, drama, cartoons are other aspect of art that reduce stress.

Religion and control of stress for national development
Religion plays important roles in human’s life, activities and cultural practices.  It restructures and influences his other endeavours including stress control. In Nigerian traditional ethnic groups, traditional religion plays important role in controlling the total life of the people.  Today, apart from the traditional religion, Christianity and Islam are the two predominant religions practiced.  Their cumulative effects of long patronage have continued to thrive till date with the active communities still practicing their chosen faiths.  Religion appeals to the emotional feelings of members and uplifts their spirit, relax and relieve stress.  It also serves as an outlet for other experiences of worship.
Nwaike (1999) states:
For the poor and oppressed sectors of the community, frustration and stress are their most likely lot in life.  From the point of view of social order, the way to prevent this sector of the society from resorting to violence and wanton destruction is through organized religious practices.  These give expression to their emotions and relieve their tension.

In Nigeria, her large population that contributes to the national development is faced with many economic, political and social problems such as: non payment of salary, poor maintenance of the dilapidated roads which cause holdup, lack of good water supply, food, diseases, and lack of electricity supply and hike in fuel price.  They have put heavy stresses on the citizenry with no hope, help and possible relief coming from the government.  The people now take solace in religion which seems to have solutions to their distress.
            Nwaike (1999) explained
So sociologists believe that the great evils of want, ignorance and disease are the main things that make religion attractive to people as it affords them the means of controlling stress.  That is also the reason for which old people and widows belong to religious organizations.

It is not uncommon to see many people attending their various religions because of one form of problem or the other.  Problems ranging from spiritual, economic, political, social and health problems are some stresses which are taken to the various religions for solutions. Religion relieves them of their worries by offering hope and asking them to have strong faith in the religion.  In doing this, their stressful conditions are resolved thereby allowing them to contribute meaningful to the national development.


Art and religion for economic development
The economic policies of the Federal Government of Nigeria since 1980s to 2000 have been quite individualistic and business oriented with interest vested on crude oil as the major sources of earning.  Little regard was paid to the huge profits accruing from Art and Religious activities which yield revenue for the development of the nation’s economy.  They are both contributing effectively to strengthening the economy.

Art for economic development
Nationally, Art, Design, Entertainment, Craft industries generate millions of naira in economic activities every year for spending on national development.  The arts accomplish this economic obligations by producing art works that are used in communication industry as visual symbols.  The art works such as computer digitalized posters, packages, labels, illuminated sign posts and other adverts placed on televisions and magazines are among the Art and design works which have made unquantifiable wealth to the nation for development.

Textile designs and fashion are major money earners which have boosted the economy.  The Nigerian textile designs and fashions compete favourably in the world and are well sought for.  In Nigeria, U.S.A and Britain, Africans and Afro Americans in Diaspora use them because of their beautiful designs and styles.

The Nigerian music, entertainment, and films portray some aspects of Nigerian cultures, though some of them are mixed with the foreign ones.  All of them appeal to emotions because of their quality.  It is because of this that they are in great demand.  They yield revenue for national development.  Nevertheless the contemporary Nigerian paintings and sculptures when exhibited also earn revenue.  The tourism industries integrate art and entertainment to boost the industry.  It yields profits which are ploughed into the economy for national development.

Religion for economic development
Religion is a part of the economic system of a nation and it affects the economic attitudes and behaviour of the citizenry.  Nwaike (1999) says that “it is an employer of labour, it buys and sells and own property as well as contribute to gross national products.”

In Nigeria religion is playing an economic role.  It acquires real estate to situate the religious buildings.  Some religious organizations engage in the establishment of schools, healthcare, publishing, radio and television broadcasting.  These activities in no small measures earn revenue to the economy for national development.

Religion encourages engagements in business, but in doing so insists on such virtues as; honesty, fair play, honouring agreements and avoiding corruption.  During religious festive periods (e.g. Christmas and Id el fitri) huge sums are sunk back into the economy to celebrate these occasions.

Religion provides employment to her qualified priests and other religious  workers who practice, expand, preserve  and teach the doctrines of the various religions.  This has reduced unemployment from the economy as the various religions encourage dignity of labour which helps in national development.  Majority of their earnings from adherents are deposited in the banks for security purposes and this in a way boost the economy for the national development.  Since the money is utilized by banks as credit facilities.

Art and religion and their contribution to politics and national development
Art and religion play complimentary roles in the politics of the nation.  Without each knowing it they are greatly involved in the enlightenment of the citizenry by educating them on what political activities to expect and how to conduct themselves during and after elections.

Art specifically produces the adverts, slogans, posters and handbills which portray the ideologies of each political parties in the nation who are seeking to be elected into power.  It also produces visual information which gives insight into the government programmes, schemes and agenda.  Through the use of drama and theatre arts some of the national policies are communicated to the citizenry in a more vivid form; programmes such as immunization, corruption, abuse of the naira are passed to the people for enlightenment.  Drama and theatre arts are used to entertain government visitors, diplomats and the citizenry at the Eagle Square Abuja during presidential invitations such as president Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime.

Religion on the other hand is playing very important role in the nation’s political development.  It prepares the mind of members on government policies and rulership.  The member pray through their various religions for the success of the Nigerian government.  But above all the two major religious, Christianity and Islam are used for the opening prayers of any government engagements either at the local, state and national level.  Religion is fully observed before the commencement of any government programmes. Art and religion are veritable instruments which have diligently aided the government and political development in Nigeria as they harmoniously join with politics to develop the nation.

Art and religion in teaching morals for national development
Nigerian national development may not have succeeded because of some members of the nation who are corrupt.  They hinder national development by so doing.  The types of corruption witnessed in the nation’s development range from, disobedience to law and constituted authorities, electoral corruption, moral corruption and financial corruption.

In its pursuit to reduce graft in the world, the transparency international embarked on an annual grading of countries according to their degree of financial corruption.  In its 2006 index, Nigeria was considered to be the 6th most corrupt, country falling from the 5th position in 1998 to the most corrupt in 2001 and 2nd most corrupt in 2003 respectively.

Corruption is injurious to national development because corrupt leaders siphon the money that is meant for national development into their numerous foreign accounts abroad leaving the nation underdeveloped with breakage of law and order and other social amenities, armed robbery, ritual killing and kidnapping becoming the other of the day. Some of the various programmes that were introduced to fight corruption in the nation were designed by arts which pass information on zero corruption.  In doing this, the art teaches morality to the citizenry to know how to behave when dealing with each other and other nationals in order to promote national development.  The activities of some agencies fighting corruption, drug trafficking and fake drugs are communicated to the citizens through the visual arts and audio visual means to drive home the information that is meant to reform the citizenry.  Cartoons, illustrations are some of the visual art which are produced to teach morals as in stress relief.

Religion equally preaches high moral standards to members of the nation who are contributing efficiently to the nation’s development.  The watchtower (2009) explains that “Good religion elevates our thinking and shows us how to improve our conduct.  It supports us in the struggle to do what is right and brings out the best in us.”
Most religions in the nation condemn corruption in the preaching of their faith.  They in obedience to their various faith preach against sin and immorality to members.  They encourage good morals because virtuous living is an important instrument for happy living and meaningful development of a nation.  A nation whose chairman of local governments, governors of the states and president are living in corruption will continue to remain undeveloped because the leaders will always be involved in wrongdoings, maladministration and stealing of the nation’s money. Religion addresses the problem of corruption in the nation by trying to change the corrupt nature of the citizenry.  Their preaching of morality places it as the light which judges darkness.  It is unfortunate that the majority of the citizens who belong to one religion or the other may not have been observing these moral teaching since corruption still soars high in the nation retarding its development.

Art and Religion play important roles in the development of ethnic groups in Nigeria.  It holds the societies together.  In contemporary Nigerian life the two human endeavour serve many functions which develop the nation. In Nigeria many developmental programmes were initiated to develop the nation, but unfortunately they failed because the programmes were individualistic and business oriented.  This calls for the inclusion of Art and Religion to play some roles in national development.

Art and religion control stress from the citizenry.  While art produces the works, religion preaches hope and strong faith.  They relieve members of stress making them to contribute meaningfully to national development. Economically Art earns revenue for national development through art works and designs while Religion also engages in business which develop nations.

Finally, Art and Religion help to project politics as they also teach good virtues which are necessary for Nigerian national development.




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