African Weaving Festival Advocates Protection Of Indigenous Fabrics

Paris 2024 Olympic

African Weaving Festival (AWeF) is advocating for the protection of Indigenous African fabrics across Nigeria.

In its second edition, the festival sensitized the African fabric weavers and stakeholders to protect the copyright of their creations, in order to gain the economic benefits accruing from such works.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Newspaper, co-founder of the festival, author and researcher, Dr Lizzy Ben-Iheanacho said beyond celebration of the arts, creatives must be enlightened on actionable steps to take to protect their innovations, to ensure that they can migrate and make a living through it at the global stage.

“The creative space is full of bandits. Piracy is an issue. Unauthorized imitations is an issue. There are textile bandits all around us.

“But gone are the days of ignorance when people can’t protect their works. African fabric weavers can protect themselves as an individual or as part of a collective through copyrighting their work which gives them sole right of use to it.

“If not, they cannot prove ownership of any design or innovation in the court of law. What we have done is kickstart sensitization on the need for creatives to copyright that works. And with such groups of people belonging to guilds and communities they’d be able to trickle down the message to others nationwide.”

In Nigeria, African fabrics are protected via the two arms of the Intellectual Property (IP), industrial property and copyright.

Representative of the NCC Director General, John Asein, said under copyright law, the Related Rights law, of which folklore falls under, and encompasses the folk art, protects the indigenous textile (also African fabric).

The Director, National Copyright School, Mr Collins Nweke said African fabrics are also protected via the Industrial Property rights. Unique weaving techniques can be protected as parents. Pictorials, graphic designs or sculptural work embedded or imprinted on the fabric can be protected as copyright; while Trademarks protect the brand names, logos, that are used to do business by weavers.

Although, there are certain challenges that beleaguer the successful operation of IP laws, Nweke said with their works copyrighted, Nigerians can take civil action against infringers, who reproduce or distribute their works for commercial purposes without consent. Offenders can either be fined or obtain prison terms, or both.

Meantime, Executive Director, National Film and Videos Censors Board (NFVCB), Hussein Shuaibu in highlighting the role of Nollywood in the promotion of African fabrics, he urged the film industry to do more towards promoting original and indigenous works, rather than mass-produced African fabrics imported from China.

“The festival helps us to know that there are indigenous Africa fabrics with their names. I work in an agency where the stakeholders (filmmakers) cannot do without African fabrics. In fact, they are the chief promoters of the fabrics. Because people see our fabrics when they use them in films. What they can do more in their films is to give the fabrics more context by noting where the various fabrics they use in their costuming come from. Like Ange fabric from Benue, this Isiagu from the southeast,” said Shaibu.


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