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Deepening youth’s creative process through arts

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Facing The Giants by Afegbua Ibrahim (Binding Wire) overall winner 2017 LIMCAF

• How Vernacular Art-Space Laboratory is training youths on short films, music, performance art, choreography, others
• 2019 Summer Creative Station showcases emerging talents
• LIMCAF empowering youth creativity through shows, lectures

When Christopher Adeyemi, a University of Ibadan graduate moved to South Africa, in 1996, in search of greener pastures, there were less than a thousand Nigerian immigrants in that country.

Adeyemi, who was to leave South Africa seven years after, noted that an estimated 50,000 Nigerians had flocked the streets of Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville two years after he arrived.

Since 2008, tens of thousands of people have been harassed, attacked or killed, the latest being the one that happened late last month.

Local residents had become increasingly convinced that foreign nationals were to blame for all their socioeconomic ills and hardships including poverty, unemployment, poor service delivery, lack of business space and opportunities, crime, prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse and deadly diseases.

Nigeria looks fragile because of conflicts sputtering across, which have made to seek solace in other climes.

In the last two decades, Nigeria has continued to experience high external migration among its youths. Aside from South Africa, Nigerian youths have migrated in droves to Asia — Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and China — Europe and other places for greener pastures.

Daily, the news of suffering young Nigerian migrants seeking better opportunities in Europe through illegal routes often filter in. The ordeal that many go through either in the transit countries such as Niger and Libya or during the perilous journeys on rickety boats across the Mediterranean is heart-wrenching.

International organisations have also published reports, documenting regular and severe human rights violations of refugees and migrants in official Detention Centres.

The rising human costs of irregular migration have necessitated concerted action from governments and voluntary groups to curb irregular migration, especially among its youths.

From arts and crafts to the theatre, music to photography, a number of impressive initiatives across the country are now used to empower youths. Whether it is through training workshops or exhibitions as well as the performative art, several projects are giving them a voice.

These projects are geared towards transforming people’s living condition, as well as their artistic and cultural expressions.

One of such projects is the Vernacular Art-Space Laboratory. Last weekend, about 30 youths were trained on short films, music, performance art, choreography/dance, recycling art, bead installation, cotton dye on synthetic fabric, multimedia installation of newsprints on cartoons and others as part of its empowerment programme for vulnerable youths in Iwaya/Makoko, Lagos.

Funded by Prince Claus Fund as part of its next-generation project 2018/2019, the Executive Director of the art facility, Aderemi Adegbite, said the project aimed to provide a space for cultural dialogue and alternative knowledge sharing platform that regenerate and revive the community by involving young people and community dwellers.

He noted that participants were encouraged to re-imagine the community based on their understanding of its present state to what they wish it could be. And to achieve this, participants were divided into three to six groups, where each group made a presentation on the tasks given by facilitators every week at the workstation.

The groups created and co-created individually as well as collectively where necessary. It is with this process, they regenerated and animated the community in dialogues and artistic discourses.

He stated that through an online and offline open call, 30 applicants between the ages of 15 to 30 years old from Iwaya/Makoko community were selected. The successful applicants were enrolled in a year-long series of workshops and creative brainstorming sessions facilitated by diverse artists, as well as interdisciplinary practitioners from Nigeria and some other West African countries.

He said: “During the period there was a group presentation every month, and other activities that held at the incubator, a workstation for the project, built by the participants with the assistance of the project team, facilitators and residents within the community. At the completion of this project, the process culminated in a form of public presentation/exhibition took place in different sites in Iwaya/Makoko community area.”

One of the beneficiaries Olufela Omokeko, who created an installation work after the training, said his work is a representation of the value, struggle and pain of women in the society.

Farouk Jimoh, who did artwork on the multimedia installation of newsprints on cartoons, after the training, said stale news is a re-appropriation of text and images that reflects on the assimilation and absorption of text and images in the newspapers by the readers day by day.

He said: “This work questions the life span of texts and images that are published on a daily basis and the impact on governance and the general public. In this multimedia installation, I invite you to engage the limitless issues ranging from housing to religion and international diplomacy.”

Also, last week, Life In My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) hosted its Enugu leg of the art empowerment programme. Established in 2007, it is a yearly celebration of creativity, featuring young talents in the Nigerian art landscape. The festival is basically to position art for social development, through youth empowerment, thereby promoting art as a resource for national development.

It is the biggest art event in Nigeria and it comprises visual art competition, festival lecture, pan African photography contest, school children’s and art teachers’ workshops and multimedia workshop.

Held at the Alliance Francaise Centre on Nneni Street, the Enugu show featured a record 137 artworks, which is unprecedented in the history of the centre, formally known as a zone, but now renamed a regional centre after the recent restructuring of the festival process. Enugu is the only exhibition centre in the South East Region.

Unprecedented was the high net worth guests it attracted, which include Elder K. U. Kalu, former chairman of Union Bank. Kalu is the festival’s chairman, Chief Loretta Aniagolu, Mr. Gozie Eneh, former Special Adviser to the Enugu State Governor; as well as Enugu’s top artists like Bona Ezeudu, Chris Afuba and Okey Ikenegbu former Director of the School of Art and Design, IMT Enugu.

Chairman of the occasion, Chief Ben Etiaba, commended the consistency of the festival’s board and organising committee that has diligently nurtured the festival to its current status as the longest-running art empowerment festival in the country.

He marvelled at the quality of creative works on display, which he described as equal in every respect to what you would find among young artists anywhere in the world of contemporary art.

LIMCAF Art Director, Dr. Ayo Adewunmi, also expressed satisfaction with the constantly improving quality of works on display year-on-year.

He expressed delight at the turnout, saying it is a signal that one of the objectives of the festival, which is to grow art appreciation and collection, thereby, empowering the young artists and growing art as a tool for socio-economic development.

Adewunmi announced that just about 25 of the 137 works on display would qualify for the grand finale in October. He also said that after the Port Harcourt centre show; the 100 qualifying works would be announced.

The eight other centres are Zaria (North West Region), Abuja (North Central Region) Lagos, Ibadan and Ondo (South West Region) with Benin and Port Harcourt (South-South Region). Port Harcourt is the last before the grand finale.

The 2019 Children and Youth Summer Creative Workshop also came to a close recently. The event served as an avenue to grow and discover young talents, as well as hone their skills.

The Cinema Hall 1 of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, venue of the event, was filled to its capacity with parents and friends of the participants who have come to encourage their own on stage at the grand finale of the 30-day workshop.

This edition held in conjunction with the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) and the Creative Centre and Villa Jazz Matazz.

Beginning with traditional dances from all the political regions in the country to hip hop, salsa, samba, street dance and others, the event saw children from three to 17 years showcase what they have learnt in the programme.

Speaking on the creative station, the coordinator, Josephine Igberaese, said the programme is designed to encourage, nurture and promote talents in young children and youths, who, otherwise, may not have had the opportunity or an avenue to develop their talents outside the four walls of a formal school.

According to her, participants are taught and exposed to performances in drama, music, dance, creative writing, public speaking and other activities.

She said: “The need to preserve and pass on our culture to our children has become a priority since most of them do not speak or understand their local languages or traditions, which is the core of our existence as a people, even those in the diaspora. As the world becomes a global village our society is influenced by happenings and events around the world. As a result, there is a gradual erosion of the fabric of our cultural life.

“The programme is designed to bring to the consciousness of our children and youth the importance of our cultural heritage, which differentiates us as a people and without which, we become global citizens with no cultural root.”

On how the children are selected in the centre, Igberaese, who has been the anchor since the station was founded nine years ago, disclosed that it is a collection of children and youth from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, adding that their parents bring them to the station. She revealed that because of the bonding the gathering is referred to in some quarters as ‘children and youth without boarders,’ since through teamwork bonds of friendship formed will have a positive impact on the participants.

“Our play today, is a thoughtful examination of the events and counteraction in the entity called Nigeria. Last year, our production was on Illegal Migration And Human Trafficking, a menace responsible for brain drain and its resultant effect on our human, political and economic life.”

Commenting on the Drums Of Our Time, the play that concluded the event, the director disclosed that she wanted to do the second edition of last year’s play, but the children insisted on doing something different, so, I allowed them and the result was what we saw on stage.

“I only asked them to give me the play they want to present and what I heard made me ask one of them to put them in writing as themes and subthemes. The instructors after taking a deep look at the comment began to string them into a play. I was shocked at what I heard them say. I never knew the children are taking notes of the happenings in the country. So, in one word Drums Of Our Time is a collective work; written by all the participant,” she said.

According to Igberaese, the participants took a good look at our social and political life, x-raying everyday life to come up with the play. She noted that the children through the workshop have shown the world what they are capable of offering the society, which is their own way of contributing to nation-building.


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