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Freedom of art expression for Lagos street boys


A painting from one of the students in the correctional centre

In a bid to give the youths in Nigeria a voice and set them on the right path, Beyond Borders Artist Association of Nigeria (BBAAN), in collaboration with Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development, held an art workshop for students of Special Correctional Centre for Boys at Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos. It had as theme ‘Freedom of Art Expression.’
The two days’ art workshop had the boys being taught lessons in painting by BBAAN artists, after which they expressed themselves freely in painting. The art works of both facilitators and students were displayed at the school’s premises for people to see and admire, with awards given to the best students.

In his remarks, founder of BBAAN, Prince Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon, admonished the boys to do away with pranks that brought them to the correctional centre and be determined to acquire useful skills so they can be useful to society.

According to him, “We set up this workshop to give these people, who society has cast away, some sort of skills. We help them get something positive so they do not fall back to a life of crime after leaving here. If they can look up to the future from a positive angle and forget all their juvenile problems, they can be anything they want to be in life. They need to understand that there is joy, happiness and beauty in being a successful person but there is pain and sorrow for those who would not conform to society’s rules.”
The exhibition of works the boys produced after the workshop had a series of beautiful paintings showing their enthusiasm in embracing the project. Three students were given gift bags and certificates as best art students. The facilitators were also given certificates of participation. Although a good number of the students at the correctional centre could only communicate in Yoruba, it did not stop them from participating in the workshop and expressing themselves in painting.
President of BBAAN, Omolara Aden Adenugba, an artist also known as Clara Aden, expressed how amazing the experience was in giving the boys a form of skill that they could hold onto when they would be readmitted into society again despite the challenges that brought them to the correctional centre.
According to her, “We are barely two months old and still waiting for our certificate, which comes out in December, but we were itching to start impacting society and serving humanity, using our art skills. Then we had the idea to have an art workshop for the boys at the correctional centre, which sounded good to us, and here we are today. It was a great experience and everything went smoothly, considering we had little in terms of funding. We had people, who sponsored and supported the project in any way they could. Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development gave us permission very quickly and supported us all the way.”
Paul Ogunlesi, who was once a student at the centre 10 years ago, advised the students to learn from his success story and turn their lives around, adding, “I am here today because I made a decision to change my life when a group of artists came to the correctional centre to teach us art 10 years ago, like we are doing today. I do not think anybody is a waste because before I was brought to the centre, my parents were separated and nobody cared about me.

“So, I went into the street and did all manner of things like gambling with plate numbers, selling pure water, gala and I even cleaned car windscreens at a very young age. But those artists made me realise I had love for art and they gave me a gift, which has not only taken me off the streets, but has made me the respected man I am today.” 

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