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Life in my city and the other side

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor (Editor, Arts and Culture)
24 November 2019   |   4:07 am
They were a mélange of visually pleasing aesthetic expressions. They were a demonstration of technical competence, skills and ability. They were a representation of the age. The contemporary art age.

Victor Olaoye Is 2019 Winner, Gets N500,000

They were a mélange of visually pleasing aesthetic expressions. They were a demonstration of technical competence, skills and ability. They were a representation of the age. The contemporary art age. Their art was a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts and subjects that challenged traditional boundaries and defied easy definition. Their works responded to a global environment that is culturally diverse and technologically advancing and multifaceted. They were everything, except that Angels Among Gods by Victor Olaoye was the lighting rod and so had the ‘magisterial’ right to go home with the N500,000 at stake. These works, 100 in all, cadenced the 13th Life in My City Art Festival (LIMCAF).

The grand finale and awards night attracted visual artists, art administrators, curators, enthusiasts, teachers and art aficionado who converged on the International Conference Centre, Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu for LIMCAF, last Saturday ( November 16, 2019).

The event was spiced with dramatic and melodious folklore and dances by the Enugu Chamber Choir as well as the Akaraka Dance Troupe that performed a mixture of different dances, including the Ohafia war dance, the Atilogwu cultural dance and others.In the audience were Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe; UNESCO’s Living National Human Treasure Award winner Bruce Onobrakpeya; art historian and critic, Prof Ola Oloidi; former Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi (rtd); Elder U. Kalu; Mr. Dennis Okoro of MTN Foundation; founder of LIMCAF, Chief Robert Oji; Mr. Kelvin Ejiofor; Nsikak Essien and many others.

Chairman of the LIMCAF Board, Kalu, said the festival has positioned art in social development, noting, “it’s also in evidence that that Life In My City Art Festival based in Enugu is becoming a relevant thread in the effort being made to unite and strengthen the social fabric of our fragile nation.”

Kalu disclosed that the 13th edition was special in some ways such that the festival held in November instead of its traditional month of October because of the closure of Enugu airport and received 550 entries from young visual artists across the country. He said that the interest made the board restructure the 2019 competition into nine primary exhibition centers in Zaria, Ondo, Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Benin, Uyo, Port Harcourt and Enugu.

According to him, courtesy of LIMCAF Patron, Professor El Anatsui, in addition to the prizes for the first six winners of the year, the six young artists, owners of the winning works, will join the 2018 top winners on an all expense paid visit to Dak’Art Biennale, in Dakar Senegal
“This is an unprecedented happening in the annals of art promotion in Nigeria. There were four of them in 2018; there will be 12 of them going to Dakar in 2020, alVictor he platform of Life In My City Art Festival, all sponsored by Professor El Anatsui,” he disclosed.

According to the organisers, LIMCAF was established in 2007 as a yearly celebration of creativity featuring young talents in the Nigerian art landscape. “The grand finale features works of art from young people across the country, selected from over 600 works exhibited in 11 exhibition centres across Nigeria. This festival was registered as a Trusteeship in 2012 under the name Life In My City Art Initiative. The festival features visual art competition, pan-African photography contest (Photo Africa), school children’s and art teachers’ workshops, multimedia workshop and the Award and Gala Night. It is arguably the biggest art event in Nigeria. Over N3 million are won in prizes every year.”

It is the largest gathering of young artists, patrons, scholars, gallery owners and other stakeholders in the visual arts in Nigeria. As a show of visual arts and an art space, it has enhanced social interaction and engagement and generating economic revitalisation. The event, no doubt, has been a response to how visual art can direct and change the fortune of the younger generation begging for direction and space to be human in the age of economic dislocation.

Its role as a public space has also aided community development potential. Through a good programming and other activities related to its operation, this art space has justified its potential as a space for contemporary art and artists to thrive.

The 2019 edition focused on The Other Side: The lives of people and their responses to issues around them. More poignant is that the theme aimed to look at the ways in which the younger generation could interrogate the visual landscape with a narrative that is cognisant of disruption from the digital media.

Each work, no doubt, highlighted this concern and stressing how art could impact society and its shared humanity —- lifestyle, environment and ‘glocalisation’.With a varying degree of competence and figurative subjects such as, extraterrestrial, spirits, hybridisation of human elements and nature, the show was an opportunity for young artists to pause and reflect on the inevitable intersection between living and existence, and more importantly, art and business.

According to the initiators of the project, their mission is to position art for social development through youth empowerment thereby promoting art as a resource for national development. Negotiating the complexities of the theme, Adeshina Adeodu’s Wayout, oil on canvas painting (120×153), captures three young kids interrogate the future.

With a shared book, they contemplate a life premised on education. The simple, realistic painting in light shades majorly of green, blue and brown colours point to an artist whose strokes are strong. Erharuyi David, On My Own, discarded metals, reflects the loneliness of a ‘boxed’ horse. The sculpture expresses the possibility of seeing the other side of discarded metals, which create environmental pollution.Agwunwa Theophilus Chinonso is also very expressive in his mixed media titled, Charms of Music. The work highlights the therapeutical effects of music, as it addresses a number of emotional, cognitive and social issues.

The unsung heroines of the show are Chukwuma Doris Onyinye and Fagorusi Folashade Rashidat. In She Craves, Chukwuma’s leather cut reveals the unending crave of human beings. While Fagorusi, in Hello, knitting thread on canvas, tells the story of an 80 years old woman, Mama Folake, peeping through the window with the hope to see light. Both ladies, in their documentation of critical issues, dexterously weave poetic stories with anonymous characters that characterise and form the fabric of the society.

Fluid with minimal palette and grounded by a spirit of experimentation, Olaoye’s Angels Among Gods engages complex questions of truth, the mystery of man on earth and the reality of man as god. The work canonised God’s injunction that man should dominate the earth and the fullness thereof.

According to a statement by the jury, which comprised, Nsikak Essien, Sam Ovraiti, Klaranze Okhide, Erasmus Onyishi and Lasisi Lamidi and titled, Content Complexities And The Dilemma Of Choice: The Jury’s Note, it was a challenging task attempting “a selection through a diverse collection of art works from artists with varying ideologies or schools of thought in Nigerian contemporary landscape.”

Giving a central theme, The Other Side, “what assurance of thematic/iconographic similitude could be ascertained since art works posit inexhaustible interpretations and could gain or lose meanings? What categorising premise becomes the yardstick of selection? Could this be hinged on visual elements: medium and style of rendition; or on the philosophy: symbolism and interpretation?”

The jury, in its attempt to interrogate the freewill of the artist to relate his/her creations to the various possibilities the theme offers, selected 100 out of above 500 entries that registered this year.A more critical parameter comprising: originality, visual content, proficiency in media control, finishing and presentation, and paradigm shift/wow! factor, were employed to trim down from 50 to 25 works.

It was from this handful that the specific prize categories were rigorously arrived at. Using the above criteria, jury members individually waded into the 100 works to assess- independent of each other. 50 were selected. These 50 were also assessed and scored independently by each juror from which 25 were qualified for the next level. With fine-tooth comb, the 25 were independently assessed by each juror-using the criteria, to arrive at the different level winners.

The jury noted, “all the 100 works in this exhibition are imbued with the winning potentials in their own rights. Thus, everyone whose work is in this collection is a winner.”The winners of the 2019 contest include Victor Olaoye, who won the top prize for his charcoal medium painting, ‘Angel among gods’, and a cash prize of N500,000 and an all expenses paid trip to the Dak’Art Biennale in Dakar Senegal in June 2020.

The second prize went to Toritseju Favour Clarke, who won N250, 000 and a scholarship to attend Bruce Onobrakpeya’s Harmattan Workshop in February 2020; while the third prize went to Samson Ejiofor, who won two scholarships and a cash prize of N150, 000. Bruce Onobrakpeya stated that the basis for the festival is to nurture the artist-child, adding that the advantage is that the artists challenge themselves without guidance.