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LIMCAF… Deepening creative space, visual narrative

By y Gregory Austin Nwakunor and Lawrence Njoku
20 November 2022   |   2:10 am
That the 2022 Life in My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) was going to be a thought-provoking experience in terms of visual quality was not in doubt.

Prof Chike Aniakor (left), Prof Buhari, Mrs Eke, Elder Eke, Elder Kalu, Okoro, winner Ejiofor and past winner of the prize.

That the 2022 Life in My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) was going to be a thought-provoking experience in terms of visual quality was not in doubt.

First: A six-man panel of jurors for the festival was impeccable. Headed by renowned art educator, painter and scholar, Prof. Jerry Buhari, of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, the jury also had Dr. Odun Orimolade, a multidisciplinary artist and academic who directs her work on trans-disciplinary approaches, research, and collaborations; Dr Timipre Willis Amah, a fine art photographer, painter, printmaker and a lecturer with the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State; Dr. Okechukwu Nwafor, an Assistant Professor of Art History in Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States; Ms Mariagoretti Eze, a graphic artist/photographer and former LIMCAF overall prize winner in 2012 and another former winner, Olumide Oresegun, who won the first Prize at the inaugural Life In My City Arts Festival in 2007.

In the run-up to the final events of the festival, regional exhibitions, adjudication and selection had been held from July to September in eight regional centres across the country including Abuja, Port Harcourt, Uyo, Lagos, Ibadan, Ondo, Auchi and Enugu from where the 100 best artworks to feature in the Grand Finale Exhibition were selected.

Dr. Ayo Adewunmi said there used to be between nine and 11 Regional Centres before now but the Trustees believe that first, COVID-19 in the year 2020 and later the ASUU strike, account for the less than the usual number of between 400 and 500 entries every year. This forced the Organising Committee to collapse the entry and regional exhibition centres to eight for this year.

In spite of this, the Trustees were impressed with the quality and eclectic range of works comprising sculpture, terracotta, mixed media, paintings, charcoal drawings, photography, ceramics, textile and clay done by young, talented Nigerian artists, which the panel of jurors presided.

The Chairman, LIMCAF Board, Elder Kalu U. Kalu, while addressing the gathering, lauded the major sponsors, MTN Foundation and Ford Foundation as well as other sponsors such as AutoStar, HELIU Residences, Alliance Francaise, IMT, Enugu State Government, AARONS, Pan-African Circle of Artists (PACA), Digital Dreams, Tachi Studio, Pinnacle Oil and Gas, among others, for their immeasurable support for the yearly festival.

Kalu, a former chairman of the Union Bank, lamented that the 2022 event would have been the 16th edition of the festival, but for COVID-19 disruption, which necessitated cancellation of the 2020 event.

The LIMCAF, he explained, has offered young Nigerian artists the opportunity to showcase their talents.

Chairman of the occasion and former Group Managing Director First Bank Holdings, Elder U K Eke urged organisers of the festival to continue to give voice to young talents, as the festival may be the platform needed to replace the old art masters.

He said the festival remains an opportunity to see the expression of talents by young Nigerians, which he has been part of for about 12 years.

“What LIMCAF is doing is to create a platform for youths to express themselves, and speak to reality in our environment. Great minds come from festivals like this and it reminds one of the masters, such as EL Anatsui, Prof Bruce Onobrakpeya and Prof Ben Enwonwu. There is a need to encourage them by collecting their work. To you all, you are winners,” he added.

Expressing delight with the festival, Mr. Dennis Okoro of the MTN Foundation, said that education and youth were part of their mandate. He said that so far, the Foundation has not less than 5,000 Nigerians on its scholarship.

Okoro described Nigerian youths as being very resourceful and creative as well as non-violent, emphasising that all the youth needed was a quality leadership that would give them encouragement like what LIMCAF was currently offering.

LIMCAF had in the past 15 years, empowered over 1500 young artistes and promoted art pan-Nigeria through the yearly competition that offers young people an avenue to showcase and commercialise their productions.

“It has involved young people in a national interactive visual art fiesta in various centres across the country, which enables them to meaningfully express themselves on the state of their lived environment through their art and created a notable national and international art tournament destination in Enugu to complement other existing events and attractions in other parts of the country,” Adewunmi told The Guardian.

Adewunmi, who further explained the theme of this year’s competition Paradox of Muted Echoes, explained that things may not always be the way they are perceived and that silence sometimes being a vital part of sound, may be a potent device, stressing that the event would continue to grow with more sponsors.

The Executive Director of LIMCAF, Mr Kevin Ejiofor, had lamented the inability of public secondary schools, especially in Enugu state to participate in the festival, stressing that since the competition began in 2007, no public secondary school had participated in it.

He attributed the development to the dearth of art teachers in the public schools, saying that they have failed to show interest in the area.

“Since we took off, we have made a series of efforts to get public schools in Enugu to participate to no avail. We write we visit and in the end, nothing happens. That shows a lack of interest in art. There are also no teachers for the subject. We have always had strong participation from private schools across the state”, he stated.

Reacting to his victory, Samson Ejiofor said his participation in this year’s Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal, courtesy of LIMCAF, broadened his horizon, particularly, on emerging trends in the art.

The Enugu-based wood sculptor said: “My participation in Dak’art biennale this year opened my eyes to new things about art. I can now go ahead and explore and grow in my art. This is the base. I am very glad to be the winner and I can’t thank the sponsors enough especially MTN Foundation and Ford Foundation. They should not get tired of supporting the art.”

Ejiofor’s entry, Cold mineral, cold pure water (an installation), beat 24 other entries that made the final shortlist for the contest, which attracted an initial 270 entries from across eight zones of the country. This is, however, lower than the average entry of 400 recorded each year in past years and it is due to the eight-month ASUU strike. The universities and Polytechnics are the hubs of activity that feed the competition since its inception in 2007.

Of the 25 that made the final shortlist, 14 got consolation prizes of N20,000 each while others got special endowment prizes ranging from N100,000 to N250,000.

The winners in this category included Odo Chikaekwu (Enugu zone prize), Ajibade Adebayo (Lawrence Agada prize), Essang Effiong (Mfom Usoro prize), Atere Olubunmi (Pius Okigbo prize), Mbaeri Stephen (Justice Anthony Aniagolu prize), Abiodun Emmanuel (Textile /Fashion prize), Adebayo Segun (Video/Photography), Idowu Abayomi (Graphics/Digital art), Joy Ogiri Joseph (Ceramics prize) and Hector M. Nnamdi (Painting prize).

Present at the event were Enugu State Commissioner for Lands, Nze Chidi Aroh, who represented Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Ambassador Stanislaus Kamanzi of Rwanda, Ford Foundation West Africa representative, Mr Dabesaki Marc-Ikemenjima, former GOC, 82 Division Nigerian Army, Major General Adamu Ibrahim (Retd), and Chief Kalu Ndukwe. But, the patron of the festival, His Majesty, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha, spoke via video, as he was unable to attend the festival.

Theme for next year’s festival is Fix it!