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My story of water exhibition in London

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Some children painting their Jerry Cans

Earlier in the month, Five Cowries Initiative partnered with Phillips Consulting to deliver art supplies and canvases in the form of 500 jerry cans to primary schools in Lagos and Ogun states to use art as a vehicle for social change.

About 1600 children from over 30 primary schools in the two states took part in this project. The children were encouraged and empowered to express themselves and tell their stories about water, using art, by painting jerry cans, canoes, etc.

The installation, a sea of jerry cans, currently adorn riverside arcade at Oxo Tower Wharf in London. The exhibition will also be mounted in Lagos from October to November 2019.

The initiative was launched in 2017 to offer more inclusive pathways into education by integrating arts into teaching to improve learning outcomes. It was established as a response to the degenerating educational system in Nigeria.

In addition to building teacher capacity, the initiative has established a range of opportunities for the work that the students produce, to be showcased both in Nigeria and internationally. The 2019 water theme follows its pilot project in 2017, Flying Flotilla, in which students produced artwork on canoes. 1.5 million visitors saw the installation during its month-long display on the South Bank. This was followed by an installation of painted umbrellas telling stories that addressed various issues around rivers and waterways, in 2018.

The 2019 project, My Story of Water, is a collaborative programme bringing children from Lagos with partners around the world, using art as a vehicle for social change. It is aimed at creating awareness and helping children understand the importance of water, water pollution and the environmental crisis, which will, in turn, inspire creative ways to address the issues in the country. 

Their stories aim to raise awareness of the water pollution crisis affecting the environment, climate and waterways and need to protect them.
 
Polly Alakija, founder of the initiative, while explaining challenges young children experience in Nigeria regarding lack of water, said: “Everyday activities such as bathing and cooking have become chores for these children, they are constantly at risk of diseases caused by using dirty water.” 


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