Participants at the exibition
An art festival held annually in Enugu shrugs off its numerous challenges and plods on into its successful sixth edition recently. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports
All hail “Rejuvenation”! It became an instant celebrity at the Enugu-based Nike Lake Hotel hall that Saturday night. It was the reason behind the slight commotion close to the stage, where some dignitaries held court as members of the high table. In the lobby, both professional and amateur photographers swarmed around its unassuming display stand. Who would have guessed that it would be adjudged the best from among the other exciting works!
So much excitement buzzed around it. This is because it just clinched the coveted overall first prize (worth N500, 000). And for that reason, the Obi of Onitsha – Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe – offered to include it among his numerous collections of artworks. Its producer, Chinenye Mariagoretti Eze was visibly overwhelmed by emotions. This Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu student had, like others, thrown her hat into the ring with the faint hope of winning. Now at the Grand Finale and Awards Night on October 27, she had made history as the overall winner of the sixth edition of the Life in My City Art Festival competition.
Her entry, “Rejuvenation”, is a cross between photography and painting. It depicts the photograph of a young lady lying on her stomach with two legs raised behind her and facing a painting which could pass for her mirror image. Her makeup kit, which might as well be a palette, is lying beside her right elbow. With her oblique look at the large mirror, she appraises her efforts at beautification.
Figuring out why it found favour in the eyes of the jurors, led by Professor Jerry Buhari, could be a mind-numbing exercise. But, surely, it must have been scored highly for its originality in the interpretation of the theme, “Being Young”.
To get to the final stage, “Rejuvenation” had been sifted through the first selection process, which was made through the photographs of the entries each selection centre received from the contesting artists in its catchment area.
Having survived this stage, it was presented as an original work to the selection centre for the second stage of the competition. From here, it was sent to the zone’s collection point for a one-week exhibition. It thus became one of the 15 best artworks, selected to join those from other zones in Enugu for the Grand Finale week exhibition – held from October 22 to 27 at the Nike Lake Hotel. Its eventual announcement as the overall winner means that it was deemed the best among other artworks on display.
Of course, there were other prize winners. Lagos-based Eremina Jumbo won the $1000 first prize for the first edition of the Photo Africa competition, which rode on the platform of the Life in My City Art Festival. Her photograph, titled “My Office”, had also generated so much excitement earlier on during the programme.
The prize for the Best Painting/Drawing/Mixed Media, worth N250, 000, went to Stanley Ori while Sunday Odo won the matching prize in Sculpture/Installation/Ceramics. Similarly, there was the Best Photography/Multimedia prize won by Oluwatobi Adewunmi as well as the Best Textile/Graphic won by Uzonwanne Igwenabo.
Among other financially less-valued prizes were the Justice Anthony Aniagolu Prize for Originality (worth N1000), the Vin Martin Ilo Prize for the Best Enugu Entry (worth N50, 000) and Art is Everywhere Prize (worth N50, 000). There were also 12 consolatory prizes worth N240, 000.
This art fiesta’s long road to reckoning has been dogged by difficulties. Not least among them were sponsorship challenges. But not for long if Senator Ayogu Eze eventually fulfils his promise of bringing along four additional sponsors and other dignitaries in the hall follow his example.
Then there is also the serious challenge of exhibition space, which was responsible for the damage inflicted on a few of the works by the guests of a visiting governor. According to an eyewitness account, they had while scrambling for food knocked over a stone carving displayed among other works in the lobby. The stone carving, titled “Steps Towards the Right Direction”, was literally decapitated.
Senator Ayogu had expressed hopes that the subsequent editions of the event would hold at the Michael Okpara Square and the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. But he probably could not have had art exhibitions in mind when he alluded to the venues. He had after all said in his speech: “It should not just be about paintings and sculptures but about us.”
A day earlier, a sponsors’ dinner was held at another venue in Enugu. The dinner, which like the Grand Finale and Awards Night at the Nike Lake Hotel was serenaded by the Enugu Chamber Choir, helped to reinforce the hopes of a bigger and better-organised seventh edition of the Life in My City Festival, whose theme is: “Out of the Frame/Out of the Box”.
No doubt, the art festival has grown beyond the scope and expectations of its originator, Chief Robert Oji, the founder and CEO of Rocana Advertising. Even the festival director, Kevin Ejiofor, and its energetic artistic director, Ayo Adewunmi, acknowledge its growth potentials. So far, the burden of organising the events rests on the shoulders of a few passionate individuals.