An art work by an Enugu-based artist
By Kevin Ejiofor
The annual youth art empowerment project, Life In My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) has come to Lagos!
This is a giant step for the Enugu based project which aims to empower young artists pan Nigeria and which debuted at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel Enugu in October 2007. This then is the festival’s first ever Lagos zone exhibition. It will hold at the National Museum of Unity Onikan, Lagos. Life In My City is supported by the Alliance Française Network in Nigeria, Diamond Bank and Access Bank. This Lagos exhibition is also supported by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
Simultaneously, similar exhibitions are taking place or have already taken place in other zones across the country including Ibadan, Kaduna, Abuja, Jos, Calabar Owerri, Port Harcourt, Auchi, Uyo and Enugu. Each exhibition represents the second stage at the level of the zone of a three stage process leading to the final stage which is the grand finale exhibition to be held in Enugu on Saturday October 12, 2013 featuring the best 100 new works, from all over Nigeria. Every year for the past six years it has been the biggest such art event anywhere in Nigeria.
At each stage selection is done by a committee of local jurors comprising seasoned older practising artistes and art teachers who pick the best entries for exhibition at that level. After the exhibition at the zone those works that are adjudged strongest are selected and sent to Enugu for the grand finale.
At that grand finale and award night the following prizes are on offer: One overall best art work wins a cash prize of N500,000. This is followed by the five category prizes where the best in sculpture, painting, graphics/textiles, photography, printing/mixed media/drawing which each win N250,000. Then there is the Justice Anthony Aniagolu prize for Originality which wins N100,000, the Art is Everywhere (recycled material) prize which wins N50,000 and the overall best entry from Enugu Zone prize for N50,000. In addition 19 runners up all win a consolation prize of N20,000 each. All twenty five young artists who win prizes are invited an sponsored to Enugu to witness the grand finale which includes the report of the grand finale jury.
This first LIMCAF Lagos exhibition is expected to be opened by renowned art scholar and teacher Professor Yusuf Grillo and will last for one week from Thursday August 15 to 22. It has been put together by a Local Organising Committee headed by the restless and prolific art critic and publisher, Dapo Adeniyi whose association with the festival goes back four years. Other members include Messrs Ato Arinze, Okechukwu Eze and Tope Olounfunmi working with the staff of Alliance Française, Lagos led by their Director and Director General of the Alliance Francaise network in Nigeria Madame Christine Deuve.
Speaking in Enugu after a recent Board Meeting the festival’s Art Director, Mr. Ayo Adewunmi said that about 30 strong art pieces will be on show at this first Life In My City Lagos outing. All of them will be interpreting the theme for this year, ‘Out of the Box, Out of the Frame’.
He further explains that Lagos had not been able to host a LIMCAF exhibition before now (even though the festival had always attracted participants from Lagos) because of logistic limitations in the Alliance Francaise centre there. Indeed its first ever grand finale exhibition in 2007 was won by Olumide …… then a student of Yaba Polytechnic.
At that time and up till this year, young artists in Lagos wishing to participate in the nationwide contest had to send their entries to Ibadan because the Alliance Francaise Lagos Centre had had some logistic limitations.
But the Lagos Centre of the Alliance Francaise Network in Nigeria has grown since then and has indeed become the coordinating centre for the network throughout Nigeria able to overcome the challenges which had earlier made unsuitable to handle such projects.
And so come Thursday August 12, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the exhibition hall of the National Museum will witness a surge of young artists, scholars, art aficionados and teachers for a first hand view of productions by young artists in Lagos who are under 35 years of age.
Life In My City is a youth centred project. It aims to give young people opportunity not just to win cash prizes and certificates of participation at various levels but also to enable them expose their creative endeavours to critical appraisal by carefully chosen older jurors and visitors, sell their works, and make meaningful statements about their environment through the interrogation of various themes chosen by the organisers year after year.
The Festival is organised by a Board registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission as a trusteeship limited by guarantee. The Board is headed by a one-time Chairman of Union Bank Elder K, U. Kalu CON, who is currently the Executive Director of the well-known Consultancy firm, Skoup and Company, based in Enugu. Other members include Barrister Peter Eze, a well known legal practitioner in Enugu who was one time Chairman of the National Gallery of Art, and Chief Robert Oji who actually initiated the Festival project. Others are Kevin Ejiofor, Ayo Adewunmi the festival’s Art Director, VinMartin Ilo, Uche Oji-Elega and Gerard Chouin.
Life In My City began as something of an experiment when in 2006, Robert Oji, founder and Chief Executive of the very prominent outdoor advertising agency, Rocana Nigeia Limited decided to find sustainable ways to challenge and encourage the very many young people who were studying art in the many tertiary institutions in and around Enugu where very few exhibitions were being held and outlets were limited except for the occasional opportunity at the Alliance Française centre.
He put together a two man team Esona Onuoha and Onyinye Igbo (one man and one woman really), who were then staff of Rocana and charged them to develop a proposal which could eventually attract support from other sources for a youth art competition to stimulate creativity in the visual arts.
The rest as the saying goes has become history principally through the initial support of Alliance Francaise headed in Enugu at the time by Dr. Gerard Chouin as well as two enthusiastic members of the local branch of the Pan African Circle of Artists in Enugu Messrs Ayo Adewunmi and Krisdz Ikwuemesi as Oji’s Rocana Nigeria who with Oji’s Rocana became the initial organising committee.
Today the festival has grown to include an international photo contest the Photo Africa competition and exhibition for young photographers under 35 years of age living and working in Africa. The first competition was held in 2012.
–– Ejiofor writes from Enugu