Set for its 10th anniversary gala and awards night this Saturday, the Life in My City Art Festival has assembled yet another team of high-profile jurors. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports

Yet another LIMCAF’s annual Gala and Award Night lurks around the corner. Indeed, this event holds in less than a week – on Saturday, to be precise. And there are strong indications that it would be holding for the first time ever at the Institute of Management and Technology’s new amphitheatre.

Thus, LIMCAF – acronym for the Life in My City Art Festival – stomps into its much-awaited 10th anniversary celebrations on a hopeful note. No less significant is the announcement of its Grand Finale Jury for this special edition by the Board of Trustees.

The composition of the jury, headed by the University of Lagos-based associate professor of art history Dr Peju Layiwola, is consistent with the festival’s long-standing tradition of selecting high-profile art personalities.

To be sure, all of LIMCAF’s previous editions have flaunted eminent art personalities as jurors. Thus, the selection of the winning works of what has arguably become Nigeria’s biggest art fiesta has always enjoyed the minimum level of credibility. Nothing less, in any case, would have been expected from this one-of-a-kind event that creates incentives and opportunities for young people across the country.

This would not be Dr Layiwola’s first time at this annual competition cum festival. Her previous LIMCAF experience as well as her lustrous credentials as an artist and art historian stands her in good stead for the position of jury head.

The distinguished female academic, who has published widely on the visual culture of Nigeria and Africa, is also actively involved in studio practice. Her writings, not surprisingly, have found their way into such notable publications as the Open Arts Journal of the Open University, UK, N. Paradoxa (an international feminist art journal), UK and several publications of the Museum of Ethnology, Vienna (Austria). Her dual Yoruba and Edo ancestry has positioned her at the creative confluence of both cultures. Also, the fact that she is a scion of the first female bronze-caster in Nigeria – Princess Elizabeth Olowu, daughter of Oba Akenzua II, the late King of Benin – explains so much.

But Dr Layiwola not only works in metal (both in its cold and liquid form) but also in a miscellany of media. This was evident in her most documented solo exhibition in 2010, titled Art and the Restitution Question. That exhibition was based on the contested patrimony of Benin Empire.

Well-known in both the local and international exhibition circuit, her most recent show was titled Boundary Objects/Objectas Fontera and travelled from Dresden in Germany to the Spanish capital Madrid between 2015 and 2016.

The 1988 University of Benin BA degree holder in metal casting and design also holds a Masters in 1991 and doctoral degree (visual arts) from the University of Ibadan in 2004.

At every stage of her career, she has received several awards. She was, for instance, the Best graduating Student University of Benin in 1988 and the 1989 National Youth Service Merit Award in Lagos State. She also won three Paul Getty Travel grants to New York, Los Angeles and South Africa and was later a US Department of State Nominee for the International Visitors Leadership Programme on cultural preservation. This was in addition to being a nominated partner for the US State Department SmARTpower project, an initiative of Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State in (2012).

The one-time assistant lecturer at the University of Benin would later become the first female Head, Department of Creative Arts of the University of Lagos from 2012 to 2014. In an obvious deference to her accomplishments, she had been invited to anchor several workshops for the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation and the Omooba Yemisi Shyllon/UNILAG Art workshops series.

But her activities extend beyond the academic environment. She is, for instance, involved in community work under the auspices of an NGO, Women and Youth Art Foundation which she founded in 2004. Her educational VCDs, which teach various arts and crafts, remain her most tangible contribution to art education.

Under her and her husband Professor Dele Layiwola of the University of Ibadan, a lot of acolytes (both biological and academic) have enjoyed some form of mentorship.
Also in the 10th Anniversary Grand Finale Jury are the Ahmadu Bello University’s Professor Mu’azu Mohammed Sani, the University of Port Harcourt’s Ikechukwu Francis Okoronkwo (a.k.a. Ike Francis) and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso-based Dr Kenny Badaru.

The Katsina-born Professor Mu’azu holds a 1983 first-class honours BA degree and a 1986 MFA degree as well as a PhD (in 2014) in painting from the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. Besides holding several exhibitions, he has also participated in 23 art workshops. A member the Nogh-Nogh Art Movement, among many organisations, he currently lectures in the ABU’s art department, where he also served as the Head of Painting Section for 10 years and was promoted to the rank of Professor in 2012.

Ike Francis, born in Lagos mainland, is a 1995 University of Port Harcourt graduate of sculptor who also holds an MFA in painting in 2001 from the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. He had, while at the university, studied under the tutelage of Professor Chike Aniakor, delving into a deeper inclination towards conceptual and poetic depiction of topical issues. The veteran of many local and international artists’ workshops and residencies expresses himself also in poetry. His recent poetry collection, Petals and Thorns had just been published in Bloomington (US). He currently teaches mixed-media, painting and drawing in the University of Port Harcourt.

As for the Abeokuta-born Dr Badaru, he is a multimedia experimental artist who holds BA and MFA degrees in sculpture from the ABU in Zaria. He is currently a doctoral research scholar at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Ogbomoso. The self-effacing but highly-principled and creatively-restless artist once served as a national officer of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) and lectures at Federal College of Education, Abeokuta.

According to LIMCAF’s art director, Ayo Adewunmi, who heads the Enugu-based Institute of Management and Technology’s Department of Graphic Arts, Photography and Design, this is “in keeping with LIMCAF’s tradition” of adding an international flavour to the panel.
This, he adds, “will be provided by Aurelien Sennacherib the Cultural Attaché at the French Embassy, Lagos Liaison Office. The French Embassy in Nigeria as well as the Alliance Française network throughout Nigeria have been a major and consistent source of support for LIMCAF since its inception.

“This year as a new and additional form of this support, the French Embassy has announced a new category of award of their own for LIMCAF’s teaming contestant by which Mr Sennacherib will select an outstanding work of his choice on behalf of his embassy. The owner of the selected work will be sponsored by the embassy to participate in solo or group exhibitions chosen by the embassy.”

Also worthy of mention is Professor El Anatsui’s donation of prize money for all the LIMCAF Category Prizes feature of this 10th anniversary edition. Adewunmi described the gesture as an endorsement by renowned sculptor as “very special encouragement to the organisers of the Festival.”