There is no doubt about the fact that art represents an important aspect of the culture, history as well as the socio-economic and political state of any society. The roles that art can play to a society are almost innumerable. From promoting a society’s cultural heritage to creating an identity for that society and interpreting the way we see our immediate environment to the outside world, art also fosters a profound sense of belonging and originality.
As a nation, Nigeria is known for her vibrant lane of traditional art and culture and the symbolic creations of her indigenes. Through art works, the history of Nigeria has been documented through the years. The Nigerian approach to arts has survived the test of time with hundreds of recorded artefacts, art activities including festivals, exhibitions and auctions. Numerous art organisations all over the world have always attested to this but the survival of art has not been easy in the country due to a number of reasons.
First, although Nigerians appreciate arts, it took a while before the acceptance of art as a noble profession and encouragement of practitioners became commonplace in Nigeria. And although it later became a subject taught in secondary schools across the country, it was not until recently that works of art started providing much value in terms of commercialisation. These two factors, coupled with many other hindrances faced by the general working populace, especially the lack of basic necessities of livelihood, have ensured the growth of the art industry in Nigeria remains slow.
In view of these challenges, the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC), Nigeria’s beverage giant and bottlers of the global brand, Coca-Cola, recently displayed its unflinching support for works of arts and those tending towards youth development in the country by engaging in several activities to further promote the arts and creativity in the country. One of these activities was carried out through the company’s 2016 Coca-Cola Bottle Competition, which was organised with the overarching objective of driving creativity and engagement among Nigerian youth. The competition, which was held in conjunction with the School of Arts, Design and Printing of the prestigious Yaba College of Technology, was the second edition by the company.
The contest simply required individuals or groups to develop 3-dimensional artworks out of empty Coca-Cola 35cl or 50cl glass bottles. And at the recent exhibition and grand finale of the competition held at Yaba College of Technology, regarded as the centre of visual arts in Nigeria, NBC celebrated the First Prize winners (Kaffo Abdulwarith, Dadde Daniels, Phillip Obafemi and Festus Ajimo) for their art genius in putting together the winning art work: ‘A guitar boy made from empty Coca-Cola bottles’. Two other creative works, the first being a standing mirror designed with empty bottles and the second, a giant Coca-Cola bottle, emerged the second and third place winners respectively.
Speaking at the grand finale, the Legal, Public Affairs and Communications Director of the beverage company, Mrs. Sade Morgan, described NBC’s Coca-Cola Glass Bottle Competition as one of the many ways NBC is driving youth engagement within the academic environment and also creating an opportunity for them to discover and demonstrate their hidden creative abilities to produce master pieces in art.
Also, in commemoration of its 65th anniversary, Nigerian Bottling Company inaugurated six renowned Nigerian artists to produce a Limited Edition of ‘6+5’ Coca-Cola bottle signature artworks. The signature bottles were auctioned at NBC’s 65th anniversary cocktail reception held recently and the funds donated to support some selected charity homes.
The artists inaugurated include Sam Ovraiti, famously known as Nigeria’s most expressive water colourist. Sam, as he is fondly called, became a full time professional artist after his eight-year stint as a lecturer in painting, drawing and illustration at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi. He adapted the title of his work for NBC’s 65th anniversary ‘Lightened Celebration’.
The second artist is Ada Godspower, a practicing artist and painter who hails from Benin City, Edo State. He titled his works ‘Omoge’ & ‘Rhythm of Dance’. The third is Femi Williams who, like Ovraiti, is a Federal Polytechnic, Auchi-trained artist. According to him, the arts speak a universal language boasting a rhythm of peace, love and harmony before adding that every artwork is a paradox of maze and every chance to understand its riddles exhilarates freedom. The theme of Williams’ work is: ‘In the Spirit of Celebration.’
Soji Yoloye, a prolific and accomplished multi-talented Nigerian artist and painter, is another of inaugurated artists. He themed his works: ‘Wazobia’ and ‘Celebratory Festival’.
Drawing his imagery from the Yoruba two-dimensional decorative patterns, Osun State-born Babalola Lawson, also impresses with his works titled ‘Hurray!!!’ and ‘Kids Play’. Apart from being a professional artist, Lawson also works as a dancer and props manager with the Abudi Cultural Group like other artists of the Osogbo School. The sixth of the artists is Kesa Babatunde, another Federal Polytechnic, Auchi-trained artist whose works are themed ‘Generation to Generation’ and ‘The way we are’.
Morgan noted that NBC’s focus on the support and development of art in Nigeria is predicated on the understanding that the country’s rapidly evolving economy demands a dynamic and creative workforce. “Arts and its related businesses of cultural exports for this country have long been a strong source of revenue and thus it is imperative that we and not just NBC as a company, but other corporate entities continue to support the arts and arts education in our nation,” she said.
With the engagement of art as a vital tool by a corporate organisation of this size and stature, it is hoped that government at all levels and other corporate institutions as well as individuals will recognise the role art plays in our society. This is essentially because the value of art and culture cannot be overlooked going by its overreaching impact on the economy, health, wellbeing, society and education/history of any given country if well harnessed.