By Yinka Olatunbosun
In honour of the trailblazing artist, Kunle Adewale and hisimpacts on the field of arts in health globally, August 2 was proclaimed by the Mayor of Cincinnati (USA) as the official ‘Kunle Adewale Day’. Recently, it was marked with an e-conference with the theme, “Artists as Drivers of Social Change.” In the welcome address for the event which attracted participants from over 23 countries, the artist declared that “Kunle Adewale Day is not the celebration of a celebrity, it is the celebration of our shared humanity. “
The two-day programme hinged on the recognition of Kunle Adewale by the Mayor of Cincinnati, United States, Mayor John Cranley in 2019, following Kunle’s monumental utilization of art as a therapeutic medium in clinical and non-clinical settings, within the US and his native country of Nigeria. John Cranley declared August 2nd as Kunle Adewale Day, a befitting honor, as Kunle and his organization’s projects have resulted in over 15,000 beneficiaries, resulting in a robust health system. Adewale is one of the selected Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health at the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), University of California (USA).
On the opening day, discussants from four continents were featured. Jill Sonke, Director, Center for the Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida (UF), USA, delivered a most stirring introduction to the event, drawing the correlation between the prevalent issues of the Corona Virus and Systemic Racism as both Public health crises. While recalling notable artists using art for social justice, Sonke highlighted the public health system’s need for artists to make changes. A panel session moderated by Wemimo Onikan featured crucial stakeholders in the arts including Ken Nwadiogbu, a renowned Nigerian hyperrealism artist and social activist; Brian “B Flow” Bwembya, the founder, Music for Change, a performing artist and Social activist; Annie Ruth, the founder, Eye of the Artists Foundation; and Paul Modjadji, a performing Artist and Founder, Breaking down Borders Africa Initiative.
The program was anchored by the trio of Alexandria Maloney, a 2018 Forbes Under 30 Scholar; Tiffany Yu, the CEO &Founder, Diversibility, Podcast Host, TIFFANY &YU; and Wemimo Onikan, a communications specialist punctuated by guest performances from the sonorous Sinmidele Ayodele and Grace Jerry followed by a thrilling dance session with Magda Kaczmarska.
In line with the drive to mitigate the rising scourge of Alzheimer’s disease in Nigeria, there was a drive, termed “Support a Cause” to seek funds for the establishment of an Arts in Health Hub in Nigeria, anchored by Olumide Kola-Lawal, a World Bank Public Sector Consultant.
On August 3, Adebola Williams, Co-founder and CEO, RED for Africa, profiled as a man who helped elect a trifecta of presidents in Africa, during his speech said: “Art is one of the most potent platforms to rebuild our world.”
Scholars such as Plot Mhako spoke on the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) and its application process; Fisayo Aransiola-Fakayode, Human Rights lawyer and Chevening scholar enlisted guidelines to obtain international opportunities, while Camellia Rodriguez-Sackbyrne and Thongdam Pathoumthong from the Global Brain Health Institute as well as the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health team also deliberated as change makers in healthy aging and brain development who are dedicated to protecting the world’s population from threats to brain health and reducing the impact of dementia worldwide. The Co-founder, Creative Aging International, Dominic Campbell also lent his voice to this call. Fidelis Bonaventure Uzoma, Atlas Corps fellow bore his mind on the high impact solutions to systemic problems. To wrap up the session, participants were taken on a tour through the virtual art exhibition by Vanessa Souza.
Through his partnership with Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada, Kunle Adewale facilitated a Virtual Exhibition of Artworks of Persons living with Early dementia with the hope of reducing stigma often faced by those with cognitive impairments in Africa.