Now in its fifth edition, Next Of Kin Project recently brought hope to a community of persons living with Down Syndrome at the Modupe Cole Memorial Child Care and Treatment Home in Akoka, Yaba, Lagos.
The project which is an initiative of Thought Pyramid Art Centre is designed to encourage the young talents to create their own artwork with art supplies.
It began with an interesting art workshop titled, “You Too Can Go Far,” culminating in a mural painting project outside the school walls. Done in partnership with sponsors such as Trustbanc Financial Group, Hyde Energy, Platform Capita, Nigerian Machine Tools, and the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the objective is to exhibit the works of the finalists at the 2022/2023 Next of Kin Series 5, opening and grand finale where the winner would be announced.
The Next of Kin is an annual juried art competition and exhibition which features emerging visual artists in Nigeria. In an interview with Michael Dubby, the Project Manager for Next of Kin, it was revealed that the project runs deeper than just any other outreach programme.
“This is what we do to encourage the next generation of artists, sculptors, photographers and other creatives,” he said. “Some of them are fresh out of school and some of them have back stories. Our role is to get new artists and mentor them.
“There is art and then there is the business of art. A lot of creatives don’t know the business side of the work. Something as simple as taking a good picture of your work goes a long way in selling it. What we
do is to get spaces where we can train these young artists and guide them through the process.”
After the call for entries, the first exhibition enables the jury to make a shortlist of 10 artists.
“Those artists who make the shortlist will be required to submit three of their works for the coming
exhibition. At that exhibition, a winner will also be announced.
“For the love of creatives, we have decided to also reward two runners-up. After winning, they would be involved in workshop programmes with the gallery. Last year we went on gallery tours and met artists.
We spoke to them and asked questions.
“We didn’t just want to come to this school and drop food. We want to empower young ones with skills and talents. We selected this school- it is a school for persons living with down syndrome. They are all medically challenged and would need extra care. They live here, school here. Their whole life is here, basically. But then most people come here and give them food. But many of them have great potential in the arts. Some of them can sew. Some can paint with their legs.”
He observed that many of these young talents do not have the luxury of phone and internet access to post their work on Instagram. Dubby believes that when they have the right resources, the sky will only be their beginning. Citing his personal experience, he argued that a physical disability should not be a barrier to personal development.
“My right hand is weak as you can see. I grew up being pitied by people. I had a weak hand due to a doctor’s mistake. But I started working out as I grew up- building myself. I am a living proof that anything is possible. I run a company that sells art materials with delivery options for any location in Nigeria. I also run a printing business. I have an architectural firm because I am an architect by training and an artist by talent. I have always wanted to know how structures are built and so I studied architecture. I realised that we need creative solutions.”
One of the past students of the school, Toma Unu demonstrated a rare gift of painting with her foot with the support of a few of the Next of Kin members during the mural session. Passers-by were stunned by her sheer determination to contribute to the project.