By Tajudeen Sowole
Seven years, still counting, Nigerian Breweries (NB Plc) and African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) keep strengthening the base of contemporary art practice of Nigeria with a yearly national art competition.
The 2014 edition, which is currently in progress with just-held three days retreat challenges the 12 finalists under the theme Interventions, to conceptualise individual work that defends the role of contemporary art in the social, cultural and political environment of the country.
Ada Umeofia, Emmanuel Dudu, Ike Francis, Paul Mbah, Nkechi Ebubedike, Erasmus Onyishi, Pwavidon Mathias, Tyna Adebowale, Modupeola Fadugba, Okafor Amarachi, Priscilla Nwanah and Jacqueline Suowari are the 12 finalists selected from what the organisers described as “unprecedented” numerical entries from across the country. “Over a hundred proposals were received from all geopolitical zones in Nigeria. After the deliberation of the artists selection committee, led by Professor El Anatsui, 12 finalists have been chosen to take part in this year’s edition of the National Art Competition,“ the organisers stated at a joint briefing in Lagos.
Basically, the competition is designed to promote the development of contemporary African art as well as use art to create awareness on issues affecting the people.
A day after the Retreat, the organisers said the theme examines how contemporary art serves as a catalyst for positive social change, and allow artists to meditate on their relationship with the social, political, and cultural framework of the society. While arguing that contemporary art is an avenue for audiences to analyse and begin a dialogue about issues relevant to their present day, they asked artists “to create work that will spark public discourse and make a difference in their local communities.”
Whatever the finalists come up with will be on display at the Grand Finale and Judging Ceremony holding on November 22, 2014 at the Civic Center, Victoria Island, Lagos. Contemporary master, Prof El Anatsui of University of Nigeria, Nsukka has been announced as chair “of distinguished arts professionals,” for the grand finale.
The prizes include First Place, 2million Naira, a solo art exhibition at AAF, a Roundtrip and 3-Night Stay at Hilton Hotel Dubai, UAE; Winner of Outstanding Concept 1million Naira; and winner: Outstanding Production 1million Naira.
Corporate Social Responsibility/Sustainability Manager, Nigerian Breweries, Emete Tonukari noted that the competition, beyond prizes given to winners, “showcases emerging talent in such diverse mediums as painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, installation and video art.” She argued that the competition has proven to be a leading platform for the development of the next generation of contemporary artists in Nigeria.
As a corporate group, the NB, according to Tonukari has been sponsoring the event as “part of a broad spectrum of initiatives geared towards our company’s ambition of Winning with Nigeria which can be observed through our support for health, talent development, youth empowerment, water and education across Nigeria.”
The 12 finalists have been on a retreat that included workshops facilitated by leading artists and art promoters such as Oliver Enwonwu, Medina Dugger, Tola Wewe, Osai Ojigbo, Segun Adefila, Chike Nwagbogu, Sandra Obiago & Roger Woodbridge.
NB P;c noted that the it has been partnering with AAF on the competition for six consecutive years. “This is part of an effort to encourage and promote the development of creativity, arts and artists in Nigeria. Nigerian Breweries recognises that arts play an important role in strengthening cultural values in any society. This sponsorship remains only part of a broad initiative to support arts development in Nigeria, as well as the development of talents in various Åfields of endeavour.”
For AAF, it’s about aiming to encourage the highest standard of art in Africa. “We erve a significant role in art and academic communities through organizing art exhibitions, festivals, competitions, residences, and workshops with the aims of unearthing and developing talent, creating societal awareness, and providing a platform to express creativity. By providing assistance to professional and emerging artists in Africa and support to international exhibitions and community outreach programs, African Artists; Foundation views the contribution to a strong cultural landscape in Africa as a transformative element in driving social change.”