By Tajudeen Sowole
After a Retreat in Lagos, 12 finalists who have been shortlisted from over two hundred entrants are currently on their way towards articulating the concept for the eighth edition of national art competition organised by African Artists Foundation (AAF), with the sponsorship of Nigerian Breweries (NB) Plc.
While unveiling the artists at NB Plc's Bar, Iganmu, Lagos, the
sponsors traced the trajectory of the competition through its primary aim set eight years ago. Corporate Affairs Adviser, NB Plc Mr. Kufre Ekanem recalled that the competition was aimed at promoting "conceptual development of contemporary art in Nigeria and raise awareness on relevant social issues through the use of diverse creative, artistic expressions."
For one week, the 12 finalists: Adetunwase Adenle, Funmi Akindejoye, Michael Ametuo, Chinenye Emelogu, Maryam Kazeem, May Okafor, Komi Olafimihan, Ngozi Omeje, Babatunde Oyeyemi, Folami Razaq, Sabastine Ugwuoke and Stacey Okparavero engaged the theme Future Histories at Artists Retreat in preparation for the grand finale, which holds in November this year. A few months ago, the organisers released the theme with a focus on projecting into artists' contribution to the socio-economic as well as political development of their immediate community.
"This year’s edition is challenging budding artists to come up with interpretation to the theme, Future Histories,” Ekanem told select guests during the unveiling. “With this theme our intention is to stimulate our participating artists to think laterally about the social, political and cultural climate of their local communities while exploring their creativity."
The journey to the selection of 12 finalists started with a call for entry, the artists’ retreat and currently heading to the final exhibition and announcement of winners.
Ekanem explained the competition's aim of supporting the dreams of emerging artists in as many as diverse mediums as painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, installation and video art. He boasted, "We are proud that the National Art Competition has become a leading platform for the development of contemporary artists in Nigeria."
Primarily, NB Plc, Ekanem stated, has what he described as "our philosophy of winning with Nigeria" by recognising the strength of ‘the arts’ in promoting "cultural values of our society." He added that sponsoring the competition would remain "a significant part of a broad spectrum of initiatives which cover diverse areas such as health, water, education, talent development and youth empowerment across the country."
Director of AAF, Mr. Azu Nwagbogu encouraged the 12 finalists by invoking the revered name of the chair of the selection panel, Prof. El Anatsui. He argued that Anatsu, being a great art scholar as head of the jury, adds strength to the competition.
The grand finale closes with a juried exhibition, scheduled for November when winners would emerge. The prizes include N2 million, solo exhibition and a trip to Dubai for the first place winner while Outstanding Concept and Outstanding Production get N1 million each. Beyond the prizes, all the participants would have felt the impact and got the benefit of the competition.
"More importantly, all the finalists would have been provided a platform to launch their careers as future greats in the arts," he stated.
The panel of judges led by Anatsui, according to the organisers, "considered each proposal on the grounds of its originality, creativity and clarity in relation to the theme." Also placed in consideration was the description of materials and technique submitted in each artist’s application. But the selection, despite the criteria, was said to have come with its challenges.
"These criteria made the selection process difficult, especially as the works employed diverse mediums and ideas in their portrayal of the theme," a statement said.
Present at the event was a former winner and beneficiary of the competition, Mr. Emmanuel Dudu who shared his post-national competition experience.