Saturday 19 December 2015

Waiting for broad appreciation of national art competition

By Tajudeen Sowole

As the depth of creativity in a yearly national art competition deepens, managing the efforts of the finalists for broader appreciation appears like a recurring challenge to the organisers.  But the 2015 edition has generated efforts in correcting the stunting of appreciation in finalists’ depth of creativity.   

Wining sculpture by Sebastine Ugwuoke

For the 2015 edition titled Future Histories, it took a last minute decision after on-the-spot agitation during the grand finale for the organisers, African Artists Foundation (AAF) and sponsors, Nigeria Breweries (NB) Plc to extend the public viewing to two days. Traditionally, the exhibition of the finalists’ works, in the previous editions lasted for just one day. 

 Shortly before the winners of Future Histories were announced, visitors had seen the works of the 11 finalists inside the two floors at Kongi's Harvest Gallery, Freedom Park, Lagos Island. Despite the choking space, the depths of creativity in most of the works were still very much alive.

While announcing the three winners, Head Jury, Kolade Oshinowo lamented that such great efforts of the finalists would end up being on display for just one day. But a respite came few minutes later from Corporate Affairs Adviser, NB Plc, Kufre Ekanem that the exhibition of the works, "has been extended till Sunday.”  The announcement meant that two days were, supposedly, added to the traditional one day-grand finale exhibition.

In the previous editions, the grand finale day was usually the only window available for public to see the exhibition. More worrisome, no traces of the winning works in most of the past seven editions ever surfaced anywhere. So, the question usually arises: are the works of the finalists perishables after the competition? Perhaps, viewing them in digital forms on the website of the organisers and individual artists is the best alternative. 

As Sebastine Ugwuoke (Grand Winner), Ngozi (Outstanding Concept) and May Okafor, (Outstanding Production) picked their prizes, one wondered: what happens to these works after the competition? The answer, for now, is imbedded in the prizes, which are: N2 million naira, solo exhibition and a trip to Dubai for the first place winner while Outstanding Concept and Outstanding Production get N1 million each.

In the future, as the theme of the 2015 edition suggests, it would be more exciting to see works of past finalists in the collections of public or private museums of contemporary art or institutions or sold at art auctions. As the organisers have listened to criticism about the need to change its head jury of over five editions, one hopes that in the next edition, wider public appreciation window and exposure would be given to the works of the finalists, particularly, the three winning prizes.

In August, 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 were announced for the grand finale after an Artists Retreat in Lagos.

 Last year, Lines, Patches and Pathos by Erasmus Onyishi was announced the first prize winner inside Civic Centre hall, Victoria Island, Lagos under the head jury, the Prof El Anatsui. Two other winners for Outstanding Concept went to a game house-like titled The People’s Algorithm and the Butterfly Effect by Modupe Fadugba and Outstanding Production, The T’ Eye Meline by Paul Mbah.
 L-R: Event host, Arthur; Corporate Affairs Adviser, NB Plc, Mr. Kufre Ekanem; Hon. Commissioner for Arts and Culture, Lagos State, Mr. Folarin Coker; Winner, Sabastine Ugwuoke; Lead Judge, National Art Competition, Chief Kolade Oshinowo and Director, African Artists’ Foundation, Mr. Azu Nwagbogu at the grand finale of the 8th National Art Competition at Freedom Park, Lagos.

Emphasis on process of creating art started when the competition was about four editions old in 2011, which included a 14-day workshop in Abraka, Delta State.  A joint installation work of Uche Uzorka and Chike Obeago was adjudged the best at the 2011 edition, which had the theme tagged Documenting changes in our Nation.

At the grand finale of the 2015 edition, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, NB Plc, Mr. Nicolaas Vervelde stated that the company’s sponsorship of the completion has been in line with “our philosophy of Winning with Nigeria.”        

  He also stressed how the yearly event has been among several initiatives of the company covering diverse areas such as talent development, youth empowerment, interventions in education, health and water across the country.

Vervelde commended AAF for being consistent with the completion: “We are grateful to our partners, the African Artists’ Foundation for sharing our Winning with Nigeria vision and for their commitment and dedication in making the competition a success over the years. Let me use this opportunity to thank the panel of judges led by Professor El Anatsui, for its tireless effort in assessing the artworks and the commitment to the growth of the National Arts competition.”

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