Sunday, 17 January 2016

From the Diaspora, Open Door of Skill acquisition For Nigerian Youths




By Tajudeen Sowole
Lanre Olagoke (centre) with some members of Open Door.

As policy makers in public and private sectors are battling with youth unemployment across developing nations of the world, artist Lanre Olagoke continues to use his experience of over two decades as a  creative professional to empower the youth. Based in the U.K, Olagoke's current project, which he calls Open Door is focused at engaging youths in Nigeria and the U.K.

Olagoke, a beneficiary of rehabilitation is hoping to replicate his U.K experience of giving back to the society here in Nigeria. As s not-for-profit rehabilitation and empowerment project, Open Door, he disclosed, include using visual arts and performing arts as what he described as "skill acquisition for youths."




 Born in London over five decades ago, Olagoke's streets experience and travails that led him into the wrong side of the law, perhaps, places an advantage on him to speak to youths who might want to make a wrong move. "Nobody wants to be a drug addict or engage in any form of criminality," he told his guest during one of his visits to Nigeria. "If the society steps in early enough, a lot of young persons can be rescued from going astray."


 He argued that there is hardly any challenges confronting Nigerian youths that are strange overseas. "Even in Europe, youth unemployment is a big issue," Olagoke stressed, adding that "I am a model for change and youth empowerment." He also cited example of how the Open Door project has rehabilitated a prisoner in the U.K. "We have rehabilitated a prisoner by giving him a role to play in a drama production on stage."


 For the Nigerian end of the Open Door project, the artist disclosed that there were ongoing plans to work with rehab centres in the country. For example, "Open Door is collaborating with Oregun Juvenile Home," hoping that the arrangement works out as planned.

 Uunder different projects, the artist claimed that for over two decades "I have worked with over 10, 000 youths, taking 45 volunteers from U.K and Jamaica for rehabilitation work in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake crisis."


 Recall that over two years ago, Olagoke was in Nigeria under a project tagged Art Alive. His mission then, basically, was to promote Nigerian artists in the U.K through "my galleries," based in London. He also had other plans: “So, I have plans to establish a Museum of African Arts in Diaspora”. The museum, he explained, will be located in Nigeria.



Excerpt from Olagoke's bio: In 1999 Lanre founded Art Alive Arts Trust. Art Alive was set up to provide a broad range of arts based classes and activities for young vulnerable inner city people, giving them positive places to hang out and a sense of purpose. Art Alive believes that self expression and creativity builds individuality and self confidence, ultimately expanding a young persons horizons and helping them to realise their potential and find a positive place in society.


 Art Alive also works in prisons, where Lanre runs workshops in painting and printmaking. The resulting work is sold at the Art Alive annual exhibition, with most percentage given to the artists. This gives inmates a sense of achievement and a purpose and place to go for support when they leave prison, reducing the chance of reoffending. Art Alive has helped over 5000 young adults find a sense of pride and an alternative lifestyle. Art Alive currently works with the Centrepoint Soho in London to develop a programme that teaches homeless vulnerable young people the skills and value of art as a way of expression.


"Their collective works were showcased and sold at the Art Alive Soho Art Fair, August 2012/13. Lanre also campaigns for Haiti. He visited Haiti when disaster struck the country in 2010 and has since raised over £150,000 for projects there through Ruach Ministries. He returned to Haiti every year with thirty volunteers and the £150,000 they have raised from 2010-2014 has helped to build a primary school and a clinic centre. 2015 Lanre and his wife are now going to Jamaica, with 40 volunteers to help and support deprived, disadvantaged and disable youth.


  Olagoke was born in London in 1962. Aged four his family moved back to Nigeria, where he grew up before returning to London aged nineteen. From an early age he loved colours and started painting at age five. Lanre's paintings tell of his journey from homelessness to hope. He came from an affluent Nigeria family, but a lack of cultural understanding of the the importance of art led him on a downward spiral to the streets. Drugs and gambling led Lanre from being a promising student to homelessness on the streets of London. 'People, including family, thought I had gone crazy'. But the young painter found solace in his work.

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