Sunday 11 November 2018

At LIMCAF 2018, jury's 'expectation' favoured avant-garde art

Ifedilichukwu Chibuike's Enigma (White pull knob, Long play record and Cropper) won the LIMCAF 2018 Over All Prize of N500,000..

     Preference for the avant-garde in Life In My City Arts Festival (LIMCAF) competition had been unwritten rule of the 12-year-old event. But the results of 2018 edition seemed to have come out openly in favour of the avant-garde form of art. 

Held at International Conference Centre, Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, the grand finale’s prizes were given based on the 100 works on display. As an installation won the Over All Prize of the 12th LIMCAF art competition, the traditional forms of art performed fairly well too, though producing few winners.

Titled Enigma, the installation by Ifedilichukwu Chibuke won the Over All Prize of N500,000. Announced by the patron of the festival, Igwe Nnaemaka Achebe CFR, Obi of Onitsha, as the grand prize winning work, Enigma is built of elaborate materials and space. Whoever thought the yearly LIMCAF juried art event had no preference for a particular form of art, needed more clarification, so suggested the argument of the jury. Earlier in his speech, at the grand finale, the jury chair of LIMCAF 2018, Prof Frank Ugiomoh listed the criteria on which the six-member panel based their assessments. Before listing the criteria, Ugiomoh, a professor of Art History and Theory at University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State said "The expectation in events of this nature is avant-garde". However, entries for the competition, at least from the works of the finalists on display, showed a mix of avant-garde and modern or traditional form of renditions.

Quality of artwork, skill of the artist, thematic expression, creative use of material, and art principles, Ugiomoh said, formed the guide for the jury. Other jury members included Dr. Blaise Gbaden Gbundu, Mrs. Odunayo Orimolade, Mrs. Ngozi Omeje, Mr. Nickolas and Dr. Fidelis Udenta.

As the modern paintings and sculptures at the event seemed not in the preference view of the jury for the grand prize, the Enugu State Governor, RT. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who was the Chief Host had a different verdict. Viewing the works on his way to the main hall, Ugwuanyi expressed fascination in one of the paintings, of which he showed interest to collect.

Other winners announced included Best Painting/Mixed Media, 'Ireti (Expectation)' by Popoola Nurudeen, from Lagos Zone, N250,000; Sculpture/Installation/Ceramics titled 'Sale Godday' by Okwosi, Recycle, (Ibadan zone) N250,000; and Best Textile Art '16:59' by Badru Taofeek, (Ibadan), N250,000. 

Others included endowed awards such as Justice Aniagolu Prize for Originality won by Okewu Jonathan's 'Dancing in Bullects and in Brokenness' (Enugu), N100,000; Dr. Pius Okigbo Prize for Technical Proficiency given to David Olatoye Babatunde's Ise Aro (Ibadan), N150,000; Lawrence Agada Prize for Most Promising Young Artist picked by Edward Samuel for his 'The Gaze' (Lagos), N100,000; Online–Viewers Choice Award won by Moses Oyeleye's 'Abused', (Lagos) N50,000; Alliance Francasie Network Prize given to Badru Taofeek's '16:59', (Ibadan) with a solo exhibition window in Lagos; Mfon Usoro Prize for Outstanding Work from Uyo won by Usoro Otobong's 'Twilight of Morality' (Uyo/Calabar), N150,000; Thought Pyramid Price for Outstanding Prize from Abuja Zone won by Adeshina Adeolu's Focus (Abuja), N100,000; and another Thought Pyramid Prize for Outstanding Prize from Auchi Benin Zone given to Owoyemi Taiwo Sola's 'Make Hay Before Twilight (Auchi/Benin), N100,000.

Winners, guests and organisers at the grand finale.
More prizes such as Outstanding Young Lady for Judith Dyeme Daduut's 'Dead Weight' (Abuja), N100,000; Vin Matin Ilo Prize for Outstanding Work from Enugu to Ejiofor Samson Maduabuchi's 'The Sound of Ikoro' (Enugu) N50,000; and Rele Gallery Award to

Okewu Jonathan's 'Dancing in Bullects and in Brokenness'(Enugu), with Young Contemporaries Residency window; and 12 Consolation Prizes of N20, 000 each were also announced.

 The 12th edition, which took off with seven zonal exhibitions in September had participants submitted entries based on a central theme Twilight. Coincidentally, the theme came in the current edition that produced new developments for the 12-year-old art competition. LIMCAF chairman Elder  Kalu noted this much in his opening speech read by a representative. Commending those who chose Twilight for the 12th edition, Kalu listed, among other things, increase in El Anatsui-sponsored artists and MTN's interests in sponsoring LIMCAF as complementing the theme.

The Special Guest of Honour, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon who represented the event's Chairman, Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya, eulogised the organisers, sponsors and others "who make it happen every year". Shyllon argued that art is a very important component in tourism, which makes great resources for countries around the world. He predicted that soon, Enugu will be the next place to host art fair as Lagos already has one. "Two art fairs not too much for Nigeria," he said.

Shortly after an orchestra group, African Vocals performed interlude, Shyllon spoke in his capacity as the special guest of honour. He briefly went through Nigerian modern art era. Shyllon, a well known art collector spoke about father and founder of Nigerian modern art, Aina Onabolu “who invited Kenneth C. Murray to the country”. He explained how artist like Ben Enwonwu later benefited from Onabolu’s eforts as a student of the British expatriate. And by extension, Shyllon also noted the relationship between Akinola Lasekan and Prof Uche Okeke. He advised that "We need to invest in creativity to make our country great".

Obi of Onitsha described LIMCAF as "the longest running art competition in Nigeria". The monarch urged government to "emulate other countries that support art for us and posterity". He also demonstrated his commitment by disclosing that "I am instrumental to the coming of MTN into LIMCAF". 

Executive Director, MTN Foundation, Dennis Okoro, Igwe Nnaemaka Achebe CFR, Obi of Onitsha and Enugu State Governor, RT. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi
Executive Director, MTN Foundation, Dennis Okoro argued that arts and culture should be seen through education prism, "not about commercial". He noted that "subjects that give you the feel of creativity and analytical thinking is the arts". For First bank, Nnamdi said given the interest and potentials, the bank "will continue to support LIMCAF". In preparation for the next event, Executive Director, LIMCAF, Mr Kevin Ejiofor announced The Other Side as the 2019 theme.

A day before the grand finale, Prof Peju Layiwola delivered the LIMCAF Annual Art Lecture 2018 titled Engaging With Expropriated Objects and History. Held at Radio Nigeria Conference Hall, Enugu, the lecture dwelled on the recurring issue of restitution of stolen or looted cultural objects, particularly of African origins.

Noting that the issue is a global challenge across cultures and regions, Layiwola took her audience through the Benin, Ethiopian and Ashanti (Ghana) history of how each of these peoples lost some of their ancient art to colonialists' orchestrated  lootings. She lamented that apart from the affected people's loss of their artefacts, the lootings came with other tragedies. Such examples, she listed as the banishing of Oba of Benin, Ovonramwen to Calabar in 1897 where he died and the Ethiopian King who died from suicide.

As an artist whose works in academic context were largely based on the looted Benin artefacts subject, Layiwola used the opportunity of the lecture to revisit two events of hers. A solo exhibition of the artist titled Benin is directly linked to the looted artefacts' tragic narratives while the second event Whose Centenary?, exhibition, poetry, procession and performance focused on the general cultural imperialism as it affects the people.

From her works, Layiwola disclosed that interests being generated so far have been amazing. "I have had 20 international engagements based on my Benin objects research".

 Speaking on a proposed Benin Museum by Edo State Government to house expected loaned artefacts from Europe, she described it as a "good development". Layiwola, a princess of Benin ancestry, was not exactly excited that such museum will house some of the controversial objects from Europe, on loan. But the museum, she argued, will serve better purpose for the current works of Benin bronze casters.

Apart from the empowerment of young Nigerian artists via LIMCAF awards, the event include contributions to art education through its annual school children workshop which engages young professionals and school children in creativity. The Director of LIMCAF, Ayo Adewunmi stated that the idea is to keep sustaining their interest in art and also to fill  the gap created by inadequate art teachers in secondary school.

For the 2018 edition, the workshop, Adewunmi stated featured 100 School children, and was a pilot test for what LIMCAF proposed as "annual mural project" with the aim of beautifying public spaces within the city. It was very successful.

Also, LIMCAF 2018 project is  Photo Africa Workshop, sponsored by Tachi Studio.

It featured 15 burgeoning photographers, embarked on 24 hours photo study of Enugu City (under the theme A Day in Enugu). Selected prints from the workshop were exhibited at the Grand Finale.

 -Tajudeen Sowole.

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