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‘Winning awards not the ultimate’

They all came for one event. But, the younger artists had different missions. While many were fulfilled participating in Life In My City Art Festival (LIMCAF), in Enugu, others eyed the coveted prize. Of the hundreds of artists that entered for the competition, Benin City-based studio artist, Aisien Harrison, won the Best Overall prize of N500,000 amid jubilation, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME.

In spite of the traffic jam on the Nike Lake Resort Road, guests, especially most of the shortlisted 98 artists for the awards and grand finale exhibition, arrived the function in high spirits. The Convention Hall, Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Enugu, venue of this year’s Life In My City Art Festival was filled to capacity. The anxiety got to its peak when 30 of the 98 participants were shortlisted winners in various categories by a five-man jury led by Prof Tonie Okpe of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

But, when Aisien Harrison, a Benin-based full-time studio artist, was announced the overall winner by is Royal Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Acbebe, Obi of Onitsha, there was wild jubilation in the hall.

Harrison’s Melodius Struggle, a wooden sculpture won him a cash prize of N500,000.

The other 29 winners included Muoneme Uzuchukwu (Best painting, mixed media and drawing), who got N250,000. Badru Taofeek Abiodun (Best multimedia) N250,000, Nattey Gregory from Ghana won the Photo Africa award of $1000, Idongesit Esong (Ufon Usoro-Uyo/Calabar zone N200,000, Okoro Emmanuel won (Dr. Pius Okigbo award for technical proficiency) N150,000 and a plaque, while Ibrahim Rashidat Folashade (Justice Aniagolu prize for originality) got N100,000.

Others were Stephen Osochukwu (Best in Edo/Delta zone) – N100,000; Samuel Ilori (Best in Abuja) – N100,000; Raji Bamidele Abdulgaffar (Best in Lagos) – N100,000 and Godwin Ejike Ugwuagbo (Best experimental in Enugu State).

“This is my third attempt in this art competition. Last year, I made the consolatory prize. Thank God I made it this time. I have always had the belief and faith that I would one day win one of the big awards, but never knew it would come so soon. With this award, I will continue to work harder and be a model to younger artists,” elated Harrison said.

The Auchi Polytechnic-trained sculptor said his winning piece Melodious Struggle is a commentary on the way Nigerian youths struggle to become a musical star at all costs. Melodious Struggle is a medium size wooden work measuring 30cm that reflects the many challenges most youths face in the struggle to produce hit songs for the music industry. The reclining shape and the skinny frame captured all the hurdles.

“In rendering the piece, I omitted some forms, such as the head and toes of the figure. But at a closer look, the seeming invisible forms can be seen by discerning art lovers,” Harrison added.

Igwe Achebe, who chaired the event, enjoined participants to see participation in the festival as much more important than winning the awards. He said the festival has scored high in today’s art scene and has emerged as the most sustaining art event in the country, praying that it continues to grow in strength. He, however, lamented that the government does not appreciate art, which according to him, explained why National Gallery of Art has no gallery of art. The Obi of Onitsha disclosed that he is planning to establish a private museum at Onitsha very soon.

Appreciating the support of distinguished Nigerians, such as Ms Anne Okigbo, who recently endowed an award in honour of her late father (Dr. Pius Okigbo) for the festival, LIMCAF board chairman Elder Kalu Uka Kalu said such efforts have come to swell the growing list of endowments which began in 2010. They include Justice Anthony Aniagolu, Tayo Adenaike (African Photography award), Bisi Silva award for Lagos zone, Jeff Ajueshi’s Thought Pyramid Gallery, Abuja award for Edo/Delta zone and Mrs Mfon Usoro’s Uyo/Calabar zone award.

He said it was a great pleasure to see the eager faces of young artists, who gathered at the event not just as contestants, but more especially as aspiring young professionals in training. “They come here every year surely to expand their vision through interaction with older and wiser generations and to test their talent in a conducive atmosphere against those of their peers as well as superiors. In that regard it is a noteworthy pointer to their future that scions of prominent art aficionados of yesteryears, whose parents bought the works of the older generation artists many years ago are now endorsing LIMCAF and its promise by endowing prizes in various categories to encourage the young ones of today,” he added.

Continuing, Kalu said: “These prizes are, of course, in addition to the four main national prizes including the Overall prize and three best in category prizes. It is our hope that the list will continue to grow as the festival grows in stature and inclusiveness. The Board and its Organising Committee are in fact poised to examine the possibility of promulgating a new and more structured order of category prizes all in a bid to increase the number of young persons, who benefit financially from participating in the festival.

Present at the award night were former Director-General Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mrs Mfon Usoro, Ms Anne Okigbo, Elder and Mrs Kalu U Kalu, Chief and Mrs Robert Oji, Igwe LOC Agubuzu, Mr. Peter Eze, Cultural Attache, French Embassy in Nigeria, Miss Aude Urcun, and Mr. Orji Ndem.

The 9th Life In My City Art Festival, which has as theme, Beyond All Odds, was supported by First Bank Plc, Rocana Nigeria Limited, Alliance Francaise Network in Nigeria, CCA, Lagos, Nike Lake Resort and Hotel, Tachi Studio and CLAM among others. It featured multimedia workshop and presentation, interactive session with top 25 artists, and exhibition.

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