Afegbua picks LIMCAF 2017 grand prize in Enugu

One of the four selected winners, Raji Bamidele Abdul-Gaffar, and French Cultural Attache, Audr Urcun Brunel, at the grand finale

In its 11th edition, Life In My City Art Festival (LIMCAF), the Enugu-based cultural showpiece of visual artists again confirmed it’s national spread when 25 artists from across Nigeria picked prizes in different categories last week. LIMCAF has evolved, perhaps, as one of the most consistent national art events outside Nigeria’s art hub, Lagos City.

Inside the International Conference Centre, Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Enugu, the one-week yearly event had its finale gala and award night. Chaired by former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, it also had other dignitaries in attendance. Enugu State Governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Egwuanyi, Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe and Ambassador Christopher Kolade, his wife Beatrice, as well as members of the traditional council of the state among others, who witnessed the grand finale.

With In the Midst of Realities as the central theme of LIMCAF 2017, the 25 finalists’ works – across the genres of visual arts – were on display along the lobby leading to the main conference hall. For the Kolade Oshinowo-led six man jury of the art competition, the standard of entries were ‘high.’ A few minutes ahead of announcing the winners, former Director-General of National Gallery of Art (NGA), Mr. Joe Musa, who spoke as vice chairman on behalf of the jury, stated, “Instead of 25 works of art, 27 have been selected.” Musa, however, noted that entries “through smart phones denied some participants the opportunity of being among the top 100.” He urged young artists to always use professional camera in presentation of works.

The criteria given for the selection of winners were quality of artwork, art principle, creative use of material, originality of concept and thematic expression. Other members of the jury included Amarachi Okafor, Jeff Ajueshi, Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo and Ayo Aina.

From a N20,000 worth of prize to as much as N100,000 and going further to the grand prize of N500,000, each of the 25 winners had something to take home. Shortly before the winners were announced, chair of the Enugu zone jury, Dr. Obiora Anidi said, “consolation prizes of N20,000 each and other prizes” would be available for the least winners. For his 63 cm sculpture titled ‘Facing The Giants’ done in binding wire, a finalist from Lagos zone picked the grand prize of N500,000. “…the winner is Afegbua Ibrahim from Lagos zone,” It was Obi of Onitsha announced the LIMCAF 2017 ultimate prize.

At the end of the prize announcements, a member of LIMCAF board, Mr. Kelvin Ejiofor reassured that “the top four artists are going to Dak’Art Biennale.” The artists: Afegbua, Nsiobodo Doris, and Daadut Judith, Abuja zone; and Raji Bamidele Abdul-Gaffar, Lagos zone.

Earlier in his patron’s comment, Obi of Onitsha, who is also a passionate art collector argued that “art should be for all.” The essence and the spirit of art for all, he noted, synergises with “the theme that brings all from all over Nigeria to Enugu.”

Achebe used the occasion to announce what he described as near-completion of a museum in Onitsha, adding that the museum “will be opened next year and provide the largest space for art exhibition in Nigeria.”

Board chairman, LIMCAF, Elder Kalu, who presented a prize to one of the winners, Nsiobodo, had earlier in his welcome speech enthused that the “11th edition brings hope” and recalled that 11 years ago, a few individuals believed in the art festival and that “after 11 years, LIMCAF is the longest running art event in Nigeria.”

He commended two individuals, among others, for supporting the festival. He singled out Governor Egwuanyi for “being the only governor in all the editions who has given us support, including the venue. For the second edition, El Anatsui has supported the event by sponsoring three winners last year, and four this year!”

Egwuanyi noted that apart from the festival being within the state government’s vision, “it has the potential of taking the city into the realm of art and culture.”

Kolade saw the artists of LIMCAF as the windows through which Nigeria can be analysed, adding, “The artists have been able to express themselves in the midst of challenges in the country.” He conceeded that though God is the Master Creator, the artists “have created something in the midst of realities in our country.”

Duke, who arrived almost midway into the event with loads of apologies – but early enough to see the beginning of winners’ announcement, started his speech with a profound statement on art and people’s level of development.

According to him, “Art is the measure of civilization,” Duke stated and commended LIMCAF for creating a platform for artists, who may be the measure of Nigeria’s advancement in the future. “I think this is what LIMCAF has achieved since 11 years” of an event he described as “joyful activities.”

He urged everyone to encourage the artists, as “there is nothing as good as making a living from what you enjoy doing.”

The sponsor of four of the winners to Senegal’s Dak’Art 2018, Prof. Anatsui was fascinated that LIMCAF has survived 10 years’ mortality that always stopped such initiatives in the past. Anatsui’s representative at the event, Ozioma Onuzulike assured that the Ghanaian-born artist’s earlier pledge still stood. “For the top four winners, Anatsui will sponsor return tickets and accommodation” as well as a token in cash for each artist.

On consolation prizes, Audr Urcun Brunel, who represented French Ambassador at the event, said LIMCAF “is the strength of Nigeria-French relationship,” noting that one of the winners would be given an opportunity to have a solo art exhibition in Abuja courtesy of the French Embassy. Alliance Francaise, Enugu, is one of the supporters of LIMCAF.

On Friday, one of the off events, ‘The 7th Peter Areh Lecture on Art and Cultural Enterprise,’ sponsored by Prof. Krydz Ikwuemesi, had professionals in the art discussing the theme ‘Building A National Collection in Nigeria.’

Held at NGA, Enugu, the event’s guest lecturer, Prof. Jerry Buhari’s paper was presented by Dr. Kingsley Orji. In it, he noted that building national collection has been a foundational issue from the colonial period. After 50 years of independence, the lack of policy towards national collection for development persists.

“I propose that private collection can be brought to support the building of a national collection.”

Ikwuemesi, who also sent his words, reminded participants that the lecture was initiated in 2011 after the death of Areh in 2009. Host of the event, curator at NGA, Enugu, Pat Nkwocha, shared her experience as regards the challenge of government, saying, “We have manpower and facility issues,” and advised that there should be synergy between the private community of art and government.

From members of the panel, curator National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Enugu, argued that funding of cultural sector is appalling. Musa, who was also on the panel of discussants, urged artists to create new collectors rather than waiting for existing collectors, that others found.

Preparation for the 2018 edition of LIMCAF appeared to have taken off, so suggested the interactive section, a sub-event held earlier in the day. Coordinated by Anidi, the forum produced a theme for LIMCAF 2018. From 24 suggested themes, Twilight won the choice over its rival A World for All.

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