LIMCAF 2018, how jury’s ‘expectation’ favoured Avant-Garde concepts

Enigma, an installation by Ifedilichukwu Chibuke won the LIMCAF 2018 overall Prize of N500,000

Preference for the avant-garde in Life In My City Arts Festival (LIMCAF) competition has been an unwritten rule of the 12-year-old event. However, this year’s contest confirmed the hitherto held convention.

Held at the International Conference Centre, Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, the grand finale had 100 works on display, with an installation winning the overall prize of the 12th LIMCAF art competition. Titled, Enigma, the installation by Ifedilichukwu Chibuke won the N500,000 at stake. The traditional forms of expression performed fairly well too, producing few winners.

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, during 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 them, 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, 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 include, 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.

There were equally winners for endowed awards such as, Justice Aniagolu Prize for Originality won by Okewu Jonathan’s Dancing in Bullets 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 Française Network Prize given to Badru Taofeek’s 16:59 (Ibadan) with a solo show in Lagos window; Mfon Usoro Prize for Outstanding Work from Uyo won by Usoro Otobong’s Twilight of Morality (Uyo/Calabar), N150,000; Thought Pyramid Prize 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.

More prizes such as, Outstanding Young Lady for Judith Dyeme Daduut’s Dead Weight (Abuja), N100,000; Vin Martin 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 Bullets and in Brokenness (Enugu), with Young Contemporaries Residency window; and 12 Consolation Prizes of N20, 000 each were also announced.

The 12th edition, which started with seven zonal shows in September, had participants submitting 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 K 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 LIMCAF as complementing the theme.

The special guest of honour, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon, who represented the event’s Chairman, Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya, eulogised 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 would be the next place to host art fair as Lagos already has one.

“Two art fairs are not too much for Nigeria,” he said.

Shortly after, an orchestra group, African Vocals, performed, 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 Nigeria’s father and founder of modern art, Aina Onabolu, who invited Kenneth C. Murray to the country, from where Ben Enwonwu later benefited as a student of the British expatriate. And by extension, Shyllon also noted the relationship between Akinola Lasekan and Uche Okeke.

He counselled, “we need to invest in creativity to make our country great.”

While describing LIMCAF as “the longest running art competition in Nigeria”, Obi of Onitsha urged government to “emulate other countries that support art for us and posterity.”

The monarch also demonstrated his commitment by disclosing, “I’m instrumental to the coming of MTN into LIMCAF.”

Executive Director, MTN Foundation, Dennis Okoro, argued that arts and culture should be seen through education prism, “not about commerce”. He noted, “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 dwelt 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 these people lost 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 academic work are 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 1897.com 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 would house some of the controversial objects from Europe, on loan. 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 contributes to art education through its annual school children workshop which engages young professionals and school children in creativity.

LIMCAF Director, 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 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.

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