Return of Life in Coal City

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By MCPHILIPS NWACHUKWU

The 2012 edition of the Life In My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) came to a resounding climax of creative beauty, gaiety, and joyous excitement honoured by royalty at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel on Saturday 27.

This 6th edition of the annual youth art festival which is the biggest exhibition of new works anywhere in Nigeria entered its final week on Monday 22nd October with a preview of the best 100 new works in Nigeria encompassing all five areas of visual art for the media and sponsors.

Elder K.U. Kalu, Chair of the Board of Life In My City Art Initiative – the CAC registered trusteeship which is the custodian of LIMCAF, briefly introduced the gathered reporters and few representatives of the sponsors to the expertly curated array of the creative output of Nigeria’s young artists before Ayo Adewunmi took the clearly impressed guests through the works on exhibition.

Then followed over the next two days, the art workshops for both children and teachers. Nearly fifty students from selected primary and secondary schools attended the children workshop on Tuesday 23rd while over twenty teachers of art in secondary schools attended the teachers workshop  the following day.

While the children enthused about the works of art they were able to produce, the teachers went as far as deciding there and then to form an association of art teachers in primary and secondary schools in order to keep alive what they had learned at the workshop and to help as a formal body the promotion of the teaching of art which they admitted was being sorely neglected especially in the public school system.

*The overall winner of 2012 Life in My City festival at Nike Hotel, Enugu

Thursday October 25 was Africa Day of the LIMCAF finale week. This was the day of the opening of the novel Photo Africa Exhibition. Photo Africa was a completely new venture for the Festival organizers. It featured an exhibition of thirty of the best of nearly seventy works entered by photo artists from around the continent which was neatly mounted at the Enugu Station of the Nigerian Gallery of Art.

By this time Enugu always a surprise to visitors with regard to the response of its citizens to art occasion was agog with excitement as the grand finale and award night  approached because huge billboards acknowledging the sponsors and donors and announcing the event were all over the city complementing the radio and television announcements inviting the public to the occasion.

The public did not disappoint. As already mentioned it had always been a pleasant surprise to see the size of audiences especially at the Festival’s final events over the past five years. This year’s and 6th edition of the festival award night was, not only no exception, it exceeded anything this reporter has seen anywhere in Nigeria during any art occasion.

Senator  Ayogu Eze, the Chair of the Senate Committee on works was the night’s chairman, with the revered Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe as Special Guest of Honour. Other special guests included Barr Joe Mmamel Enugu State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism who represented the State Governor, Mr. Victor Ezenwoko, Executive Director Regional Businesses Diamond Bank the ‘gold sponsor’ of  this year’s festival.

Life In My City Art Festival Award Night 2012 also boasted in the audience an impressive array of traditional rulers, high political office holders, art scholars, teachers, gallery owners and of course throngs of students and young artists who had entered their works for the competition. There was also a star cast grand finale jury of art scholars, teachers and gallery owners including two expatriates specially invited from Ghana and from the French Embassy in Abuja

It should be mentioned here that apart from the founder and for five years the festival’s chief financier, Chief Robert Oji Chairman and Chief Executive of Rocana Nigeria Ltd., the French through the Alliance Francaise network in Nigeria and the Culture Department of the Embassy were especially during the early years the most important supporter s of LIMCAF.

Twenty-five finalists had been invited as always from across the country with the largest numbers coming this time around from Enugu, Auchi and Lagos. As the evening wore on and the finalists were lined up in no particular order, the jury  explained how they had been chosen through their chairman, renowned art teacher Professor Jerry Buhari of the Ahmadu Bello University.

Going up from the consolation prize winners his presentation came to a climax with the progressive announcement of the five top winners with Miss Mariagorreti Eze of the IMT, Enugu emerging the totally overwhelmed toast of the festival as winner of the overall first prize of N500,000 (five hundred thousand naira) with her work, rejuvenation.

Earlier in the evening, Senator Eze his opening remarks had enthused about the great future awaiting the festival after the pioneering work of the founder, Chief Oji and the Chair of the Board, Elder Kalu and others. He promised to bring in four sponsors for the 2013 edition and urged the organizers to take the festival to a much bigger venue by including other forms of art.

Igwe Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha had in his speech lauded the aims and objectives of the Festival and pledged his support for the restoration of the artistic heritage of Enugu declaring also, as he called for support for the Festival that “My position is that in no area of development must the commitment to the overall welfare of our young people be allowed to slide”.

All in all, this 6th LIMCAF was a most remarkable outing. Sponsors, Diamond Bank, First Bank and Access Bank as well as Tachi Studios Enugu and the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise can rest assured that they have got a good investment going in the Festival. The future is truly promising of an international art tourism destination arising in Enugu and Nigeria.

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