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In Benin, Enwonwu’s children drank from the fountain

with additional reports from KanbaniCentre

THE second leg of the London based, Kambani Art and Access Bank art initiative, Mirror the Master, successfully took place in the ancient city of Benin, Edo State from October 26 through 29. This successful tour came on the heels of the group’s upscale tour of the art city of Oshogbo, where participating students interacted with notable artists in the town including renowned Jimoh Braimoh.

At the historic Benin event, which began at the palace of Oba of  Benin, about hundred students from nine schools turned out for the land mark interaction with Benin Royal Monarch, Oba Erediauwa  but, because of the large number of students that turned out for the event, it became practically impossible for all of them to go in to the palace and as such, two slots were given to each school in order to also, accommodate the school teachers and staff of Kambani and Access Bank.

At the palace, the Oba was briefed on the project; and students asked him questions, which his chiefs graciously provided answers. The Oba also entertained some questions from the children which were further explained by his chiefs though he had many a comment to add.

It was all fun and pleasant experience. From the palace, the team continued its tour to the National Museum in Benin, where the children were taken round and briefed on ancient Benin culture. At the museum, artefacts hundreds of years old were on display, many from the significant era in Benin cultural history,  the era of 1897 – when colonizing British forces invaded the ancient city of Benin and looted its rich cultural treasures.

To conclude the first day of the Benin programme, the children were also taken to the popular Igun Street, the centre for Benin bronze crafting, a place where bronze crafting has taken place for many centuries. Here, the children took part in a workshop centred on the age old tradition of bronze casting.

They helped make the red clay moulds, poured the bees wax into the moulds, worked the bellows, broke open the casts and watched the process of pouring the molten bronze. They also witnessed the skilled workers putting finishing touches to the works. It was all fascinating stuff.

Day two of the programme began at the Oba Akenzua II Cultural Centre, Benin. It was a complete day of art workshops starting with an introduction by Chima Ezeilo of the Mirror the Master initiative. During the workshops, children were shown how to stretch a canvas and how to mix paints. After this, they began their work in earnest, with everyone receiving one to one support from Morenikeji and Yewande, professional artists, who facilitated the tour.

Day three was the final day of the tour. The morning was used to round off the children’s artwork which was followed after lunch by a judging panel made up of world renowned artist El Dragg Okwoju, Yakub Frederick – artists at the University of Benin and master artisan from Igun Street, Mark Ihama.

The panel were tasked to judge the best three works from all the schools. It was not an easy task and they had a difficult time in coming to an agreement on the winning works. However, they finally succeeded in choosing the following: Osamagbe Aiwekhoe – Edo College, 16 years, first prize;  Augustina Obi – Greater Tomorrow Secondary School, 15 years, 2nd prize; and Deinma Imabibo – Negbenebor International School, nine years, third prize.


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