By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
The Lagos Exhibition Centre, South-West Zone of Life in My City Arts Festival (LIMCAF) 2019, held last Saturday at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos. The event which attracted many important dignitaries from various walks of life, especially from the arts and media industry, was convened by Mr. Kelvin Ejiofor, former Director-General of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), while the Publisher and Chairman of Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Sam Amuka, was the special guest of honour.
Mr. Ejiofor, who also compeered the event, in an opening remark, said: “Lagos, as always, is a premium center for everything that happens in Nigeria. It is not the headquarter of Life in My City, but LIMCAF recognizes the premium place of Lagos in the development of contemporary art in Nigeria. Lagos is one of the centers of the Western Region of Life in My City. We have centers in Akure, Ibadan, Lagos is the big one. Already, for 2019, Life in My City exhibitions have held in Zaria and Benin. Lagos is this week, next week we have Abuja, and then we have Port-Harcourt, Uyo, Calabar, and finally, Enugu, in late August.
“Last year,” he continued, “was our biggest festival in Enugu. Otunba Yemisi Shyllon was the special guest of honour. The Chairman of the occasion could not make it (today) because of the problem flights in Nigeria.”
Mr. Ejiofor, in the process of introducing the special guest of honour, Mr. Sam Amuka, went down memory lane to 1952. He described the publisher as his prefect, mentor, adviser, supporter, guide, jokingly saying “although he refused to grant me an interview which I will never forget.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think anyone can argue if I introduce him (Sam Amuka) as the captain of the newspaper industry in Nigeria.
“He hates what I am doing (showering of praises on him) with a passion. But sir, after this, if you want to give me punishment like in those days in Ugheli, you can do that. But for now, I am in charge. He is our special guest of honour and he will open this occasion.”
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Mr. Ejiofor also introduced MTN Nigeria Plc, saying “last year, they came into our life, and things have not been the same again. And we are very happy. Then he introduced the Director of MTN Foundation (now major sponsors of LIMCAF), Mr. Dennis Okoro, and other staff members of MTN present at the occasion.
In his speech, Mr. Dennis Okoro said: “on a day like this, the last thing we all want to hear is a long speech. So, I will keep this one short. On behalf of the MTN Foundation, let me say that I am glad to be part of LIMCAF.”
Promoting the arts, Mr. Okoro said, is a cause dear to MTN and “we will continue to do that and encourage young artists. He said MTN also sponsors the diploma students of the Music School of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON).
Mr. Ejiofor returned shortly to introduce Olumide Oresegun, winner of the maiden edition of LIMCAF in 2007 and Olumide’s work titled “Life in my city” which won the prize for him. Olumide’s award-winning painting was printed on one of the MTN banners used to decorate the venue.
“Today, Olumide Oresegun is a member of the jury,” Mr. Ejiofor said. “We are not doing like the Federal Government. We bring the youths in. As at the time Olumide won the prize, he was a student at the Yaba College of Technology. Okey Eze, who won the 2nd prize in 2010, is also a member of the jury now.
“What we are doing in each center is selecting the works that will go to the center, Enugu, in October.”
He also narrated the advent of Alliance Française to LIMCAF: “At the very beginning of Life in my city, there was a French man called Dr. Gerald. When the founder of Life in my city, Chief Robert Orji, designed the idea, Alliance Française in Enugu was one of the watering holes of intellectuals, artists, and musicians – when you want to do something, they give you some space. So naturally, we went to Dr. Gerald and said, ‘look, this is what want to do.’ He looked at us and said, ‘this is worthy of support.’
“Today, the Head of Alliance Française in Nigeria, Mr. Charles Courdent, is here.”
Later, Ato Arinze, a sculptor and head of the LIMCAF jury, who was called upon to speak said: “Last year, entries into LIMCAF competition was about 67. This year, we have up to 109. And out of that 109, we in Lagos have to select only 20 works that will go to the final in Enugu.
“The criteria we are looking for,” Ato went on, “is creativity – how well the artists are able to interpret the concept, the theme of the competition which is “The Other Side”. We are also going to look at the use of materials and how they are able to apply the principles and elements of art in creating their designs.
“I also believe that members of the jury have a lot of work to do this year because there are a lot of entries, and all the works here are very competitive. We will try our best to fish out the best among the 109.”
Before he cut the tape to officially declare the viewing of the artworks in exhibition open, special guest of honour, Mr. Sam Amuka, Chairman & Publisher of Vanguard newspaper, made perhaps the shortest speech at the event: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here tonight. I want to say thank you to MTN for this hobourable work they are doing, and also congratulate LIMCAF. This is an occasion more for viewing than for talking. I think all of us here will benefit from what we are going to see. And in appreciation of everyone here…I want to say congratulations. Thank you all.”
Other dignitaries at the event were Mrs. Beatrice Kolade, Chairman of Christopher Kolade Foundation (CKF); Mrs. Femi Sonaike, also a member of CKF; Dr. Ola Longe; Otunba Yemisi Shyllon and Mr. Jeff Ajose, proprietor of Thought Pyramid Art Centre who hosts the LIMCAF Exhibitions in Abuja, Benin and Lagos at no cost.