By Prisca Sam-Duru
Issues surrounding impact of climate change and the urgent need to find measures that would ensure environmental sustainability, was the focal point of an event held recently at the Alliance Francaise/Mike Adenuga Centre, Lagos.
Themed “Point of view: Art as a Driver for Environmental sustainability”, the programme was organised by the Ben Enwonwu Foundation in collaboration with the Society of Nigerian Artists and supported by Alliance Francaise/Mike Adenuga Centre.
The event featured presentation and panel discussion sessions that examined how creatives have begun utilising their talents to deal with threats of climate change, and more importantly, sustainable ways to ensure art becomes a major driver of environmental sustainability.
Opening up the floor with his detailed presentation was Chairman, Lagos State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative, Desmond Majekodunmi who prefers to be addressed as the Chief Gardener. His presentation, preceded by an eye-opening documentary on how much the earth has been affected by climate change, showcased efforts towards keeping the environment safer through music and other art genres.
According to him due to climate change, a factual prediction indicated that “rising sea may wipe off Lagos by 2050. Lagos is at risk of being partially submerged and if we don’t start doing the right things, we will be under water.”
Citing examples of works by artistes such as late American pop musician Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’ and those of other singers as well as songs he did with his wife Sheila before she passed on, Majekodunmi called on more artists to join the Ben Enwonwu Foundation to continue in the business of saving the earth.
Several artistic expressions advocating for climate protection through music, visual art, and his contributions were highlighted. In other to douse the tension created by some of the startling predictions he referenced, Majekodunmi ended his presentation with these words, “We are not dooms-day prophets but group inspiring artists to join the crusade.” High point of his presentation was a performance of a sing along of his yet to be released song, “Let us plant a tree today, make the rain fall, keep the desert away…”
Chairman, Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture, Polly Alakija who was the last speaker among the three presenters, had her contribution centered on the role her initiative, “Five Cowries”, an Arts Education Initiative, has been playing in the area of using arts education to provide educators with an inclusive means of conveying complex issues ranging from conservation, citizenship, health and migration, to pollution.
According to Alakija who noted that the organisation was looking at using art to make a difference, “My Story of Water”, a visual art project, is “one of our flagship projects aimed at educating and raising awareness about water pollution crisis affecting the environment, waterways, climate and the need to protect them.”
Speaking on the sub theme, “Waste to Wealth”, award winning film maker, Founder and Director, SMO Contemporary Art, Mrs Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago said one crucial area to look at was how art can bring us close to wealth through recycled materials. In recent times she noted, African art has done well in the global art market with Professor El Anatsui, the king of recycled art, taking the lead adding that most Nigerian artists doing well in the global art market are using recycled materials.
Prof Bruce Onabrakpeya who was also present at the event according to Mrs Mbanefo-Obiago, has used recycled objects from the environment to revolutionise the art. Others in the pack are Olumide Onadipe, Nnenna Okore, Ben Enwonwu, Yusuf Grillo, Biodun Olaku Peju Alatise, Kainebi O, Kolade Oshinowo, etc.
Also, artists such as Junkman, Nnenna Okore etc, have been involved in beach cleanups through their art. She posited that the country needs interdisciplinary approach that engages the youth, research, good governance and political will without which, there would be no head way. “We can’t leave arts in galleries; they must be taken to public spaces.” She intoned.
The panel discussion session featuring four panellists was themed, “How can Research, Data Gathering, Education, Make a Difference”. It was moderated by Tunde Arogunmati. They all maintained that creatives in arts/culture are a powerful tool for transformation and that Nigeria must be part of sustainable development projects which have education as key driver.