Okechukwu Uwaezuoke

THISDAY - - ARTS & REVIEW - EX­HI­BI­TION

Life in My City Art Fes­ti­val – more of­ten known by its acro­nym LIMCAF – should be high on the list of the most cred­i­ble vis­ual arts events of re­cent mem­ory. As Nige­ria’s long­est-run­ning art fes­ti­val – it is now on its 12th edi­tion – the an­nual event metaphor­i­cally opens the cul­tural gate­way to Enugu. Hence, in the course of its ar­du­ous pro­gres­sion to reck­on­ing, it has drawn afi­ciona­dos from across the coun­try and be­yond to the serene south-eastern city.

In­deed, the fes­ti­val, whose re­silience is now leg­endary, has re­mained un­ri­valled as the only sur­viv­ing youth-fo­cused art fes­ti­val in the coun­try. This is one good rea­son why it de­serves the gen­er­ous sup­port of the cor­po­rate world. Be­cause the an­nual fes­ti­val has elicited and sus­tained the in­ter­est of FBN Hold­ings and the Enugu State Gov­ern­ment, among oth­ers, it has this year also courted the in­ter­est of the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany MTN.

That then ex­plains the pres­ence of the MTN Foun­da­tion Di­rec­tor, Den­nis Okoro, who was in the good com­pany of the event’s spe­cial guest of hon­our and one of Africa’s most renowned col­lec­tors, Omooba Yemisi Ade­doyin Shyl­lon. Of course, there was the Enugu State Gover­nor Ifeanyi Ug­wuanyi, who has since last year’s edi­tion al­ways per­son­ally at­tended the awards and gala night held at the In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment and Tech­nol­ogy, Enugu’s In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Cen­tre. Also, the Obi of Onit­sha, Igwe Nnae­meka Achebe has con­sis­tently graced the an­nual event with his royal pres­ence.

Specif­i­cally, this year’s edi­tion also had the sin­gu­lar hon­our of host­ing, among other dig­ni­taries, the Re­gional Man­ager of First Bank, Nnamdi Amala, who rep­re­sented U.K. Eke, and the Chair­man of the Enugu State Tra­di­tional Rulers’ Coun­cil, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu.

Last year, its high-pro­file at­ten­dees in­cluded the for­mer Cross River State Gover­nor, Don­ald Duke, Nige­ria’s for­mer high com­mis­sioner to the UK, Christo­pher Ko­lade and his wife as well as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the French Em­bassy, among oth­ers.

LIMCAF’s strug­gles from mod­est be­gin- nings to grace leave many in the lo­cal art com­mu­nity in awe. From be­ing bankrolled dur­ing its first four years by Chief Robert Orji’s ad­ver­tis­ing and print­ing firm Ro­cana Nige­ria Lim­ited – and its first tod­dling steps watched by the Al­liance Française Net­work and the French Em­bassy – the fes­ti­val has come of age and as­sumed enough im­por­tance to be no­ticed by such vis­ual arts greats as Bruce Ono­brakpeya (who nar­rowly missed at­tend­ing the 12th edi­tion), El Anat­sui, Obiora Udechukwu, Ok­wui En­we­zor, Olabisi Silva and Ko­lade Oshi­nowo. It also elicited the in­ter­est of the likes of Jerry Buhari, Kunle Fi­lani, Sani Mu’azu, Peju Layi­wola, Joe Musa, Chi­jioke On­uora and Tonie Okpe along the line.

Also, with his gen­er­ous spon­sor­ship of the fes­ti­val’s last year’s top four win­ners – and his prom­ise of spon­sor­ing this year’s top six win­ners – to the Dakar Art Bi­en­nale, El Anat­sui seems in­tent help­ing make the event one of the con­ti­nent’s elite art events.

Noth­ing pre­pared those who at­tended its mod­est of­fi­cial launch at the Enugu Press Cen­tre in 2007 for what LIMCAF has be­come to­day. True, the in­valu­able in­put of Krydz Ik­wuemesi and Ayo Adewunmi, who were mem­bers of the Pan African Cir­cle of Artists – more pop­u­larly know by its acro­nym PACA – helped the fes­ti­val. Ditto the ef­forts of two Ro­cana staff mem­bers, Esona On­uoha and Onyinye Igbo. None­the­less, the en­deav­our would have fallen on the way­side in this cre­ativ­ity-sti­fling en­vi­ron­ment.

“We are here for good! We are here to stay!” the LIMCAF chair­man El­der K. U. Kalu af­firmed at the oc­ca­sion. “And I make those state­ments both as an act of faith and a pas­sion­ate ap­peal. We have un­flinch­ing faith in this project and its con­tin­ued and de­fin­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the fu­ture of con­tem­po­rary art in Nige­ria.”

At the fes­ti­val’s Awards and Gala Night, held on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 27, the LIMCAF 2018 over­all win­ner prize worth N500,000 was awarded to Ifedilichukwu Chibuike for his work “Enigma”. Its even­tual se­lec­tion along­side other works, which were dis­played at the In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment and Tech­nol­ogy, Enugu’s In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Cen­tre, fol­lowed what the com­pe­ti­tion’s head juror, Pro­fes­sor Frank Ugiomoh, called “a rea­son­able and ob­jec­tive ex­er­cise”.

At the event, the Univer­sity of Port Har­court­based art his­to­rian told the au­di­ence that the jurors had “adopted the sub­jec­tive/co­op­er­a­tive mode of se­lec­tion” for the win­ning en­tries un­der the guid­ing theme, Twi­light.

“By this method,” he ex­plained, “each mem­ber of the jury se­lected the best 30 works of the 100 ex­hibits. It pro­vided a con­ve­nient way to ap­prox­i­mate to the ex­pected tar­get of the num­ber of art­works seek­ing ap­proval. In this way, the art­works that emerged pop­u­lar among us were col­lated in cat­e­gories of six, five, four, three, and two. We had ties within this scale of sub­jec­tive eval­u­a­tion, and we then en­gaged in co­op­er­a­tive val­u­a­tion from the in­dexes stream­lined. From the in­dex of six, it be­came easy to se­lect the top win­ners in the ex­hi­bi­tion through co­op­er­a­tion and col­lec­tive con­sent.”

Af­ter the elim­i­na­tion of 12 win­ners of con­so­la­tion prizes (worth N20, 000 each), other win­ners were re­warded with var­i­ous prizes.

(See con­clud­ing part on www.this­daylive.com)

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