BY ADA DIKE
After more than three months rigorous competition, the annual search for the winner of 8th National Art Competition came to an end on Thursday, November 26, 2015 as Sabastine Ugwuoke emerged as the winner.
Ugwuoke, whose work is titled: “No Rest No Comfort, Confusion Everywhere”, defeated other finalists and walked away with the sum of N2 million cash. Two other contestants -May Okafor and Ngozi Omeje won Outstanding Production and Outstanding Concept respectively and went home the sum of N1 million cash each.
Reacting to his victory, Ugwuoke said: “I thank almighty God for giving me this!”
Themed “Future Histories”, this year’s competition, organised by African Artists' Foundation (AAF) and sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc, opened on Tuesday, June 9, 2015while deadline for submission of work was July 3, 2015.
Following the deliberation by an artistic selection committee led by Prof El Anatsui, the following finalists were chosen: they are: Adetunwase Adenle, Funmi Akindejoye, Michael Enejison, Chinenye Emelogu, Maryam Kazzem, May Okafor and Stacey Okparavero.
Others are: Komi Olafimihan, Ngozi Omeje, Babatunde Oyeyemi, Folami Razaq and Sabastine Ugwuoke.
The competition which kicked off in earnest after the emergence of finalists in August had the 12 finalists at the grand finale contested for the prizes at the Freedom Park (Old Prison), Broad Street, Lagos.
Speaking at the event, the Corporate Affairs Adviser, Nigeria Breweries Plc, Mr. Kufre U. Ekanem, said:”We had seven great years of the National Art Competition, but this year’s competition is just mind-blowing. It is absolutely stunning. There are times when you envy judges on how to select winners, but this is one time I do not envy the judges. It is not about what one wins today but it is about art winning and making art continually win.”
He emphasized that Nigerian Breweries have done different things in line with their philosophy of winning with Nigeria including the maiden edition of Lagos Poetry Festival, the Creative writers’ workshop and other talent development and youth empowerment programmes.
He thanked the management of African Artists’ Foundation, the Freedom Park, the judges and everyone involved in the competition and urged participants not to allow their love for art to stop at event like that one.
Speaking on behalf of the African Artists’ Foundation, Mr. Fauzi Fahm said the aim of the African Artists’ Foundation in coordinating the competition is to support talents and revealed that the judging process was extremely challenging. He mentioned originality, interpretation of theme, dedication and representation as the criteria for judging the works.
He said alongside the cash prize, the competition provides the winner with national and international exposure as well as exhibition opportunities.
Before the announcement of the winners, the Head Judge of the competition, painter and lecturer, Kolade Oshinowo, noted that judging this year’s competition was a challenging exercise, but “We were able to overcome it”. He suggested that the display of the artwork should not be a one-day thing, adding that it should be made available to the public. Other participants in this year’s judging process alongside Oshinowo are: Theo Lawson, Olu Amoda, Omoligho Udenta, Amaka Osakwe, Akeem Lasisi, Fauzi Fahm and Bob Aiwerioba.
The winner, Ugwuoke, was happy, surprised and excited for the end of the year gift of N2 million he got from participating in the competition. The sculptor who hails from Enugu State is presently rounding off his Master’s in Fine Art (MFA) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He had Higher National Diploma (HND) from IMT, Enugu. After his youth service exercise, he went to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, through Direct Entry for his Bachelor of Arts (BA).
According to him, his work, “No Rest No Comfort, Confusion Everywhere”, is talking about the global restiveness/the insecurity in the world.
He explains the title of the work: “the restiveness North-East in Nigeria comes to mind when issues bordering on insecurity are discussed. The scenario is such that fear, uncertainties homelessness, hunger and epidemic have the order of the day in once peaceful Northern part of Nigeria. This art piece hopes to use foam and other soft and stuffed materials with dangerous pins on them to represent a visual image of inaccessibility and lack in the midst of plenty. The work predicts that if the menace of Boko Haram and other related security issues are not critically addressed, the whole country will one day be thrown into anarchy when the challenge is spread all over the country. The work process will follow a routine process of stuffing different colours and sizes of foam as bed, which ordinarily should be a place of rest with sharp objects ranging from nails, toothpicks and other dangerous materials to depict ‘no rest’, ‘no comfort’, ‘confusion everywhere’. The work warns and gives a prediction that in the near future the effect of insecurity would have spread all over the country in the form of unnecessary apprehension and non-conducive environment for business and social activities to take place.”
He used toothpicks, nails, foam to form the pillow and mattress, printing plate to form the bedcover, bamboo and so on. “During the work process, first of all, I painted the panel with mat black, after that, I did my sketches with marker. I used drilling machine to bring out the sketches, then I used toothpicks. I used angle grinder to cut the bamboos.”
He said he spent two months and two weeks to make the work. “What I had in mind was the bed but, during our retreat, the facilitators sent to us widened our ideas, then I came up with the walls. I left a portion of the wall intentionally because I believe there is hope if Nigeria curtails the problem, but if nothing is being done, it traps people inside. The feet in the work are people trying to escape.”
Ugwuoke gave the estimation of the quantity of toothpicks he used by saying he used up to seven cartons of toothpicks – each carton contains 40 dozens.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Folarin Coker, was among the dignitaries that graced the occasion. A dance troupe brightened the evening with a brilliant performance titled: “Dance Na The Main Thing”.
The National Art Competition was sponsored by the Nigerian Breweries, coordinated by the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) and supported by Lagos State Inland Revenue Service (LIRS) and Samsung Electronics West Africa.