By Anote Ajeluorou
For the 2015 edition of ‘Vision of the Child’ art section of Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF 2015) for children ages 8-12, it’s The Road to Sambisa, a theme Festival Director, Prof. Wole Soyinka has designed for them to solidarise with their yet-to-be recovered Chibok schoolgirls. This was announced last Thursday at the unveiling of next year’s edition of the contest at Freedom Park, Lagos.
Each year children are given an idea to work on. Amazingly, the children have lived up to expectations, as their compositions have always been apt in dealing with otherwise complex themes, usually of the failings of adults world. Screening for the contestants starts January 12, as forms are now available at festival secretariat or online at www.votc.lagosblackheritagefestival.com.
According to Soyinka, “The 2015 edition continues the innovation that was introduced in 2014, as an interactive test to stretch youthful imagination and skills across genres. Instead of the uni-disciplinary interpretation of the given theme, participants will express their vision in two creative media: Painting and the Literary Art – poetry, prose, fiction, or essay. The journey begins with the latter section – a poem, essay, or short story – on the chosen theme. Those who scale through this stage will then be invited to Freedom Park, provided with brush, paint and easel and set to illustrate their literary presentation in the complementary medium of –Painting”.
While unveiling this year’s contest, Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Mr. Disu Holloway, said he thoroughly enjoyed the entire festival last year and invited the general public to be part of the forthcoming festival coming up in March/April next year. He also praised the young artists for their initiative in explicating somewhat difficult themes and giving them clarity on canvas.
Holloway used the occasion to sue for corporate sponsorship of the festival, especially as many people urged that the age limit be extended beyond 12 years to accommodate more teenagers who pass through the lower age range. Holloway said supporting the arts was an avenue to lift the culture sector of the country and the state and meaningfully engage those active in culture production.
“I’m throwing a challenge to other banks and companies to take up sponsorship from age 13-18 and above,” Holloway noted. “We invited other banks, but they have cold feet in sponsorship of this event. We will speak to Soyinka fi he can extend the age beyond 12. Banks should begin to show interest in things that are cultural and ennobling. We need funding top do it. We need the private sector to come in. Developing the child is becoming so important, and that’s why Lagos State Government will continue to sponsor this festival. We need to celebrate culture and the things that make us relax and enjoy.”
Festival Secretary, Foluke Michael, said ‘Vision of the Child’ art contest took a different twist since 2012 with the incorporation of literary element to the contest, whereby contestants are required to write an essay or short story before illustrating it on canvas. She said so far, some 96 paintings have been collected at Lagos Black Heritage Festival Hall of Fame from paintings from the contest. Also, some 2,500 schools will be reached this year, with a road-show already in place.
Michael said the festival was at the forefront of bringing out the best in children, just as the children have shown a knack for astuteness in the way they handle given subjects each year, adding, “From what these children have shown so far, we have brains, skills, intellect here in Lagos. We’re creating a solid platform for young people who have no voice. Our children need to be mentored and trained today for us to realize our tomorrow”.
Michael disclosed that a top American IT company had seen the potential of the programme and was ready to get on board and be part of it.
Some of the children, who participated in last year’s contest, were available to narrate their experiences. In sum, they described their experience as ‘exciting, interesting, amazing’, while some ‘felt on top of the world’; yet others thanked Diamond Bank for sponsorship of ‘Vision of the Child’ contest that has given them a platform to put their artistic talent to good use. A past winner said his prize money was safely lodged in Diamond Bank account.
The bank, represented by its media official, Mr. Udoka Oguamanam, stated the bank’s excitement at helping to reaslise the vision of the child artists, and promised to continue its support for more children to be part of the ennobling vision.