34 — Vanguard, MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2019 Five Cowries Initiative launches creative arts education Program Five By Osa Mbonu-Amadi Call it the convergence of art, education, and water transportation in Lagos, and you would be absolutely right. That is what took place on 10 April 2019 at the official launch of Five Cowries Initiative’s 2019 theme, “My Story of Water”, at the Five Cowries Terminal, Falomo Roundabout, Ikoyi, Lagos. But what are the connections between art, education and water transportation? Founder of Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative, Polly Alakija, explains: “In my role as the chairperson of Lagos State Council for arts and culture, one of the conversations we have been having is how to bring arts and culture to a very broad audience. So that led to conversation about bringing arts into public arts infrastructure. Everyday there are 13 million commuters in Lagos State, and they may spend an average of 5 hours commuting. How do you make that commuting experience better for people? And one way of doing it is making that passage richer and more enjoyable, and what we can do is to bring arts into the infrastructure. “Around the world you have similar programs, you have art in airport; you have art in underground in London, in buses, and art in train stations. So that was the beginning of that conversation.” ‘My Story of Water’ offers an inclusive route to education; enhancing teaching skills in the State for positive educational and environmental outcomes. The launch brought together key stakeholders in the private sector, as well as government, education, art and civil society. In Lagos State alone, approximately 25% of children drop out at primary level and 60% do not complete secondary education. Ensuring that all children have access to education has the potential to transform lives and is a vital component in building the human capacity that is central to the State, and the country’s future economic development. To address this, the Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative (Five Cowries) was founded in 2018 by muralist, artist, educator and children’s book author, Polly Alakija with co-founders Yemisi Mokuolu [Director, Hatch Ideas] and Damilola Emmanuel [Managing Director, Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA)] in partnership with Teach For Nigeria, LASWA, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Jackson, Etti & Edu (Legal & IP Advisors) and africapractice (Communications Advisors). Five Cowries aims to offer an inclusive route to education that makes learning fun and improves school attendance and results by enhancing the quality and capacity of Arts Education and teaching skills in Lagos in order to have a positive impact on educational outcomes such as improved numeracy and literacy. Speaking further, Polly Alakija said “creativity is the currency of the future. Our initiative aims to fuse the 3Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) with the “4Cs” Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity, as we believe that a knowledge of how to use language creatively are vital tools in successful communication and collaboration”. Cowries is working closely with Teach for Nigeria to increase teacher capacity. As the first and only organization to partner young leaders from diverse academic backgrounds in an extended service initiative, Teach For Nigeria – delivery partner for the Five Cowries Initiative – recruits, trains and supports outstanding young leaders to teach in underserved schools, in low-income communities. Arts literacy is proven to help children to develop design thinking, enhance creativity, improve collaboration and develop critical thinking. It also acts as a strong mechanism for improving attendance rates, as interactive and visual teaching methods increase children’s engagement L-R: Yemisi Mokuolu, Co-founder, Five Cowries Initiative (and Director, Hatch Ideas); Ladi Lawanson, Honourable Commissioner for Transport, Lagos State; Steve Ayorinde, Honourable Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Lagos State; Polly Alakija, Founder, Five Cowries Initiative and Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, Managing Director, Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) at the 2019 launch of the Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative, held in Lagos. levels and so, desire to participate. The Five Cowries Initiative will help build the capacity of Teach For Nigeria Fellows to enhance the creative skills of their students. Chairman Teach for Nigeria, Gbenga Oyebode, in response to questions about the partnership, said, “Teach for Nigeria focuses on education and leadership; our aim is to close the gaps around educational inequities. We understand the impact of our activities on beneficiaries’ lives and are always on the look-out for new approaches for sustainable impact, which is why this partnership with Five Cowries Initiative is important”. How poetry, songs pulled down 30-year dictatorship in Sudan …the lessons there for Nigerian women, youths and the Army By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor From time unknown to man, the mass of society has been engaged in an endless war with some agents of Lucifer who attempt to, and often succeed in plundering it. Nevertheless, history is replete with examples of climes where the masses have organized themselves and overthrown the predatory governments of those plunderers. The latest example now is Sudan. What makes the revolution in Sudan special and of interest to the arts is that like the Biblical walls of Jericho which was blown down by trumpets, Sudan’s vicious dictator, Omar al-Balshir was chanted out of power with poems in the mouths of women and youths. The heroine of the revolution, 22- year old student of engineering and architecture, Alaa Salah, who •Alaa Salah addressing sudanese women protesters largely initiated the protest and led the struggle, said she went to ten different gatherings last Monday and read a revolutionary poem: “In the beginning, I found a group of about six women and I started singing, and they started singing with me, then the gathering became really big,” Salah recounted. She said the poem helped boost morale and inspired demonstrators. One line of the poem that generated the most reaction is: “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of people.” There are numerous lessons to learn from this monumental event. First is that no matter how long evil may last, it will one day be overthrown. So time has come for dictators, predators, plunderers and manipulators of the people to give up, repent and allow goodness and equity to prevail towards a better life for the people. The second lesson is for the Nigerian military. All dictatorial regimes in the world had been sustained by the country’s armed forces. The dictator or group of men had always collaborated and conspired with the military to plunder the resources of the country and hold its citizens to ransom as long as possible. The evil governments of Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin, Mobutu, Kabila, Sani Abacha, Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir, just to name a few, had all been vicious partners of the armed forces of those countries. Just like in the first lesson, the power of light always ultimately triumphs over the power of darkness. The military was invented to be the defender of the constitution and the lives and properties of the people, not dictators. Whenever the armed forces pitches tent with the dictator, it becomes an abuse of what it was created to do. The Sudanese Armed Forces may have been suppressing similar protests before, but this time, for whatever reasons, they did not suppress the female and youth protesters who used poetry and songs to chant out Omar al-Bashir. The Nigerian military, therefore needs to learn to be on the side of the people, and not on the side of a president who abuses his powers and rides roughshod on Nigerians. We also saw that there were no ethnic divisions among Sudanese protesters. The people stood as one to fight a common enemy. And because they were united, even the military was wary of them. Omar al-Bashir did not fall from space, neither was he a foreigner. He came from an ethnic group in Sudan, but that ethnic group did not match the street of Sudan in defence of their “witch hunted” brother. Nigerians must learn to unite, stand as one to fight their common enemies. Hunger, poverty and death as being presently experienced by Nigerians have no ethnic boundaries. A revolution will take place in any country the day the people of that country decide they are fed up. That is another important lesson for Nigerians. After 30 years of tolerating military dictatorship, Sudanese women and young people decided that their ‘mumu don do’ (that their stupidity and complacency have come to the brim). It can happen here also if we are truly fed up with being without electricity and of burning our hardearned money on fuel inside power generators; of being hungry and the poverty headquarter of the world; of being the 6th most miserable people in the world; of dying in the hands of Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and bandits; of plying on the worst roads in the world; of unemployment; of having illfunded schools and hospitals; and in fact, of living in a country where nothing works due to incompetent, corrupt and selfish leaders. There are also huge lessons for our women and Nigerian youths. About 70 percent of the protesters in Sudan who helped bring down Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule were women. Throughout history, women have been known to be powerful. The historically popular Aba Women Riots of 1929, a strategically executed anti-colonial revolt organized by women to redress social, political and economic grievances, is a testimony to that. Instead of endlessly whining over inconsequential issues and begging to be given more roles in government, women and young people who are hit hardest by the rot in Nigeria today can lead a protest and galvanize the country towards a lasting revolution. Salah’s iconic picture which went viral on the internet and became part of the last straw that broke the back of Omar al- Bashir’s 30-year dictatorship, was also taken by a woman, Lana H. Haroun, a pianist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, and photographer, completing the cycle of art and women-inspired Sudanese revolution.
Vanguard, MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2019 —35 Imminent River: An African enchantment & quest for long life formula By Ngozi Osu In this novel, Imminent River, written by Anaele Ihuoma, I wasn’t sure what to expect. From the title of the book, I imagined a story set on the banks of a great river, or perhaps a story about ‘living waters’ flowing through imaginary hills or cascading down imaginary terrain; a story that ebbed its way through dangerous and treacherous waters. With mermaids. Or big fish. Then I realised I was letting my imagination swim away with me. So I settled down to read. As I read the first chapter, I smiled and fastened my imaginary seatbelt. I realised this book was about to take me on a journey flowing through time... on a course with ceaseless tides, both high and low, strewn with endless currents of scheming and mindbending intrigue. I was enthralled. And I had 45 chapters and 316 pages of pure magic ahead of me. Imminent River by Anaele Ihuoma was about to change the course of time. Written in three parts, Imminent River takes us back in time to Africa in the early 19th Century. The book is set in the hinterlands of western Africa and opens with the detailed description of a traditional rural African community in which the protagonist, Daa-Mbiiway lives, giving us insight into what life was like during this period. She lives in a location thought to be in the environs of Ogidi, Onitsha and Asaba, located in the southeastern part of Nigeria, to be precise. Meticulously researched and written in fine detail, we encounter Daa-Mbiiway, the strong and resilient traditional healer who sets the pace for the book. A gentle middle-aged woman, her life is an embodiment of the African spirit, of harmony with nature, of perseverance and determination, typical of the indigenous African traditional healer that she was. More importantly, she had developed a medicinal formula for longevity which only she could pass on to a chosen one. At first, one would think Daa- Mbiiway is the only protagonist in this captivating book – and indeed she is, in a manner of sorts, as she features throughout the main thrust of the story. However, just as we are captivated by her life and calling, the plot takes a twist and we are almost thrown into another story within the story. It is the early 19th Century; Daa-Mbiiway is attacked by slavers whilst walking through the forest and disappears. Now the real intrigue begins. And this is what makes Imminent River fascinating. Fact, fiction and fantasy interwoven to create a story that reads so real. As we read the first part of the book, we are taken aback as the author gives lucid details of encounters with dreaded slave traders as they terrify people in their villages; the petrifying slave raids on communities, and the anguish of those captured and sold into slavery, and their journey into captivity across the great waters of the Atlantic Ocean into a strange, new and frightening world. It is a gruesome tale. The horrific details are heart-wrenching, but they are also clear facts. These were the horrors our ancestors experienced. This was their terror. Man’s inhumanity to man. It makes us pause, think and decide that this must never happen again, as we strive to make our world a better place, where we can all live in peace and unity. But where is Daa-Mbiiway? And what has become of the longevity formula she developed? Did the longevity formula even exist? The plot thickens. Enter Jesse and Opuddah, Daa-Mbiiway’s principal apprentices. Enter also Daa- Mbiiway’s two sons Chimenam and Dioti-Ojioho, brothers in arms but enemies at heart, both in search of the longevity formula. Despite their scheming and devious plans, they were getting nowhere near the formula, which we later learn, is encoded in Nsibidi text. Why was it so important to them? And what was the significance of the mystical river given to Chimenam, by his father? So we set sail into Part Two. Imminent River is not just a story about mystical fantasy and conspiracies. There’s the delicate blend of the beauty and splendour of rich African culture that features throughout the book, channelling its course and irrigating the story with the freshness and ambience of Africa. We meander through traditional African society showcasing cultural festivals with captivating dances, music and masquerades: traditional African society in all its grandeur. And it is beautiful. We experience the highlights of everyday activities such as farming, hunting and trade, and are enchanted by ceremonies, customs and traditions especially those pertaining to marriage, child-birth and the naming of a new-born child. Our rich African culture and heritage portrayed in such glowing words. And in some places, poetry. Even the fantasy felt real as I was transfixed with the adventures of Wopara, Ezemba’s father and his incredible journey into the rain forest. This is our Africa in all its glory. Proud. In Imminent River, I was transported into the midst of the community and I felt as if I was part of their lives. I felt their joy and pain, and even blushed reading the love story between the village beauty Agbonma and the handsome Ezemba, Daa- Mbiiway’s great-grandson. As we read on, we see the unity in families and how communities shared a common goal: to be your brother’s keeper. The burden or concerns of a family are shared, as family and friends always come to help, no matter the situation. And when a child is born, everyone rejoices; when there is death, everyone mourns. This is our life as Africans, and Anaele Ihuoma writes it well. Imminent River is a story that flows from the heart. As we delve deeper into the book, we find a very delicate underlying theme of kinship, fellowship and friendship; the bedrock for living together in peace and unity, no matter the creed, colour or circumstance. This is the strength from togetherness that creates a support system; it is a concept of brotherly love. We see it in the bond between Daa-Mbiiway and her adopted daughter Edidion; we see it in the love story between Agbonma and Ezemba, and in the relationship between Ezemba and his childhood friend and business partner, Jindu. Even the people captured and sold into slavery are able to stand strong together. The message is clear: No matter whom we are or where we are, we can overcome all odds with love, trust and understanding. Interestingly, Imminent River also has little pockets of humour delicately deposited around some rather amusing characters in the book, bringing out their personalities with often comical effects. The scene with the bungling policeman, who lost his job for his apparent idiocy, and his hen-pecking wife, will leave you in stitches. And there’s the baby called ‘Swivel’ simply because she was placed in a swivel chair after she was kidnapped; I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. The scenes with Pa Oleka? Hilarious! On the other hand, one thing that stands out in the book is the large number of characters. Traversing from the early 19th Century into the 20th Century, it is almost tasking to keep track of everyone, who they are and who they are related to. There seems to be so much happening, with so many people, almost all the time. However, as the book unfolds, the characters become clearer and as the narrative develops, we see their importance and the roles they play in bringing the story together, like tributaries feeding a larger watercourse. As we go into the third part of Imminent River, the story cascades in the 20th Century. Ezemba continues the quest to find his great-grandmother’s longevity formula with new twists and turns, and a new adversary on his tail: High Chief Ojionu, a distant cousin. This is where the story climaxes and an impending stream of devious conspiracies and disloyalties unfurl. Now I am at the edge of my seat, spellbound. My heart is pounding furiously and I can only imagine how the story ends. I wasn’t prepared for what came next. Ezemba, with all his wit and strength, is thrown off guard by High Chief Ojionu. How could this happen? And what has become of the longevity formula? Yet there is respite, as an impending river of gushing living waters springs into existence - eventually everything falls into place. Just as a river flows and ebbs with its high tides and low tides, so does life with its trials and triumphs, and this is the current that pulsates in Imminent River. For Daa-Mbiiway, Ezemba and his wife Agbonma, and the incredible African-Americans, descendants of their West African ancestors sold into slavery centuries ago, the end certainly justifies the means. In Imminent River, Anaele Ihuoma tells a brilliant story of perseverance and endurance, of determination and resilience that leads to a victory against all odds. Often laced with lavish poetry, it is a riveting story that climaxes in one main theme: it’s never over until it’s done. Imminent River is a delightful read as authentic Africa meets fantasy, fact and fiction to create an unforgettable tale. DIDI Museum celebrates 50 with Journey to Mastery exhibition By Prisca Duru Owner of the first indigenous museum in Nigeria, The Desert Warrior, Chief Newton Jibunoh, is in a celebration mood as DIDI Museum turns golden. A lot of activities including an arts exhibition titled, “Journey to Mastery” have been put in place to celebrate the Museum’s 50 years of excellence in support of the art and culture sector. “Journey to Mastery” is curated by two of Dr Jibunoh’s children: Ifeoma Dozie and Ceejay Jibunoh. It features two artists, Uche Edochie and Ayoola who will be exhibiting eleven works each. And to spice up the show, works collected by DIDI Museum for 6 decades will also be on display. While works by Edozie and Ayoola will be up for sale, those by DIDI will only be available to relive memories about the good old days and also to make a statement regarding how far the industry has come in terms of efforts made at promoting artists and their works. The exhibition which opens on the 18 April 2019 and runs till the 27th is expected to be graced by eminent art grand masters and others who have benefited from Chief Jibunoh as a notable collector. Speaking at a press conference heralding the event, the Desert Warrior said “works of 6 decades will be on display and I must say that the press has played wonderful role in promoting activities of DIDI Museum as well as in letting Nigerians know that we have beautiful works by beautiful artists.” Reliving memory about how it all began Chief Jibunoh said, “I began collecting works 60 years ago but decided to set up the Museum 50 years ago. I was faced with the question of how I was going to ensure that the museum outlives me. It was a huge one considering the kind of system we operate in. Even collecting works was not easy but I had good understanding with artists like Bruce Onabrakpeya. I think today, with what you’re seeing here, that question is being answered. I did not force my children to create this show, they came to me and said they would like to put up the exhibition to celebrate DIDI’s 50th anniversary. At first I saw it as a marathon but now I see it as a relay race and I have successfully handed over the baton to them.” The co-curator, Ifeoma Dozie said, “This is a celebration of the Journey of DIDI Museum in the collection and preservation of African Art that spans over six decades and a celebration of the journey of self-expression, engagement, discovery and poetic narration the two artists have embarked on over the years.” On why Chief Jibunoh’s children are curating his show, Ifeoma explained that “it is only natural that Newton Jibunoh’s children are curating this show as we were born and raised surrounded by art. Paintings and sculptures were our tapestry, our visual stimuli, our entertainment and stories. Growing up, DIDI Museum was our home, artists were our friends and artists’ studios were our playground. Art is in our DNA.” •From left: Uche Edochie; Chief Newton Jibunoh; the curators, Ifeoma Dozie, Ceejay Jibunoh and Ayoola at the press briefing in Lagos.PIC: DIDI PIC.