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‘Use your art to advocate for social change in your community, country’

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  • February 22, 2024
  • 5 min read
‘Use your art to advocate for social change in your community, country’

* Ajai-Lycett, Ogosi, Anikulapo inspire change-agents

By Editor

ON Saturday, February 17, 2024, Unchained Vibes Africa (UVA) graduated 11 participants of the 2023/2024 edition of UVA Freedom Vibes Academy out of the initial 16 selected artists for the programme. Participants comprised young and emerging socially conscious artists who were drawn from the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.

The graduation ceremony was the grand finale of a year-long academy programme which began on January 16, 2023, at the Adumaadan Gallery in Magodo GRA Phase 2, Lagos. The opening ceremony attracted the crème-de-la-crème in the Nigerian creative space, including renowned human right lawyers, experts and artistes such as Eedris Abdulkareem, Seun Kuti, Norbert Young, Kolawole Oluwadare, Cynthia Mbamalu, Dr. Tunji Sotimirin, to mention but a few. They facilitated different sessions for three consecutive days.

However, the special guest of honour at the graduation ceremony was the grand dame of the Nigeria’s stage and screen, Mrs. Taiwo Ajai-Lycett (OON). She spoke in superlative terms about the great works the UVA team has been executing since inception, and specifically lauded them for the unalloyed commitment to the protection of artistic freedom of expression which is a component of freedom of speech.

Other notable attendees included legendary musician, talent scout and music producer, Emma Ogosi, culture communicator and programme chair, Committee for Relevant Art, CORA), Jahman Anikulapo, Assistant Arts Editor of The Nation, Ozolua Uhakheme, Art Correspondent of ThisDay, Yinka Olatunbosun, and Art Correspondent for The Guardian Nigeria, Florence Utor. Also present were 17 others, comprising the UVA team, while 15 attendees, including the current academy graduates and four alumni members joined virtually.

UVA Executive Producer, Mr. Ayodele Ganiu later announced winners of Freedom Vibes Academy Awards where he revealed the best graduating participants and their selected projects. Earlier, the graduating students of the academy had their project briefing session on the final day of the Academy Monthly Mentoring Session held in January. The process was envisioned to enlighten and to guide them on international best practices concerning project management models, compelling initiative proposals and creative ethics of project development for cultural advocacy, and to open a window of opportunity for them to pitch professional project proposals to UVA.

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UVA Head of Programmes, Mr. Samuel Osaze (left); UVA Executive Producer, Mr. Ayodele Ganiu; Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lyxett; musician, Mr. Emma Ogosi; UVA Head of Research and Advocacy, Shola Alamutu and culture communicator, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo

While making the announcement, Ganiu said, “In January 2023, 16 artists were brought together for a 3-day in-person training workshop in Lagos where they met and interacted with renowned and accomplished veteran artists, human rights lawyers, civil society organization leaders, experts in cultural policies who were facilitators. The facilitators shared their knowledge and experience on techniques and best practices in leveraging the power of art for effecting positive social change.”

UVA Executive Producer said participants remotely benefited from virtual mentoring sessions with other accomplished veterans in the local and international creative and cultural sectors, including the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, stressing, “the participants who satisfied the minimum requirements of attendance, academy task, active engagements on the academy themes and submission of a viable project proposal were graduated in line with the UVA guidelines. After a careful and rigorous review of participants’ overall performance, 11 artists out of the initial 16 that were selected, have successfully completed the Academy.”

He stated further that out of the 11 graduating participants, four distinguished themselves for their outstanding performances, revealing that the four winners would be contracted to work with UVA on their proposed projects as part of Freedom Vibes advocacy. The four outstanding participants, who were awarded contracts are Tijani Usman (aka Tijay Webster) who emerged overall best graduating participant with the highest score of 84.8 per cent and awarded N500,000 project funds, Shekwoyemi Kure (aka Love Kure) as second best graduating participant scoring 84.5 per cent and got N400, 000 project fund, Aminu Mukhtar (Aaka Aminu Nasara), who came third best graduating participant, scored 58.3 per cent and got N300, 000 project fund While the fourth best graduating participant Isah Mik’ail Isah (aka Classy Dorayi), scored 53.8 per cent but lost the project funds award of the sum of N200,000 to the eligible fifth best graduating participant Abdulbasit Abubakar (aka AB Wordsmith) who scored just 46.0 percent.

The stage and screen matriarch, journalist, TV personality, feminist and culture advocate, Ajai-Lycett (OON)) on Saturday, February 17, 2024 deployed her oratory skills to inspire and acknowledge the resilience and tenacity of UVA Freedom Vibes Academy graduating students. The grand dame stressed, “Advocacy for social change is very important as conscious artists and change agents. I am encouraging you all to go out there and change our world, transform our country through your works.”

In the same vein, Mr. Anikulapo charged the graduating participants to use their artworks to contribute to the development of their community, adding, “If you are not making any change in your society or community, you have failed as an artist.” Similarly, Ogosi charged the outgoing participants to love what they do as artists and social advocates, noting, “I am where I am today because I love what I do as a musician.”

The best graduating participant of UVA Freedom Vibes Academy 2023/2024 Tijani Usman, expressed delight and appreciation for the lifetime opportunity given to him by the organization. He commended UVA for the rare privilege to be educated on democratic principles and how to channel his artistic energies towards social causes. The four members of the Freedom Vibes Academy Alumni who joined the graduation ceremony virtually also gave words of encouragement to the graduates and charged them to work hard by using their arts for social change in the country and beyond.

Unchained Vibes Africa is a cultural organization and social enterprise committed to developing arts and culture projects geared towards social causes. Its mission is to leverage the power of the arts to promote civic education, human rights, cultural diversity, and the spirit of solidarity in Africa. For more information about Unchained Vibes Africa, please visit www.unchainedvibesafrica.com.

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