BY: VITALIS UGOH Calabar,
A group of artists in Cross River state have unveiled the largest canvas paintings in Africa tagged “Calabar Peace Project”.
Speaking at the occasion of the organisers of the event, Mr. Timothy Undiendeye said the idea for the project was conceived in December 2020 when few artists came together to review the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country and the world at large.
“We saw that it went beyond the health implications, financial implications while many countries went into recession and there was also sychological implications of Covid. There was a rise in the number of domestic violence and before we knew it, the violence transformed itself into something else such as EndSars protest which was hijacked by hoodlums and its resultant effects, he said”.
According to him, “so you are here today either because you love arts, you love culture or you are passionate about Calabar. For some of us, arts is something that has always been inside of us and we practice it as a way of expressing creativity. But there are some people who are on the other side who are not artists but they can appreciate them. I want to say that, those are the real and most important people. Because without the audience, there is no exhibition”.
He recalled also that “for the first time since 2014 our beautiful city of Calabar could not hold the Calabar Carnival . It was as a result of the interplay of all these facts. In fact, there was not costumes. The insecurity and high rate of kidnapping was getting out of hands. There is a curfew now in the state beginning10pm to 6pm daily. So we can then appreciate the situation in our hands”.
Undiendieye further said “we were all discussing all these creativity and said lets do something. It all started like a pack of four,10 to 24. This is how we started. Every one that is seated here today is as a result of the chain reaction of our meetings. This is what we can do to strengthen our communities. It involves alot of social issues that we are just using arts to open up the narrative. Arts is a potent tool”.
Operating under the name “Artists for Social Good Foundation” (AFSGF), he noted, that Cross River has always been the first in many ways. The very First Christian mass was held here in Calabar while Hopewaddell is one of the continents oldest institutions of learning also here in Calabar. We are first in alot of other ways”.
“We are just using this as a way of solving so many problems in our communities.We are not just about a group of artists, we are a group of people . We cannot do this alone without you people in the community, traditional institution and the youths, he further stated”.
He lauded all the guests that have honoured their invitation during the unveiling of the canvas paintings.
Delivering a lecture at the occasion, a Frontline politician and one time Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Etubom Arc. Bassey Ndem, who laudedI the efforts of the artists, called on well spirited individuals and corporate organization to support the project.
“Apart from money, which is needed, it could be anything from the provision of foodstuffs to purchasing the art and craft that the street kids will produce or even making this project go viral and trend on the social media handles, he added”.
Ndem also used the opportunity to commend the visionary and dynamic governor, Senator Prof. Ben Àyade who he said appreciate the power of Art as he had directed the refurbishment of the Urban Art in our roundabouts and public spaces”.
Therefore, he said, “The Calabar Peace Project needs to formally seek to engage the relevant state government agency to lead them to the federal agencies that could be of tremendous help to them to successfully drive this laudable project”.
He also called all tiers of governments in the state and federal to give their maximum support and encourage the project and the creative minds behind it. It could be by providing an important public space for its display, security, publicity, venue for the training of the street kids, training materials, equipment, consumables and so on”.
He described the event as special because it represents an attempt by an often igorned segment of developing society, the Artists, to intervene in the lives of the most vulnerable, the “street children”, in a practical and meaningful manner that will touch their individual lives and that of the community”.
According to him, “for too long, we all have lived under the illusion that government can do it all, to the extent that we have abandoned our civic responsibilities and even our duty of care to our fellow citizens”.
“Beyond this, we must acknowledge that civic engagement brings additional benefits that may be intangible but have very strong impact on the community. He asked, how do you build a sense of togetherness, patriotism or even nationalism?, It is also by projects like the Calabar Peace Project”.
“This magnificent painting has been done by young Cross Riverians who come from across the state, from Obudu all the way to Bakassi. They have shown us the power and potential of young Cross Riverians who are bursting with energy and simple yearñing for an opportunity and the enabling environment to rise and shine”.
The painting, he said, is a communal effort and is also the largest paiñting on canvass in Africa, showing that our visionary artists have also grasped the power of superlatives.
This event, he said, “is a public coup of the highest order which cannot be bought with money”.
His lecture was on “Strenghtening Communities Through Civic Engagement”.
Also speaking, the Managing Director Of Sparkling FM, Mr. Effiong Nyong in his lecture entitled”The Role of Arts in Social Engineering” laudedI the artists for coming together to put up the largest canvass painting in the whole of Africa.. It is not surprising that it has to be in this city of Calabar
He appreciated the fact that arts has its origin from Africa. If you look at the Egyptian writings as recorded in history you will infact acknowledge the fact that arts has been with us from all time.
Nyong said, “If you look at the tradition of the Efiks and all of the writings of it, the signs, the dance, the understanding and the interpretations and the chronicle of history, is all expressed in arts. If you look at the city and look at the masquerades, the colours and its combinations, the music, the dance, expressions, how it resonates with drum interpretation it shows that the masquerades understands what the drums are saying. All of these are the functions of the arts. Our different dialects can also be expressed in art”.
“Arts is the only language that cuts across culture and traditions. History is arts. Arts represents the story, history, humanity and mankind and we cannot separate ourselves from arts”.
“As a tool for social engineering, he said, how do we galvanise our young people through arts. Arts transcends barriers through music, dance, drama, writing, painting and through representation. All of these are works of arts. The convey messages from artists and so we need to support the arts. When we support arts we support history and at the same time telling our own story, he noted”.
Earlier, Representatives of the Commissioners for Information and Orientation and Culture and Tourism had pledged their support and cooperation at all times.
The Calabar Peace Project was unveiled by His Royal Highness, Muri of the Efut Uwanse, His Royal Highness Muri Francis Effaih and men of his cabinet in the admiration of other invited special guests at the occasion.