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Sesu Tilley-Gyado, winner of the 2013 edition of the National Art Competition

Residents savour new forms at the grand finale of the National Art Competition held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, Akeem Lasisi of The Punch writes.

Applause engulfed the hall, but the winner could not run to the podium to collect her trophy. Seconds passed, she did not jump forward, making the crowd to wonder if she was not at the venue. But she was there. The fact was that she was so pleasantly shocked that she had to hold her breath and gather herself together before mounting the stage of honour that sheer talent earned her.

This is the story of Sesu Tilley-Gyado, winner of the 2013 edition of the National Art Competition organised by the African Artists Foundation and sponsored by Nigeria Breweries Plc. Tilley-Gyado made history on November 29 when she beat 11 other finalists drawn from different parts of the country.

She thus received N2m, plus a solo show at the AAF and a round trip, three-night stay at Hilton Hotel, Dubai, UAE. The winner of the ‘Outstanding Concept’ category of the competition got N1m; while winner of ‘Outstanding Production’ Victoria Udondi also got a million naira.

Tilley-Gyado’s joker is i-dentiTrees, an installation that brings artistic representations of communications mast, electricity poles, billboards and other related objects into an arguably choking space.

On the background to the work, she notes that the Nigerian identity has been written about and portrayed by outsiders for ages. However, the recent technological advances on the information age have empowered urban Nigerians to competitively export their own stories and define themselves for the first time in the global space.

Tilley-Gyado adds, “I explore how i-dentiTrees information age trees of modern Nigerian city spaces inform and express Nigerian identities within paradigms of information technology, telecommunications and capitalism.”

Generally, most of the contestants went radical – if not crazy – in their interpretation of the theme – ‘Identity: Who do you Think you are’.

At the end of the day, the judges, led by Prof. El Anatsui, rated Tilley-Gyado’s pice as the best – although El Anatsui noted that the non-conformist nature of many of the works made the judges disagree to agree. As result, she won the package from NBL, which also included facilitating a solo exhibition and an all expenses paid trip to Dubai.

So overwhelmed was the winner that after receiving the award, she could not hold back tears as relatives, friends and other well wishers embraced her continually.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Breweries, Nicholas Verveide, said the competition was part of a broad spectrum of initiatives geared towards the company’s vision of winning with Nigeria.

He added, “This can be observed through our support for education, water and health across the country. In the past three years, Nigerian Breweries has built and renovated classrooms, libraries and donated books to over twenty schools across Nigeria.

“In the same period, we have created, funded, constructed and donated boreholes in several communities in addition to a number of health sector interventions carried out through the Heineken Africa Foundation. Our Youth Empowerment and Talent Development programmes which include the Creative Writing Workshop, the Gulder Ultimate Search reality show and the Golden Pen Awards amongst others, also enhance creativity.”

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