Kids paint Everyday Lagos

Art by Oha Jessica: “My painting is about the good and bad things of Lagos…We need to improve on the bad things.”

[By Pelu Awofeso]

When you give school kids aged 8-12 pencil, oil and paper and ask them to paint their impressions of a city, the nature and the scope of what they produce may surpass all expectations, sometimes even cause viewers to gasp. That is what has happened for five years in a row at the “Vision of the Child”  competition, hosted as part of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival since 2012.

“I was impressed by the quality of the works last year, said festival coordinator Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka during the 2014 edition. “I wanted to challenge them to do more. Basically, let’s see how these kids look at us.”

Art by Oluchukwu Njoku Chukwuma: “My painting talks about Lagosageing gracefully. The woman is Sisi Eko and the children by her are people from different ethnic groups. The umbrella shows that she is accommodating of these various groups. The map they are standing on shows that they are in Lagos. The skyscrapers beautify Lagos.”

And, to the surprise of everyone, the kids have shown that they know the environment they are being raised in. Over the course of the competitions, the young participants have painted a commentary somewhat that reflects every aspect of Nigerian life, from corrupt politicians and policemen to economic downturn and ritual killings.

“The kids really understand the theme,” says renowned artist Tola Wewe, one of the contest’s judges. “They know what is happening in Nigeria…they understand the political situation in the country.”


Art by Fadeyi Abisola: “On the right side, you will see smooth road, skyscrappers and a neat Lagos. On getting into lagos, this is what you see–the good side; but when you get deep inside, what you see is what I show on the left–flooded areas, beggars, potholes and so on. This is the true Lagos.”

Back in 2012 Foluke Goerge, the competition’s coordinator, didn’t think the kids could interpret such complex themes as: The Rule of Law and Law of Impunity.

“I saw the mind of a child interpreting Nigeria,” she says in a documentary produced by the organisers. “The children have blown our minds.”

The theme for this year’s competition, the fifth in the series, is: Sisi Eko at 50: Ageing Gracefully, or Na So So Pancake, chosen to fit into the 50th anniversary celebrations of the creation of Lagos State in 1967.

Art by Leonard Ikemjika Mary: “There are five boats in the painting with numbers on them (10,20,30,40,50). The first four show how Lagos has struggled through the difficulties and challenges to become what it is now. The last boat represents Lagos at 50, having learnt her mistakes and is amending it. It is the beggest of the boats, because it is modernised.”

Out of 500+ entrants/ participants, drawn from schools across the state, 50 finalists were shortlisted for their brilliant interpretation of the theme. The judges have since awarded the top winners for this year’s  competition at a dinner inside the Civic Centre on 27 May (Children’s Day), the event symbolically serving as the official kickoff for the year-long Lagos @ 50 celebrations.

Taking a tour of the paintings, here is our selection of some of the most thoughtful interpretations of the theme. See if you can make sense of the selection (including the two above)

Art by Abdul Wasud Bakare: “My painting is about the transportation of Lagos in the past 50 years and how it is now. The Lagos of yesterday is a mess, where cars and buses were parked recklessly; Lagos now uses BRT transportation.”
Art By Christopher Amoa: “The woman crying in my painting is the old Lagos, she was begging for improvement and asking for change, for riches and wealth; the other woman smiling is joyous. She is robust and shows no sign of poverty. For me, Lagos is ageing gracefully with pride and grace, not in shame and pretense.”
Art by Ganthonu Mawuton: “The sisi eko (Lagos Lady) in my painting represents everyone in Lagos. The cross in front of her are the staff of Eyo masquerade; they represents her hand and it shows her happiness. The sekere and talking drum are musical instruments used when celebrating her 50th birthday…”
Art by Babatunde Raphael: “The bus represents Lagos/ Sisi Eko, a beautiful woman with a colourful pancake to hold her beauty from decaying. The load on the bus represents the problems in Lagos, such as stealing, etc…”
Art by Jiboku Increase: “My work is about a major masquerade called Eyo. It is one of the oldest festivals in Lagos.”
Art by Amosun Abraham: “The woman represents Sisi Eko. The musical instrument is used to celebrate her birthday. The skyscrapper and huts show the high and low sides of Lagos. And the water shows that lagos is surrounded by water.”
Winner of the 2016 painting competition, Emmanuel Richard, standing by his work