The head office of Diamond Bank located on Landbridge Avenue, Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos was enveloped in quietness on a sunny Thursday January morning. The reception area was a little busy when I arrived. The images of the past winners of the Vision of the Child (VOTC) arts competition were boldly displayed on the banners dotting the expansive space.
After registering my presence with the receptionist, I took the lift to the sixth floor. The brilliance of the paintings on display on easels hit me as I stepped out of the elevator. I moved from one piece to other savouring the perspective and the excellent use of colours by students who participated in the Vision of Child arts competition in the last four years.
And so our meeting that morning was to hear Professor Wole Soyinka announce the new topic for the 2016 edition of Vison of the Child arts competition.
In the past four years, VOTC had dwelt on different themes that stretched the imagination of children who participated in the competition. The first edition was held in 2013 with the theme: ‘The Thousand and One Faces of Corruption.’ 2014 and 2015 had the themes: ‘The Rule of Law and The Law of Impunity’ and ‘The Road To Sambisa’ respectively.
Everyone walked into the hall that Thursday morning in hush-hush tone waiting with baited breath to hear what the theme will be for 2016. As Professor Soyinka picked the microphone to speak, the atmosphere was tense. He heightened the anxiety when he paused for a few seconds before he let he cat out of the bag.
“Life isn’t all sweetness and light,” he began. “There’s ugliness and pain. It is always sad for me to remind children of the ugliness surrounding them. A child who is supposed to be in the ideal of light; that period of childhood is sacred. For this year it will be different. It is not about the gloom of the past.
“What we produce this year will be a part of the celebration of Lagos State 50th Anniversary next year. I want this to be a creative period of something cheerful. The theme for this year is: ‘Sisi Eko At 50: Aging Gracefully Or Na Soso Pancake.’”
Professor Soyinka further explained that he wants the children to expand their imagination. “I want to know what you will like to see about Sisi Eko At 50. You can even look back at the colonial history,” he said.
In her keynote address, Lagos State deputy governor, Oluranti Adebule said the Lagos State Government is proud to be associated with VOTC because it continues to promote children in learning about the environment around them.
“You have a unique opportunity to express your talent and understanding of the world you live in,” she told the students present at the gathering. “While expressing yourself, be open; ask questions and you will see how your talent will blossom. Do not pretend to know when you don’t.”
Uzoma Dozie, managing director, Diamond Bank, said his bank is proud to be associated with VOTC in an age where technology is changing the face of everything.
Jahman Anikulapo, coordinator, Black Heritage Festival who traced the history of VOTC in his opening address explained that VOTC which began in 2013 was established to encourage children creatively recreate the world around them as they view it.
The event was laced with poetic performance from winners of the 2015 VOTC literary competition.