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This is why 11 people took art into the Ikoyi Prison

The conventional way of getting artworks to the public is to get a facility, invite art lovers and persons with the financial muscle to purchase the art items off the shelf. However, for Clara Aden – real name Elizabeth Omolara Adenugba – using art for humanitarianism is the ‘real deal’.

Clara Aden, in a rather maverick manner, caught our attention when she and a group of others under the umbrella of Beyond Borders Artists Association of Nigeria (BBAAN) decided to take their art to Ikoyi Prison, Lagos, for an exhibition.

BBAAN was established in April 2017 after a 3-day workshop themed ‘Art For Peace’ organised by the UFUK Dialogue Foundation and Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF), where Omooba Yemisi asked the participating artists to endeavour to give back to the society by adding value to the community.

Talking about the collaboration, Clara said Omooba insisted that artists should not just be known for selling their artworks to the wealthy but to show that they can also be involved in contributing to the society.

“Why don’t you go to the correctional centre (in Oregun) and organise an art workshop with the children over there,” Omooba said. Clara added that he was impressed with the impact the people who came earlier had on the children.

“That was how we started our humanitarian project,” Clara said.

But they wanted to extend these humanitarian efforts to a prison and despite the negative comments, they proceeded.

With this in mind, she visited the Ikoyi Prison to intimate them of their plans. During the meeting, prison officials were taken aback and surprised but later bought the idea of an exhibition and invited Clara and her team over three days later.

“I was so surprised because many people said it is going to be tough doing something like that in a prison but the prison officials did not stress us at all. In fact, they received us very well,” the visual artist said, adding that the prison psychologist had been thinking of inculcating a similar idea within the prison walls.

For her and the ten (10) other facilitators, the joy of being able to have an exhibition in a prison was beyond explanation, “an experience that you can only comprehend yourself.”

The 3-day exhibition held on October 17-19, 2018, beginning at 10am and as Clara highlighted, the inmates displayed a considerable amount of excitement over the fact that someone had thought of extending an artistic hand to them.

BBAAN says it will not stop at the exhibition as it intends to continue teaching the prisoners on how to draw and paint. Therefore, there will be a schedule, in collaboration with the psychological unit at the Ikoyi Prison, where there will be a drawing and painting workshop series. The series is to ensure that the prisoners are conscious that they are in a correctional facility and not in a place of punishment.

Find more details about the facilitators and the sponsors for the Ikoyi Prison exhibition themed “Beyond Prison” below:

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