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The ambience was both colourful and moody. The drama, music and dance, though entertaining, evoked raw emotions in the audience.

It was the third edition of Rainbow Art programme, an event that tells the story of a pandemic that killed over 2,500 Nigerians from an entirely different perspective. In fact, it was a visual summary of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Gallery of Art (NGA) organised the programme, which involved 47 primary and secondary schools within the Federal Capital Territory and its environs. It was themed, ‘A Cultural Perspective on the Impact of COVID-19.’

Held at the auditorium of the Cyprian Ekwensi Centre for Arts and Culture, visitors to the show were thrilled by the youngsters’ performances.

The event was full of different activities including dance and drama, debate, bead-making, hat and dressmaking, face painting and balloons, art competition and literary sessions.

Many of the artistic displays, especially music and dance incorporated key COVID-19 messages, encouraging Nigerians to adhere to health protocols, including promoting personal hygiene, hand washing, constant use of face mask and hand sanitisers.

The paintings and drawings by the young Nigerians reflected losses experienced by many during the pandemic, and loneliness felt some, while others depicted longed-for social scenes from a pre-pandemic era.

The students also showed their creative skills in the use of paper, beads and strings among others to create items like, handbags, and shoes, among others.

In his welcome remarks, Director General, NGA, Ebeten Ivara, stated that the programme was designed and dedicated to children to harness their inner potential in expressing their capabilities in visual and creative arts.

While observing that the theme was chosen to showcase the global economy through the eyes of children, Ivara said it was also targeted at informing citizens to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted and affected cultures and continents on a global level.

He said: “COVID-19 has brought to light the difficulty of maintaining safe spaces of negotiation in moments of crisis. The pandemic crisis has revealed the economic inequalities in our societies and with it the experience that we are not all in the same boat. Being aware of this peculiar context we need to foster cultural participatory approaches that are able to consider social, political and economic diversities.”

The NGA boss maintained that the responsibility of the gallery was to advocate for culture, especially in the pandemic era.

According to him, the events will proffer solutions to pandemic crisis, mental health problems, social disconnection and isolation.

“Children as we all know cannot be left out in our day-to-day activities as they have greater role to play in finding solution to any problem by harnessing their innate talent to express how the pandemic has affected their ways of life be it through painting, drawing, dance, folktales and the likes,” he added.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described the theme as apt in view of the devastating effect of COVID-19 on the socio-economic and cultural aspects of human life.

Represented by a staff in the ministry, Ugochi Akudo-Nwosu, the minister noted that out of many different pandemics experienced at various times in history, COVID-19 is considered as one of the most devastating global health calamities of the century.

Mohammed revealed that the government, in partnership with stakeholders, had introduced several measures to checkmate the spread of the pandemic. “The objective of this laudable programme, I believe, is to compliment the various efforts of government through unlocking creativity to create awareness to the children about the reality of the pandemic, its effects and efforts towards curtailing the disease on a global level.

“The awareness to be created by this programme will educate the public about the myths and misinformation about the pandemic, among other issues which are being disseminated by the social media,” the minister stated.

Also speaking, Cultural Officer of Chinese Embassy, Wang Guiping, described the programme as timely, noting that it exposes culture as a necessary protocol aimed at reaching out to the grassroots and disseminating information necessary to fight COVID-19.

Maintaining the pandemic’s the impact of the COVID-19 on the cultural sector is being felt around the world, Guiping added: “This impact is social, economic and political. It affects the fundamental right of access to culture, the social rights of artists and creative professionals, and the protection of a diversity of cultural expressions.”

He, therefore, called for collaboration between stakeholders to overcome all the difficulties caused by the pandemic.
Director, Educational Services, NGA, Evelyn Otaigbe, stressed that the importance of the programme was to find out how pandemic has affected the children from their own cultural perspective.

According to her, the best way to achieve such target was through art. “We need to look how the pandemic has affected the children from their own cultural perspective and culture and visual art is the best way to do this. Culture is the best for the children to express themselves,” she stated.

On her part, Assistant Chief Education Officer of NGA, Mrs. Ononugbo Julie, said that the programme was designed in seven sessions, which include arts competition, folk tale, cultural exchange, arts-making, bead-making, and others.

“During the session, students are allowed to participate in any session of their choice, helping them to acquire skills.

“We have competitions in different branches of arts. At the end of the session, we have winners in different categories – first, second and third position in all seven sessions.

“Participating students will benefit by going home with a certificate and gift,” she added.

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