“Everyone is born a winner if you just believe in it…” These lyrics by the well-known Nigerian music artist Teni were on the lips of Ejiofor Samson, a wood artist who, after six attempts, emerged as the winner of the Life in My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) 2022 .
The Life in My City Art Festival was launched in 2007 and is one of the many youth development initiatives sponsored by the MTN Foundation with the aim of positioning art as a resource for national development while empowering and developing young Nigerian visual artists encourage. With the theme “Paradox of Muted Echoes”, this year’s festival received over 250 art entries including paintings, graphic design, fashion and textile works, photography, sculpture etc. and only 100 art works made it beyond the regional exhibitions in 8 Nigerian cities (Abuja , Benin, Enugu, Ibadan, Lagos, Ondo, Port-Harcourt and Uyo).
In an exclusive interview with Netng’s Mercy Ihebom, LIMCAF 2022 Overall Champion Samson Ejiofor shared the inspiration behind his winning track, Cold Mineral Cold Purewater, and his journey to winning the ₦500,000 cash prize.
Born and raised in 9th Miles, Enugu State, Samson Ejifor, a native of Awka, Anambra State, began his artistic journey as a hobby. But with a burning desire to perfect his talent, he decided to study Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria in Enugu State, where he graduated with a major in Sculpture. As a child he created diverse works of art and was always enthusiastic about helping his classmates with their artistic tasks. Although his parents, who run a restaurant, objected to his decision to become an artist, he did not put his dreams on hold. In his words: “Growing up I did a lot of art, I designed some buildings with paper and made some money from it.” Shortly after graduating from high school, he began to devote himself full-time to art using wood as a medium.
While many see wood as a common material for making everyday furniture, Samson sees beyond that and has mastered the art of turning wood into unique and luxurious household items, some of which he has exhibited for exhibitions and sold to A-list Nigerian celebrities.
As someone who has attended six previous editions of the Life in My City Art Festival, Samson has enjoyed the attention that comes with doing your best. He won the Best Sculptor award at the 2019 Art Competition, which gave him the opportunity to be among the chosen few to travel to Senegal for the Dakar Biennial exhibition. Despite never reaching the LIMCAF finals since 2015, when he first attended the arts festival, he consistently competed and remained determined to one day emerge as a winner.
After surpassing more than 250 entrants in this year’s competition and bagging the sum of ₦500,000 for his sculpture, which took about two months to complete, he explained the idea behind Cold Mineral Cold Purewater.
Samson is one of those young Nigerians who hope for a better nation where our resources are used wisely and the system works. His search for answers as to why the country has deteriorated so much led him to include the giant question mark at the center of his artwork. In his words: “Cold, mineral, pure water has been a norm in Nigeria since we were children and nothing has changed until now.”
Aside from this piece, Samson says the most treasured piece of art from his collection is one with an image of abstract animals playing snooker on the Nigerian map. With the support and exposure he has received through the Life In My City Art Festival sponsored by the MTN Foundation, Samson will fulfill his dream of inspiring young people in his community through art. Like many other young Nigerians who have benefited from MTN Foundation youth empowerment initiatives, Samson is grateful for the opportunity to show his art to the world and remains grateful for the journey that led him to start the LIMCAF competition after six attempts to win.
In Samson’s books, self-development is the key to his growth. As a result, his desire to succeed as an artist does not end with winning the LIMCAF competition in 2022. He is now trying to improve his skills and meet with more renowned artists in Lagos and around the world to exchange ideas and one more to create remarkable works of art.