For Evans Tochukwu, a 2019 Batch A corps member serving in Lagos, empowerment is a way of changing the attitude and potentials of individual’s, particularly the youth. His aim is to to positively re-direct their energy to gain control over their life no matter situation they find themselves.
In actualising this, he noted that there are different ways through which they can be empowered to achieve self-sustained national development instead of depending on government for provision of empowerment opportunities. One of such ways, the corps member said, is through skill acquisition, which will enhance their performance.
According to Tochukwu, this is possible when the culture of creative ideas is instilled in young people to make them productive and self-reliant members of the society, adding that the idea of an innovative interdisciplinary programme such as the soul art project is drawing upon creative expression, community experiences and academic research on art and photography.
“Skill empowerment is very essential for productivity and self-dependency; it gives an individual the ability to achieve self-development, self-actualization and self-fulfillment. This involves making them to create and produce goods and services that will help them economically,” he said.
Tochukwu explained that youth empowerment as an act of skill development signifies different creative measures of developing basic ideas through training in skills that are relevant to the social and economic survival of the nation. He added that in Nigeria, many youth live out the nightmare because of hardship, lack of empowerment, employment and inclusiveness within the society.
He stated that their imaginations, ideals, considerable energies and vision are neglected, not knowing that they are essential for the continuing development of the societies in which they live.
He further stated that skill acquisition as a means of youth empowerment has caught government’s attention in Nigeria for over two decades, stressing that this is so because it is believed that exposing youth in skill acquisition programs will reduce youth unemployment and enhance their self-sustenance.
“In view of this therefore, the Soul Art project is expected to imbibe in the youth the spirit of craftsmanship and entrepreneurship, which makes them job creators instead of job seekers. This project, seeks to empower young people economically through equipping them with relevant skills and knowledge in art and photography.
“My vision is to develop young people with equal opportunities to acquire a skill and realise their dreams and aspirations, irrespective of their background in order to optimize their contributions to national development,” he added.
According to the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) trained Mechanical Engineer turned hyper-realism artist, the Soul Art project is working towards developing the creative skills of the youths, especially secondary school students, so as to get them out of the cycle of poverty early. He added that this way, the project would be contributing towards addressing part of the millennium development goals and the nation’s vision 2020 objectives.
To bring this vision to reality, Tochukwu said his mission is to collaborate with stakeholders in youth development through all-inclusive framework that will ensure the empowerment of young people to acquire a skill in art and photography irrespective of their ethnic, religious and socio-economic background.
“So far, 50 students selected from Command Day Secondary School Oshodi have been trained and empowered to become productive citizens, though it wasn’t an easy task as the project has gulped about N1.5 million.
“My joy is that despite the pains and challenges, the project is taking shape, considering the purpose it is designed to serve for the society, hence it justifies the amount invested in the project.”
He continued: “I believe that by the end of the project timeline, with an exhibition at the school premises, there shall be significant positive changes in the lives of the beneficiaries, which shall cascade to the community and beyond,” he stated.
For the beneficiaries, he said, “They will take the skills they have learned during the workshop and run an outreach tagged The Art In You in the school, which will be a conceptual way to encourage other young people to discover themselves and what they can do to improve world.
“This will raise awareness about contemporary issues on our environment and give the artists an opportunity to share their new knowledge and skills. It will also provide a platform to utilize the methods they have learned to express concepts through their photography and art practices.”
On how he sourced the fund for executing the project, Tochukwu said it was through support from Gideon Nkwachi & Co, a chartered accounting firm based in Lagos and personal savings.
Commenting on what makes his kind of art unique, Tochukwu explained that he fuses technology into his drawings, adding that the use of electronic code in his jobs is a creative discovery that creates a link between art and technology.
He stated that one of the major highlights of this new innovation is that the drawings are encrypted with code, and no artist in the world has tried this out before.
“The quick response code was first drafted and encrypted in one of my that featured the revered clergyman and Senior Pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo. The unique thing about the drawing is that when you scan it, it automatically redirects you to the artist My Page or website, thereby making the art an electronic.”