“Everybody’s born a winner, if only you just believe…” These lyrics by popular Nigerian music artiste, Teni were on the lips of Ejiofor Samson, a woodwork artist who after six attempts, emerged as the winner of the Life in My City Art Festival (LIMCAF) 2022.

Established in 2007, the Life in My City Art Festival is one of the many youth development initiatives sponsored by the MTN Foundation with the goal of positioning art as a resource for national development while empowering and encouraging young Nigerian visual artists. With the theme, ‘Paradox of Muted Echoes,’ this year’s festival received over 250 art entries, which included paintings, graphic designs, fashion and textile works, photography, sculptures, etc., and only 100 art pieces made it beyond the regional exhibitions held in 8 Nigerian cities (Abuja, Benin, Enugu, Ibadan, Lagos, Ondo, Port-Harcourt, and Uyo).

In an exclusive interview with Netng’s Mercy Ihebom, Samson Ejiofor, the overall winner of the LIMCAF 2022, shared the inspiration behind his winning piece, “Cold Mineral Cold Purewater,” and his journey to winning the ₦500,000 cash prize.

Born and raised in 9th Miles, Enugu State, Samson Ejifor, an indigene of Awka in 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, Enugu State, where he graduated as a Sculpture major. As a kid, he create diverse works of art and was always enthusiastic about helping his classmates with their creative arts assignment. Although his parents who run a restaurant business kicked against his decision to be an artist, he did not shelve his dreams. In his words, “I made a lot of artwork while growing up, I designed some buildings with paper and made some money from it.’ Shortly after graduating from school, he began to practice art full-time using wood as his medium. 

While many see wood as a common material used for the production of everyday furniture, Samson sees beyond that and has mastered the art of transforming wood into unique and luxury household pieces, some of which he has put up for exhibitions and sold to A-list Nigerian celebrities.

As someone who has participated in six previous editions of the Life in My City Art Festival, Samson has enjoyed the exposure that comes with putting his best foot forward. At the 2019 art contest, he won the Best Sculptor prize, which gave him the opportunity to be among those selected to travel to Senegal for the Biennale Dakar exhibition. Although he never got to the LIMCAF finals since 2015, when he first participated in the art festival, he participated consistently in the competition and remained determined to emerge as the winner someday.

After topping over 250 participants at this year’s contest 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 among the young Nigerians hoping for a better nation where our resources are put to good use and the system works. His quest for answers to why the country has deteriorated this much led him to include the huge question mark in the middle of his art piece. In his words, “Cold mineral cold pure water has been a norm in Nigeria since we were growing up, and till now, nothing has changed.

Aside from this piece, Samson says that the most cherished artwork from his collection is one with an image of abstract animals playing the game of snooker on the Nigerian map. With the support and exposure he has received from the Life In My City Art Festival sponsored by the MTN Foundation, Samson is set to pursue his dream of inspiring young people in his community through art. Like many other young Nigerians who have benefited from youth empowerment initiatives from theMTN Foundation, Samson is grateful for the opportunity to show his art to the world and remains thankful for the journey that led him to win the LIMCAF contest after six attempts..

In Samson’s books, self-development is key to his growth. As a result, his desire to succeed as an artist does not end with winning the LIMCAF 2022 contest. He is now looking to improve his skills and meet up with more renowned artists in Lagos and across the world to exchange ideas and produce another remarkable work of art.