Fifteen-year-old Mariam Ayolola Kaka became an instant media sensation recently after emerging the overall winner of a global art competition. The SS2 student of the International School, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye came top amongst the over 4,000 others that participated in the contest organised by “Never Such Innocence.”
Never Such Innocence, a charity group, runs an international poetry, art, speech and song competitions for young people aged 9 -16, focusing on conflict and its impact.
Mariam’s entry entitled, “Nostalgic Salutation to Fallen Heroes” earned her the prestigious first prize and resultantly positioned her for a historic meet with the British Prime Minister, Mr Boris Johnson.
Apart from the award, she also claimed the First Prize in both the 2020 Toyota Dream Car Art contest and 2020 State-Fish Art contest held recently.
Although the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic worldwide halted the planned meeting between the teenager and the UK leader, accolades and encomiums have continued to pour in unabated for the student from far and near.
The young student is the daughter of a former Deputy Governor of Ogun State and one-time Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Adegbenga Sefiu Kaka. Her mother, Mrs. Olajumoke Lateefat Kaka, is an administrator in this University.
For doing her school proud and further stamping it on the world map as one of the reputable secondary schools offering qualitative education in Nigeria, the Management Board led by its Chairman, Prof. Lasun Gbadamosi, Principal, Mr. Afolayanka Olabisi, and some staff of the school formally presented Mariam to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ganiyu Olatunji Olatunde, who was ably represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic, Professor Deji Agboola.
The event which took place at the Board Room of the Vice-Chancellor’s Office, had the Registrar, Mr.Femi Ogunwomoju, and the University Bursar, Mr. Semiu Makinde, among other management staff in attendance.
The Principal of the International School, Mr. Afolayanka Olabisi, while presenting the teenage schoolgirl, disclosed that she participated in the art competition which attracted over 4,000 entries from over 46 countries of the world.
He said the winner’s story was well publicised in local and international media. According to him, Nigerian Tribune, New Telegraph, The Nation, Muslim News Nigeria and Standard Daily Times published the award in their respective editions while BBC London also granted Mariam an audio interview in its Focus on Africa programme aired recently.
Mr. Olabisi, who revealed that Mariam’s ambition was to become an artist of international repute, said she had participated in numerous international art competitions, clinching prizes in many of them and sometimes missing the prizes in others. “She is still expecting results of some art contests this year,” the Principal added.
He said, “Mariam started her education in the year 2008 at Hope Immaculate Nursery and Primary School, Ijebu-Igbo. She graduated in the year 2015. That same year, Mariam was admitted into The International School, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye. The ambition of Mariam is to become an artist of international repute. Mariam was supposed to meet Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, in person on Monday, June 15, 2020 for her award but the present pandemic situation in the world did not permit that. Two of the artworks of Mariam Kaka (visual arts and digital arts) have been featured on two different occasions on Channels Television Art House programme on 28th June, 2020 and 18th July, 2020.”
Noting that Mariam had been appointed as one of the young ambassadors group for the Never Such Innocence, the Principal said “it will gladden our hearts if the Vice-Chancellor will help us to further celebrate the achievements of Mariam Kaka by presenting her to the Governor of this State.”
In his response, Prof. Agboola conveyed the joy and happiness of the Vice-Chancellor on the brilliant performance of Mariam whom, he noted, had done her school and the University proud.
“Our own prayer is that the University will continue to move forward, we are also praying that the International School will be the best in Nigeria,” he stated.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor said he was not surprised with the feat attained by the teenager judging from the background and calibre of her parents.
His words: “We are not expecting anything less because Alhaji Adegbenga Sefiu Kaka is known to all of us. He is a mentor and I’m very happy that what he has been preaching outside can be seen in his own house.
Everything Alhaji stands for is the best and when you listen to him, it shows that passionately in his own character as well. So, I thank God that even his product is also doing us proud. And one of the ambassadors of Alhaji is here and that is Mrs. Olajumoke Kaka. She works in one of the very sensitive units in the University and she has been very wonderful, doing a good job.”
Prof. Agboola also commended the commitment of the International School Management Board led by Professor Lasun Gbadamosi as well as the Principal and staff of the school. He said their efforts had clearly demonstrated the fact that the school was delivering on its mandate.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, however, urged the teachers and staff not to relent but rather intensify efforts to produce students that would excel in their various academic pursuits and win more laurels.
Speaking in the same vein, the Registrar, Mr. Femi Ogunwomoju, charged the staff of the school not to relent on their efforts, saying they must do everything possible to uplift and promote the institution.
Mr. Ogunwomoju, who expressed satisfaction with the outstanding performance of Mariam, also thanked her parents for providing an enabling environment for her to showcase her skills.
“We ask God to continue to support Mariam now and in the future,” the Registrar said while praying that many more of such laurels would come her way in life.”I want to congratulate you once again on the giant strides. I urge you not to rest on your oars, continue doing the brilliant things that you are doing and we pray that God will be with you, keep you safe, increase your wisdom, knowledge and understanding,” he added.
The Registrar later presented the University souvenirs to Mariam in appreciation of her “marvelous work.”
Obviously overwhelmed with joy, Mariam thanked the University Management, her school teachers and her parents as well as everyone that had encouraged her to excel.
The award-winning student was accompanied on the occasion by her mother, Mrs. Olajumoke Kaka, and Engr. Akeem Adelani, who represented her father.
Prior to the reception organised for her, Mariam had said her inspiration for the “Nostalgic Salutation to Fallen Heroes” artwork came from the Second World War
In a published newspaper report, she explained that “my drawing medium is oil on paper and it is A3 size.”
Mariam said, “My inspiration came from the fact that the World War II was the deadliest in terms of global deaths, injured, wounded, incapacitated, disabled and traumatized casualties. My inspiration was heightened when I saw the Commonwealth war graves as one of the Second World War resource contents for a fight for freedom. Plus, Nigeria being a Commonwealth nation.
I was excited to draw a war grave which is a burial place for members of the armed forces and civilians who died during the World War II. I also thought of Armed Forces Remembrance Day when wreaths are laid in remembrance of fallen heroes. All these inspired me to draw a military man visiting a war grave.
However, unknowingly to me I raised his left hand in salutation and my mum being a daughter of a retired police officer, seems to know a little about military and she told me that military officers salute with the right hand and she encouraged me to research it to be doubly sure.
My research made me know that the only time a military officer salutes with the left hand is when something is wrong with the right hand. The thought of a living war veteran came to mind and I decided to erase the long left hand I had already done and made the military man an amputee and a war veteran.
Thank God the title of my art piece also was not far-fetched because of the war veteran who feels nostalgic visiting the grave of past colleagues and comrades to say old soldiers never die. They live on, and can never be forgotten. Hence, the birth of the title of my artwork – Nostalgic Salutation to the Fallen Heroes.”