History was made on September 6th 2018 when a young gifted Nigerian child, Kanyeyachukwu Tagbo-Okeke, known as the “Young Picasso” was conferred with the prestigious “Flame of Peace” award in Vienna, Austria for his contribution to promoting peace with art, to the amazement of the arts and diplomatic community in Austria and the world.
This award has been described by art critics as spectacular and phenomenal and it is the first time a Nigerian and someone so young would be awarded. At the age of 8, Kanyeyachukwu is the youngest ever recipient of the award and the conferment speaks a lot more for Kanye, being a child who overcame the impediments of autism and has shown a high level of creativity.
The Flame of Peace is an award granted by the Austrian non-profit organization, Association for the Promotion of World Peace, it was instituted in 2007 and has been given to many prominent individuals such as the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh; Ambassador of Jordan to Austria, HE Mr. Hussam Al Husseini; The President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga; the Chairman of the Carnegie foundation, the President of the Prague Parliament in Chezk Republic, and a host of others.
Kanyeyachukwu who is a native of Anambra State, Nigeria has been hailed as an art genius by fellow artistes and museum curators from around the globe and this has seen the young artist invited to exhibitions across Europe. The journey of this young dynamo has been described by his parents, Tagbo and Sylvia Okeke, and tutors as simply a miracle.
Beginning with what was regarded as mere “scribbling on paper” his interest in arts led to his enrollment in an arts tutoring class where his skill at abstract creativity was further honed and what began as a childhood interest suddenly reached the world when, in 2017, young Kanye’s works found its way to the Nigerian Ambassador to Austria where an arts enthusiast at the Embassy saw one of his paintings and, after requiring who the artiste was, immediately alerted other art enthusiasts and collectors.
Kanye’s creative manifestation in arts also got to the ears of art community in Europe and art connoisseurs including Suleiman Al-Herbish, the Director General of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), an intergovernmental development finance institution established by the Member States of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), whose yearly art exhibition showcases artists from around the world whose works are dedicated towards peaceful coexistence around the world.
Prestigious arts museums like the prestigious Moya Museum of Young Art Vienna Austria, which includes curators of art and members of the Austrian monarchy, were also hinted about the art work of Kanye and, after careful scrutiny, the board concluded that his works were exceptional and has to be amongst those to be on display at their art exhibition.
After reviews of his works, Kanye was nominated for the prestigious “Flame of Peace” award for his contributions on fostering world Peace with art, which was conferred in him by the Arch Duchess of Austria, Lothringen .
This prestigious award caused so much excitement in The Austrian arts community and lead to invitations to numerous other exhibitions including that of Solomon Okpurukhre, a Nigerian arts curator also based in Vienna.
At the Flame of Peace Awards, Kanye’s painting was selected from over seventy artists invited globally to showcase their works at the United Nations young artists for Peace exhibition to the amazement of the art critics and lovers.
Beyond any doubt, it is clear that there’s more to come from Kanye. As the first Nigerian and African child to clinch the much coveted award, a child who has obviously surmounted the challenges of autism to be the first child below the age of ten to exhibit and be conferred with such an international award, Kanyechukwu has cemented his name and that of Nigeria in the artistes hall of fame globally as well as earning him the title of “the Young Picasso” in Europe.
In his remark, Dr. Kolja Kramer, the curator of the Moya Museum and one of the organizers of the Flame of Peace Association expressed his delight on the conferment of the award on such a young boy and concluded that Kanye is “very talented and his art is very deep and mature”.
The DG of OFID, in his remark, said he was “pleased with the high level of creativity that Kanye has demonstrated for a child of his age; he has demonstrated that artistic skills can be nurtured from infancy irrespective of the challenge the child might face”.
Speaking about the award, his parent Silvia and Tagbo Okeke expressed their gratefulness to God for all he has done for Kanye. They also expressed similar appreciation to the DG of OFID, the Nigerian ambassador to Vienna, the Arch Duke and Arch Duchess of Austria and all the “lovers of art who have been so appreciative of Kanye’s art and have shown so much support” They thanked the Moya Museum for Creative Art for the recognition of Kanye’s talent and creativity and said “this award has shown that Nigerian kids are exceptional and, if given the opportunity and enabling environment, would go places”.
Speaking on the award, Vivian Okeke, the Nigerian Ambassador to Austria noted that,” Nigeria as a country is excited about this recognition. Kanyechukwu is an exceptional boy and one of Nigeria’s most promising artists and he is a shining light to other children and a great example of what autistic kids can achieve.” She further said that the award is not only for us but for Nigeria as a country”.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian community in Vienna has been agog with Kanyechukwu; the Nigerian and Anambra State governments have also shown immense pleasure with Kanye. What continues to baffle many is how such a young child, with all the challenges he has faced, could be so successful in the highly coveted world of art. This just goes to prove even more that all kids are gifted in one way or the other, all they need is for their talents to be discovered and nurtured.