How GTBank lifted writer, artists during lockdown

By Anote Ajeluorou

WHILE the world was forced into a lockdown, with virtually all businesses shut down, as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19), Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) Plc braved the odds to prevent it from grinding its operations, or its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.

Aside from leading the fight against Covid-19 through the provision of isolation centre and equipment, the bank also continued with its YouRead Initiative, Art 635 Inspire exhibition and auction, as well as the football competition for secondary school students.

It also held the 10th Annual Autism Conference, themed: “Focusing on Similarities Rather than Differences” and enjoined all to ‘Be a Voice’ for the vulnerable members of society, and a Christmas Party.

In its CSR Report 2020, GTBank recalled that, “In an unlikely year where everything came to a halt, our core value as a platform for enriching lives kept us going. We quickly reimagined what it means to be there for people during a global humanitarian crisis and at a time of great uncertainty” through “championing social causes and driving societal action when it mattered most.

“We came into the year the same way we have for the past 3 decades – committed to bringing about a world where everyone, regardless of their social and economic background, has everything they need to reach their full potential. Because, for us at GTBank, success is more than just about building a thriving business; it is fundamentally about playing a leading role in making the world a better and brighter place.”

For instance, for its YouRead Initiative, Jumoke Adenowo had a reading from her debut novel, Beyond the Dreams, which had a lot of young school children in attendance.

The bank said, “As part of our mission of rekindling the culture of reading, we hosted our first book reading of the year with Adenowo through our YouRead Initiative.”

Adenowo’s novel received very positive reviews from the public, as did her Book Reading Session, at the GTBank‘s YouRead Library, Yaba, served to further stimulate a culture of reading and encourage young people to embrace literature.”

Reviving reading

GTBank‘s Head, Corporate Communication, Oyinade Adegbite, speaking with Sustainable Economy, said Adenowo’s reading event was in fulfillment of one of the bank’s commitment to the communities where it does business and expressed happiness at the outcome.

“We’ve been satisfied so far with our reading events. Well, since the Covid-19 rules have been relaxed, we will have one (more reading session) soon. I don’t know the writer yet. We could do it this month (July),” she said.

On the criteria for selecting an author to read, she said: “Yes, there are (criteria). We review books on a quarterly basis and select authors based on our book reviews. I hope this helps. Have a great weekend.”

Adegbite also spoke about the YouRead Library, and if such a first class facility could be extended to other parts Nigeria, to assist indigent communities, given the inability of both the federal and state governments to provide such facilities for the populace.

“About the library, well you never know,” Adegbite said. “We will perhaps start with partnerships and with existing structures. So we started with Yaba, and as you know, there are a lot of campuses and schools around Yaba. So let’s see what happens as time goes on, but not for now.”

Growing art

On the visual arts show and auction, the CSR report said: “From cancelled exhibitions to stalled auctions, the art community witnessed a great fallout due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To support indigenous artists, we introduced the Art 635 Inspire, a virtual art exhibition and auction to support indigenous artists who were having an especially hard time. Over 30 Art pieces by indigenous artists were exhibited and over N19,000,000 was recorded in art sales. More than supporting artists, customers had a rare opportunity to connect to the world through the gift of art.”

Adegbite said GTBank continues to lay a solid ground for the growth of the art sector, and while photography did not feature last year due to the pandemic, she assured that it is on the radar this year.

“We did something (in the visual arts sector) last year during the pandemic,” she informed. “We did an auction, we partnered with Bonhams (of the United Kingdom). We organized an auction for artists, because it was a very difficult year for artists.

“So for photography, yes, it’s something we’re keen on. We couldn’t hold the event last year for photography because of the pandemic. So let’s see what happens this year.”

One of the participating senior artists, Duke Asidere confessed to the beauty of the show and auction, noting that it provided a solid platform for artists to make some money at a most difficult time. One of Asidere’s two works is titled ‘The 16th’.

Remarking on the show and auction, Asidere told Sustainable Economy that, “Art 635 Inspire was basically to assist artists during the pandemic, and so whatever they sold they got in full. No commission or percentage was taken from them. It was very interesting for me. I had two works, and I got my cash without issues. And it worked well for me because I didn’t have to leave home to attend, because of the risk involved.

“It was obviously a huge opportunity, but what I would like to see is that the same opportunity is given to another set of artists, so it goes round. The same artists should not monopolise it; that would be very selfish. So there’s a need to open the experience for everybody and other corporate bodies should also come in to help expand the space. That would make it more interesting.”

… for us at GTBank, success is more than just about building a thriving business; it is fundamentally about playing a leading role in making the world a better and brighter place.

She also used the opportunity to advise Africa’s auction houses to up the game for African artists, so they measure up to their counterparts in Europe and America.

“However, the auctions that they do around here are not completely objective, as I always tell my friends,” Asidere said. “This is not peculiar to the Art 635 Inspire show, of course. It generally applies to all auctions held here in Africa. So, a lot of artists hide their prices for auctions. If you come to me, I will give you my price, so if you want to use an auction to judge my price, then that’s your business. If you do an auction to make profit, you might miss the target in an African environment where I think we don’t even get the best rates for our work. There are a lot of artists here whose works are tagged USD$20,000, but if they were practicing in Europe or America, that same work can be priced USD$100,000. That’s my concern.”

Also for Uchay Joel Chima, Art 635 Inspire was a good experience, and commended the organizers for the initiative to hold it at such a time, saying: “many artists were involved at a most difficult period for artists all over the world.”

Some of the works published in the GTBank’s CRS report include ‘Beauty for Ashes’ by Uchay Joel Chima; ‘In the Hearts of Mary’ by Ibe Ananaba; ‘A Glass of Hope 1’ by Johnson Uwadinma; ‘Watcher(s)’ by Olumide Onadipe; and ‘Transient Treasures (V)’ by Chigozie Obi.

From the works curated for the auction, the bank’s orange colour was dominant but also pleasing, as the artists blended it well with other colours to give their works a unique feel. Although a virtual show, some diehard art enthusiasts still braved the pandemic to view the works on display.

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