The painting contest, which celebrated its ninth year in 2018, received 12,563 entries from all over the world (848 entries from Japan and 11,715 entries from overseas).
This year, we could receive entries from children including entries from two new countries such as Israel and Mauritius. First, Kao's 13 designers screened over 10,000 entire entries and 400 entries were selected. Then, the seven judges who are experts in art and environmental issues screened selected entries at the final selection.
The key screening criteria included how the entries remind us of the children's desire and approach toward improving the earth's environment, and whether the entries would present any new perspectives for thinking about global environmental issues. Some entries depicted positively regarding the thought and wishes toward the environmental conservation with free imagination and the others are filled with exotic expressions blessed by traditional culture in the nature. A wide array of the way of expressions and a point of view could be seen in many entries. The judges proceeded with the screening process in a strict manner while taking a careful and detailed look at each entry. As a result, one "eco together" - Planet Earth Grand Prix, eight "eco together" - Kao Prize and 23 Eco Friend Prize winners were selected.
Every year, the technical level of the entries is improving so much that it is getting harder to pick one over another. Therefore, the assessment tends to focus on the message children want to convey. For the last year or two, there seems to be some polarizing of entries; either they focus on some environmental issues, wanting to solve them, or they illustrate the ideal lifestyle they have in mind.
It is a positive sign that we are seeing a decrease in the simple environmental slogans that frequently appeared in the early years of this contest, but this may also be reflecting confusion or anxiety that children are feeling about the state of our world. Adults should see this change in mood as a warning. And as adults, we have a responsibility to respond to the questions and expectations children express in their paintings.
This year I felt a strong sense of concern about the frequent natural disasters around the world in the messages the children expressed via their paintings. The entries were polarized. Some were saying, "Let's work hard against natural disasters," while the rest said, "I want to live peacefully in beautiful natural surroundings."
Over the years I have begun to feel children's messages more acutely, as well as their strong awareness toward environmental problems and natural disasters around the world. This year I endorsed entries that presented a slightly different perspective about environmental issues and natural disasters compared to others, and those expressing their feelings spontaneously.
Year after year, we have been receiving more entries that are explanatory or rational. Though this may be a good thing on one hand, maybe the paintings are reflecting the mood of our times where environmental and ecological issues are becoming so complex and hard to summarize in any simple form.
What I would like from you kids is not to speak in someone else's language, an adult's language with a façade, but to express through your artwork your own view of what happiness means and what you want to protect. Having been a judge many times, I find myself turning into a consciousness that resonates with such straight-forward messages from children.
We witnessed so many natural disasters this year. I served as a judge for the contest wondering how such a year would inspire children's artworks. Children from disaster-hit areas showed their tender feelings toward their countries. Meanwhile, children living happily without any constraints expressed the happiness they were feeling. I saw both qualities this year.
Overall, the level of the entries was very high, and many times I could not make up my mind until the last minute. The only thing lying between the winning and non-winning entries was a slight difference in the level of passion or message. I hope all viewers enjoy the paintings. Try to imagine why some entries were chosen and what they were trying to depict.
Reviewing the many entries I felt like facing two distinct worlds: one being the world of adults, reflected by the children in their efforts to respond to the task set forward by the competition's theme. The other, expressed in the descriptions affixed to the back of the paintings, being the world of the artists' themselves. Short accounts of live in rural areas, happenings in their villages and celebrations of local festivals. A few words, although considered secondary, imparted the depth and richness of these very personal worlds.
I would like to see how we could encourage the children even more to express their experiences, thoughts, and visions enthusiastically and in pure spirit - in visualizations that can move those who have the power to impact change.
Recently we saw so much damage around the world from typhoons and earthquakes, and I am sure everyone felt worried about the future of our Earth. Despite such circumstances, many paintings capturing my attention depicted calm and happy children. I strongly sensed that children want that kind of life, and felt that we have a responsibility to create a world that will fulfill their hope for a happy and trouble-free life.
Two things have changed since last year. One was the style of expressions. Last year, we saw many entries full of detailed messages, but the expressions in this year's paintings were seemingly simpler.
The other change was the subject. While the paintings were still featuring global subjects such as global warming and increasing waste, many entries focused on the regions where the children or the things they see around them. Perhaps this was because the children were wanting to first work on things close to them. It would be marvelous if this contest served as a place to share such regional perspectives with the rest of the world.
Kao exhibited the 9th contest award-winning entries at Kao's booth at EcoPro 2018 (Tokyo Big Sight) held from Thursday, Dec. 6 to Saturday, Dec. 8. The awards ceremony took place on Dec. 8, the final day of the event, in which the nine winners of "eco together" - Planet Earth Grand Prix, and "eco together" - Kao Prize were invited to attend.
Chair of Judges Fumikazu Masuda commented "It is very reassuring to know that there are over 10,000 children in the world who are painting with the same feelings as everybody here. I would like you to influence and respect each other and communicate to the rest of the world how important the environment is." Following Masuda's remarks, Kao President and CEO Michitaka Sawada presented commemorative plaques and gifts to the winners.
The winner of "eco together" Plant Earth Grand Prix was Miho Takemi (10), portraying the road to the future, of humans and animals living happily on a lush island. Asked about the message she wanted to convey, she said "On this beautiful earth, children also need to work on ecological activities." She also added, "If everyone works together, the earth will be cleaner even more quickly", emphasizing the importance of everyone working together.
In the interviews following the awards ceremony, each winner spoke of the environment of their residential areas, and of the messages they expressed in their paintings. At the party that followed, Masuda and President Sawada shared with the winners their impression of their works and why the winners' entries won. All winners responded happily, explaining their passion for their paintings.
You can see the presentation of the winning works at the following page.