Marking its tenth anniversary this year, the contest attracted entries for the first time from Italy, Norway, Belgium, Mongolia and the Seychelles, with a total of 16,552 entries (446 entries from Japan and 16,106 entries from overseas) from all over the world.
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 perspective for thinking about the earth's environmental problems. First, thirteen Kao designers screened all the 10,000-plus entries, and then re-screened the short-listed 396 entries one last time. As the room was filled with tension, the seven juries—experts in art and environmental issues—selected the final winners, scrutinizing every detail.
As a result, the "eco together"- Planet Earth Grand Prix (one entry only) was awarded to a ten-year-old boy from Thailand for his artwork. Speaking of the entry, Chair of Jury Mr. Fumikazu Masuda said, "It's a powerful piece, spontaneously portraying the painter's wish for a society in which nature and humans coexist. The message of flying to a new phase strongly etched itself into my mind." Eight entries won the "eco together" - Kao Prize, and 23 entries (of which seven were endorsed by the juries) won the Eco Friend Prize.
It is ten years since this contest started, and at this memorable point, it seems as if we are receiving more entries with sharper and more unique perspectives. It is changing from the idea of using paintings to express campaigns and slogans, to paintings with wishes to convey one's honest opinion without reservation. How do we as adults respond to the children's painful cries as we see more message-embodied entries? Don't we have to face their feelings and act on them? I felt this contest has come to a significant turning point.
The screening made me think more than the previous years. While many entries featured similar motifs like nature and animals, I also wanted to select entries that did not fit in this category. Yet it is natural for children to feel concerned, faced with realities such as typhoons, floods, and animals facing extinction from the polluted environment. Hearing such voices as, "It will be too late if we don't do something," and "What are you adults doing?"…we must respond to them and change the situation for the future. It is my great hope that this contest becomes one of the starting points.
"Perhaps children are better at portraying the change of times than adults," I mourned as I viewed the entries. In the previous contest and contests before, there were many entries that depicted diverse elements in fine detail to express some kind of power that surrounded our lives. Yet, this year, plenty of entries seemed to depict animals, nature and humans as equals. A powerful message that humans are living with nature, not controlling it. This was a fruitful screening in that the entries suggested the emergence of the next stage, where children will think about global environmental problems and come up with their own solutions.
This was an opportunity for great learning again from the children's entries. Despite featuring backgrounds created by adults, that vary from region to region, the children's paintings reflected the current reality of where they are from. Some evoked a sense of nostalgia, reminding me of some lost landscapes in Japan. The awarded entries as well as all others made me aware that the children's wishes all converge to one. All of the entries were wonderful, able to convey messages forever across the region, times and languages, as long as there are people to view them.
As this year's contest had entries from more regions than ever, the task to select awardees has become increasingly difficult. Reviewing the beauty of the many submissions, it was really hard to narrow down on a few winners. During the screening, I tried to decipher the motivation of the children as they created the paintings. Reading the messages some had written to great detail in their application, I appreciated the optimistic and often very pragmatic suggestions from the children who obviously are living with all kinds of anxiety.
I want to compliment all children who made a great and brave effort by producing and sending their ideas, including those who unfortunately did not receive nomination.
This was the first time I served as a jury, and I am grateful to have encountered so many wonderful entries.
The most stunning thing was the sharp perspective from the children that was present in every entry. They are facing real problems that they want to elaborate on, without looking away from real causes, including their background. And they are raising alarms through their works to the reality that their world is in immediate danger. It was an invaluable opportunity where their poignant cry of help, "Don't be quiet, do something!" pierced my heart.
I felt the differences in expressions were narrowing overall. I had often been surprised by how particular expressions came out of certain regions, and this experience reminded me that it is important to look at each artwork without being trapped by preconceived ideas about different parts of the world. I also felt that serious subjects are on the increase, meaning perhaps that more children are feeling saddened by today's environmental news. This contest has become an opportunity that reminds us once again that as a company and as adults, we have the duty to continue actions that bring more smiles to children.
Kao exhibited the award-winning entries at Kao's booth at EcoPro 2019 (Tokyo Big Sight) held from Thursday, Dec. 5 to Saturday, Dec. 7. The awards ceremony took place on Dec. 7, the final day of the event, in which the nine winners of "eco together" – Plant Earth Grand Prix and "eco together" – Kao Prize were invited to attend. The winners were selected from 16,552 entries (446 from Japan and 16,106 from overseas) from all over the world.
Chair of Jury Fumikazu Masuda commented "We thank you for submitting entries with extremely deep meanings. When selecting the entries, we the juries discussed the thinking and meaning behind each entry. Please do not forget your wonderful experience today and keep expressing your thoughts on the environment." 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 Kritsakon Chaiwarin, 10, portraying a park with a glass skyscraper reflecting trees and animals. He expressed his joy in his speech as a representative of the winners. In the interview following the awards ceremony, he said "This shows that if we humans work together to save our planet, we will have a lush natural environment and will be able to live happily even if technology advances," speaking of the message embodied in his work. Other winners also expressed their message for the environment to the audience.
You can see the presentation of the winning works at the following page.