By Yami Bamgboye
In those days when we used to read poetry only from the pages of prescribed texts, all we wanted at the time was just something temporal—success in examination. We were never thrilled by its relevance to life, its musicality or the beautifully woven words portraying the depth of the author’s understanding of his environment. Today, it’s a different thing entirely with the momentum the spoken word form has gathered in this clime of ours over the years.
Unlike the different poetry shows and slams organized by a couple of individuals and bodies like PIN, iPoetry, etc. to promote and or make this venture gainful, the Lagos International Poetry Festival is one of those with an international outlook. After its debut in 2015, the festival has subsequently grown to widen its content, reach out to more poets on other continents and become the biggest poetry festival in Lagos and Nigeria by extension.
The 2017 edition of the festival kicked off on November 1 in Lagos at Freedom Park with hopes soaring high up in the minds of the organizers, the workshop and seminar facilitators and even the attenders. The first two sessions which ran between 10am -12pm and 2pm-4pm were workshops on poetry writing and feminism with Theresa Lola and Ruth Sutoye (both from the UK). Thereafter was the grand opening ceremony which was a blend of music and poetry, about 7pm. It began with a beautiful musical performance from Kudus and his crew, setting the perfect tone for poetic performances from Chika Jones (Lagos Poem), Ndukwe Onuoha (Memories–a mixture of beautiful lines and music), Dike Chukwumerije (The Wall and the Bridge), Kolera Putuma (South Africa) and more musical performances from Jeff Akor and Femi Leye.
While addressing the audience, Mr Kufe Ekanem, Corporate Affairs Adviser, Nigerian Breweries expressed so much joy at the content and the growth of the festival over the years, assuring the organizers like an icing on their cake that Nigerian Breweries would proudly sponsor the 2018 edition of the festival. He ended his speech by performing two poems of his from his newly published book.
Mr Efe Paul Zino, the brain behind the festival in his vote of thanks acknowledged the support of other sponsors: Freedom Park, Lagos, British Council, UK and Goethe-institut. He said they couldn’t have achieved so much without their support. Furthermore, he said a lot had been put into planning and so far, it had been smoother. Therefore, regardless of the logistics of execution, ‘we are looking to a bigger and better festival in content, in ambience, in the total experience of what a poetry festival is all about’.
Additionally, he said ‘Nigerian Breweries has a long history of supporting the art and of promoting the art from the Chimamanda workshop to the Maltina Teachers’ Award and they have The Golden Pen Award for journalism so there’s always been that investment in the intellectual life of Nigeria and I think that was the common ground between the festival and Nigerian Breweries and they’ve been with us for three years’.
On the theme of the festival, he said ‘ What we wanted to do was capture or explore. We feel it’s a theme that’s particularly urgent because of the world that we live in; there is a lot of division and its global. It’s always been there but there is a new way in which it ascertains itself and we feel it’s important for us to tackle from Trump to Biafra to Brexit you know all of these issues going on across the world. And one of the things an artiste is able to do is to build common threads, to demonstrate the common threads that bind us together as a people. To be able to bridge the gap in our differences, to show that we are more alike than different’.
The festival runs till Sunday the 5th. So far, there has been school visit, workshops sponsored by the British Council, UK, Poetry Masterclass by the big guy, Chris Abani (US), a well decorated writer, spoken word theatre masterclass by Dike Chukwumerije, Sophia Walker(UK) and Melizarani Selva (Malaysia); a panel discussion called ‘Healing in its Wings’ at Goethinstitut, an evening of performances and readings by Sabrina Mahfouz (UK), Koleka Putuma (SA) at Bogobiri House at Ikoyi.
There has also been a series of art discussions at the art gallery Freedom Park and in the evening, there will be spoken word theatre showcase which is a fallout from the workshop. Tomorrow, Saturday, panel discussion continues and in the evening, there will be a closing concert which will feature Aramide and a lot of artistes. On Sunday, the festival ends with a trip to Badagry.