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Arts, books light up Kaduna, Lagos


A young lady looks through the collection of books available to know the one she wants. PHOTO: Courtesy of

In the last few years, there have been many literary gatherings for readers and writers in the country. In fact, book fairs have become a window open to the world where young people have access to world literature.Book fairs play a vital role in societies. While public book fairs promote books and reading, their professional equivalents allow publishers, agents, distributors and retailers to meet and do real business. They also draw media and public attention to the book industry and provide platforms for authors to meet readers. Book fairs are a moment where many creative professions converge.

In an age when business is often done remotely, book professionals still believe that book fairs have not lost their relevance. On the contrary, deals done at book fairs gain in terms of quality, and the human dimension of these exchanges becomes a pledge of trust.From September 11 to September 14, booklovers will converge on Kaduna, as the yearly Kaduna Book and Arts Festival (Kabafest) holds.

In its third edition, the festival first took place in 2017, and over the years, has featured writers such as, Sudanese novelist, Leila Aboulela, Toni Kan, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Richard Ali, Zaynab Alkali and Andrew Walker.Aboulela won the first Caine Prize for African Writing. She is the author of four novels, a collection of short stories and several radio plays. Her novels, The Translator, a New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year, Minaret and Lyrics Alley were all long listed for the Orange Prize. Lyrics Alley was Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. Leila’s book of short stories, Coloured Lights, was short-listed for the MacMillan Silver PEN award. Her work has been translated into 14 languages.


Lined-up for the four-day programme of arts and book-focused events are, ‘booklogues’, workshops, performances, art show, stage play, film screening and panel discussions with Nigerian and international writers and thinkers. Speakers will tackle issues around life in Nigeria, but most especially Northern Nigeria. The panel discussions typically last for 80 minutes, with at least 20 minutes devoted to audience participation and question and answer.

‘Bookies’ will have opportunity to mingle and hold stimulating discussions on a wide range of issues concerning books with guests. According to the organisers, Kabafest is the first and only literary fête of this magnitude in Northern Nigeria. It aims to change the way the world sees the region, “boost access to literacy and reading, reignite a passion for arts and culture in the state and to create more safe spaces where cultural and literary enthusiasts can gather to dialogue about books, culture and ideas.

“The festival is in line with the state’s ‘Creative Arts Programme’ initiative, which the state governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, said, “is devoted to nurturing, promoting and celebrating the creative potential of our people. It is a manifest commitment of this government to support the arts creatively and our creatives themselves.”

The major highlight of the first event was the signing of the literacy project, Write to Right Project memorandum of understanding, between the European Union, represented by its ambassador, Michel Arrion, and a French cultural organisation, Africultures, represented by Moise Gumis, to propagate massive literary and digital projects in five states in the North – Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, Adamawa and Bauchi.

The project was aimed at supporting creativity, production and reproduction of educational and recreational books in the five states. It also engaged over 25 writers and support over 10,000 teachers to make impact. The project is worth EURO 3 million (N3 billion).Following the success of the first two editions, this year’s feast will feature over 70 guests, comprising writers, poets, actors, musicians, artists and filmmakers. And not to mention, the innumerable number that will attend creative writing classes and participate in panel discussions.The festival, no doubt, is helping to push the fact of a changing narrative, which is genuine and reflective of the Northern literary scene as viable alternative to the South.

This is the reason el-Rufai decided to take it upon himself to create a platform for all stakeholders in the book chain and knowledge industry within and outside the northern hemisphere to hold conversation with books.He said his government is committed to creating a veritable platform for art and culture development in the country, adding, the festival will not only celebrate the arts and the literary world, but also equally change the wrong perception of Northern Nigeria.

Part of the efforts aimed at achieving this, he noted, is the institutionalisation of Kabafest as a fixture on the cultural calendar and a fitting platform for nurturing, promoting and celebrating creative potential.

While noting that his government is delivering on its commitment to supporting the arts, creativity and creatives, El-Rufai said necessary encouragement would help lift reading culture, as “literature and other arts make a major contribution to helping us understand one another better, explaining to us where we are, and pointing out where we could go.”

According to him, “cultural dialogue apart, the creative arts could in themselves be sources of economic dynamism,” adding, “the Nigerian Film Industry, the musicians and the photographers are breaking new grounds and demonstrating sustained viability.”He added, “we seek to promote the creative arts, to nurture minds, but also to create jobs and wealth for our people.”

At the event, renowned novelist, poet and short story writer, Professor Zaynab Alkali, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her immense contributions to the Nigerian society through her creative works.In her acceptance speech, Alkali said the award told her and other writers that they were on the right part for contributing to the large society.

She described “arts as a potent weapon for social change and a steady ladder for the growth of the human soul.” She said: “Part of a writer’s responsibility is to enhance the nobility of the soul by encouraging moral integrity of character and condemning corruption.

“A writer is expected to create works which depicts social harmony through modeling love and respect to a people steeped in multiple conflicts. When a nation loses its focus, and subsequently a sense of direction, a writer is expected to be at the forefront in the process of refocusing and redirecting the nation’s course.”

The longest running literary feast, the Lagos Art and Book Festival (LABAF), founded by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) in 1999, will hold from November 4 to 10 at the official home of the festival, Freedom Park, Lagos Island and other venues around the city. The festival, which happens yearly in Lagos, the arts and culture capital of Nigeria, has been vital in the nation’s push to be recognized as a culture capital.

In its 21st edition, the festival is dedicated this year to the memory of the master artist, Dr. David Herbert Dale, who passed on in the morning of Tuesday, August 6, 2019 following a protracted illness. This year’s festival theme is “Emerge… Breaking into the New;” and it is a natural sequel to the themes of the past two editions of the festival: Eruptions: Global Fractures and our common humanity (2017) and Renewal: Towards a world that works for all (2018).

According to Toyin Akinosho, CORA scribe, “EMERGE… is premised on the notion of breaking free from the shackles of social, political, economic and cultural factors that inhibit the progress of the individual and the nation. Ostensibly, the theme will reflect on obstacles to the process of nation building, and human capital development – two concepts central to the philosophy of the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA, and, which have consistently formed the core of the objective of LABAF since its birth in 1999 to mark the return of Nigeria to democratic governance after over three decades of military regimes. The thematic thrust of the 31-odd events that will feature in the week-long festival will thus examine issues around 20 years of Nigeria’s democracy; the shifting political events and discourses around the continent; as well as development in/around global politics.”


Described as ‘Africa’s biggest cultural picnic,’ LABAF is a week-long comprehensive open-air carnivalesque ‘feast of Life and Ideas’ featuring a mix-grill of artistic and cultural events including: exhibitions of books and arts, live reading sessions; conversations around books; seminars on visual, performing and allied arts; displays of paintings, sculptures, mixed media, installations and crafts; children and youths art workshops; live music, poetry, drama and dance presentations among others.

Preceding the last three (weekend) days of the weeklong event is a four-day pre-festival series of events, which include, a Publishers’ Forum, Writers’ workshops and Book Treks (writers’ visits to schools and engagement with pupils). Overall, it is a carnivalesque atmosphere created to make books look cool.”

Another festival making waves is the Lagos-based Ake Arts & Book Festival, founded in 2013 by Lola Shoneyin, the author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. The festival is one of the most eagerly anticipated on the continental literary calendar with thousands making their way to the event yearly.


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