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At LABAF 2019, book, art overrun Lagos

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All is set for the 2019 Lagos Book and Art Festival, LABAF. The festival, which opens tomorrow, ends on Sunday, November 10, 2019. The festival will hold at the Freedom Park, Lagos, said the organisers, Committee for Relevant Art, CORA. The Cultural Landscapists, as they are called, were winners of the Prince Claus Award, 2006.It is the 21st edition of the week-long annual “feast of Life and Ideas”, which critics have dubbed the “biggest culture picnic on the continent.”

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.

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’s scribe, the theme 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.

According to him, “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 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.”

In over two decades of existence, the festival has remained consistent with the most diverse programme to celebrate books and arts. The festival’s unique literary revelry has reflected on its being described as ‘Africa’s biggest cultural picnic.The festival will reflect on two decades of incredible heritage whilst looking outwards to the raft of talent from around the country, and forwards to the future of the written and spoken word in Nigeria.

It is expected to showcase literary greats, new voices and, most importantly, help inspire a future generation of readers, writer and thinkers.The vibrant festival also set the scene for people, young and old, to meet their literary heroes and award winners to discuss their lauded novels.The festival also welcomes stage and screen stars, political gladiators and boardroom gurus to interface.Over the years, the organisers have equally introduced a number of initiatives and launched partnerships that are geared towards improving the lot of the creative industry in the country.

It has attracted a host of writers and artists and also created a platform for blossoming of ideas.An intensely art festival with high book content, the festival brings new resonace to timeless narratives. It returns this year with an exploration of new and emerging ideas, lending writers, thinkers and cultural observers opportunity to create new forms of interrogation of books, poetry performance and art creation.

The 2019 LABAF dedicated to the memory of the renowned printmaker, David Herbert Lawrence who passed on August 6, 2019 will also remember and celebrate the life and times of notable members of the artistic and culture community, who passed on in the course of the year. These include: Bisi Silva (art curator); Okwui Enwezor (art curator and historian); Paul Emema (Scriptwriter, Film Producer); Pius Adesanmi (culture activist and scholar); Eddie Ugboma (filmmaker and art activist); Molara Ogundipe (Literature teacher culture scholar); Stella Oyedepo (playwright, Arts administrator); Jide Ogungbade (theatre director and broadcaster); Frank Okonta (filmmaker and art patron) and Idowu Nubi (film editor).

This year, a host of artists will equally be celebrated for reaching landmarking age.“The idea of the yearly conferment of Honours on select members of the culture producing community is to formally acknowledge the immense contributions of each of the honourees to the development of the creative sector; essentially to spotlight them as role models to the robust tribe of younger artists, many of who indeed owe their career and successes to the generous selfless giving(s) of the honourees’ intellectual, moral and material resources. The honour is, however, conferred on such individuals as they each attain a milestone in their lives, starting from those clocking 60s and above,” said Akinosho.

Speaking with The Guardian, Damola Adebowale of ASIRI Magazine, who is curating, Wole Soyinka: Timeless Memories: Elastic Effects (An illustrative Art, Video Installation and Installation Project), he said, “the life of Soyinka has been a subject of discourse for many years now, from his early childhood in Abeokuta, to his early days at the University College, Ibadan (Now University of Ibadan), the formation of the Pyrates Confraternity, his most active early days as a writer, the formation of the FRSCS, his days as an activist, the NADECO/Abacha days and also his life as a global citizen of the world.”

He continued, “this Project seeks to understand and showcase from the perspective of the Icon, 20 most important defining moments that led the young boy who grew up in Abeokuta to become the enigma we all revere today. These have to be the Wole Soyinka moments that have defined him in every way, and allowed us to see him for who he is today.”

He noted, “these 20 moments would be captured in 20 colorful illustrative art works that best capture the energy, works that best describe the event/period captured. The art works would be finally printed – most likely on canvas, they will be colourful, brilliant and their effect will be spontaneous when viewed.

“The narrative around the 20 defining moments would also be captured in s short film which would be premiered during the Exhibition. The Short film titled: Kongi’s Effect- Timeless Memories: Elastic Effects would feature archival videos such as the appearance of Wole Soyinka during the aftermath of the 1965 Saga, as well as other never seen videos of the Nobel Laureate in his private home in Ijegba, Abeokuta.

“The Idea behind this exhibition project is to create a conscious form of dialogue and discourse on a fresh perspective around Wole Soyinka and also most importantly infuse the use of Technology as a means of expanding the scope of knowledge and interaction around the man we all call ‘WS’ or ‘Kongi’.”Aside from the prime programme, LABAF, CORA’s projects include the quarterly Art Stampede, the quarterly publication, Lagos The City Arts Guide, the yearlyLagos Open Air Cinema Carnival and the periodic CORA Book Party (with its extended yearly collaborative version with the Nigeria Prize for Literature, NPL as endowed by the NigeriaLNG). CORA also collaborates with other artistes, activists and enthusiasts to organise the annual Lagos Comics Carnival; the Great Highlife (Revival) Party (Elders’ Forum). Recently, the CORA launched its monthly BookTrek series, which has run eight editions so far in the course of the year.

The Honourees For The Year Are:
The Octogenarians:
• Wole Soyinka at 85 – Dramatist, Director
• Tunji Oyelana at 80 – Musician, culture activist
The 60s Club
• Theo Lawson – architect, culture activist
• Segun Ojewuyi – theatre director, teacher
• Mahmood Ali-Balogun – theatre artiste, filmmaker
• Moji Bamtefa – theatre artiste, arts manager
• Tope Babayemi – arts administrator, activist
• Norbert Young – actor, acting teacher
• Jerry Buhari – painter, fine arts teacher
• George Ufot – arts administrator
• Edmond Enaibe – actor, art activist
• Kunle Adeyemi – visual artist, teacher


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CORALABAF 2019
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