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LABAF’s ‘feast of ideas and life’ opens in Lagos

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
07 November 2018   |   3:33 am
When the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) brought together a host of writers, stakeholders culture missioners and art aficionado to the large expanse of land on Lekki Expressway that stood as Jazz 38’s permanent site, in November 1999, for the maiden Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF), the idea was to have a feast that…

School children at the opening event of Kinniso International Theatre Festival (KITF)<br />PHOTO: TAIWO OLUSOLA-JOHNSON (TOJ Concepts)

When the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) brought together a host of writers, stakeholders culture missioners and art aficionado to the large expanse of land on Lekki Expressway that stood as Jazz 38’s permanent site, in November 1999, for the maiden Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF), the idea was to have a feast that would re-energise the scene and refocus both the young and old, especially to book reading culture, which was gradually dying.

Many who were at the inaugural feast had doubts that the festival would be sustained, considering that book and art festival in the country had become what is called, abiku (coming and going).

Twenty years after, the festival is not only waxing strong, but has become what is dubbed the ‘biggest cultural picnic on the continent’.

LABAF, according to the organisers, is a ‘Feast of Ideas and Life’ to ensure the spread of literacy, mental empowerment, knowledge acquisition and improved human capital development — through flowering of creative productions and expressions. “It is a Cultural Carnival with high book content,” stated the Programme directorate of the festival.

Tagged, Renewal: Towards a world that works for all, this year’s theme is primarily inspired by the need to focus on the process of rebirth as the country enters its 20th year of democracy and conducts its sixth general elections.

LABAF 2018 is spotlighting novels, poems and dramas of opportunities, as well as non-fiction narratives about the birth and growth of successful nation states,” said Programme chair of the frontline culture advocacy group, Jahman Anikulapo.

To ensure stronger focus on its main mission – deepening the culture of reading and engagement with the written text to increase literacy level and knowledge acquisition, the festival is spotlighting four panels – mentoring (for children and youths), Leaders as Readers featuring leaders in business circuit sharing their joy of reading.

Three other panels focusing on Processes of Nation Building, another core objective of the festival, will have the famous poet and political activist, Odia Ofeimun, deliver the festival keynote; an intergenerational dialogue between older and younger Nigerians; and another on processes of change.

This year’s event began on Monday at the Freedom Park with the opening events of Kinniso International Theatre Festival (KITF) produced by the CORA’s partner organisation, Kinniso Koncepts.

About 50 children and students from various schools participated in the experimental theatre events that also paraded guest artists from Zimbabwe and Germany and Sweden.

The popular actor and theatre teacher, Tunji Sotimirin (aka Shadow), led the session, which will run for four days, ending on November 9.

Today, at 3.00pm, PEN International Nigerian Centre, popularly known as PEN Nigeria, will hold a session themed, Literary Prizes and the Crisis of Credibility: The Curious Case of the Nobel Prize, the event will be moderated by Ralph Tathagata, writer, activist and public intellectual. The poet Folu Agoi, President PEN Nigeria, is one of the speakers. Also on the panel are, Adewale Maja-Pearce and Ayo Oyoze-Baje.

A forum tagged, Leaders as readers, holds at 5pm. The guests are, Taofeek Adegbite, MD/CEO, Marine Platforms Limited; Adenike Adeyemi, Executive Director, FATE Foundation and Tony Attah; CEO/MD, Nigeria LNG. The moderator is Dr. Reuben Abati, a journalist and ex-chairman, The Guardian editorial board.

At 6.30pm, there is Nigeria Prize For Literature@LABAF. Past four winners of the award will engage the Nigeria public on the Prize’s impact on their careers and lives (Curated by CORA & the NLNG). While at 8.00pm, there is The Fela in me.

It is a night of tributes; with select young disciples of Fela Anikulapo’s Afrobeat reflect on the influence of Fela on their musical career; featuring, Daddy Showkey, Sound Sultan; Burna Boy; Brymo; Ade Bantu; Edaoto, Seun Olota, Aduke and others.

The idea is to trace the pervasive influence of Fela in the afro- pop music of today. There will also be a presentation of FELA: Yesterday’s Message as Today’s Reality, by Lanre Arogundade.

On Friday, November 9, a mentoring session, themed, The Book In My Life/My Encounter With Book will hold. It is an open air, TedEx kind of talk, in which a celebrity known to be both jovial and cerebral addresses a gathering of young Nigerians on what books have done to their life.

The event was created to mentor children about the values of literacy. Over the 20 editions of LABAF, this major children/youth segment has featured such distinguished Nigerians as Africa’s first Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka; Pat Utomi, professor of the social environment of business at the Pan African University; Femi Osofisan, the country’s top playwright and professor of Theatre Arts; the irreverent Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah; Nollywood veterans Richard Mofe Damijo and Joke Silva and the path breaking comedian Ali Baba, among several others. This year’s guests are Kate Henshaw and Lanre Fasasi aka Sound Sultan.

While Henshaw’s session holds on Friday, November 9, it will be Sound Sultan’s time on Saturday.

Rebuilding Nigeria: An Intergenerational Dialogue will also hold on Saturday, November 10, at Kongi’s Harvest Art Gallery at 5.00pm.

Titled, What was the Plan? it features Prof. Akin Mabogunje, 85, author of A Measure of Grace, and Titus Okereke, 76, author of Our Father’s Land.

At the symposium, there is going to be an interface with those born 30 to 10 years before independence.

A second part of the symposium features Chude Jideonwo, author of Are We The Turning Point Generation?; Eghosa Imasuen, author of To St Patrick and
Abubakar Adam, author of Seasons of Crimsons Blossoms.

The interface is with those born 15 to 20 years after independence. Moderator is Kunle Ajibade, Executive Director, The News Magazine.

LABAF, which started in 1998, is an advocacy idea; it is promoting the idea of people reading books; gaining knowledge, freeing themselves from ignorance.

There are reading workshops for teenagers and children; panel discussions on selected books; cross cultural exchange between Nigerian writers and writers from elsewhere in the world; book exhibitions and sales by publishers, booksellers, embassies etc; art and craft sales and art exhibition.

LABAF has hosted writers, artists and culture enthusiasts from South Africa, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Lesotho and other countries. LABAF holds every November and its 20th edition in 2018.