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When global poets dazzled on Lagos stage at LIPFest 2018


Founder/Director, Lagos International Poetry Festival (LIPFest 2018), Efe Paul Azino; South Africa’s Nkatego Masinga, and African-American poet, Danez Smith… in Lagos

It is every poet’s dream to have an avenue where he or she can showcase his or her craft to a large audience through powerful and though-provoking performances. All over the world, there are festivals where spoken words experts converge to take their audience to a re-imagined world filled with regret, sorrow, hope and the gamut of experiences. These festivals, as they happen across Nigeria, are well attended by the art enthusiasts and are being given massive support by corporate organisations, foreign agencies, and benevolent individuals, except Nigeria’s governments at all levels.

It was against this backdrop that organisers of Lagos International Poetry Festival (LIPFest 2018), with support from Nigerian Breweries Plc, British Council, Goethe Institute and Heritage Bank, held four days of poetic feast that had word smiths from the U.K., U.S., Germany, South Africa, Senegal and host Nigeria in Lagos. The festival, which ran from October 31 – November 4, had a host of talented poets, writers and artists who also featured in music performances, fascinating discussions, workshops and masterclasses.

With the theme ‘Wide Awake,’ the poetic celebration created fora where participants discussed issues bothering the literary sector and larger society. It also focused on bringing about a smooth transition of legendary poets face-to-face with younger ones by giving them the required leverage to expose their talents to the world.

While delivering his speech on day one, which held at Freedom Park, CEO, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr. Jordi Borrut Bel, said the company didn’t hesitate to sponsor the festival because it believes art is a strong tool for national integration, peaceful co-existence, cultural affiliation, and employment opportunity.

“In line with our philosophy of ‘Winning with Nigeria,’ we recognise that the arts play an important role in the strengthening of the cultural values of our society,” Bel said. “Our sponsorship of this festival therefore remains a significant part of a broad spectrum of initiatives, which cover diverse areas such as health, water, education, talent development and youth empowerment across the country

“With LIPFest, we project the role of poetry as a tool for the re-engineering of society towards the objective of achieving progress for our nation. Poetry does not only interpret society, or serve as its mirror, it also helps us imagine better ways of being and living.”

He also spoke briefly on the theme and how the auspicious event would help breed and harness the potential of intelligent young poets, noting, “’Wide Awake’ examines the rousing wave of discontent voices that tip political and social power structures from the global North to the South and reinvigorate conversations on accountability, transparency and social justice, making it particularly vital for us all to stay alive to these salient issues of our time.

“Through this, we believe we can help to contribute to the breeding of young, emerging talent, engender conversations on critical issues and create a shared performance space for poets across the country and the world.”Also, Festival Director and co-founder of LIPFest, Mr. Efe Paul Azino, said the quick rise of young poets in Nigeria brought about the idea of the festival, saying it would be a waste of talent if these young creative thinkers were not given the platforms to showcase themselves, as he believes they are the next generation of revolutionary poets

According to him, “We realised there was a growing army of young people who have flair for art and could construct wonderful performances that are vital to proffering solutions to situations we face today. This was the reason why we decided to host a sort of carnival where award-winning poetry performers and up and coming ones would mix up and share ideas through workshops and seminars on ways to improve the creative industry. It is also a platform where they reach their dream audience and start their journey to stardom and legendary status.

“The most important thing about people who want to be poets is to see writers they see and admire, especially at the global level. In the past four years, LIPFest has had 24 workshops and over 250 guests that have amazed the audiences through poetry.”the last day was dedicated solely to poetry performances at Agip Recital Hall, Muson Centre. Legendary poets like Prof. J.P Clark Bekederemo, Prof. Tanure Ojaide, Prof Niyi Osundare, and Dr. Enajite Ojaruega among others were in attendance alongside top Nigerian artiste, Mi Abaga. For over two hours, the audience was thrilled with breath-taking, rhythmic, emotional and inspirational poetic performances.

Logan February, a Nigerian Poet opened the show with his emotional poem titled ‘I want to be a butterfly’ through which he sent a message of hope to the depressed, telling them that they can be free from their mental slavery. Graciano Enwerem took over with his funny and erotic poems titled ‘Omaricha’ and ‘Be my Headmistress.’ Sadiq Dzukogi performed ‘Memories by the sea,’ a tribute he endearingly rendered to his late daughter. Similarly, Chika Jones performed ‘Ochanya’ in memory of Miss Elizabeth Ochanya, the Benue State girl, who was sexually abused and murdered in the rape act. In fact, Jones’ performance evoked anger in the audience as it shows just how helpless the world stands by while a heinous was being perpetuated. Others were ‘Once upon a time’ by Daizy Odey, ‘Stay woke’ by Tobi Abiodun, ‘We are all one and the same’ by Rez Tha Poet and ‘Tell them’ by Wana Udobang

However, Mr. Dike Chukwumerije’s ‘This country provokes the believer in me’ was perhaps one of the pick of the pack as he made use of sarcasm, lyrics and popular song to express himself. The audience, which joined him in chanting the chorus while he vocalised the thoughtful lines, appreciated his performance. It was yet another of Chukwumerije’s revolutionary but patriotic pieces that stirs the human soul to action, particularly in a country whose vast majority watches helplessly while a tiny few makes mincemeat of the lot.

Yomi Sode, a Nigeria-British poet performed ‘The superhuman’ while another soulful poet, Nkatego Masinga from South Africa, performer a dirge ‘Welcome you home’ for her friend, who died from drug overuse. Masinga’s mellifluous voice, whose measured cadence was rousing as it was sombre. In it was aggregated the sheer embodiment of true performance. African-American poet, Danez Smith, rendered ‘Dear White America’ in which the rage of an oppressed black people, who struggle every day to find meaning of their existence, found expression.

Both opening and closing ceremonies were expertly moderated by Isabella Akinseye. POET-in-residence for LIPFest 2018, Lebo Mashile from South Africa, performed some of her works ‘Bones,’ while Kafayat Quadri strummed her guitar along with ‘Please, do not have sex’ and Julian Heun of Germany with ‘Life Questions.’

On his impression of the festival, Osundare, commended Nigerian Breweries for financially supporting the event, saying it was a great avenue to harness poetic talents in young Nigerians and encourage others19 to have flair in poetry. He added that through the sponsorship, the company has paved way for poets to have their say on social and political issues affecting the country and drawing attention to the moral and ethical values that should be maintained.According to Osundare, the art of poetry helps to change human perception on social ills plaguing the society and how corrective measures could be adopted.

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