The Abuja Literary and Arts Festival (Alitfest), has indeed come and gone. It was garnished with activities spanning from Thursday the 5th of June to Saturday the 7th of June, 2018.
Alitfest began nonetheless, with a Masterclass on Poetry and Prose which took place at the British Council, Maitaima, Abuja, and had Bash Amuneni, Dike Chukwumerijie and Sueddie Agema as facilitators. Concurrently at the Exhibition Pavilion, Garki, was a session featuring the following speakers: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Anwuli Ojogwu and Musa Ikhilor. These extraordinary persons spoke extensively on the topic, “Nigerian Literary Market: Minefield or Goldmine?”
In their discourse, they exposed the nitty-gritty of copyright laws in Nigeria and its effectiveness.
The opening ceremony took place few minutes after the first session. The excitement would have been incomplete without musical performances from Keren-Happuch and Jon Ogah.
This was followed by a panel discussion on the topic, “From Paper to Screen: Adapting Nigerian Literature on the Big Screen.” The discussants Gukas and Emil Garuba, were moderated by Stanley Bentu. At the end of the discussion on screenwriting, participants were indeed informed of the need to stay true to the spirit of a book while trying to condense characterization in screen.
On Friday July 6th, the first session titled, “New Nigerian Political Frontiers: Youth Involvement in Politics – #ReadytoRun,” was clinically moderated by Amaka Nwankpa. The discussants were Nana Nwachukwu, Amina Yahaya, Jude Feranmi, Andy Madaki and Bella-Anne Ndubuisi. One could feel the air of a challenge, when Amina Yahaya, spoke about her experiences as a Muslim woman who took charge of leading, even while at the University in Sokoto. Unfortunately, discussants were not unified while answering the question of whether to “replace or repair?” Yet ironically, the depth of truth was glaring namely: that there was a need for a generational agenda.
This point was further concretized by Belle-Anne who studied at the Lincoln University, United States, and had experiences in coordinating youths in her college to get involved in the voting/political process. “…for anyone to be up into politics,” she said, “they have to be prepared from the scratch...”
The topic for the next session was titled “Blogging: Art or Craft?” It featured Ono Bello (CEO www.onobello.com) , Noble Igwe (CEO www.360nobs.com) and Eketi Edimma (storyteller), as discussants. These amazing panelists gave an overview of how they started off building a career as bloggers and storytellers. Ono Bello, who is more interested in reporting fashion/beauty, acknowledges that blogging is never easy. These thoughts were re-echoed by Noble Igwe, even as they tried responding to the question of whether bloggers care about reputation or people’s identity, when reporting a piece of news.
Many participants, would agree with the discussants that blogging is an art that could invariably grow into a craft. Nevertheless, it wasn’t clear what the differences between earning money as a blogger and what earning money from blogging were.
Not many Nigerians appreciate or are even aware of the presence and effectiveness of Theatre houses to National development, consciousness, and to entertainment. This is one reason Dike Chukwumerijie, moderated the next session on “Staging the Art – Reviving Nigerian Theatre.” Those on the panel were Oluwaseun Adekoya (CEO African Renaissance Theatre), Pope Egbuche, Chioma Ezeani and Kayode Aiyegbusi.
The problems of the flourishing of theatre houses/shows in Nigeria, were narrowed down by discussants to the challenge of building/cultivating an audience. Refreshingly, some participants commented on the need for unconventional marketing strategies, the need for more theatre reviews and permanent spaces in various communities, as well as the need for a collaboration, which will birthe an engaging yearly or monthly calendar for a waiting audience.
Punctuated by a lunch break, the simply beautiful and eloquent Patricia Mong, moderated the next session on “Book Reading Adrenaline or Introspection: Creating Nigerian Thrillers.” The discussants were Othuke Ominiabohs (A Conspiracy of Ravens), Demola Adeniran (The Ifeajuna Manuscript), Edify Yakusak (After they Left) and Michael Afenfia (When the Moon Caught Fire). It was really an educative session on the necessity of research to a writer of thrillers. The discussants talked at length about the mechanics of writing, and the need to take the minute and make it universal.
A panel discussion on “Art Appreciation as a Means of Validation,” with the question, “Does Prizes Matter?” had the following authors and award-winning writers as guests: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Ikeogu Oke Amara Nicole Okolo and Samson Iruesiri Kukugho. Throughout this session, it was absolutely re-echoed that prizes in fact do matter in validating an artist’s work. Nonetheless, Abubakar Adam, would have to reiterate that “the greater prize for the author is getting the heart of the reader.” Ikeogu on the other hand believes that literature is a war of ideas, yet he warns against writers who write solely to get a prize and not because they’re passionate about writing.
Just before the Abuja Literary Society (ALS) Poetry Grand Slam, Reward Enakerakpor (TV personality, Film maker and the CEO & Founder of The Storyteller Company), would moderate the next panel discussion with the topic, “Creating Sustainable Performance Literary Art (Poetry).”
At the panel was seated Dike Chukwumerijie, Bash Amuneni, Andrew Patience and Tope Sadiq. These fantastic panelists, gave an illuminating detail on how they each started off as performance poets, and emerging leaders of the stage for poetry and storytelling.
At the end of the discussion, it was clear to most participants, that just speaking your mind could be truth. This is the case because artists that have strong convictions in what they do, and how they do it, would always have a message. Bash Amuneni noted that “the proof of passion is in the pursuit.” Hence, the importance of finding a medium to market your words as a poet, to evolve your dream, et cetera, all of which could be made possible by getting a manager (a point Dike agreed to).
There was also an important question of whether there is any attempt of growing an industry for performance poetry in Nigeria or not.
With this session coming to a laudable closure, the participants were thrilled at the performances of Slam Champions/finalists, who competed against each other with words and gestures.
It was indeed a night to remember as Pario Olodo ended up a Grand Slam Champion with his winning poem titled, ‘They Think I’m Crazy,’ and a prize of 200,000 Naira, as well as the opportunity to represent Nigeria at the African Poetry Slam Cup in Chad, in November, 2018. Samuel Yakura, whose words create worlds on their own, came Second place with a prize of a 100,000 naira, while the energetic Deji Ige came out third with a 50,000 naira prize.
The ALIFEST Nature Hike, was the first dish served for participants on Saturday, 7th June (the Meet up point being at the Magic Land Gate). This was followed moments later by a Reading session for New, Unpublished writers by Samson Kukogho Iruesiri, author, poet and winner of the GT bank 2018 Dusty Manuscript Contest.
The Emerging Literary Voices session went on concurrently with the Creativity Workshop for Children (ages 6 – 16). Kamri Apollo moderated the next Book Reading on the 2019 Elections titled, “Peeling back the Curtain on Nigerian Politics/Governance with Writing.” The members of this panel included Segun Adeniyi (Against the Run of Play), Bolaji Abdulahi (On a Platter of Gold) and Ayigha Osori (Love Does not Win Elections).
Just like pre-colonial writers and the writers after colonialism, one would agree with the panelists that leadership in most parts of Africa and even in Nigeria, has also been a concern for serious political and protest writers.
A special session with Bernard Caron (Senior Research Fellow, IFRA), on “Nigeria or Naija? A Closer Look at Pidgin as a Language of Unity,” was closely followed by a panel discussion on the topic “From Nigeria to the World: The Role of the Arts.” The session was brilliantly, albeit calmly moderated by Efe Paul Azino, Nigeria’s popular performance poet, author and the Founder of the Lagos International Poetry Festival. Discussants included Bernard Caron, Sor Sen, Jon Ogah and Ukamaka Olisakwe. Panelists attempted answers to the question asked by Bernard Caron thus: when you write, do you consider the audience or not?
But that was moments before some participants murmured in a yawning surprise at Cogan’s comment: “…Chimamanda Adichie does not have a voice of her own. She is not a Nigerian…she writes well but her characters are American with Nigerian names. As a writer, one should be able to identify his/her voice and speak it fearlessly… (paraphrased).” The question of the role of music in National development was also brought to the table by Jon Ogah.
ALITFEST 2018, would not have been at its climax without the MADE IN NIGERIA spoken word theatre production by Dike Chukwumerijie and his fantastic crew. It is a performance that ‘uses poetry to interrogate our history as a people.’ During the show, Dike noted rather interestingly: “everyone responds to it,” Dike said, “there is indeed a Nigerian identity that is built on shared memories…memories that go far back in time to when we got Independence…”
In simple language, the MIN show was the summary of this year’s theme- NIGERIA TO THE WORLD.
Alitfest 2018, ended successfully because of some background help. Let’s call them the volunteers!
How to reference this page: “The Abuja Literary Festival (Alitfest), 2018: A Review,” in www.reasonchapel.com, published July, 2018, edited by David Francis.
Images in this review is courtesy of the Abuja Literary Society, Tonton Raymond, Ekene, Anastesia, Isaac Newton, Rovingheights and Sueddie Agema.
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