BY JAPHET ALAKAM
The Food’s Court, Freedom Park, Lagos as usual was busy last week as poetry lovers from all walks of life and other fun seekers sat comfortably in groups over some bottles of drinks and food and listened to the melodious tunes from the legendary Jimi Solanke, waiting for the commencement of the event tagged: A Night of Poets, reading and performances in the Poetry segment of the 3rd Lagos Black Heritage Festival, (LBHF).
After some minutes delay, the event whichfeatured reading of works by 16 Nigerian Poets and another 16 Italian Poets finally kicked off with the introduction of the readers by the events coordinator, Jahman Anikulapo who also stated that a celebration of the poets and their contributions will also be published in a collection by Book Craft, Nigeria later.
In line with the theme of the festival, Black Mediterranean: The Afro-Italian Connections, the chosen poets who had worked on varied sub-themes deriving from the main thematic framework of the ongoing Black Mediterranean Festival, including Trade, Migration, Religion, Politics, Trafficking among others carefully read their poems to the admiration of the audience.
The night was indeed special as it was reminiscent of the moonlight days as the Nigerian poets and a few of the Italian poets read/performed their work at the event to a background of music supplied by the duo of veteran actors, musicians and storytellers, Jimi Solanke and Tunji Oyelano.
Jumoke Verissimo, author of the poetry collection I Am Memory, and winner of the 2009 Carlos Idzia Ahmad Prize for a first book of poetry opened the reading with her poem Size of Mediterranean. She was followed by Uche Peter Umez who was touched by the ugly incident that happened to late poet, Ify Omalicha who died through a motor accident. Razinat T. Mohammed who came in all the way from the north read her poem titled Dancing in the church.
After the first reading, Jimi Solanke came again with a song that added flavour to the night’s gathering. He was later joined by Tunji Oyelano and Edaato and they performed in their usual ways to the applause of the audience.
The second reading took off with a performance by dramatist, poet, singer and author of Jankariwo, Askari among other works, Ben Tomoloju and that was followed by a reading titled Beneath the Wind by Richard Ali, thereafter Olufunmi Aluko read her poem titled Wondering Souls.
Then came the turn of the poem by Ify Omalicha, one of the poets who submitted her work for the festival but could not live to read it. Her roommate, Jumoke was called to say few things about her. Jumoke who lived with her in Ibadan where both of them prepared for the night before the unfortunate incident described her as someone full of ideas, always trying to assist in any way towards the development of poetry in the country.
According to her, although she is dead and could not live to perform life but by submitting her work she has already performed. After her speech, the audience rose in celebration of the beautiful poet as an honour of her departed soul and after which Segun Adefila read her poem titled Ikenga.
The events coordinator told the audience that due to some logistic problems, only one out of the 16 Italian poets was able to make to the event. However, their poems were read by the Italian coordinator Alessandra Di Maio. Di Maio read few of the poems with Stefano Benni.
Some of the Italian poets were Fabiano Alborgheti, Cristina Ali Farah, Gezim Hajdari, Roberto Mussapi, Annelisa Alleva and others. After that Jimi Solanke took to the stage again and did another number that sent the guest including the Italians dancing to the floor.
The next reading started with Deji Toye who read a poem titled Cross Currents, Tade Ipadeola read Highland Interlude and Tolu Ogunlesi read A Never Ending Flood before social critic, writer and author of The Poet Lied, Odia Ofeimun drew applause from the crowd especially the old generation when he came up and in his characteristic way he did what he knew best.
After Odia’s reading Lola Shoneyin performed what she called a special assignment given to her by the Noble Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka and she did justice to that as she masterly read Soyinka’s poem titled Migrations. Di Maio again read other poems from the Italian poets. Other poets that read includes Chiedu Ezeani, Gimba Kakanda while Chris Abani, Ogaga Ifowodo and J P Clark Bekederemo were absent.
Present at the well attended event were Prof. Duro Oni, Mrs Franssisca Emmanuel, Mr Badejo, Prof Osofisan, Taiwo Ajayi Lycett,Yeni Kuti and a host of others.