By Elizabeth Uwandu
EMOTIONS of pains of helplessness and involuntary silence over marginalization of rulers to the ruled, gender inequality, deprivation and violation of human rights and the voice of revolution and change filled the air as international and local poets demonstrated the power of words at the 2018 Lagos international poetry festival, LIPFEST which ended weekend.
LIPFEST, in its fourth edition tagged “Awake” which opened at Freedom Park, Lagos Island took a discourse through poetry, spoken word and music performances, riveting conversations, workshops and masterclasses on the peculiarity of vigilance and its importance to Nigeria and the world at large. With Efe Paul, director and co-founder as host, with his team,and chiefly sponsored by Nigerian Breweries among others, it featured scintillating performances from some of Nigeria’s finest poets and their foreign counterparts from German; United Kingdom and South Africa during the opening ceremony held at freedom park and the concert held at Muson Centre was witnessed by veterans like John Pepper Clark, Prof. Niyi Osundare and guest appearance of MI, Nigerian rapper.
Nigerian poet, Logan February opened the concert with “I want to be a butterfly” that portrays the beauty of innocence and the malady of living, here today, gone tomorrow. Then followed performances of Soddiq Dzukogi from Kenya based America’s rendition of pains of insecurity, wars and segregation. While Obii Ifejika Zayara’s poem raises questions about the silence on cases of kidnaps, rape and molestation of the girl child; Chika Jones Obiamaka wonders at the inability to bring rapists and molesters to book.
Yomi Sode , Nigerian British writer and performer bemoaned the perceived neglect of signs of depressed persons by his acquaintances that often led to high rise of mental health victims; Ntakeko Masinga , the lady in red did a solemn performance that remembered lost loved ones which pricked the senses of the audience that life is about chance and fate.
However, the audience also got more inspirations and laughter through performances of Graciano Enwerem’s “Be my headmistress and Omalicha extolling the virtues of woman. Dike Chukwumerije’s gimmick and dramatic performance themed, “This Country provokes the believer in me subtly laments the insensitivity of the rulers who ought to be servants but have become lords and dictators.
Nebo Mashile, the artist in resident, LIPFEST 2018; Daisy Odey ; Nick Makoha preached about love, the power of unity and respect of human rights; Wana Udobang’s We are the revolution and Tobi Balogun’s call for action against negligence and nepotism push the realization that individual and collectively chance is possible. Danez Smith , a black . queer . poz writer and performer from St. Paul , US rendition blew the audience away with series of performance of the pains and rejection of racism; and the uniqueness of the black race.
Other poets that performed included Julian Huen from Germany; Malick Jabir; Rez tha poet etc.
Speaking of the festival, Paul said this year’s theme, “Awake” was to arouse the disconnecting voices of power structure and the issues of justice, fair play and unity. This year’s festival drew 35 guests from 12 countries.
Speaking on the importance of art and particularly poetry to nation building, Mr Jordi Borrut Bel , MD, Nigerian Breweries PLC, said”In line with our philosophy of Winning with Nigeria, we recognize that the arts play an important role in the strengthening of the cultural values of our society. 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 the Lagos International Poetry Festival, we project the role of poetry as a tool for the reengineering 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. Poetry has always had the capacity to delight the reader or the listener, while at once heightening their sense of consciousness about the world they live in.”