Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Alfredo Bini’s tale of darkness from the Sahel




In the ambience of the Azania Speaks conference that held November 17-19, the tall, gangling fellow with glasses firmly planted on his Hollywoodite face looked like just another character on the campus of the University of Udine; perhaps a student or a teacher in the school that was playing host to the conference on Spoken Word and Oral Literature in post-colonial Africa. However, many of the participants who could or must have given him such an inaccurate identity, had already encountered his work without putting the lean frame behind such a monumental piece. No one could have walked through the passage of the campus at Sala Conveni di Palazzo Antonini via Petracco 8 in the heart of Udine into the hall where the talking sessions held without encountering the work of Alfredo Bini.
It was a video cum slide show installation mounted in the passage, and which welcomed everyone to the arena of the conference. Frame after frame of deeply affective images streamed out of the TV screens signifying the artist’s recording of the tragedy that water politics has visited on the people in the Sahel landscape of Africa, particularly in Burkina Faso. The collection, which he recorded when he accompanied an ngo on a mission to the Burkina Faso chunk of he Sahel region, was presented under the theme Water and land in Sahel, the case of Burkina Faso.
Bini’s images are fascinating in the photographer’s choice of angle, in such a way that an otherwise innocuous scene is transformed into almost live rendition because of his point of emphasis. In every frame there is a dominant figure that foregrounds the tragic mood of the landscape. The artist also explore the relationship between light and shadow to create contrast and strike emphasis. The technique is so effective that the viewer is compelled to thus empathise with the artist’s POV by just gazing at the huge figure that often seems to dwarf other features in the frame, and by simply tracing the movement of the shade in the frame. The images signify the failure of critical thinking of African political elites as well as the rape and plunder that colonial powers or the so-called industrialised nations continue to visit on hapless continent and its helpless critical mass.
Even years after he undertook the journey that recorded the collection, Bini still spoke passionately about his experience. He said he could still not overcome the shock he had when he encountered the magnitude of poverty that the selfish, conniving political leaders of most African countries have put their people. “These people did not use their land to produce food, which they need, they sold the land to multinationals who use the land to produce sugarcane which cannot feed the people, and which they export to Europe with the people the owners of the land as the workers who earn small money per day. They have become tenants on their own land, and they have allowed foreigners to take over the land, who then employ them! They do not even have water, because they have given out the land”, he said over lunch in the course of the conference.
Here is Alfredo Bini’s full explanation of his project:
After president Sankara’s death and after the European interference reaffirmed, water and land are still two valuable resources for daily life. The uninterrupted exploitation carried out by multinationals is only making the problem worse.
Burkina Faso is a country located in Sahel area, a stripe of land in Africa between the Sahara and the tropical moist region – a boundary zone between two contrasting bio climate areas, marked out by a half-arid landscape. The meaning of the word Sahel, from Arabic ???? sahil, shore, border of the Sahara desert, is in fact side of the desert. For millenniums this territory has been affected by the climate. Rainy and arid periods shape the environment and condition its inhabitants, who today and in the past as well, have always been looking for the two most important resources for life: water and land. Agriculture and sheep farming, so the survival of entire villages, depend on the availability of these two elements.
In Sahel people are used to depend on out-of-control events and they developed during the times a great spirit of adaptability. People are shaped by the land and by the conditions they are living in. The more such elements are difficult, the more they develop a sort of meekness and respect toward what surrounds them. In Burkina Faso more than the half of the people is animist, following the ancient beliefs that natural element have a soul. Earth is considered as a god. In fact during sowing time propitiatory rites are dedicated to it and carried out with sorghum beer in order to get its benevolence. Fields, crops, cattle, people, everybody and everything depend on earth’s capacity to distribute wealth such as cereals, grazing lands, fruits. This is the reason why men try not to alienate its spirit. Rains, alternating with sun, perform their precious task and give the land water – indispensable element in order to keep the vegetative cycle. Water too is an element bound to popular beliefs and its eventual plenty or shortage is connected to the behaviour of the people all the year long. Crimes, offences, homicides are often seen as causes of scarce or late rains. The controversial political facts happened in Burkina Faso are often considered having a bad influence on rain time.


. Alfredo Bini and a friend at the Azania Speaks

The Sahel and, more in detail, Burkina Faso, became famous at the beginning of the ‘70s when a rainfall lower than 75% of the still lacking local rain average caused a drought that had impressive repercussion on people’s life: inadequate yield of agriculture and disappearance of grazing lands with the following death of 70 – 80% of oxen. The faming in Sahel caused the death of one million people and at least 50 million people suffered heavy food shortage.

Burkina Faso was one of the most damaged countries. In 2005 and 2006 some events made believe a severe famine could occur again and also in this case some unfavourable conditions found their origin both in natural and human causes. In the whole area it has been scarce rainfalls for years, the consequence was lower crops yield and a following higher consumption of the limited food stocks. An invasion of locusts concentrated in Niger made the situation more and more critical endangering an area tried by scarce crops of the previous years. It was told that in Burkina Faso 80% of the population could hardly find sufficient food.
Such food crisis made again emerge one of the biggest problems of the Sahel’s countries, where the reduced availability of fertile lands magnifies the effect of the scarce rainfalls. The lack of growable land has not a natural cause only; it is also a consequence of the choices made by the colonial administration and later, because of the huge interests, kept by the most of government set up after independence.
In the past the growers grew thermophile cereals, such as millet and sorghum, that need little water. Together with rotation such cultures granted a good balance to the delicate land. During colonial period the most fertile lands were changed into plantations by the foreign companies that did not cultivate thermophile or xerophilous cultures, but they planted cotton and sugarcane, maize, peanuts – products for export that, besides impoverishing the land and bring to desertification in about thirty years, this is the case of cotton, they also lower the level of the underground water layers because they need a lot of water to grow.
It is easy to understand that the prevailing of this agricultural model, besides reducing the scarce cultivable lands, that in Burkina Faso are only a small part of the territory (14%), changed also the social structure of part of the population.
Today those who work in plantations earn from 0,4 to 0,7 ? /day – insufficient to grant an acceptable support and the purchase of indispensable articles. In some area before such economical model prevailed food provisions took place through barter that assure a minimal, but constant, production and spread of particular goods. Many growers after plantations were established could no more cultivate the best lands and moreover got an inadequate salary to support them, without goods to exchange and with a seriously compromised that does not allow even the cultivation of cereals needed for food.
At the moment this area of Africa has an underdeveloped agriculture, with a few means available, where the work is carried out almost exclusively manually on not much fertile lands, without the possibility to have sufficient food stocks. In such situation, as soon as unfavourable weather conditions reduce lands’ yield, food stock problems rise and many associations distributing help affirm that, in case of severe emergency, their efforts will not be sufficient to avoid famine, such as the one known in the 70s.
Thomas Sankara, during his premiership, tried to solve this situation. He tried to limit foreign companies’ influence in domestic politics trying to give farmers a more effective mentality for the management of their land. He was used to say “the land belongs to those who work it”. Further to this and other reforms Sankara was killed in 1987. In Burkina Faso everybody agree on saying the murder was supported by the French government and organised by Blaise Compaoré, Burkinabe president in charge. After Sankara’s death reformist activity regressed and nowadays, 20 years later, Burkina Faso meets again into the possibility of a catastrophic famine.

In this background during the years the interventions of humanitarian associations that realised development and help projects increased. The interventions were steered into children’s education, schools were built and teaching staff was trained and they tried to improve sanitary conditions thanks the opening of free drug dispensaries and sanitary education courses. In the same time professional training and local handicrafts production were supported and thanks to micro credit institution ethnic and local trade initiatives were born. The aim is to improve the quality of life of the people, making them financially self-sufficient and giving them cultural and social means allowing them to set themselves against the evil political choices of the government.



ALFREDO BINI
I was born in Pistoia, Tuscany, where I still live. I have always been attracted by the visual arts and their reproduction. I started off playing around with an old family Cannonet which I used on trips and holidays; as time passed, this passion developed, and with it came new commitments.
My first projects were based on landscape photography, which I gradually matched with travel and social report stories, which then became the principal focus of my work.
Initially I sought a faithful and descriptive representation of reality; later I began to create a more personal and interpretative vision of the subject, especially when I no longer feel the division between subject and myself, when the camera becomes a prosthesis of my body rather than an extraneous object I carry around with me. When this happens the subject perceives the sensation and becomes more spontaneous, taking no more notice of me.
I limit my equipment as far as possible in order to be as unobtrusive as possible; when I go on a shoot I take just one camera and a wide-angle lens. I make many of my landscape cuts with the tele, using the flash only as a filler, both in natural light and at night-time.
My work has been published in several European magazines and newspapers, displayed in Europe and in the United States, and are also shown at cultural events. In 2008, with a selection of images from my Burkina Faso project, I gained “Runner-Up” position in the “Travel Photo of the Year” competition, run in the UK by The Independent and Wanderlust Magazine. I won the Silver Award of Excellence in the “Biennial Juried Photography Show” held at the Edward Hopper House Museum on New York. I received the Bronze Award in the Orvieto Fotografia competition for the portrait and reportage categories. The “Water and Land in Sahel, the case of Burkina Faso” reportage gained second place in the International Photography Awards 2008 (NY) in the Editorial-Political category, and obtained two honorable mentions for the Environmental and Feature Story category, in the same contest.
I adore Asia, I find it a fantastic continent and an inexhaustible source of mental and photographic inspiration.





EniOlorutidakosefarawekosefenutembelekosebinukosena'kaiwosisiwiwolaawo

Rhythms of Azania... in The Guardian

(As published in the LIFE magazine of The Guardian of Sunday, December 7, 2008)



Azania Speaks, a conference on Spoken Word and Oral Literature in contemporary African literary discourse held between November 17 and 19, 2008 in Udine in the Northeastern part of Italy.
With the sub theme Visions of Patnership in Africa: The Art of the Spoken Word, the conference focused much of its deliberations on the power of oral poetry and storytelling; female voices in contemporary African oral poetry and contemporary African poetic production in connection to ancient African oral traditions. It was organised by the Faculty of Modern Languages of the University of Udine, under the leadership of the Dean, Prof Antonella Riem Natale as convener, backed by Dr Maria Bortoluzzi. The Doctoral research fellow, Raphael D’Abdon was coordinator of the conference with support of Laura Pecoraro and Piergiorgio Tresvan. Music was coordinated by the South African poet, Natalie Moletbasi while Tiziana Pers oversaw the Visual Arts segment.
Nduka Otiono, former Arts Editor of ThisDay newspaper and ex-Secretary General of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, gave the keynote in which he traced the origin of oral poetry and story telling performances in Africa, highlighting the current movement around countries on the continent.


. Otiono with Prof Itala Vivian, middle is Raphael, arrowhead of the conference secretariat

Speaking on Mind Grenades, Verbal Missiles: Spoken Wor(l)d and the Impoversihed Generation in Post Colonial Africa, Otiono, who is currently a Doctoral student at the University of Alberta, Canada, stressed on the development in Nigeria using the advent of such events as the now defunct Beautiful Nubia-initiated Word n’ Sound, British Council-sponsored Word and Picture, WAPI, the Culture Advocates caucus/Goethe Institut-driven WordSlam as well as Taruwa among others as example of the popularity that the form is gaining in the public performance space. He also noted that much of he content of the so-called Hip-Hop musical production in the country have their root in oral poetry performance. He however, paid tribute to the work of Sage Has.son (Rage) and Jumi Fola-Alade (Imole) – both of whom he said have focused their career on pushing the frontiers of the form. He also acknowledged the work of those regular features in WordSlam such as Awoko, Dagga Tolar, Edaoto and Cornerstone, naming them as artists who could be relied upon to continue to deepen public interest in the Spoken Word and Oral poetry act.
However, Otiono warned that except there is serious scholarship work trained at the work currently being produced, the potential gains of the Spoken Word form as a platform for free expression by the citizenry as well as a medium for advancing participatory democracy and good governance ideals may be missed. Sad enough, he observed that the Nigerian aged and seemingly un-dynamic academy culture does.
Exceptionally instructive, was Pierpaolo Martino’s (University of Bari) presentation titled Wi tired ah di degradation: Women’s dub poetry, in which he exposed the intrigues and politics of the sexes even in as neutral a genre as Poetry. He observed that much of the content of men’s dub poetry is full of condescending references to women, particularly summarizing women as simply objects of lascivious desires and libidinous fantasies. He said, however, that women themselves are beginning to respond although not as openly disrespectful of men – for instance, making uncomplimentary remarks about their genitalia – but in setting records straight by showing the men the straight face. They challenge men to change their tone and sing of more sensible subjects and behave responsibly. Intriguingly however, Martino said even as women wash up their sensuous personality to the vocation of dub poetry, they still have to rely on the ‘brawnish’ hard grind of male dub rhythms, which carries with it the atypical phallic aggression.

. The meeting of the continent: Ntsiki Mazwai, Nduka Otiono, Shailja Patel and Napo Mashaene; squatting is Jahman Anikulapo

The creative head of Culture Advocates Caucus, CAC, (conveners of the quarterly live poetry performances, WordSlam, also spoke on Popular Music and politics citing works of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, his contemporaries and the protégés of their type of music such as Lagbaja, Femi Kuti, Seyi Solagbade among others as well as the work of the so-referenced Ajegunle musicians and a few of the Hip hop and Afro-pop acts. Specifically on Spoken Word, he gave credit to Mode 9, whom he said is about the most eloquent of the form. He informed that the future of Spoken Word and Oral Poetry in popular musical idiom depends on the encouragement from the larger consuming public, who would at some point need to start demanding more meaningful and serious lyrical content from the Hip-hop singers and musicians. “For now, much of the music that is coming out from these chaps is flat, lack depth or worthy themes. The lewd and sleazy lyrics have become the norm, giving strength to the claim that philosophy and critical thinking have taken flight from the faculty of many of the current generation of artists”, he said.
There were other remarkable presentations including ‘The Brave New World of African Women Fighting Through Words’, by Prof. Itala Vivian from the University of Milan, who in conclusion urged for producers of cultural events on the continent to give more rooms to expression by women, especially through the arts. Prof Itala was indeed an inspirational presence at the conference; her knowledge of African literature is vast and she seems to have met virtually everybody who was important to the great cultural movement that produced the literature of the 60s through the 90s and beyond. She recalled with nostalgia her meeting with Ken Saro-Wiwa, especially, “the huge laughter from the smallish man… he was full of life and it was sad that the Nigerian government killed him so violently”, she said, recalling that she and a few friends had few hours after the writer, environmental activist was hanged in November 1995, organized a quick conference to draw world attention to the madness that had just transpired in Nigeria.

. Pierpaolo speaking on Women Dub poetry

“I remember that people from AGIP were invited and they came… making attempt in their presentation to show that unlike the other oil companies in Nigeria, they had been responsive to the needs of their host communities”.
Aside the various presentations, the conference was suffused with performances, mostly by the South
Africans, whose vibrant voices were led by the compulsive crowd teaser and thriller, the poet Natalia Moletbasi, who also played active role in the organization of the conference. The performers were no doubt drawn from the past work of the coordinator-in-chief of the conference, D’Abdon, who had done an earlier research: The Post-Apartheid South African Poetry. The star performer was Ntsiki Mazwai, whose cute act leans more towards dub poetry. The audience members were instruments in her fingers and she knows how to twiddle them to her will and rhythms – with music as a strong feature of her work. Napo Masheane, did not rely on music but her sensuality even while she invokes the spirit of the heroines of the motherland and talked about political issues was winsome. She drove the audience to passion with every of her rendition. There were other poets too, encouraged to perform in either Italian or their native languages. Sardanian Alberto Masala, whom Prof Vivian described as a very sensitive poet but who needs to organize his live acts, articulated the anxiety of his people, which he described as one of the fast disappearing tribes in the world. “my language is fading away, my people are disappearing”, he wailed.

. Tahar Lamri, the Algerian migrant poet in Italy, in performance

Lance Henson, however, whom Otiono critiqued as intensely sensitive is a poet in the natural fare of the griot of old, who engage nature to explain the foibles of man and living. His subjects are often the unexpected and his poem very short, such that just as the listener is warming up into the act, he has already finished his words leaving his voice and his evocative words lingering in the consciousness.

. A cross section of the audience

A brief screening of recordings from WordSlam also gave a hint of what is currently happening in Nigeria. It’s elaborate staging technique and often charged atmosphere coupled with the involvement of children, was applauded by many in the audience.
Perhaps the most affective lesson taken away from Azania Speaks was the performance possibilities that were exposed for the Short Story form. Shailja Patel, the Kenyan Word artist’s performance of excerpts from her published work, Migritude: An Epic Journey in Four Movements remained the most applauded presentation at the conference. On her stage, the cold word of the short story gained a narrative strength that is executed in intense dramatics and vocal colourings; her voices rose and dipped according to the cadencies of the characters of the historical facts she was narrating – she drove every of her conviction about the narration into the heart and heads of her audience. The silences in the room were an attestation to the veiled accord between her and her listeners.
Sharing of Patel’s new wave of performance Short Story form was Tahar Lamri, the Algerian migrant artist who is based in Italy. Lamri’s reputation in the story telling vocation actually runs ahead of him. He has earned immense credit as a public performer, and this was what he proved with his presentation in Udine, in which he recapped the story of the decimation of Africa and its human and natural resources in his The Voices Pilgrimage. There was also Gabriella Ghermandi from Ethiopia presenting Queen of Pearls and flowers: A Story of Ethiopian patriots Resisting Italian Colonisation.



. Lance Henson...


Azania Speaks is indeed a testimony to the power of the spoken word to help in quickening the democratic in post colonial Africa. As was observed at the conference, in a continent that has not managed to master the ideals of democratic governance, where despots and irresponsible leaders deliberately cripple participation of their people in national political debate, Spoken Word and Oral Literature could manifest as platform of free expression of the wills of the people.






EniOlorutidakosefarawekosefenutembelekosebinukosena'kaiwosisiwiwolaawo

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rhythms of Azania

(As published in the LIFE magazine of The Guardian of Sunday, December 7, 2008)

Azania Speaks, a conference on Spoken Word and Oral Literature in contemporary African literary discourse held between November 17 and 19, 2008 in Udine in the Northeastern part of Italy.
With the sub theme Visions of Patnership in Africa: The Art of the Spoken Word, the conference focused much of its deliberations on the power of oral poetry and storytelling; female voices in contemporary African oral poetry and contemporary African poetic production in connection to ancient African oral traditions. It was organised by the Faculty of Modern Languages of the University of Udine, under the leadership of the Dean, Prof Antonella Riem Natale as convener, backed by Dr Maria Bortoluzzi. The Doctoral research fellow, Raphael D’Abdon was coordinator of the conference with support of Laura Pecoraro and Piergiorgio Tresvan. Music was coordinated by the South African poet, Natalie Moletbasi while Tiziana Pers oversaw the Visual Arts segment.
Nduka Otiono, former Arts Editor of ThisDay newspaper and ex-Secretary General of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, gave the keynote in which he traced the origin of oral poetry and story telling performances in Africa, highlighting the current movement around countries on the continent.


. Otiono with Prof Itala Vivian, middle is Raphael, arrowhead of the conference secretariat

Speaking on Mind Grenades, Verbal Missiles: Spoken Wor(l)d and the Impoversihed Generation in Post Colonial Africa, Otiono, who is currently a Doctoral student at the University of Alberta, Canada, stressed on the development in Nigeria using the advent of such events as the now defunct Beautiful Nubia-initiated Word n’ Sound, British Council-sponsored Word and Picture, WAPI, the Culture Advocates caucus/Goethe Institut-driven WordSlam as well as Taruwa among others as example of the popularity that the form is gaining in the public performance space. He also noted that much of he content of the so-called Hip-Hop musical production in the country have their root in oral poetry performance. He however, paid tribute to the work of Sage Has.son (Rage) and Jumi Fola-Alade (Imole) – both of whom he said have focused their career on pushing the frontiers of the form. He also acknowledged the work of those regular features in WordSlam such as Awoko, Dagga Tolar, Edaoto and Cornerstone, naming them as artists who could be relied upon to continue to deepen public interest in the Spoken Word and Oral poetry act.
However, Otiono warned that except there is serious scholarship work trained at the work currently being produced, the potential gains of the Spoken Word form as a platform for free expression by the citizenry as well as a medium for advancing participatory democracy and good governance ideals may be missed. Sad enough, he observed that the Nigerian aged and seemingly un-dynamic academy culture does.
Exceptionally instructive, was Pierpaolo Martino’s (University of Bari) presentation titled Wi tired ah di degradation: Women’s dub poetry, in which he exposed the intrigues and politics of the sexes even in as neutral a genre as Poetry. He observed that much of the content of men’s dub poetry is full of condescending references to women, particularly summarizing women as simply objects of lascivious desires and libidinous fantasies. He said, however, that women themselves are beginning to respond although not as openly disrespectful of men – for instance, making uncomplimentary remarks about their genitalia – but in setting records straight by showing the men the straight face. They challenge men to change their tone and sing of more sensible subjects and behave responsibly. Intriguingly however, Martino said even as women wash up their sensuous personality to the vocation of dub poetry, they still have to rely on the ‘brawnish’ hard grind of male dub rhythms, which carries with it the atypical phallic aggression.

. The meeting of the continent: Ntsiki Mazwai, Nduka Otiono, Shailja Patel and Napo Mashaene; squatting is Jahman Anikulapo

The creative head of Culture Advocates Caucus, CAC, (conveners of the quarterly live poetry performances, WordSlam, also spoke on Popular Music and politics citing works of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, his contemporaries and the protégés of their type of music such as Lagbaja, Femi Kuti, Seyi Solagbade among others as well as the work of the so-referenced Ajegunle musicians and a few of the Hip hop and Afro-pop acts. Specifically on Spoken Word, he gave credit to Mode 9, whom he said is about the most eloquent of the form. He informed that the future of Spoken Word and Oral Poetry in popular musical idiom depends on the encouragement from the larger consuming public, who would at some point need to start demanding more meaningful and serious lyrical content from the Hip-hop singers and musicians. “For now, much of the music that is coming out from these chaps is flat, lack depth or worthy themes. The lewd and sleazy lyrics have become the norm, giving strength to the claim that philosophy and critical thinking have taken flight from the faculty of many of the current generation of artists”, he said.
There were other remarkable presentations including ‘The Brave New World of African Women Fighting Through Words’, by Prof. Itala Vivian from the University of Milan, who in conclusion urged for producers of cultural events on the continent to give more rooms to expression by women, especially through the arts. Prof Itala was indeed an inspirational presence at the conference; her knowledge of African literature is vast and she seems to have met virtually everybody who was important to the great cultural movement that produced the literature of the 60s through the 90s and beyond. She recalled with nostalgia her meeting with Ken Saro-Wiwa, especially, “the huge laughter from the smallish man… he was full of life and it was sad that the Nigerian government killed him so violently”, she said, recalling that she and a few friends had few hours after the writer, environmental activist was hanged in November 1995, organized a quick conference to draw world attention to the madness that had just transpired in Nigeria.

. Pierpaolo speaking on Women Dub poetry

“I remember that people from AGIP were invited and they came… making attempt in their presentation to show that unlike the other oil companies in Nigeria, they had been responsive to the needs of their host communities”.
Aside the various presentations, the conference was suffused with performances, mostly by the South
Africans, whose vibrant voices were led by the compulsive crowd teaser and thriller, the poet Natalia Moletbasi, who also played active role in the organization of the conference. The performers were no doubt drawn from the past work of the coordinator-in-chief of the conference, D’Abdon, who had done an earlier research: The Post-Apartheid South African Poetry. The star performer was Ntsiki Mazwai, whose cute act leans more towards dub poetry. The audience members were instruments in her fingers and she knows how to twiddle them to her will and rhythms – with music as a strong feature of her work. Napo Masheane, did not rely on music but her sensuality even while she invokes the spirit of the heroines of the motherland and talked about political issues was winsome. She drove the audience to passion with every of her rendition. There were other poets too, encouraged to perform in either Italian or their native languages. Sardanian Alberto Masala, whom Prof Vivian described as a very sensitive poet but who needs to organize his live acts, articulated the anxiety of his people, which he described as one of the fast disappearing tribes in the world. “my language is fading away, my people are disappearing”, he wailed.

. Tahar Lamri, the Algerian migrant poet in Italy, in performance

Lance Henson, however, whom Otiono critiqued as intensely sensitive is a poet in the natural fare of the griot of old, who engage nature to explain the foibles of man and living. His subjects are often the unexpected and his poem very short, such that just as the listener is warming up into the act, he has already finished his words leaving his voice and his evocative words lingering in the consciousness.

. A cross section of the audience

A brief screening of recordings from WordSlam also gave a hint of what is currently happening in Nigeria. It’s elaborate staging technique and often charged atmosphere coupled with the involvement of children, was applauded by many in the audience.
Perhaps the most affective lesson taken away from Azania Speaks was the performance possibilities that were exposed for the Short Story form. Shailja Patel, the Kenyan Word artist’s performance of excerpts from her published work, Migritude: An Epic Journey in Four Movements remained the most applauded presentation at the conference. On her stage, the cold word of the short story gained a narrative strength that is executed in intense dramatics and vocal colourings; her voices rose and dipped according to the cadencies of the characters of the historical facts she was narrating – she drove every of her conviction about the narration into the heart and heads of her audience. The silences in the room were an attestation to the veiled accord between her and her listeners.
Sharing of Patel’s new wave of performance Short Story form was Tahar Lamri, the Algerian migrant artist who is based in Italy. Lamri’s reputation in the story telling vocation actually runs ahead of him. He has earned immense credit as a public performer, and this was what he proved with his presentation in Udine, in which he recapped the story of the decimation of Africa and its human and natural resources in his The Voices Pilgrimage. There was also Gabriella Ghermandi from Ethiopia presenting Queen of Pearls and flowers: A Story of Ethiopian patriots Resisting Italian Colonisation.
Azania Speaks is indeed a testimony to the power of the spoken word to help in quickening the democratic in post colonial Africa. As was observed at the conference, in a continent that has not managed to master the ideals of democratic governance, where despots and irresponsible leaders deliberately cripple participation of their people in national political debate, Spoken Word and Oral Literature could manifest as platform of free expression of the wills of the people.

Napo Masheane in performance

video

Ntsiki 2

video

Ntsiki in performance at Azania

video

Monday, December 1, 2008

Images from Azania Speaks



. Ntsiki Mazwai... in performance at the conference




. Natalia Moletbasi in performance






. Napo Masheane in performance

video

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CORA's Feast Of Book and Art Begins in Lagos



DAY 1

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2008

7am: Exhibition already set up

9am : Formal Opening of CHILDREN FESTIVAL
VISUAL REPRESENTATION FROM ‘THINGS FALL APART’
:Exhibition and comic Workshop.

10am : “My Encounter with the Book” by Funmi Iyanda

11am: “Green Graffiti” Workshop – Karo Akpokiere & Chukwuma Ngene
“Green Tales” Workshop – Obari Gomba & Adeleke Adeyemi
Theme: “Lagos on My Mind”- [Organized by LC3 in collaboration with CATE/CORA].

11.30am: The Festival Tour (where kids and their teachers are taken round the grounds of the Fair).



Children on duty at the festival last year

12 noon: YOUTH ON LITERACY

Theme: WHAT DO THE YOUTH DESIRE TO READ

(Panel Discussion on “Youth, Creativity and Development”) with established artists and active young people such as:
•Mrs Nike Davies-Okundaye: (Director, Nike Centre for Arts and Culture)
•Dr. Hope Eghagha: (Lecturer, Dept. of English, Unilag)
•Odion Ogogo: (Director, Heritage Ceramics)
•Tunde Aboderin: (Director, Mobile Cinema Crew)
•Denrele Edun: (presenter, Sound City)
•Segun Adefila: (director, Crown Troupe)
•Oyiza Adaba (Director, Africa Related)
•Kaffy Shafau: (Dance Director)
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2pm: COLLOQUIUM • Theme: WARS WITHOUT END: THE CHILD SOLDIER AS THE NEW HERO IN THE EMERGING AFRICAN NOVEL
Reviews, readings and discussions of Novels, and Non Fiction Works including
i. Ahmadu Koroma's ALLAH IS NOT OBLIGED ,
ii. Uzodima Iweala's BEASTS OF NO NATION;
iii. Helon Habila's MEASURING TIME,
iv. Biyi Bandele's BURMA BOY




3.pm: VISUAL ARTS SYMPOSIUM
• Theme: The visibility of Photography in the Nigerian Art Gallery Space
Keynote: TAM FIOFORI, veteran photographer,
Panel:
1. DON BARBER (rep PAN)
2. Rep, DEPTH OF FIELDS (James Uche-Iroha)
3. Rep: BLACK BOX (By Uche Okpa-Iroha)
4. Rep: ASSOCIATION OF GALLERIES OF NIGERIA
5. CHUKA NNABUIFE — Art writer
6. Victor Politis – Photography Enthusiast
7. Rep, Society of Nigerian Artists, SNA
8. Rep, Guild of Visual Artists

Moderator: Molara Wood, Writer, Journalist
Chairman: Kunle Filani
Special Guest: Chief Joe Musa, Director General, NGA
• Accompanying EXHIBITION on the theme: ‘The Energy of the City’
Featuring works by:
I. Members of PAN including Don Barber; Richard Enesi; Tam Fiofori; Okhai Ojeikere; and Adolphus Okpara
II. Members of DOF,
III. Members of Black Box and
IV. other photographers




DAY 2

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2008
7am: Exhibition already set up

10am: Talking Books with Aunty Sola & Friends: A roundtable discussion on ‘Banana Leaves’ – a sequel to ‘Without A Silver Spoon’ by Eddie Iroh.

11am: Panel Discussion and Interactive Session on ‘Sanitation and Climate Change’ the theme of ‘The Green Book’, an anthology of environmental poems, prose and plays by children and young people of ages 7-16.



1pm: “Green Creative Art Workshops”
with Rosalie Modder; Uche James Iroha/Akin Oniti; Wale Asobiojo; Tina Mba; Sheriff Ojetunde/Nike Fagade; Nkechi Osili

11. 30am: OPENING RECEPTION: Dance, Music, Readings etc

1pm: Presentation of THE WEAVER'S COLLECTION

1.30pm: PANEL DISCUSSION

• Theme: AFRICA IN THE EYES OF THE OTHER
Readings and discussions of Novels, and Non-Fiction Works including

(i) Paul Theroux’s DARK STAR SAFARI,
(ii) V.S Naipul's HALF A LIFE,
(iii) Shiva Naipul's NORTH OF SOUTH,
(iv) Gil Courtemanche's A SATURDAY AT THE POOL IN KIGALI,
(v) Karl Maier's THIS HOUSE HAS FALLEN.

Moderator: UCHE NWORAH
(Author, The Bloody Machete; The Long Harmattan Season; Chasing The Shadow)

3pm: ARTHOUSE PARTIES
Music, Wine and Dance Party For:

* Filmmaker TUNDE KELANI at 60,
* Painter KOLADE OSHINOWO at 60
Actor * Zack Orji at 50.
* Writer KUNLE AJIBADE @ 50
* Dancer ARNOLD UDOKA @ 50
* Designer HORGAN EKONG @ 50
(More names of “birthday people”, who have made significant contribution to the growth of culture production in the country, will be added)

4pm: SYMPOSIUM

• Theme: Dijns, Ghosts, Ghomids and Magical Spells: The reappearance of the Moonlight Tale in the New African Novel

* Zakes Mda's HEART OF REDNESS ,
*Andre Brink's IMAGININGS OF SAND,
*Ahmadou Koroma's ALLAH IS NOT OBLIGED


Day 3

10- 2pm: Fashion Show
(Between Kowry Kreations and LCC)

3pm: ART STAMPEDE

Theme: When Is The Profitable Reading Market?

Panelists:
Toyin Tejuosho,
Otunba Lawal Solarin,
Muhtar Bakare,
Bibi Bakare Yusuf

Moderator: TONI KAN
(Author, A Ballad of Rage; When A Dream Lingers Too Long; A Night Of The Creaking Bed)

5pm : Presentation of Awards for participation

* This will be the result of the Green Book Contest published to mark National Creativity Day. It will be a contest whereby notable environmental authors will participate by 'writing' the 'first paragraph' of a poem, story or play to be completed by school kids. 21 winners of the contest will have their works published and launched during LABAF 2008.

Partners:
CATE. LCC. ART ZERO. CHILD CARE NETWORK. KOWRY KREATIONS
GIVE NETWORK

Supporters:
. National Gallery of Art
. National Theatre of Nigeria


AN EXPLOSION OF COMICS AND CARTOONS AT LABAF




The 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival

The Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival is a self styled ultimate gathering of admirers, lovers and downright fanatics of comics, cartoons and animation. The 4th edition of the Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival holding at the National Theatre, Iganmu Lagos from the 7th – 9th of November, 2008 as a part of the 10th Lagos Book & Art Festival organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) and is themed: Youth and the Creative Revolution.

Youth and the Creative Revolution
This year's theme captures effectively the mandate assumed by LC3's organizers to harness the creative energies of young people towards positive development particularly through socio-cultural and economic empowerment. In that regard, this year, we have tagged on to the ever vibrant, ever youthful and ever revolutionary hip-hop movement in our programme for the LC3 through our different collaborative activities which we have lined up with our partners for the three days.

PROGRAMME

DAY ONE (FRIDAY 7TH NOVEMBER 2008)

8:00 am – 9.00am: Participating exhibitors / collaborators set up their stands.

10:00 am – 10.30am: Official opening of the 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival.

10.30 am - 3.00pm: Graffiti workshop and talks on creativity and the environment. Organized in collaboration with The British Council Lagos, Children And The Environment (CATE), Dream Arts & Design Agency and the African Artists’ Foundation. School children will get to practice their hands at graffiti under the guidance of visiting international graffiti artists and their home based peers.



3.00pm – 6.00pm: Interactive sessions / exchange for young artists with International Comic Book Artists from across Africa facilitated by the Center for Contemporary Art, Lagos CCA.

11.00 am – 6.00 pm: Screening of animated short flicks will hold for older folks who are not engaged with the children. Participants will talk shop on the screened flicks and the talks will be moderated by leading lights in the industry.

DAY TWO (SATURDAY 8TH NOVEMBER 2008)

8:00 am – 9.00am: Participating exhibitors/collaborators set up their stands.

10:00 am – 4.00pm: Words and Pictures (WAPI): The free expression event organized by the British Council Lagos will berth at LC3 with a major focus on hip-hop and its influence on comics, cartoons and animation.

DAY THREE (SUNDAY 9TH NOVEMBER 2008)

8:00 am – 9.00am: Participating exhibitors / collaborators set up their stands.

10:00 am – 2.00 pm: Fashion show in collaboration with Kowrie Kreations Media featuring the works of young Nigerian designers and of course, costumes inspired by comics straight out of Nigeria. All attendees are encouraged to wear the costumes of their favourite local / international super-heroes.

2pm – 4pm: Music, dance, networking till close.


What interested participants should do:

Comic / cartoons publishers and artists are encouraged to book stands to exhibit their comic books, cartoon collections or portfolios by contacting us through the email addresses / phone numbers below. Networking is key to LC3.
Artists who are already involved / who have interests in comics and cartoons are invited to bring their portfolios on Saturday the 8th of November for the Interactive sessions / exchange for young artists with International Comic Book Artists from France and across Africa facilitated by the Center for Contemporary Art where they will have one-on-one interaction with these facilitators.
All lovers of comics, cartoons and animation – children and adults alike- are encouraged to wear their favourite super-heroes' costumes on Sunday the 9th of November for the fashion show. Home made costumes are also most welcome and the most ingeniously dressed attendees will get to strut their stuff down the catwalk, right on television!
Spread the word.
Collaborators:
• COMMITTEE FOR RELEVANT ART, CORA,
• THE BRITISH COUNCIL,
• CHILDREN CARE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT (CATE),
• CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS, LAGOS, CCA
• DREAM ARTS & DESIGN AGENCY
• AFRICAN ARTISTS' FOUNDATION
• KOWRIE KREATIONS MEDIA

CONTACT US
For further information, please contact us though the following means:
Phone: 234-803-3000-499, 234-806-7421-215
Email: revolutionmedia@yahoo.com,lc3_05@yahoo.co.uk
url: http://www.naijacomics.blogspot.com/
Secretariat: CORA House, 1st Floor, 95 Bode Thomas Street, Surulere, Lagos.


AN EXTRA BOUNCE TO LAGOS COMICS SHOW

Professional Portfolio Review for Young Comic Artists at the 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival

The Centre For Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA Lagos) will be facilitating during the 10th Lagos Book and Art Festival an interactive session and creative exchange for young cartoonists and comic artists with visiting comic professionals from Africa and Europe at the 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival. This programme is part of the educational component for the Picha. African Comics, an international touring exhibition featuring 19 comic artists from all over Africa opening at CCA,Lagos on the 8th of November and continues to 20th December 2008.
- Hide quoted text -
Young cartoonists and comic artists are invited to come with their portfolios to the main exhibition hall, by Entrance 'C' of the National Theatre Iganmu, Lagos, venue of the 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival (which holds from the 7th till the 9th of November 2008) on Friday 7th November 2008 from 3pm till 6pm.
Two of the artists Kola Fayemi (Nigeria) and TT.Fons (Senegal) with curator of Picha Joost Pollman (Holland) and Caroline Vedhuizen (Holland) will take turns reviewing and discussing individually the works of the young cartoonists and comic artists in attendance after which will be held an interactive session with the general audience. This is a capacity building / cultural exchange initiative from the CCA in collaboration with the Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival and the Committee for Relevant Art.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Of Bards And Singers Under The Samarkland Tree

By IKE EGWUATU & ADENRELE NIYI

The second flight of poetry, word, music and dance last month came to be at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu. The Samarkland tree gave leafy foliage to the collective brimming with creative fervour.
The organisers Goethe- Institut and the Culture Advocates Caucus CAC prepared this second edition of WordSlam! not only to be a continuation of the successful maiden edition but a time for fresh discoveries in the literary arts scene. It was an evening of riveting performances from the usual suspects like Awoko, Conerstone, Edaoto, Sage HaS.son, Dagga Tolar. There was a surprise appearance by Afrobeat Artiste, Stage Actor and Fela Protégé, Dede Mabiaku who performed one of Fela's old songs. Dede' sister Ayeola was also present and she did poetry recitals on femininity in all its goodness and pitfalls. Beyond Nigeria shores, the poets welcomed compatriots like Segun Ola and Seun Beckley from neighbouring Benin Republic. Wale 'Laoye brought skills from the ancient town of Ede to showcase at the gathering.
The event kicked off later than the scheduled time but the performing poets gave the audience captivating moments.
CornerStone, a Nigerian who plays root music believes “Music is in my blood purely hereditary because his late father was a singer. He presented a poem titled 'Being a Blackman is not a crime' and the last line in the poem 'Here we belong' was performed as a song to the great admiration.
'They take us from here to America, Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago .here we belong, this is our home! Our only hope, here we belong. This is our root, my colour “Oh my race here I belong” (Chorus)
Habeeb Olatunde also known as Awoko sang his poem to put members of the audience in a romantic nostalgia. 'Dance to my rhythm' is a love poem which he presented in Yoruba lyrics: “jo s'ilu mi, mo fe lulu boya waajo. Mo fe pagbo ijo boya waa rerin simi muse, Ekuro lalabaku ewa, ewa lalabaku egbo”He also sang another poem with a philosophical title: The light. “Let the light shine to cheer our hearts. Let the light shine to bring the withered souls” of what importance is darkness without light? Of what dignity is the old without an offspring? Let the light live. Let the light reign. Let the light attain the peak of its goodness”.Dagga Tolar, a TV presenter and socialist, is reputed to have published many poems. At the event he presented No sad song and One bad kidney. These poems he used their choruses as songs.
Afro beat musician and leader of the Edaoto and the Afro genius band; Edaoto Agbeniyi also presented Feni-Foro and Don't Look Back, a poem replete with advice to be progressive.
Another interesting performer at the event was Sage Has.Son who presented Love is Strange, The Televised Revolution, Music, Musing Screw Poem
Speaking to National Mirror at the end of the event Conerstone revealed he derives inspirations from his spiritual father Robert Nesta Marley. “There is problem in Africa; my music is to set the captives free. Yeah man respect! I wanna start from where my spiritual father stopped” He wants musicians to stop singing about love but to sing revolution since people are suffering.
All the performers were supported by the popular Biodun and the Batik Band.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Word Slam 2: Poetic journey under the Samarkand Tree


By Bayo Olupohunda
*Culled from The Guardian Friday Sept 26. 2008

THE biblical, cultural and historical significance of the Spoken Word as captured by legendary sayings such as this Yoruba proverb oro la fi da ile aye (the world was created through the spoken word) was re-enacted recently by the poetic journeys of the Word Slam series from the stable of the Culture Advocates Caucus and Goethe Institut Lagos. The success story of the maiden edition of Word Slam which began on that rainy day in July continued penultimate Saturday under the Samarkand tree at the National Theatre Lagos.
From the scenic beauty of the Lagos Lagoon which provided the background for the court yard of Goethe Institut Victoria Island where the first edition was held in July, lovers of contemporary live poetry blended in beats, dance, music and live performances moved to the nature gardens of the National Theatre under the Samarkand tree. Where else could be more appropriate than under the poetic ambience of the Samarkand tree?

Legend has it that the tree derived its name from the antics of the then (Ogbanje or is it Abiku) NEPA now resurrected as PHCN which seized light in one of the rooms at the National Theatre, when Professor Wole Soyinka was reading from his collection of poems “Samarkand and other Markets I have Seen” prompting him to relocate his reading under the tree where the audience joined him.
The maiden edition of the World Slam series redefined the well-worn perspective of poetry as tortuous and long winding words strung together and meant to be read to an equally sleepy audience. This second edition of the programme featured a new set of prominent, as well as up-coming poets, who performed their poems with themes that addressed issues, such as survival, politics, religion, city hassles, hustles and bubbles, love and hatred and the general “wahala” of life.
Any one in the audience who did not witness the first edition was in for a surprise. Word Slam 2 was bigger and better. Poetic flights and dance with live beats in the background, energetic stage performance, music and instrumental without losing the contextual and thematic concerns of traditional poetry took the audience on journey of poetic fantasy. Artist dealt with a range of themes in contemporary Africa social, cultural and political milieu. Word Slam 2 also concretized the vision of the organizer which was to bring poetry to life in the tradition made popular by the ancient Yoruba Alarinjo Theatre, West African griots and the troubadours of the Middle Ages’ Europe.

Artists on the bill at the event took the audience on a poetic journey and had them glued to their seats as they savoured the beauty of the spoken word. Audience includes culture enthusiast, members of the diplomatic corps and poetry lovers. The collaboration between the Goethe Institut and Culture Advocates Caucus continued to break new grounds in redefining the expression of poetry as a creative art.
The beauty of Word Slam 2 was in the surprises and flexibility in the choice of themes for the day. The event kept the audience glued to their seats because they could not predict what would come next. Ropo Ewenla, the compere and Organizing Secretary, Ife Festival of Poetry added a lot of anecdotes, spiced with Ijala chants and occasional burst of songs rooted in his rich Yoruba tradition. From the intensely cultural voice of Seun Beckley and her group came a new voice in chants rich in African Folklore and spiritual tunes. She uplifted the audience and reawakened the need to go back to the roots.
Then the pleasantly strange but tuneful theatrics of Segun Eluyemi, a multi instrumentalist with an incredible ability to make sound out of the most improbable places in his body. One of the highlights of his performance was when he blew the hand held piano and accordion with the nose. The themes addressed by the poets at Word Slam 2 captured our very existence as a country grappling to redefine our existence in the comity of nations. Why is our country stagnating in spite of the enormous resources at our disposal?
Why is African a laughing stock and one of the most backward continents in the world always depending on handouts called aids? Poets like Ayodeji Akinpelu used his performance to remind the audience that our policy makers need to think for tomorrow rather than live for now while future generations suffer from their painlessness. He asks the audience” are they better than us? To which the audience replied in the affirmative. Ayodeji posits that the advanced countries where some Nigerians run to are not better but are lucky to be governed by forward thinking leaders.
He however left the audience in hopeful note. The hustle and bustle of our land formed the crux of the reggae beats of the emerging artist Cornerstone who through his music asked Africans for a cultural rebirth. The old reliable at the Word Slam maiden edition did not only put up performances that drew standing ovation from the audience, they further confirmed that they have come to stamp their feet on the poetic landscape which the Culture Advocates Caucus through the Word Slam events represent.
With the beats, chants, poetry and commanding performances from established poets like Awoko a multiple instrumentalist and utility performer, he is certainly a small compact explosion waiting to happen. Cornerstone, a distinct word artist and one of the emerging few possibilities of the new age of reggae music, Edaoto a distinctively unique artiste with his equally distinguished musical composition and arrangement, Dagga Tollar, a cool and unassuming revolutionary poet , and the poetic raps of Sage Has. Son is one of the most engaging interpreters of the confounding realities of these times.

They all presented a distinctive individual style and also expose the vast array of talents that abound in the poetry performance genre in our country today. Awoko’s energetic display showed that he is a master of the spoken word and so were others who lightened up the evening with poems and scintillating performances. Biodun Batik electrified the audience with Afro beats anytime he takes the band stand.
For example how could one have known that talents abounds in this genre but for the flexibility of the organizers of this programme who introduced the open Mic and Mind Session that threw up the sensual and beautiful voice of Aye-Ola Mabiaku, a multiple poetry performance winner? The performances of the sensual Aye-Ola Mabiaku, Uche Nwadinachi and Ras Banjo, Wale Laoye were some of the highpoints of Word Slam 2.
The burst of energy from the subtle revolutionary performance of Ayodeji Akinpelu, who was also one of the stars of the Open Mic and Mind session maiden edition in July, who is the described as young voice with a mature message lit the place up and sent the audience for their thinking cap.

The youthful but sensual Aye-Ola Mabiaku, who is the younger sister of Dede Mabiaku, particularly caused some stir among the men folk. She was enchanting. Her stage performance was magical as she elevated poetry into an art, with the soft beats in the background. She was alluring and beautiful as she dazzled the audience with a blend of romance poetry which one of the audiences called “Anatomy of a Woman”.
As a medium of cultural, social, political and national discourse, poetry is a medium of communication that had hitherto spoken only to the learned and the schooled. Sometimes long and boring. The culture advocates Caucus has redefined the old school poems read in classroom or to a listening, boorish audience to a more lively, open and gay atmosphere with beats and a blend of dance and music.
They have so to speak brought poetry to the “market place” of our daily lives. And because there is an element of poetry in our personal and national lives, the Word Slam series has indeed brought poetry to the public domain to be appreciated by all. For every day our lives is a mixture poetic beats that derives from our very existence. It is in this mode that the poems of the day spoke of the struggles of our lives and our inadequacies as a nation.
The show also featured the drum poet of Wale Laoye, the scion of the legendary traditional drummer, the late Oba Laoye, Timi of Ede who created the BBC tune of the sixties. The Open Mic and Mind session feature poets like Ajankoro from Ife who also used the Yoruba Language to deepen the poetic element of pun. The evening of poems was also enriched by the acts of Wale Laoye, Segun Ola, and Lanre Ari-Ajia who brought life into an already excited audience.
Footprints, a group of young dancers curated by Segun Adefila of the Crown Troupe added colours to the event. The maverick Dede Mabiaku, the Fela Anikulapo Protégé sang one of Fela’s old songs. As a feast of poetic chants and performance, Word Slam 2 did not disappoint and one cannot remember when last the Samarkand tree witnessed a rebirth of what gave the tree its name in the first place.
As Word Slam 2 got under way and the poetic performances reached a feverish point, my attention was caught by the swaying branches of the Samarkand tree which moved in gentle rhythm as it swayed in the evening breeze. For a moment, the swaying was in tune to the rhythm of the poetic beats and chants below. So just like the humans gathered under it, the historical tree seemed captivated by the performances of the young poets in performance under its relaxing presence. These young poets are fast becoming the face and future of an emerging genre of the spoken word. And for the Word Slam series and Culture Advocates Caucus, the organizers of the event, the poetic beat goes on.

WORDSLAM 2 IN THE PRESS

Culled from GuardianLIFE 21/9/08

Wednesday, September 17, 2008





A flight into the world of poetry

By EVELYN OSAGIE
(Culled from The Nation 17/9/2008)

*Sage Has.Son

Poetry and music are two of a kind; it seems there is an invisible knot tying them together. It was in the spirit of creativity that poets thundered their poetic essence last Saturday, under the Samarkand Tree at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. People from all walks came to listen to the poets’ rhymes at the second edition of WordSlam tagged: A feast of poetic flights. Evelyn Osagie reports.

Under the Samarkand Tree at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, Mainland, was where the bards and poetesses met, dined and wined with "Mother Nature" and "Father Creativity".

It was at the WordSlam II, which turned out to be a poetic feast, garnished with rhythm, rhymes and chants. The word truly came alive as the poets took turns to render their lines.

* AJ Dagga Tolar
The National Theatre, Lagos never had it so good. The audience left there soaked and deeply immersed in the creative muse. Folks from all walks of life turned out in their numbers to celebrate poetry.

In the first edition at the German Cultural Centre on Ozumba Mbadiwe Road, the audience was thrilled to rounds of poetry renditions by frontline poets, such as Odia Ofiemum, and young ones who kept them glued to their seats. The latest edition was quite refreshing; staying out with nature seemed to do the audience a lot of good. Not minding the flight of time, they allowed themselves to be taken on a poetic spree.

* Cornerstone

Poetry is as old as man; what keeps changing is its mode of performance. Little wonder the organisers said of their initiative that they were merely experimenting with the newness in the mode of performance of the genre, and not with the creative impulse.

They, however, warned: "One of the errors to make in the case of engaging poetry on the African continent and in pre-literate cultures is to assume that it is read."

* Awoko

With WordSlam II, they believe that they are again on the terrain of their forebears; this is a journey back to the beginning of poetry; and that is why, once more, they brought together some of the best chanters of the spoken word whose performances were backed by exotic tunes played by Biodun and Batik Band who played their hearts out.




But they are not alone in such experiment for an age of poetry is born - the rise of the era of poetic monologues. Various poetry slams have begun to take-off across the country, from one geo-political zone to another; and the genre is beginning to enjoy the recognition it deserves. One of such is the popular Abuja Slam which is an annual poetry feast where the lords and ladies of poetry meet and challenge one another on a poetry arena. With events, such as this, the new found prominence and attention the genre has stated to receive will be sustained. Fresh talents would be discovered and encouraged until it becomes a way of life.


*Dede Mabiaku and the Batik Band


* Dede and Aiyeola Mabiaku with the compere Ropo Ewenla

It appears that this new mode of performing poetry is wading its way through the entertainment industry. And it is likely to continue until it becomes a brand.

On parade at event were five of those who featured at the first edition – Marxist disciple Dagga Tolar; Awoko, the oral performer who combines the beats of gongo with his renditions; Cornerstone, the fabric designer-turned poet and musician; Edaoto, the Afrobeat musician and actor and Sage Hasson who would do well as a rap artiste.

New poets found their way on the poetic runway. They included the young voice with a mature message, Ayodeji Akinpelu; Lanre Ari-Ajia, the poet in the mode of traditional pun masters; Aye-Ola Mabiaku, sister of the Afrobeat eccentric Dede Mabiaku who was also at the event to watch his sister perform; Segun Eluyemi, the multi-instrumentalist with an incredible ability to make sound out of the most improbable objects; Ajankoro, lord of traditional Yoruba play-on-words-style; Prince Wale Laoye from the ancient town of Ede; Uche Nwadinachi who makes one think he has seen the first real performance from the West African region, particularly, Benin Republic; Segun Ola and Seun Beckely, among others.

* The Priest of the proceeding Ropo Ewenla with members of FootPrints who were also in attendance
There pieces centred on themes, such as life, death, history, love, pain, success disillusionment and so on.

Each bard had his unique style and mode of rendition. Some from Yoruba blended their oral traditional poetry, like Ewi, Isorokewi, Iforodara (pun) and the likes, with modern style of renditions. Some maintained the modern genre though with various styles of rendition while others, such as Sage went a step by having a fusion of rhythm and poetry. They spoke poetry in various languages but were united by the genre.



Whichever medium of rendition, the power with which they read their poems and highlighted their themes aroused various emotions in the audience, who were carried along in the Flight of Poetry to the land of inspiration. The themes treated by each varied from life, death, love, hate, pessimism, optimism, history, religion, erotic, romantic, as well as current themes in our national polity. Like drama, each session was engaging as most of the poetic renditions were interactive, involving the audience.

* Wale Laoye and the drum poetry

The audience was flooded with highly elevated language. Among the poets that performed, Aye-Ola’s performance was striking.

With the likes of Aye-Ola, women now have a voice to speak out on their behalf through a more refined medium – poetry.

* Aiyeola
Some members of the audience said her rendition scared them; others said it was exotic. Whatever emotion that she stirred, on stage, she carried on with passion and became a voice for the women folk. Each of her renditions bordered on women as the subject matter: her strength, weakness, joy and pain. I don’t wish to be a man, Passion of the mind and When a mad man died were some of the poems she performed.

"My genre of poetry is the ancient kind. In English, it is called pun," said Ajankoro who played with words in Yoruba. He treated the audience with a session of Iforodara.

His major rendition warned people that while enjoying the things of the world, they should not forget living a life of purity and intergrity. Ema je doo gbagbe ododo and Jabata Labata were the two Yoruba poems he presented.

The poets were not the only ones that entertained. Dede Mabiaku played one of Baba‘s songs entitled Wahala which was an interactive session; the audience was compelled to sing along.

For everyone present, it was an opportunity to join in the Felabration which is already in the air as the world remembers the late Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.


* Uche Nwadinashi

Footprints, a group of upcoming and young poets, also performed at the event.

The slam has ended but the memories lingers. Those who graced the occasion left with high expectation for what the next edition would bring and which poets would feature.