..As festival charts ‘Path to the Future’
Demas Nwoko, Wole Soyinka, Olu Jacobs, Yemi Ogunbiyi feature at festival
Lagos 2060, Lagos Supernatural City for review
By Godwin Okondo
ALL is set for the much anticipated 2022 edition of the annual Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF), which will take place from November 14-20, 2022 at Freedom Park, Lagos Island. Virtual broadcast component for offshore audiences will also be available.
Since its launch in September 1999, the 24 years’ old festival of books features a comprehensive week-long culture picnic that includes reading sessions, conversations around ‘content and context of books’, art and craft displays, children/students art workshops, Publishers-Booksellers-Writers-Readers’ Forum, writers’ workshops, Booktrek, book exhibitions, drama skits, live music, poetry and dance performances.
In past decade and a half, LABAF has gradually rebranded from being a project solely organised by CORA, to becoming a platform for other content producers to stage their events or accomplish their projects, according to the Festival programme Chair, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo. This year’s edition has as theme ‘Pathways to the Future,’ and is dedicated to the popular Nigerian artist, Dr. Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya, in his 90th year on earth.
As Anikulapo put it, “The discourse around ‘Pathways to the Future’ is meant to figure a way out of the ‘State of Flux’ which led us to a ‘Fork in the Road.’ If we’re not attempting to imagine the society we are going to build at the end of this messy journey, then we shouldn’t be around here. Every year, there are discussions on books that tend to have the theme of the feast as part of the core context.”
Some of the significant books selected for the festival this year include The United States of Africa by Abdourahman Waberi, The Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers by Paul Marland, Mo Gawdat’s Scary Smart’s The Future of Artificial Intelligence & How You Can Save Our World, Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me and People Like You, Ayodele Arigbabu’s Lagos 2060, Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, Itse Sagay’s All Will Be Well, Yemi Ogunbiyi’s The Road Never Forgets, Lawson Omokhodion’s Powered by Poverty, and Austin Avuru’s My Entrepreneurship Journey. Others are Muyiwa Kayode’s Brand Nation, SoroSoke by Sunday Akande, Vothuno by Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku, Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk-Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson’s Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, Olutayo Irantiola’s The Okeho Exodus, Wole Soyinka’s Of Power and Freedom Vol. I & II and Wole Soyinka: Selected Poems 1965-2022: A Retrospective.
The programme will kick off on Monday, November 14, 2022 at 2:00pm, beginning with a ‘Youth Summit.’ The event is a summit of young political activists who will discuss the future of the country, and has as theme ‘Emerging Political Leaders: Breaking the Jinx of the Status Quo,’ anchored by Emerging Political Leaders Fellowship (EPLF), a non-partisan programme that nurtures and prepares young Nigerians for political leadership at the local, regional, and national levels with a view to improving the quality of Nigeria’s leadership pool and the impact of its developmental interventions. The goal of LABAF 2022 summit is to allow the fellows share with other youths some crucial lessons learned from the fellowship, and to create a communion of young political thinkers who are working to change the game.
The panelists for this session include EPLF President, Tukura John Daniel, Vice President, Nafisa Atiku, and EPLF Fellows – Ngozi Nwafor and Didam Laah. The summit will be moderated by Rosemond Archibong. The session is organised by Praxis Hangout and a corporate and political PR firm, ARTnadu Limited.
By 5:00pm, Booktrek will hold at The Garden, featuring readings and conversations around the newest books on the Nigerian shelf. Attendance is open, but prior registration is required. The special feature of the session is the story of the rapper, actor and scavenger, Eric Vocal Slender, with a reading from ‘The Scrapyard Bard,’ an excerpt from Lagos Supernatural City by Tim Cocks. The protagonist, Eric Obuh will be in attendance, with members of the Scavengers Association of Nigeria (SAN), and beneficiary students from Brighter Future Initiative (BSI).
At 7:00pm, a film screening will feature at the Food Court, themed ‘The Nigerian Screen: Going Back to the Classics,’ and the feature film, Hostages, directed by Tade Ogidan (OGD Pictures Ltd.) and produced by iREP Documentary Film Forum & CAC.
ON Tuesday, November 15, is a visual arts day dedicated to Onobrakpeya. At 9:00am, the CORA Young Creative Club is at Freedom Park Lawn, with the opening of workshop and performances by students and youths from secondary schools in and around Lagos. The session is produced by Events by Nature and CORA.
An exhibition at Freedom Park Museum Galley with the theme ‘Songs for the Weaverbird: Writing and Art’ in celebration of Christopher Okigbo, which will be curated by Chuu Krydz Ikwuemesi, and produced by Sankofa Centre for Art and Creative Education, Enugu. Time is 11:00am.
At 12 noon, the Onabrakpeya @90 fiesta will kick off, with the first event beginning with the Onobrakpeya showcase in the Park, an exhibition of a few of Onobrakpeya’s metal & found objects exhibitions around the park, produced with Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation.
By 1:00pm, a symposium will kick off at Kongi’s Harvest, the second event, which is an intergenerational conversation on the theme ‘Our Inheritance: What I took from Bruce Onobrakpeya.’ It will feature renowned artists like Joe Amenechi, Dr. Kunle Adeyemi, Juliet Ezenwa and Ogochukwu Ejiofor. Closely following this is ‘Conversation of the Grandpas’ that has as theme ‘When we were young…. Dreams and Destinations,’ a conversation between Pa Timothy Fasuyi and Onobrakpeya. It’s co-curated with Tim and Carol Art Gallery.
Another exhibition is set to begin at 3:00pm tagged ‘Erections are Coming,’ a creative art space for artists to comment, introspect, or engage in satirical fun as catharsis on the concept of elections, especially in view of the ego-driven antics that typically add spectacle to the campaign trail. The session will be curated by Ayo Arigbabu and Aderemi Adegbite.
AT 4:00pm, an art performance by Yusuf Durodola with the theme ‘Eja ni’ will hold, as testimonial prediction of what is to be experienced in the next four years of Nigerian political life, a statement on the show says, continuing, “What we need is not what we are chasing! We embrace the mundane where our collective evolution is being discerned by some set of us. Is it not worrisome how our poor livelihood is being rebranded to assume a new look? How did we get to this dehumanizing situation, and for how long will it last? The answer is for us all to figure out.” The performance is produced by Yusuf Durodola Studio.
At 5:00pm, another exhibition will hold at Kongi’s Harvest, which is the opening of ‘Timeless Memories with the theme ‘Timeless Memories: Elastic Effects. Connecting the Lines between Soyinka and Fagunwa.’ It’s in celebration of Wole Soyinka @88. The show is a traditional Yoruba-themed installation exhibition and literary discourse based on the book, Forest of a Thousand Daemons: A Hunter’s Saga, with translation by Soyinka. This 5th episode of the Timeless Memories: Elastic Effects will examine the acclaimed book of one of Nigeria’s foremost Yorùbá fantasy writers, D.O Fagunwa.
The book, titled originally in Yoruba Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irumole (1938), is a fantastic story about a hunter who was caught in a mystical forest filled with a thousand demons. The Exhibition will feature an Installation and will entail the re-creating of an enchanted forest with recyclable materials. A variety of indigenous masks representing a thousand demons will be deployed to symbolize the essence of Yoruba spiritualism and the mythical depths of Fagunwa’s literary brilliance. The installation will be complete with a 6ft figurine of the embattled hunter in the middle. Ambience will be provided by audio readings of different excerpts from the book; the voice-over excerpts will be taken from both the original Yoruba text and the English Translation by Wole Soyinka. This session is produced by Asiri magazine & Culture Advocates Caucus, CAC.
At 5.30pm, another performance art with Jelili Atiku will take place at Freedom Park arena with the theme ‘Don’t Eat Garlic Near The Queen.’ A statement on the show says, “Did you Know? Choosing the right synonym for power is not limited to AUTHORITY, JURISDICTION, CONTROL; it also stretches to COMMAND and implying the power to make arbitrary decisions and compel obedience. Did you Know? The death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth has brought up critical reflections and realistic stories about the queen’s legacy and British imperialism, colonialism and its horrors, its lies of white supremacy and more complicated acceptance of democracy and ejections of indigenous political systems and values. Did you Know? Queen Elizabeth’s duties were largely portrayed as ceremonial, but the flamboyant ceremonies of her burial has highlighted the British deep attachment to their indigenous values and rituals.”
FROM 6:00pm, there will be the presentation of Pa Demas Nwoko’s Concrete Thinking (New Culture Publications). Nwoko’s artistic practice, philosophy and architecture have remained a critical influence in Nigeria’s creative and cultural space for all of seven decades. His new book, Concrete Thinking, which was released in October 2022, documents his thoughts and philosophical leanings in the spheres of art and culture, as contained in various essays, both previously published and unpublished, written over the duration of his eventful multi-disciplinary career as a fine artist, lecturer in theatre arts, stage designer, architect, sculptor and builder. Concrete Thinking will be presented alongside his also newly published autobiography, The Happy Little African Prince. The book presentation is produced by Dreams Art and Design Agency while special guest of honour is Nwoko.
At 8:00pm, ‘Poetry in Motion’ will kick off at the FoodCourt. The event is ‘Word Slam… Feast of Artistic Flights,’ with ‘Dance for OBOMEYOMA’ as theme. This is a session of spoken words, drama skits, dance and music in celebration of the Artistic Bard of Agbarah Otor. This session is produced by Culture Caucus Advocates (CAC) and CORA.
On Wednesday, November 16, the day’s events which will begin at 9:00am has CORA Youth Creative Club at Freedom Park Lawn doing their stuff. The session is produced by Events by Nature and CORA.
The CORA-PAWA dialogue will begin at 1:00pm, with writers and publishers examining the imperative of translation to contemporary literature production and consumption. The session is themed ‘African Literature Should be in Indigenous Language – Ngugi wa Thiong’o.’ sixty years after he first made the proposition that African literature should be appropriately defined and practised as ‘writing by African writers in indigenous literature,’ Professor Thiong’o is yet to relent in his proposition. “Given that many of his contemporaries and even younger writers have not fully accepted his position, PAWA and CORA seek to mediate by proposing a more appropriate role that translation can play. Writers in at least six indigenous African languages present their individual positions on the debate, by first outlining their challenges in the practice, and then proffer ways forward.” The event is produced with Pan African Writers’ Association (PAWA).
At Esther’s Revenge lounge at Freedom Park, Yorùbá Lákò̩tun Colloquium, themed ‘Àwọn Ojú ọǹ à sí Ojọ ́Ol̀a’ – Pathways to the Future, will take place at 1:00pm. Yorùbá Lákòt̩un is a cultural renaissance show started in 2015. In partnership with the Committee for Relevant Art and Alàgbà Gbémisóyè Àyànó, “we continually encourage the use of Yorùbá language, the reading of Yorùbá literature,” the statement says. “In alignment with the theme for the year, we are engaging the theme “Àwọn Ojú ọ̀nà sí Ojọ́ Ọ̀la” (Pathways to the Future) in search of the pathway for the sustenance of Yorùbá language and creatives. There is a lead speaker and panelists who will explore other strategies in advancing our cause. The appointed speaker is a lecturer from Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State, Dr. Kólá Òní, and the session will be moderated by Olútáyọ ̀Ìrántíọlá, Atọ́kùn, Yorùbá Lákòt̩un. There will also be a special presentation of The Okeho Exodus– a historical play by Ìrántíọlá.
By 2:00pm, there will be a conversation where cross-generational authors will examine the prospects of African writing on the world stage. The session has as theme ‘Taking African Voices to the Global Stage: Focus on Abibiman Publishing and African Writers Series.’ The African Writers Series has been resuscitated by Abibiman Publishing in the UK. The founder of Abibiman Publishing, Dr. Onyeka Nwelue is grand nephew of Flora Nwapa, whose Efuru was the first book by a woman to be published under the series. Now, Professor Akachi Ezeigbo’s A Million Bullets and a Rose is the first to be published under the series, edited by Stephen Embleton, the inaugural James Currey Fellow at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, London. The session will feature Gabriel Ògúngbadé and Sylva Nze Ifedigbo discussing publishing.
At 3:00pm, Reader’s Forum will kick off at Kongi’s Harvest, with the first event tagged ‘Leaders Are Readers: Why I Read What I Read,’ with notable business leader in Nigeria’s economic space discussing the theme ‘Why I Read What I Read.’ The guest of honour is, Chief Executive of AA Holdings, Mr. Austin Avuru.
A seminar at Kongi’s Harvest will focus on the theme ‘Keys to The Knowledge Economy,’ which involves readings and discussions around Lawson Omokhodion’s Powered by Poverty, a story of adversity, ambition, diligence and triumph, and Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede’s Buying A Bank In Africa, by the ex-MD/CEO of Access Bank Plc. Time is 4.30pm.
At 5.30 pm, ‘Young Theatre Feast’ will kick off at Kongi’s Harvest. The first event for the session is a lecture tagged ‘Reflection on the Theatre of Segun Adefila@50,’ featuring a lecture by Prof. Tunji Azeez of Department of Theatre & Music, Lagos State University, Ojo. There will be performances by Footprints of David, Kings & Queens, and Kininso Concepts.
THE second event is the screening of The Chief Masquerade (59mins; 2021), directed and produced by Segun Adeleye. This documentary explores the life of a theatre performer who bears a masquerade from childhood. It features journeys into the culture of masquerades and explores Segun Adefila, as the lead masquerade of Crown Troupe’s over 25 years of performing at town squares and events of all sizes. It draws a parallel between what ought to be and what is, while mirroring the mythical masquerade with the Nigerian performer. It is a story of tenacity, perseverance, and relentlessness. There will also be a reception for Adefila and the Crown Troupe of Africa.
A film screening will follow at 8:00pm at the Food Court, which explores ‘The Nigerian Screen: Going Back to the Classics.’ The session has as theme ‘The Other Side of Oriade,’ followed by the feature film Campus Queen (89 mins; 2003), directed by Tunde Kelani. The session is produced by iREP Documentary Film Forum and CORA.
Thursday, November 17 is a declared Literacy Day. At 9:00am, CORA Youth Creative Club will hold a session at Freedom Park lawn where creative workshops and expressions continue.
Following up is the CORA-NBRP Publishers’ Forum, which will run from 10:00am to 4:00pm. The programme has ‘Seamlessly Getting Books to Libraries and Users’ as theme, with subthemes such as ‘Fresh Options for Easing Bottlenecks in the Book Distribution and Value Chain,’ ‘Triggering More Effective and Functional Stakeholders’ Collaboration,’ ‘Boosting Public Appreciation of Books, Maximising the Use of Existing Reading Facilities,’ ‘Interrogating the Readers Good,’ ‘Terms of Patronage,’ ‘Value for Money and CSR Today.’
There will be a special session themed ‘What Lagos Book Stakeholders Want (to form part of resolutions to be presented to the Charter of Demands that Book Sector stakeholders would be presenting to the Lagos State Government during the scheduled NBRP Lagos Book Walk on April 25, 2023 to flag-off Lagos as Nigerian National Book Clubs City 2023). There will also be a signing of CORA-NBRP MoU on the Nationwide Book Clubs in Public Libraries initiative, in association with Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria (NBRP).
There will be an authors and readers’ conversation at Esther’s Revenge on ‘SDG Action Campaign through Storytelling,’ and themed ‘17 Stories Fest Session’ at 11:00am. The session is produced with Nigeria Volunteers Network. At 1:00pm, the Booktrek will take place, and there will be readings and discussions by a coterie of writers and readers. At 2:00pm, another workshop will hold at Esther’s Revenge. This is a ‘Book Editing Workshop’ by the Society for Book and Magazine Editors of Nigeria (SBMEN) workshop on editing.
By 5:00pm, there will be a hybrid seminar, a PEN-CORA dialogues on writing and freedom, and has as theme ‘Trauma and Freedom of Expression in Era of Transition,’ and produced by Poets Essayists Novelists International (PEN Nigeria Centre). At 7:00pm, the icebreaker cocktail will kick off, featuring poetry, music, drama and wine. At 8:00pm, there will be a film screening at the Food Court, with the themed ‘Nigerian Screen: Going back to the Classics,’ with a feature film titled Heritage (89 mins; 2003), directed by Ladi Ladebo (Ladi Ladebo Productions). The session is produced by iREP Documentary Film Forum and CORA.
FRIDAY, November 18 is dedicated Onabrakpeya day, with activities kicking off with the opening of Green Festival at 9:00am, at the Food Court. It’s the creative workshops and expressions by the children and students’ segment of LABAF. At 11:00am, a mentorship session will begin at Food Court, with a well-known cerebral celebrity, who will mentor students on the importance of reading and education, also called ‘My Encounter with Books.” The guest of honour for the session is Steve Onuh, actor, comedian, OAP of Wazobia FM.
A colloquium on the festival theme ‘Pathways to The Future: Imagining a Workable Nigeria,’ with the keynote speech to be delivered by Professor Okey Ndibe, writer, scholar, will take off at 1:00pm. Following up is a symposium at Kongi’s Harvest, themed ‘The Path Opens (Ona La),’ which involves reading and conversations around Waberi’s The United States of Africa, and Morland’s The Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers.
Another colloquium will come up at 4:00pm at Kongi’s Harvest on Machines, Now & Forever or Robotics and the Nigerian Survival, Gawdat’s Scary Smart: The Future of Artificial Intelligence & How You Can Save Our World, and McEwan’s Machines Like Me and People Like You.
At 5:00pm, celebrations will begin with jazz and wine for Olu Jacobs @80 at the Food Court. The event is a reflection on the life & career of Jacobs, and has as theme ‘Celebrating the Life and Career of Olu Jacobs,’ with 60 years of encounter with a quintessential artist in focus, with activities such as lecture, tributes and film screening taking place. The speaker for this session is Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lycett.
There will be a review for Ken Saro Wiwa Prize at 7:00pm. This event celebrates the vocation of the Critic and Literature Consumer in honour of the late writer, and literary and environmental activist, Saro-Wiwa with contestants reviewing Nomad by Romeo Oriogun. The guest of honour is the winner of the Nigeria Literature Prize, and the special guests are the first and second runners-up of The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2022.
The day’s events will be rounded off at 8:00pm with a film screening at Food Court, where guests will be entertained with the film The Kingmakers (89mins; 2002), directed by Fred Amata for Lufodo Productions, and produced by iREP Documentary Film Forum & CORA.
Saturday, November 19 is declared Culture Icons. At 9:00am, a creative workshop and expression by the children/students segment of LABAF continues at the Food Court. At 11:00am, a mentorship session will kick off, where a well-known cerebral celebrity will mentor students on the importance of reading and education. The session is also called ‘My Encounter with Book,’ with the guest of honour for the session being the actress and producer, Tina Mba.
COMING up at 1.30pm is a colloquium themed ‘Writing the Future of Hope,’ which will involve reading and conversations around Jonathan E. Hillman’s The Digital Silk Road: China’s Quest to Wire the World and Win the Future by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg’s The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age.
At 2:00pm, the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Forum, where members reflect on the writer, the book and building a financially self-sustainable literary community will take place. The session also features an interlude of spoken word, poetry and musical performances. The session is produced with ANA Lagos Chapter.
Another colloquium follows at 3.30pm, themed ‘Big Cities, Future Living,” which will involve reading and discussions around Arigbabu’s Lagos 2060 and Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140. Through his Cyber News Network, Arigbabu explores fake news as speculative fiction by co-opting the emerging artificial intelligence-driven art phenomenon, which is bound to exponentially increase the growth of fake news in the coming years. Cyber News Network is a foretelling of that which is already here, and still is to come.
At 5:00pm, the first Arthouse Conversation begins, which will be a biography session, themed ‘Is the Future Bound to The Past?’ and involved Sagay’s All Will Be Well and Ogunbiyi’s The Road Never Forgets.
An Arthouse mentoring session follows at 6pm, which will be the second for the festival, and has as theme ‘Why I Wrote My Memoir,’ which involves reading and discussion around biographies and autobiographies, with such guests as From Storeroom to Boardroom, by Babs Omotowa, ex-MD, Nigeria LNG (special guest of honour), and members of the Transcultural Writers Network (UNLAG). Students from LASU and LASUSTECH present will be there as well.
At 700pm, the Festival Party will kick off at the main stage. This is an arthouse party celebrating landmark birthdays of distinguished contributors to the Nigerian cultural Life, and a theatre performance will follow at 8:00pm, with Crown Troupe of Africa presenting Ìyá Ojà (Market Mother), a multimedia, all-female dance piece, which “juxtaposes the concept of feminism and climate change concerns, and seeks to stir up conversations around gender concerns. It conceptualises the world as a market, while exploring the vital roles played by women in maintaining social and environmental order. It is a cohesive blend of still and mobile photography, poetry, music, sound, mime, and dance to articulate the myriads of challenges faced by post-colonial African women. The work also highlights the need for societies to re-evaluate their values and the vital roles played by women in the shaping of these values.” The performance is directed by Adefila for Crown Troupe of Africa.
Sunday, November 20 is dedicated CORA Advocacy Day. At 9:00am, Green Festival will kick off at the Food Court. The creative workshops and expressions by the children/students segment of LABAF will continue.
At 11:00am, Youth Assembly will begin, featuring readings and discussions by CORA Volunteer Corps, with the featured book being SoroSoke by Sunday Akande, which chronicles the political and power transitions in Eetantagba. The novel addresses a particular problem of African leaders – power-mongering. Traditionally narrated and anecdoted with satire, it portrays the gradual metamorphosis of the simple way of life of the 1980s to the sophisticated life of the 21st century which has birthed the Sọr̀ ọs̀ ókè Generation. It is a creative condensation of three decades in the life of a familiar country known for its great potential but underwhelming performance. Beyond the worrisome path of avoidable sorrow and bloodletting, mindless corruption and regrettable wickedness in public life, the author shines a hopeful light of youth renaissance in refusing to be pathetic onlookers in shaping their destiny.
At 1:00pm, there will be a film screening, themed ‘Back to the Classics: Film as Lessons of History,’ and the selected film is Maroko (111mins; 2006), by Femi Odugbemi. The film is produced with iREP Documentary Film Forum and CAC.
A symposium at 3:00pm themed ‘Where Are We Now? follows up, and will involve readings and conversations around Vance’s Elon Musk- Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future and Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. After this comes ‘The Soyinka Retrospective,’ where there will be a presentation of three new titles from the Nobel laureate.
At 8:00pm, the session, ‘1000 Poets for Change’ will kick off at the Food Court where a coterie of poets and performers will give the festival a poetic send forth till 2023. The session is themed ‘Politically Motivated Towards 2023 Elections,” produced by Unchained Vibes Africa and CAC.