Eghosa Imaseun, Romeo Oriogun headline maiden Benin Art and Book Festival 2022

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CAVE as organisers’ shared, creative vision

By Godwin Okondo

NOVELIST and publisher, Dr. Eghosa Imasuen and poet laureate, Romeo Oriogun are some of the writers who will feature in the maiden edition of Benin Art and Book Festival (BABFEST ’22), scheduled for November 19 & 20, 2022. It has ‘Ariokpaegbe’ (‘The Awakening’) as theme, and will take place at Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub and Edo Global Art Foundation, Airport Road, Benin City, Edo state. The festival was originally scheduled for November 11 & 13, 2022, but was later postponed as the date clashed with the annual Edo Economic Summit tagged ‘Alaghodaro,’ which necessitated the shift. Festival programming will both be physical and virtual.

Imasuen is a Nigerian writer of Bini descent. He is the author of To Saint Patrick and Fine Boys, published by the Farafina imprint of Kachifo Limited, publishers of the Nigerian editions of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where he co-founded a new and fast-rising publishing outfit, Narrative Landscape Press, Lagos.

Oriogun is a Nigerian poet and essayist. He is the author of Sacrament of Bodies (University of Nebraska) and three chapbooks. He won the 2017 Brunel University African Poetry Prize and The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2022 for his collection Nomad (University of Nebraska), and was a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and The Future Awards African Prize for Literature. He has received fellowships and support from Ebedi International Writers Residency, Harvard University, Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research, Oregon Institute for Creative Research, and the IIE – Artist Protection Fund.

Other resource persons slated for the festival include Praise Osawaru, a writer of Bini descent. He was Best of the Net, Pushcart Prize, and Nina Riggs Poetry Award nominee. His work has appeared in Agbowó, FIYAH, Frontier Poetry, 20.35 Africa: Volume V, The Maine Review, and Uncanny Magazine, among others. He’s the winner of Valiant Scribe Poetry Prize 2021 and a finalist for Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize 2021 and Dan Veach Prize for Younger poets 2021. He’s a Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine and a reader for Chestnut Review.

Undergraduate festival co-founders, Ruona Idjenughwa (left) and Ejiro Elizabeth Edwards

Tọ́pẹ́-ẸniỌbańkẹ́ Adégòkè (formerly writing as Tope Salaudeen-Adegoke), a traveller, literary critic, writes from Ibadan, Nigeria. Adegoke is the co-publisher of Fortunate Traveller. His works have appeared in Wawa Book Review, Abuja, and Africa in Words. He enjoys travelling and cooking. His chapbook of travels across Africa, Transacting Stories: Markets, People and Places, was exhibited by Invisible Borders at the 2019 AfriCologne Festival, Germany, and at the 12th Bamako Encounters – African Biennale of Photography, Mali.

Osaigbovo ‘Gbovo Eriamiantoe is a multiple award-winning filmmaker and medical doctor. Born in Benin City, he attended Edo College and later graduated from the University of Benin, Benin City, where he studied Medicine. Eriamiantoe also has a certificate in Advertising and Branding from Orange Academy, Certificate in the Business of Filmmaking from the School of Communications, Pan-Atlantic University, amongst others. As a filmmaker, Eriamiantoe has written, produced and directed seven short films and three feature films which have be shown in film festivals around the world including the United States of America, Canada, China, Kenya and Nigeria. He is a Principal Medical Officer at the University of Benin Health Services. He is also the Director of Platinum Medicare, a company reputed for giving medical coverage to film locations prominent, amongst which is ‘Enaikhe’ a telenovela produced by Mnet and currently running on Showmax.

Ojo Taiye grew up in Kaduna, Nigeria, and currently lives in Agbor, Delta state. He is a poet and essayist, and teaches Tourism at Calvary Group of Schools, Agbor. His recent poems and works have appeared in Glass Journal, Lit Mag, Crannog Magazine, Geometry Magazine, Southword Journal and elsewhere.

Osaru Obaseki is a self-taught artist from Edo state, and is among many Africa artists making waves in the contemporary art scene. In 2017, she joined Nosona Studios under the Edo Global Centre platform, which gave her the springboard to broaden her practice and gain immense opportunity. She has recently exhibited her works in Rele Art Gallery – Young Contemporaries 2019 exhibition, a game-changing opportunity that is already proving to propel her to new heights.

Organisers have said Benin Art and Book Festival (BAABFEST ’22) is “set to connect, build and provide a sense of visibility and connection between established and budding writers of Edo state and those in the diaspora. The festival is a celebration of arts and culture of the Edo people, and will feature activities that include poetry, theatrical performances, book and art exhibitions, book chats, panel discussions, open mic sessions, and other literary-related activities.”

Among the stated aims and objectives of the festival include the enlightenment of youths on the importance of literature with a view to reawakening the dying culture of reading as well as a platform of connectivity, accessibility and visibility amongst budding and seasoned writers both in Edo state and in diaspora.

Accordingly, the festival will “create a platform where all emerging writers and established ones would not only connect but also create a solid mentor-mentee relationship for the growth of the literary community, build a strongly knit local literary community where members have access to vital literary and artistic content, showcase and exhibit the artistic talents and skills of young and old writers in Edo state, as well as spotlight hidden talent and creative genius and bring them to limelight, and revive the dying appreciation of arts, literature and the reading culture.”

The planning committee for Benin Art and Book Festival is a consortium of young and like minded individuals with a shared vision of achieving connectivity, accessibility, visibility and enlightenment (CAVE) amongst budding and seasoned writers in and from Edo state. The team consists of forward-thinkers, goal-oriented individuals and committed members of Edo literary community.

Festival team lead is Ruona Idjenughwa, a writer and art enthusiast, who is currently studying at the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria. She previously served as the vice president and thereafter the president of the Creative Writers Workshop (UNIBEN). Her works have been published in a couple of literary travel magazines. Ejiro Elizabeth Edwards is festival co-team lead and winner of Antoa Poetry Contest and has been published in Hoax publication, Heartland Women magazine, Down River Road, amongst others. She has upcoming works on Native skin, Lolwe and Consequence forum. EDWARDS had hosted Cogitation, a night of poetry, dance and music in Lagos before moving to Benin City. She is currently a Reader for the House of Chestnut review and Mentor for Spring Fellowship. She looks forward to bagging an MFA.

Ola ‘TheRAWPoet’ Adene is a Nigerian storyteller using poetry and scriptwriting. He is the curator of Social Work Poetry and a co-founder of Aurora Open Mic Sessions. Adene has just been nominated for Best Screenwriter category in the International Christian Film & Music Festival 2022 awards. Adene also has two spoken word albums to his name.

Immaculate Ita works in collaboration with art enthusiasts to organize literary events within Nigeria. The most recent events being Cogitations, an annual spoken word concert, which seeks to effect change and foster critical thinking through the sacred art of poetry. She is a charming personality with an impressionable temperament. She believes in the unparalleled beauty of African artistic expressions. Lastly, there’s Bestman Michael Osemudiamen, who is a lover of art and criticism. He enjoys deep conversations, music, and simplicity. His works have been published in Vanguard, 1919Review, Muse Anthology and Afapinen. He shuttles between Lagos and Benin City.

Members of Benin Art and Book Festival are concerned about the steady decline of interest in reading books among young people and a lack of appreciation of the literary arts and are campaigning for the cultivation of a healthy reading culture in Edo state. They have therefore taken it upon themselves to create the festival avenue for the reawakening of the dying interest in reading books especially among young people and the general populace.

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