By Adekunbi Lardo
The Abuja Literary Society (ALitFest) held its maiden edition in 2018. Owing to the success of ALitFest 18, the team decided to make it an annual event hence the Abuja Literary Festival (ALitFest) 2019 which took place on the 11th -13th of July, 2019 at the Exhibition Pavilion, Abuja Nigeria.
This year’s theme was ‘Arts and Social Consciousness’ aimed at examining how Art can change the world and be a socially conscious tool across the different ideological leanings that exist globally and more specifically in Africa and Nigeria in particular. The opening ceremony of ALitFest 19 was laced with music and poetry performances as expected of a literary festival. After the opening ceremony which had in attendance high-level guests and participants, the festival was set in motion with two panel discussions first on Sexuality, Birth rates and the 21st Century woman. This panel discussion was not without a lot of stir owing to the topic, the panellists and the environment of discussion, unearthing issues such as increase in teenage pregnancy and its resultant birth rate increase, poor parents-children type of sex education, characteristics of the 21st century woman, what sexuality is, and what it is not, etc. Guests on the panel were (describe them with an adjective or phrase on what they do. Check the next group done for reference) Rafeeat Aliyu, Hauwa Booth, Ayodele Olofintuade and Safiya Ismaila Yero with Dr. Inya Ode as the moderator.
The second panel on “Telling Nigerian Stories on the big screen” was moderated by COAL’s Director of Communications Jennifer Dafwat. She led panellists into in-depth discussions on what characterizes a Nigerian story and who should tell it; issues of mediocre scriptwriting; union and synergy of writers and filmmakers as it affects the end user and issues of commercialization and earnings from storytelling and film productions. On the panel was Aishat Abiri, writer of the long-running TV show Tinsel, producers of the groundbreaking movies Up North and 4th Republic Edited by Effiong and Bem Pever respectively.
Immediately after the second panel discussion was the movie screening of 4th Republic. A movie directed by Ishaya Bako portraying a heated political situation akin to what is obtainable in present day Nigeria. The movie followed the story of its main character, Mabel King, a dogged, disciplined, woman who ran for the office of the Governor of Confluence state and lost to violence and rigging. The story uncovers the truth behind the mysterious death of her campaign manager and how she sought redress on elections result via an election tribunal. Some themes in the movie include, election violence, the frailty of the human will and conscience in the face of popular opposition, family values, godfatherism, bullying, the need to hold public officials accountable, the prevalence of getting rich quick schemes among youths, etc. At the end of the movie, the executive director, Ummi Yakubu pointed out that the purpose of the movie was to serve as a mirror for Nigerians. At the close of the first day of ALitFest, the festival held hopes of a fun and memorable experience.
The second day of the festival was full of panel discussions amid art exhibitions that lasted the duration of the festival. Other marks at the festival were the different stands manned by booksellers, human rights and other social impact organisations who were creating awareness, different food and drink vendors and others. The highlight of ALitFest Day 2 was the 3 rounds Abuja Literary Poetry Grand Slam. The judges were COAL’s Co-founder/Director of programs, Daisy Odey; poet, author and architect Basiru Amuneni, author Richard Ali and Hajjio Isah. The slam which started with about 35 contestants competing for the grand prize, had 16 contestants at the end of the first round 1 which allowed 1 minute for each poet. The second round allowed 2 minutes for each poet and ended with six poets making it to the last round. The last round allowed 3 minutes for each presentation and it ended with the three finalists. Lukman Hussain was the winner with N200,000 cash prize. COAL Ambassador and Program Volunteer, Adekunbi Lardo came in second place winning the sum of N100,000 cash prize and an additional N100,000 gift cash from Mr. Toni Kan, the mayor Lagos who termed her “his favourite poet” and the third-place got N50,000 and an additional N50,000 cash gift from Mr. Toni Kan.
The panel session which preceded the Slam was about Bringing Poetry to Todays Generation: Challenges, Potential and Opportunities moderated by Hajjo Isa with guests as COAL’s Co-founder Daisy Odey; poet, author and architect Basiru Amuneni and Richard Ali.
Day 2 featured panel discussions on topics such as Satire, Advocacy and Civic Engagement; Political Reportage, Press Freedom and Responsibility; Conflicts, Resentments and Historical Narrative; Writing about Mental Health and Publishing, and the challenges of book accessibility.Day three brought mixed feelings with it the excitement of the day ahead but also the sadness of the festival coming to an end. The day began with a Yoga and dance aerobics session after which was full swing panel discussions amid other festival activities. The festival came to a close with an epic performance of ‘Wedlock of the gods’ by Zulu Sofola. It was acted out by a wonderful cast who brought to life every scene of the play. It is said that it takes a community to raise a proper child and same goes for putting a festival together. At the end of the third day’s proceedings, appreciation was given to volunteers, sponsors and everyone who contributed to the success of the festival. After the vote of thanks was given, the Abuja Literary Festival (ALitFest) 19 came to a close with a party.
Overall, the festival can be said to be educative and entertaining. The meet and greets, the book stands, the food stands, the plethora of beautiful art pieces, paintings, African crafts and accessories that were available for sale reminded one of a sort of modern day museum, meets party, meets literature, meets intellect, meets Nigeria. in the form of earrings, chokers, bags and so on. ALitFest 2019 was another step towards the success of literary festivals and advancement of literacy culture in Abuja and Nigeria as a whole that should definitely be improved upon and sustained.