Poets in Nigeria (PIN) chairman, Eriata Oribhabor and a member at the Calabar Christmas Carnival train
Festival Poetry Calabar 2016, which held during the Calabar Christmas Carnival, fulfilled the intention of its initiators and organisers – Poets in Nigeria (PIN) and Festival Poetry Foundation respectively. The yearly event, which made its debut last year, has undoubtedly grown in leaps and bounds in terms of awareness, participation, organisation and influence.
Characteristically, the announcement of the date and venue for the festival were met with immediate and rousing interest amongst literary enthusiasts. Many of them had missed participating in the maiden edition and were stunned by pictures displayed on social media. It had as theme ‘Poetry and Cross River’s Clean and Green Initiative.’ It showed that the second edition was centred on social issues, a slight shift from the inaugural edition, which had its stake on cultural values.
The first day of the festival, December 26, 2016, was rewarding for the efforts of the organisers. There was Jolly J’s jazzy effect, a songstress and her band that possessed the stage. Afterwards, James Ene Henshaw Jnr., the Secretary of James Henshaw Foundation Centre (the designated venue for most of the festival’s activities) received guests at the event. His contribution to the successful hosting of the festival was later acknowledged by the chairman of Festival Poetry Foundation, Eriata Oribhabor.
Rising in tempo, a cultural song blared from speakers with two dancers in Efik attires, who expanded and contracted their bodies to the delight of the attendees. The segment of the event tagged ‘Calabar Welcomes You’ had been exclusively reserved for performers residing in Calabar and environs with the intention of promoting talents in the host city.
The poetry deliveries went a notch higher with the introduction of Amarachi Attamah, an Igbo performance poet. Her mastery of her craft awed the audience, which made several interrupting but appreciative remarks. Kalejaye Folajimi, another poet hugely influenced by his culture, magnificently chanted his ewi poetry.
At this point, a palm wine break interrupted the performances. When guests settled down, it was poetry uninterrupted until Damilola Makinde, a vocalist from the University of Ibadan, titillated the audience. It was the first night, the first step and the first touch, which framed success of the festival.
The second day started with the tour of PIN Gallery of Poetry, a garden adjoining the venue, adorned with visually appealing poems and an archive of past poetic endeavors in Calabar. Meanwhile, a birthday bash was held for a former commissioner in the state, Mr. Ken Egbas, who deliver his goodwill message. He expressed appreciation, stating that Festival Poetry Calabar had come at the right time to fill a cerebral void hitherto missing in the Calabar International Carnival. He pledged the sum of ₦500,000 to be utilised to organise poetry competition during the festival in the next five years.
President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Malam Denja Abdullahi, who would have delivered the keynote address on ‘Poetry and the Environment’ could not make it due to flight problems. It was, however, presented on his behalf.
In establishing the relationship between poetry and the environment, Abdullahi said, “If we could hazard a study into what led to the writing and declamation of the first poem in human history, it will be discovered to be the environment. Nature in its splendor and horror must have moved that first poet to chant, imbibe and later recollect his or her ‘emotions in tranquility,’ to use the Wordsworthian definition of poetry.”
Thereafter, audience members had the On-the-Spot Poetry Competition, adjudged by Bassey Asuquo. Participants were charged to write a poem having its theme around the physical, social and political features of Calabar within 20 minutes. At the end, the audience was ushered to the JHC Centre for a play entitled The Re-Education of Gina Obi, written by Henshaw Jnr, which attempts to correct misconceptions pervading educational and social issues in a satirical sense. Winding down, Black People Entertainment, a thespian group from Akure, Ondo State, also thrilled the audience with its theatrical excesses. It was another day scented with success.
The third day of the festival, December 28, 2016, poetry was a ride with the Calabar Carnival Train. Wise Up Cross River Initiative teamed up with Poets in Nigeria (PIN) for socially relevant cause.
After walking the streets of Calabar for hours, the poets, who had displayed their social qualities and duly played their ambassadorial roles, called it a day, satisfied that the 2016 edition of Festival Poetry Calabar had successfully ridden on the pedestal of novelty and sociability.
* Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom is a member, Board of Trustees, Festival Poetry Foundation