Monday, February 1, 2010

Day of bards at TerraKulture By FEMI SALAWU

Day of bards at TerraKulture

The Sun Newspaper, Thursday, November 19, 2009

The expectations were quite high when renowned culture/ theatre activist, Ben Tomoloju announced plans to stage a pan Nigerian poetry festival tagged P.L.A.Y (Play, Laughter, Arts and You) with the backing of GTBank. 

Being an art critic himself and having distinguished himself as one of the pioneers of art journalism in Nigeria, the burden of the success had fallen squarely on his shoulders. But the big stage is not something new to him. Tomoloju had been credited with successful big budget theatre productions which had been taken on tour of the shores of Nigeria.

However, at the end of the two-day event, not a few were not left in doubt of the impact which the event had on the artistic community. For two days, the stage of TerraKulture, Victoria Island, Lagos witnessed different shades of poetry such as performance, spoken word, chants, and mentoring/ discussions forms among others. 

The forum brought together some of the best poets from different orientations such as traditional, conventional and contemporary. It was also witnessed bodies such as the Veteran Association League, Students and Lecturers from Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Lagos State University, University of Lagos and Olabisi Onabanjo University. 

On the purpose of the event, Tomoloju disclosed, “We are trying to enliven performance of poetry in Nigeria. We are exploring the various traditions and influences in development of poetry to get this genre of literature showcased to the public.”
The first day of the event began with an opening ceremony and recorded a capacity crowd and was attended by special guests such as representatives of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orietations, Lagos State Government as well as members of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). 

Renowned Yoruba actor/ poet and chanter, Sulaiman Ayilara popularly known as Ajobiewe kickstarted performances with traditional homage poetry entitled IBA. Other highlights of the occasion include performances by respected poet, Odia Ofeimun, sensational singer, Yinka Davies and NEFERTITI, an all female group, Akeem Lasisi of the Iremoje fame. 

Yinka Davies, aside performing some of her songs, also mesmerized the audience with a brilliant rendition of Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation which drew applause from the audience.
The segment was capped with the World Premiere of Meridian Hour written by Eddie Aderinokun and directed by Tomoloju. Otunba Eddie Aderinokun is a writer, poet and former Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and has been a supporter of several bodies of writers in Nigeria. 

One of the highlights of the festival was the presentation of the stage adaptation of Meridian Hour. Essentially a collection of poems, Meridian Hour traces parts of Nigerian history from 1960s to the 1990s. 

Tomoloju explains, “The adaptation to stage moves with the word, sounds, music and spectacles. The only caution was that it didn’t take the form of drama because the word is very pre-eminent. We didn’t any allow any spectacle or song to distract the audience from the main thing which is the word.” 
The afternoon session featured a discussion session for young poets with the title My Voice, My Style. Anchored by Aderemi Adegbite, Cordinator, Poetry Potter, the segment featured discussants including Joke Muyiwa Fadirepo, HOD, Performing Arts Department, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Odia Ofeimun, Sage Hasson, a Spoken Word artiste, Ropo Ewenla and Ayodele Arigbabu. 

Another session tagged Children’s Matinee was devoted to children with respected author Madam Mabel Segun OFR, as main guest. Highlights of the session included performance of Mabel Segun’s poems by selected children and an interview session with the matriarch. Apart from giving her the opportunity to interact with her ‘grand children’ as it were, a workshop will be carved out of it to teach the teachers how to teach poetry.
The final session again included performances by Ajobiewe, Yinka Davies, Akeem Lasisi and stage presentation of Meridian Hour. 

Tomoloju had high expectations for the festival, when he said, “I am sure after this festival, people will be encouraged to try one thing or the order with poetry performance or performance poetry. As we know, performance poetry maybe poetry written to be performed while poetry performance maybe an attempt to put any piece of poem on stage. Well we are looking at both angles. It might encourage people to go on and expand on this. It will help the educational process and help more people to align with poetry either to enjoy its performance or meditate on the content and its aesthetics. The project is simply about promotion, propagation and preservation of a poetic heritage.”

On the future of the festival, he revealed, “Well as soon as we are through with this, we start working on another event. We are looking forward to this event being staged yearly and ofcourse this would not be without the help of sponsors. We appeal for assistance in this regard.” 


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