The African Artists Foundation joins other organisations to project oral performance in Lagos, AKEEM LASISI writes
The African Artists’ Foundation, British Council and Waza Online Radio came together to give spoken word a lift last Friday.
At the event held at the British Council Garden, Ikoyi Lagos, several spoken word artistes mounted the stage and deepened the inroad that the sub-genre is steadily making into the Nigerian intellectual and entertainment sectors.
Apart from regular spoken word/slam/poetry performances held in the course of 2014, major feasts such as the Wole Soyinka at 80 programme and the Ake Art and Book Festival had featured talking poets in July and November.
But last Friday’s programme was particularly symbolic as it was an offshoot of a workshop earlier held at the AAF office also in Ikoyi.
For the Azu Nwagbogu-led foundation, which was just rounding off the LagosPhoto Festival and the National Art Competition, it was thus a way of stepping into a road less travelled.
Hosted by Titilope Sonuga, who stressed the importance of using spoken word to shape social consciousness, the event featured Efe Paul, Obi, Wana Udobang, Ndukwe Unuoha, Adesola Fakile and Shonuga herself, alongside emerging voices accommodated at the open mic level.
Representative of Waza Online Radio, Shaun Matsheza, urged Africans to develop ideas about how their society should move forward. According to him, it is important for the people to tell their own stories.
He said, “As AAF we need to tell our own story. We should form our own world in our own way,” he said.
He commended the AAF for powering the project and the British Council for providing the venue.
Music composer and producer, Femi, started the programme with numbers that included Smile and Adina (Gorgeou). This was followed by Elizabeth, whose performance centred on the need to ‘live in the spirit like a king/ and not in flesh like a slave’. For Olajide Akanni, however, the evening provided an opportunity to situate the beauty and doom that characterise the project Nigeria side-by-side.
Others such as Ivori and Vocal Slender also gave a promising account of themselves, respectively exploring the contradictions that surround religion and agony of insurgency.
Fakile prefaced his performance with an argument that followership is as important – and guilty – as leadership, based on the political problems plaguing Nigeria. His poems, People and In the Land sought to build on this theory.
Sonuga punctuated the show with some poems, including ‘Hide and Seek’, in which she responded to the horrors that insurgents have continued to unleash on the country. While Onuoha also told his own story in Here Lies the Revolution and When the Baby Cried, Obi gave one of the most moving experiences as she rendered Tell me it is not True, God is in my Bones, This is Home and New Nigeria.
Wana, a Lagos-based broadcaster, also presented Tales from the Dark Planet – preaching against sexual violence – and Love is, in which she created a special effect with the repetion of the clause.
The last major act of the night was Efe Paul, who has coordinated a number of spoken word events, including the Soyinka birthday performances. His Love is the Reason we are Here confronted the audience with various definitions of love while he waxed very political in ‘Justice has been Kidnapped in my Country’.
Interestingly, a symbolic epilogue, which though unplanned, was destined to happen at the event. This came from Olayinka, who missed out of the initial open mic session. Sonuga decided to compensate him by bringing him out after Paul, and this turned out to be a good decision as many really applauded the performance of Olayinka, who performed in Yoruba. The audience enjoyed his ‘Ise Loogun Ise’ (the traditional rhyme that says work is the antidote to poverty).