Come November 13 to 19, 2023, book lovers and arts enthusiasts from Nigeria and the rest of the continent will converge in Lagos for the 25th edition of the annual Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF). The festivities, which will be hosted at Freedom Park and virtually, is themed The Reset: History and the Darkling Plain.
A statement by the Toyin Akinosho and Jahman Anikulapo, Secretary-General and Programs Chair of the Committee for Relevant Art, organizers of the festival notes that the feast of books, culture and art is designed to reflect on the various critical points in the history of Nigeria-and by extension the histories of rest of Africa and the world- through written texts and performances in drama, music, poetry and the visual arts.
The event blurb equally makes the point that the excursion down the lane of history is motivated by the need to mine those lessons in the political and cultural history of the nation to plot a progressive direction for its future, especially in the light of a new political dispensation. As the flagship festival in Nigeria’s arts and culture calendar, LABAF commenced in 1999, the year of the nation’s return to civil rule.
“Though a literary feast of ideas and life in outlook, the festival has over the years, metamorphosed to being a campaign for literacy devoted to heightening interest of the populace to be active participants in the knowledge economy that currently rules transactions in global political, economic and cultural affairs. The festival is focused on three thematic elements: education, enlightenment and empowerment.”
Interestingly, the 25th edition will focus on a broad range of activities like conversations around ideas contained in the books of the festival – relevant to the theme of the festival, readings, reviews and sessions on writing and publishing and exhibitions of books and visual arts. Other activities to look forward to are workshops and mentoring sessions for young people, performances in poetry, drama, music, and dance.
There will equally be arthouse celebrations of eminent artistes and culture workers who have registered their names and footprints in the cause of nation building. Festival organizers have noted that the idea is to set up these icons as role models for both old and young people – to inspire hope, motivate them to aspire to greater accomplishments in their chosen careers or vocation.
At a time the global conversation is focusing on the fate of youth, the festival has devoted generous space for young people to express themselves. There is the Green Festival, which devoted to students in Junior and Senior Secondary schools. It is being organized in partnership with Children And The Environment, CATE. There is also the CORA Youth Creative Club — which yearly congregate youths and young adults from different parts of the countries for mentoring and training in their natural talents and acquired skills. This is being organized in partnership with Events By Nature.
Providing a narrative on the choice of the theme The Reset: History and the Darkling Plain, festival organizer, the Committee for Relevant Art notes the urgent need to illuminate choice of books and the discussions in the course of the festival.
“With The Reset, LABAF continues the debate around the national question through reviews and discussions of selected books that speak to the theme. The basic tenet is that a nation is imagined at the level of ideas, before it is physically constructed.
The conversations at every LABAF since 2005 have been a set of reviews of arguments about the nation building project and the current status of our collective humanity.”
LABAF started in 1999, the year of Nigeria’s return to democracy, but it was in 2005, at the 7th edition, for which the theme: Narrations of Survival, was chosen. That was the point CORA began to purposefully set a theme around which the festival-long conversations would coalesce.
“In the last five years however, every theme has been a takeoff, or a riff off the prior year’s theme. In 2020, we examined the nation/the world in a state of flux, a period of languor, so the theme was A State of Flux. In 2021, we (the nation/the planet) had left the state of flux, but we were at a crossroad. So, the festival chose: A Fork in the Road.
“In 2022, we were glimpsing 2023, a year in which we would go for elections. What better way to prepare everyone’s mind for the choices to be made at the polls, than examine the kind of future we wanted for ourselves? LABAF’s 2022 theme was thus “Pathways to the Future”.
Works of fiction, which will be explored during the festival are Saro, By Nike Campbell, Little Suns, By Zakes Mda, Dust Child, By Nguyễn Phan Quế Mais. For Non-Fiction, attendees will feast on works such as: A Measure Of Grace, By Akin Mabogunje, I’m Still With You, By Emmanuel Iduma, Then Spoke The Thunder, By Peter Enahoro, The New Map, By Daniel Yergin, A Shred Of Fear, By Uche Nwokedi, An African Abroad, By Olabisi Ajala, On A Darkling Plain, By Ken Saro Wiwa, My Odyssey, By Nnamdi Azikiwe, Formation: The Making Of Nigeria From Jihad To Amalgamation, By Fola Fagbule & Feyi Faweyinmi. CORA Booktrek: Obalende: A Nation In Motion, By Wale Adeduro |There Is Heaven For Bad Girls, By Adenrele Niyi | Time & Chance, By Adebayo Olowoake.