A photo from FOW 2016
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Closing the pages of a mind containing the tactile memories of the WORDS RHYMES & RHYTHM (WRR) LITERARY FESTIVAL 2016 – THE FEAST OF WORDS, is an impossible endeavor. There is no doubt the Festival has earned an enviable spot on the tongues of literary enthusiasts. Many might, for one reason or the other, reference it as the most remarkable literary festival in 2016.

The lulling of sounds, disappearance of footsteps and fading of faces as the curtain was drawn on the Literary Festival were followed by the resurgence of varied emotions apportioned by sense of fulfillment. To understand the feelings characterizing the aftermath of the event, there will be need to sniff into the senses the atmospheric activities which characterized the day.

As early as 9am, few faces other than those of the organizers could be spotted at the venue –Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan Oyo state, foreboding an exceeding crowd in relation to the size of the hall. They willingly and excitedly joined in prepping the venue to liven up to the programme.

Resuming from a yearlong leave, Adelaja Ridwan possessed the mic few hours later, addressing the gathering with the informality and coolness expected of that moment.  WRR CEO, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson welcomed the audience, briefly revealing the secrets behind WRR’s successes in the short period of its existence. The resounding applause that followed could be tied to the attractiveness of his message – there was much to note and laugh about. Appropriately, poetry recitations and performances were introduced in the Open Mic session to improve upon the elation welled up in the audience and round off the Morning Session.

The brief break which followed the Morning Session gave room for exchange of pleasantries, literary networking and ceaseless taking of photographs. Settling back in the hall, it seemed as if some chairs had been carted away. The hall was filled to the brim, with some having to happily perch their buttocks on the side of the wall.

I was called upon to kick start the Afternoon Session with the Opening Speech.  I hesitated a little. I had nothing penned down and my head was not to be trusted at that moment due to overload of contents. Summoning up courage, I established the relevance of words in subduing the woes of humanity, citing the deliveries of Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela in the United States and South Africa respectively. I also gave a preview of the activities planned for the current and upcoming sessions.

Afterwards, a panel discussion comprising of new but salient literary voices such as Awodiya Funke, Adedapo Treasure, Ayoola Goodness and Rasak Malik Gbolahan took centre-stage. They discussed the Festival  theme: Words in a Season of Change, unequivocally stating the  primary roles of writers in the society while comparing the level of persecution faced by writers in time past to contemporary times.

Judging from the rapt attention paid by the audience, it could be ascertained that they were awed by the intelligibility and panelists’ wittiness. The cerebral mode activated in the hall continued with the presentation of addresses by Oppong Clifford Benjamin, Emmanuel Inedu and Eriata Oribhabor. Oppong stressed the need for writers to communicate their intentions and not emotions while Eriata Oribhabor’s speech demystified the myth about poetry and poets.

The Literary Festival gave room for book lovers to be exposed to new Nigerian writings. Servio Gbadamosi read from his award winning poetry collection, Tributary of Servitude. Ayoola Goodness and Awodiya Funke also presented poems from their debut poetry collections, ‘Meditations’ and ‘The Farmer’s Daughter respectively. The loud snapping of fingers, unsolicited applause and happiness induced screams from the audience communicated their approval of the books. Sueddie Vershima Agema, taking cognizance of the pace set by his compatriots with their well-received readings, asserted the uniqueness of his work (prose), questioning if the event was actually a literary festival or poetry festival. Having adequately introduced his book, ‘Bring our Casket Home’, he proceeded with the reading. Rounding off the segment, questions were entertained by the elated authors.

To enliven the atmosphere, transmute the prevalent intense mood and make absorbable the lumps of knowledge formed in the mind of the audience, seasoned spoken word artists, Bankole Kolawole, Habeeb Da Beloved, Lawal Kafayat, IAmBrainbox and notable others were engaged to treat the audience to unforgettable renditions. Their electrifying performances powered smiles and uncontrollable laughter without interruption.

Shortly after, two new publications: LOOPS OF HOPE, borne out of the Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest 2016, and RAINBOWS & FIREFLIES, co-authored by the winners of the Green Author Prize 2016, four young and previously unpublished poets, were unveiled. Additionally, many young writers were rewarded for their meritorious efforts in poetry contests including Green Author Prize, Albert Jungers Poetry Prize, Eriata Orbhabor Poetry Prize and Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest with books, certificates of awards, cash prizes and a Lenovo tablet.

The afternoon session ended with a virtual cameo appearance of Brigitte Poirson who announced Kanyinsola Olorunnisola as winner of AJPP and communicated her well-wishes to the WRR family. At that juncture, the cloud of fulfillment had formed, threatening torrential downpour of remarkableness upon all. But it wasn’t enough to put a hold on what was to come – the ‘African Night’ evening session.

The courtyard which hosted the evening session was culturally and aesthetically designed to portray the good old ways of life displaced by civilization. A quick assessment of the setting brings a village square to mind: knees (brought close to the mouth) were wrapped up by arms owned by bodies seated on artistically arranged mats; a mild light functioning as the moon shone on the wooden stage adjoined by clayey statues, revealing traditionally fermented performances reminiscence of a typical cultural festival.

Perhaps, we had planned a literary festival for the day and a cultural festival for the evening; whether that was deliberate or not, it was tangibly achieved.

Wrapping up the final session posed a daunting task as many couldn’t detach their bodies from the music blaring from the incorrigible speakers. At quarter past 9, the event had reached its climax; all was brought to a halt. We were done feasting on words fledged by palm wine and fish.

Indisputably, a perfect world drew a daylong breath through creativity’s nostrils at the second edition of the FEAST OF WORDS – a testament of logic engendered by unparalleled selflessness.

Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom
COO, Words Rhymes & Rhythm Ltd.


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