By Anote Ajeluorou
With rapid development in technology in all spheres, the book has managed to remain relevant and central to man’s quest for the ideal. Evidence that the book will continue to remain so abounds. Predictions to the contrary at the beginning of the 20th century that the computer would hasten the death or be an end to the reign of the book have not been proved right. What has happened instead, is that technology, more than anything else, has helped to reinforce the primacy of the book as man’s unique invention for knowledge propagation, deployment and acquisition.
Nowhere else would this truism be demonstrated this month than at the 13th Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF 2011) that begins next Thursday, November 17 and running through the 20th at both the Goethe Institut, City Hall, Lagos and Freedom Park, 1 Hospital Road, (Old Broad Street Prison site), Lagos Island. Lagos.
LABAF is a yearly cultural event organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), and it is the 13th edition in CORA’s 20 years of existence. The four– days of artistic showpiece with the book at centre-stage will examine modern trends and opportunities in the book business that publishers can tap into to bring the local book scene abreast of global practices with technology as chief driver.
The Lagos Book & Art Festival is a comprehensive, four day programme of events, readings, conversations around books, art and craft displays, kiddies’ art workshops and reading sessions, book exhibitions, live music and dance.
Remarkably, CORA has, in the past 20 years, been mapping the cultural landscape of Lagos City and Nigeria generally, providing the link between artistic aridity occasioned by a philistinic, anti-intellectual environment and the artistic, creative excellence that richly abounds. It is also at the heart of encouraging a keen return to book reading as first step towards national development.
Indeed, CORA with its vintage yearly festival, has succeeded in stimulating a measure of artistic activities after years of economic hostility to artistic creation, especially in the 1990s. With LABAF, Nigerians can look forward to a robust session of interaction with art creators in addition to those in the business of art and consumers alike converging to share ideas and generally network.
This year’s festival is no different as it will afford book and art lovers another opportunity to congregate and do business in books and art. Visitors to this year’s LABAF will also find programmes of the festival both stimulating and informative. More importantly, it is a festival that enables all visitors to share and be part of the show in contributing to issues, asking questions or stimulating discussion.
The pre-festival event, the Publishers’ Forum, the second to be held, will open the festival on November 17 at the Goethe Institut, City Hall, Lagos Island, a stone throw from Freedom Park from 10am – 6.30pm. A statement from the organisers says, “The Publishers’ Forum provides a concentrated space for key publishers in Nigeria to gain critical insight into their current operations within the context of the challenges facing their industry, brainstorm on their findings and identify key steps that can be taken as individual businesses or as a collective to improve their bottomline.
“At CORA, we picture ourselves as midwives to the different facets of the creative industries in Nigeria, therefore what we hope to achieve through the Publisher’s Forum is the blossoming of the nation’s book industry with the theme, ‘The Book in the Age of the Microchip’.
Continued the organisers; “Within the four hours marked up for the business forum, we intend the participants to add value to their businesses through the intervention of key facilitators, critical feedback on their processes, input on the most challenging areas they have to deal with and useful networking.
“The Publishers Forum will be followed from 5pm to 6.30pm by a conversation (open to the public) tagged: “Wooing the Mass Market” where two publishers will share from their current work and their future plans, by discussing a selection from their publishing list. This year, we will have two publishers discuss their efforts at publishing literary journals and what mileage the internet afforded them in their efforts. A digital display of past editions of their journals will be presented. The discussions will be brought to a close with a cocktail.
“A most apt way to describe the Publishers' Forum is to call it a 'focus group' or a strategy session with key facilitators as guide. The forum is targeted at principals of publishing houses who seek to grow their market and are willing to engage in creative thinking towards identifying strategies that can make this possible for them whether within a collective or through their individual operations. Our expectation is that cogent strategies would emerge from the session which can be immediately implemented or could be built upon in future”.
ON November 18 also at Freedom Park and from 9am, the Kiddies’ Segment will be held. Topic is ‘My Encounter with the Book’ with a notable Nigerian, the Director-General of the Centre for Black African Arts and Civilisation, CBAAC, Prof. Tunde Babawale, giving a motivational talk to children.
Starting from 11am same day, the first festival colloquium will kick off on the theme, ‘Documenting the Governance Challenges: Africa in the Eyes of the Other’. Reviews and discussions around such non-fictional books as A Swamp Full of Dollars by Michael Peel; Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland and A Continent for the Taking by Howard French will be held. From 1pm, the second colloquium will start on the theme, ‘Arrested Development: Why Can’t They Get it Right?: Africa in the Eyes of the Other’. Also, reviews and discussions will centre around such books as The State of Africa by Martin Meredith, Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink by John Cambell and It’s Our Time to Eat by Michaela Wrong.
From 3pm same day, fictional books will take over in the discussion segment. ‘How Familiar Is This Town?: The City as a Key Character in the Fictional Narratives of the Continent’ will be discussed with such books as Goodmorning Comrades (set in Luanda, Angola) by Ondjaki, The Yacoubian Building (set in Cairo, Egypt) by Alaa Al Aswany and The Secrets Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (set in Ibadan, Nigeria) by Lola Shoneyin will be in focus. Other books to be considered in this category include Tropical Fish (set in Entebbe, Uganda) by Doreen Baigana and Under the Brown Rusted Roofs (set in Ibadan, Nigeria) by Bimbola Adelakun
Day two also at Freedom Park and starting from 11am, the children segment will continue with the petroleum expert, Austin Avuru giving a talk to the children on ‘My Encounter with Books’. From 12pm. Town Talk 1, a panel discussion on the theme, ‘Books as Tools of the Knowledge Economy: Can a Book Make You Rich?’ will be held. These books, Hot, Flat and Crowded by Tom Friedman, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and The Ascent of Money by Nial Ferguson will be discussed.
Town Talk 2 starts with the theme, ‘A Book as Key to the Knowledge Economy: A Conversation’ around Tom Friedman’s The World Is Flat and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers will hold.
Also same day from 3 – 4pm, reading and reviews will be held on ‘Challenging the Present: African Authors and the Global Discourse on Governance’. Books in focus include Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and What Can Be Done About It by Dambissa Moyo and When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self Determination by Ike Okonta.
OF course, LABAF 2011 will not be all about books and intellectual rigours as past experience has shown. Entertainment in the form of musical interlude also punctuates proceedings. So, too, will it be at this year’s festival with live musical performances from some young acts.
From 4 – 6pm, however, ‘The Future’ will be discussed with four young authors and publishers taking on the challenging landscape of the publishing industry. Toni Kan will discuss the theme, ‘What Happened to the Pacesetter Series and When Will the New Nigerian Thriller Come?’
Thereafter, Festival Birthday Party will follow in honour of Fatai Rolling Dollar at 85, Chukwuemeka Ike at 80, Benson Idonije at 75, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett at 70, Lindsay Barrett at 70, Ebun Clark at 70, Sunmi Smart-Cole at 70, Yeni Kuti at 50, Richard Mofe-Damijo at 50, Joke Silver at 50, Tunde Babawale at 50, Femi Akintunde-Johnson at 50, Sola Olorunyomi at 50, Duke Asidere at 50 and Remi Raji at 50.
Day three, Sunday, November 20 is the last day with activities also holding at Freedom Park from 12pm. Arthouse Forum with ‘Art of the Biography’ with a review and discussion around Femi Osofisan’s J.P. Clark: A Voyage, Adewale Maja-Pearce’s A Peculiar Tragedy: J.P. Clark and the Beginning of Modern Nigerian Literature and Dele Olojede/Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo’s Born to Run: A Biography of Dele Giwa.
CORA’s famous Art Stampede featuring ‘The Nigerian Abroad: Fictional Accounts of the Immigrant Experience’ will hold with a panel discussion on The Phoenix by Chika Unigwe, Some Kind of Black by Diran Adebayo, 26A by Dianne Evans, A Squatter’s Tale by Ike Oguine, Her Majesty’s Visit by Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, Icarius Girl by Helen Opeyemi, Lawless by Sefi Atta and The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
MEANWHILE, The Green Festival 6 at LABAF 2011, dedicated to children’s learning workshop and activities with CATE, holds alongside the main festival to give children explorative moments in their own environment. It promises to be fun for children that will turn up.
To bring the festival to a memorable close is a play performance, The Waiting Room by Wole Oguntokun. The play is to commemorate and deepen a fresh start of Nigeria’s democracy, organisers have said.
With this array of interesting activities at this year’s LABAF, organisers are hopeful that once again, Nigeria’s cultural landscape will be further stimulated and culture creators and entrepreneurs will be helped to maximise their art and inputs aimed at deepening society. By so doing also, LABAF 2011 will have shown a consistency in leading the way forward for the revival that the nation’s art and culture sector desperately needs to contribute its quota to national consciousness.