Festival Poetry Calabar 2016, which held during the Calabar Christmas Carnival, fulfilled the intention of its initiators and organisers – Poets in Nigeria (PIN) and Festival Poetry Foundation respectively. The yearly event, which made its debut last year, has undoubtedly grown in leaps and bounds in terms of awareness, participation, organisation and influence.
Characteristically, the announcement of the date and venue for the festival were met with immediate and rousing interest amongst literary enthusiasts. Many of them had missed participating in the maiden edition and were stunned by pictures displayed on social media. It had as theme ‘Poetry and Cross River’s Clean and Green Initiative.’ It showed that the second edition was centred on social issues, a slight shift from the inaugural edition, which had its stake on cultural values.
The first day of the festival, December 26, 2016, was rewarding for the efforts of the organisers. There was Jolly J’s jazzy effect, a songstress and her band that possessed the stage. Afterwards, James Ene Henshaw Jnr., the Secretary of James Henshaw Foundation Centre (the designated venue for most of the festival’s activities) received guests at the event. His contribution to the successful hosting of the festival was later acknowledged by the chairman of Festival Poetry Foundation, Eriata Oribhabor.
Rising in tempo, a cultural song blared from speakers with two dancers in Efik attires, who expanded and contracted their bodies to the delight of the attendees. The segment of the event tagged ‘Calabar Welcomes You’ had been exclusively reserved for performers residing in Calabar and environs with the intention of promoting talents in the host city.
The poetry deliveries went a notch higher with the introduction of Amarachi Attamah, an Igbo performance poet. Her mastery of her craft awed the audience, which made several interrupting but appreciative remarks. Kalejaye Folajimi, another poet hugely influenced by his culture, magnificently chanted his ewi poetry.
At this point, a palm wine break interrupted the performances. When guests settled down, it was poetry uninterrupted until Damilola Makinde, a vocalist from the University of Ibadan, titillated the audience. It was the first night, the first step and the first touch, which framed success of the festival.
This post was first published on The Guardian