By Godwin Okondo
PREPARATIONS are going at a frenetic pace for the highly anticipated Lagos International Poetry Festival (LIPFest 2022), scheduled for October 27 through 31, 2022, which has as theme ‘Babel: A New Language.’ This year’s festival centres on the mother-tongue and the ongoing efforts, according to the festival director, Efe Paul Azino, for “the reclamation of default languages from the rubble of colonialism. It interrogates the implication of a re-imagination of language in local education, and the possibilities presented for the liberation of stories and societies.”
Special performances with offerings from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, India, Germany, Spain, US, Scotland, England, Belgium and France, as well as workshops and masterclasses, which will connect poets and writers at different stages of their careers for career-shaping craft sessions, and the festival’s keynote conversations and panels will unpack the theme for this year’s event programming that will parade an array of guest poets, writers, translators, and performers, translating their experiences by taking us beneath the skin of their tongues.
Some guests to expect at the festival include is an award-winning poet, playwright, performer, and producer based in Cape Town, South Africa, Siphokazi Jonas. As writer and performer, she has produced numerous poetry and theatre shows. Her most recent stage production #WeAreDyingHere was performed at Artscape Theatre, Johannesburg Theatre and HerStory International Film Festival to positive reception.
South African IsiZulu writer, performing poet and storyteller, Mbali Malimela, is the founder of a poetry brand called Bantu Origin. She has a strong passion for restoring the love and use of language through poetry. Malimela has been a part of numerous poetry platforms including the 22nd and 25th Poetry Africa Festival, 25th Time of The Writer Festival, Durban Playhouse Women In Arts Festival and Artfluence Festival.
Nadine Aisha Jassat is the author of Let Me Tell You This, praised as ‘beautifully written, immense and full of passion’ by Nikita Gill and ‘a joy both live and on the page’ by Hollie McNish. Based in Scotland, she has been published widely, including in Picador’s It’s Not About the Burqa (shortlisted for the Foyles Non-Fiction Book of the Year), 404 Ink’s Nasty Women (‘essential’ — Margaret Atwood), and Bloodaxe’s Staying Human.
Ayi Renaud Dossavi is a Togolese writer, business journalist and blogger. Author of poetry, short stories and essays, his poetry collection Chants de Sable granted him the “France Togo” literary prize in 2018 (and later the Komlan Messan Nubukpo Literary Prize in 2021), a year in which he also won the first prize in the writing competition “Africa of my dreams” of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Sunnah Khan is a multi-talented Scottish-Pakistani poet, creative facilitator and filmmaker living in London. Her debut pamphlet “l Don’t Know How to Forgive You When You Make No Apology For This Haunting” was published by Roughtrade Books in 2020.
Omar Musa is a Bornean-Australian rapper, poet, author and visual artist from Queanbeyan, Australia. He has released four poetry books (including Killernova), four hip-hop records (including Since Ali Died), and received a standing ovation at TEDx Sydney at the Sydney Opera House.
Amarachi Attamah is a graduate student in the Department of Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage Preservation at Syracuse University, New York State. She is a chant performer, poet, broadcaster. and mother-tongue advocate. Her core interests are indigenous language sustainability, culture curation, intangible heritage preservation, community engagement and art therapy for mental well-being.
Aja Monet is a blues surrealist poet and cultural worker. In 2007 she won the legendary Nuyorican Poet’ 5 Cafe Grand slam poetry award. She follows in the long legacy and tradition of poets participating and assembling in social movements. Aja Monet has collaborated across mediums and disciplines helping to shape and shift culture. Her first full collection of poems My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter is a testament to all mothers, women. and girls who struggle to live, love, and move freely in the world. Her poems explore migration, spirituality, and femininity.
Kola Tunbosun is a Nigerian linguist, editor, travel writer, and scholar. His works have been published in African Writer, Aké Review, Brittle Paper, International Literary Quarterly, Jalada, Popula, Saraba, etc. In 2016, he became the first African to been given the Premio Ostana, a prize given for work in indigenous language advocacy. Tubosun is the brain behind YorubaName.com, a first crowdsourced multimedia dictionary of Yoruba names. He has been translated to Italian and Korean, and currently works as a freelance lexicographer with Oxford University Press, UK. His collection of poetry Edwardsville by Heart was published in November 2016 by Wisdom’s Bottom Press, UK.
Mukoma wa Ngugi is an Associate Professor of Literatures in English at Cornell University and author of recently released Unbury Our Dead with Song (Cassava Republic Press, 2021), The Rise of the African Novel: Politics of Language, Identity and Ownership (UoM Press, 2018), Black Star Nairobi (Melville, 2013), Nairobi Heat (Penguin, SA 2009, Melville House Publishing, 2011), and two books of poetry, Logotherapy (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) and Hurling Words at Consciousness (AWP, 2006). Mrs. Shaw (Ohio University Press, 2015) was released in East Africa as We, the Scarred (Paivapo Press in 2020). Nairobi Heat is under option by a major Hollywood studio.
Mukoma (son of legendary African writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o) is the co-founder of Mabati-Cornell Kiswahill Prize for African Writing. At Cornell he, along with Professors Carole Boyce Davies and Derrick Spears, amongst others, was at the forefront of changing the department’s name from Department of English to Literatures in English. In 2014, New African magazine named him one of the 100 most Influential Africans.
Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney, London, to an English mother and a Jamaican father. He is the author of To Sweeten Bitter, The Perseverance, AII The Names Given and the children’s book Can Bears Ski? In 2019 he became the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre. Other accolades include the Ted Hughes award, PBS Winter Choice, A SundayTimes Young Writer of the Year award and The Guardian Poetry Book Of The Year 2018, as well as being shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and Forward Prize.
Yusuf Alabi Balogun who goes by the stage name ‘Aremo Gemini’ is an experimental performance poet, with a core focus in Yoruba arts and culture. Recipient of Horn of Afroclassical Merit Award for excellence in the propagation of arts and culture (2018), his art is guided by numerous drives, one of which is to sell out 02 Arena, London for Yoruba oral arts.
Nana Asaase is an award-winning Ghanaian Poet, writer and literary coach,etc. His works are mostly rendered in both English and Twi (one of the dominant Ghanaian languages), employing other languages intermittently. Though young, Asaase’s deep appreciation of Akan oratory embodied in poetry and of Ghanaian folklore has earned him a seat among the country’s literary giants. He is a product of the University of Ghana, and a student of Prof. Kofi Anyidoho, a Ghanaian/African literary giant.
Loveth Liberty is a multiple prize-winning performance poet and spoken word artiste whose work interrogates the Nigerian sociopolitical pulses, delicately explores womanhood and highlights the human experience. Her artistry throbs with social consciousness. In her words: “I want to make art. Pour out myself generously and graciously so, so much that a lot of dreams, feeding off of mine, can bloom.”
Dike Chukwumerije is the 2011 Abuja Literary Society (ALS) Poetry Slam champion, the 2012 The African Poet (Nigeria) Grand Slam champion, and the 2013 Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) winner of the prize for prose fiction. In 2013, he created the Night of the Spoken Word (NSW) platform to showcase emerging talent. In 2016, building on NSW success, he launched Simply Poetry Ltd, a production company focused on staging poetry commercially. The company’s first production premiered in October 2016, and went on to tour the country, staging over 20 times in more than nine cities. Chukwumerije is an accomplished public speaker and, in 2019 participated in the US International Visiting Leaders Program (IVLP) on Art for Social Change.
Joel Francois is a Haitian-born, Brooklyn-raised storyteller, who wishes to share his vista as a black writer and tell stories of love, family, and race through that lens. He believes that the artist is the architect of humanity and writes in search of God, love, and community. His writing is an act of personal healing as his ultimate goal is to do good work with little harm. Francois is the 2015 Nuyorican Grand Slam Champion, the 2016 and 2017 Bowery Grand Slam Champion, was listed as one of New York City’s top poets by Culture Trip, and earned a top 20 ranking in the 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam.
Dr. Amy Shimshon-Santo is a writer and educator who believes that creativity is a powerful tool for personal and social transformation. She is the author of Catastrophic Molting (Flowersong Press), Even the Milky Way is Undocumented (Unsolicited Press), and the chapbook Endless Bowls of Sky (Placeholder Press). She has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes in poetry and creative nonfiction, a Rainbow Reads Award and Best of the Net in poetry, and national recognition on the honour roll of service learning.
Apart from performances, masterclasses and writing workshops also pepper LIPFEST programming. Chukwube Danladi will hold ‘Native Tongue’ writing workshop on October 27, Romeo Oriogun will host a virtual masterclass on ‘Poetry of Place’ same day while Dami Ajayi’s masterclass on ‘Pushing Formal Boundaries in Poetry’ will hold October 28. Also, a section on ‘American Slang’ featuring Aja Monet, Rudy Francisco, Shimshon-Santo, Joel Francois, and Danladi will hold on October 28 with free entry at British Council as well as ‘Africa Aloud’ segment.