By Godwin Okondo
THESE are very interesting times for Nigeria’s cultural space and the capital city, Abuja. While the cultural space continues to expand in depth and scope, Abuja is gradually being accorded the status of a festival space even if grudgingly. While many have continued to lament the way Lagos has tended to monopolise the arts and culture festival space at the exclusion of other cities, the women have stepped up to make Abuja home to some truly inspiring culture feasts. Chioma Ude has been at the forefront of changing the ‘barren’ festival landscape of Nigeria’s capital city since 2010 when she started African International Film Festival (AFRFF). Not done, another lady and creative entrepreneur, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, will unveil her maiden Beeta Arts Festival, a potpourri of divergent artistic forms from the entire African continent.
Beeta Arts Festival will see a gathering of diverse artists and culture producers from across the continent in the 2-day feast from November 12 – 14, 2021, at Transcorp Hilton Hotel and Art-Tech District, Abuja.
In fact, Graham-Douglas alluded to this outstanding development in early August when she awarded first prize to a deserving young playwright for the Beta Playwriting Competition she organises with her Beta Universal Arts Foundation (BUAF). Before now, she has had her eyes set on venturing beyond the Nigerian artistic space to conquering Africa. Beeta Arts Festival is the dream platform for such Africa-wide conquest.
AnoteArtHub had sought to know from her back then: Having made your imprint on the Nigerian playwright scene, are there plans for you to take the contest to the larger African continent?
According to her; “That is the idea, I feel more than ever as a continent we need to unify and what’s the best way to do that than through the arts? Nothing brings people together like the arts and sports and I am a player in the arts and I feel it’s essential that we make it pan-African, so that we begin to integrate as a continent and share our stories and participate in each other’s lives, because we are one continent. The rest of Africa consumes Nigeria arts, but Nigerians don’t really consume much from the other part of Africa. We don’t really know much about them, and if this platform can bring all of us together and get us to understand each other, and hopefully even develop this industry, which it will do by the time we started having this conversations, why not?
“I believe in Africa; I believe that we should be interacting more and especially in the arts space. I’m looking forward to a situation where our artists can walk freely across the continent, where their stories can be told across the continent freely and that’s not happening much right now and if Beeta Playwriting Competition can do that, then yes, we would be part of it.”
But rather than Beeta Playwriting Competition, Graham-Douglas has chosen to do it through Beeta Arts Festival, which is just as good or even better as competitions are known to be restrictive and in much lesser ways than festivals that are expansive and more accommodating of diverse art forms and temperaments.
Beeta Arts Festival is the uniquely new pan-African celebration organised by the Beeta Universal Arts Foundation (BUAF). The festival has as theme ‘Re-Imagine,’ a hint to re-imagine the artistic unity of Africa, as it seeks to foster arts development and cultural unity by synergising various art forms, including stage plays, film screenings, concerts, poetry, art exhibitions, trainings, workshops, book readings, conversations and lifestyle events.
Beeta Universal Arts Foundation was founded by the creative entrepreneur, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, an award-winning actress and producer. Her vision for arts development also gave birth to the Beeta Playwright Competition and the Beeta Campus Outreach.
As a pan-African festival, participating films are from Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Egypt, Tunisia, and Nigeria. There would be stage performances from Nigeria and Egypt at the festival, stage plays written by winners and finalists of the Beeta Playwright Competition, prolific thespian, Olarotimi Fakunle, who will produce the theatre segment of the festival with the highly successful Room 7 by John Ekpeno Ukut who leads the pack, starring Nollywood uprising star Tope Oloniyowon while Tony Edet (Thin Tall Tony) will be directing a play titled Cancelled.
The film showcases will include content from the alumni of the West African Multichoice Talent Factory, the rising filmmaker John Youla Gotip and other films curated by Fibby Kioria of Manyatta Screenings Kenya. There will also be an innovative digitally directed play from top Ugandan director, filmmaker and playwright, Angie Emurwon, a historical exhibition at the Discovery Museum, curated by Amanda Kirby Okoye and conversations with prolific director Kunle Afolayan, award-winning actress/director and producer Lala Akindoju, President of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Israel Eboh, The Nigeria Prize for Literature winner Abubakar Ibrahim and the acclaimed playwright, Paul Ugbede, etc.
Beeta Arts Festival will be a festival like no other, including immersive cultural experiences alongside the stage plays and film screenings such as well as a vibrant festival market, musical evenings, magicians, painting sessions and indigenous delicacies.
Festival Director, Graham-Douglas, explained the vision for the showpiece, when she said: “The Beeta Arts Festival is a meeting point for different expressions of arts from across Africa. It gives performers opportunities and develops talent, allowing us to see each other, learn from each other and collaborate with each other”.
The festival is sponsored and supported by Chairborne Global Services, Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, Art-Tech District, Abuja, Heritage Bank, AfricaMagic, Ibis Hotel Lagos, Alluvial Agriculture, Union Bank of Nigeria, 2sure, Paperworth Books and ITK. 7UP Bottling company has also been listed as the drinks partner alongside The Guardian Life, Bella Naija, Silverbird, Classic FM, YNaija, Beat FM, with
DigitOneZero being the official media partners.
The Beeta Arts Festival is a cultural event aimed at connecting and uniting Africa using performing arts as a tool to change the narrative while fostering unity, collaboration and integration in Nigeria and across Africa to a global audience.