Tomorrow, March 21 is UNESCO's World Poetry Day. In the world over, bookies will be celebrating the event with some reading, writing and poetry performances. To celebrate the day in Lagos, Providus Bank is hosting An Evening of Life and Ideas with Wole Soyinka. The event is scheduled for 5:00pm at the bank's corporate headquarters in Lagos.
UNESCO first adopted March 21 as World Poetry Day at its 30th General Conference in Paris, in 1999, with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard.Every year, the day celebrates what UNESCO describes as "one of humanity's most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity."
The organisation said: "World Poetry Day is the occasion to honour poets, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, foster the convergence between poetry and other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and raise the visibility of poetry in the media."
Practiced throughout history - in every culture and on every continent - poetry speaks to common humanity and shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.
In her message on the occasion of the World Poetry Day 2019, Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, said, "UNESCO is putting the spotlight on indigenous poetry, to celebrate the unique and powerful role of poetry in standing against marginalisation and injustice, and in uniting cultures in the spirit of solidarity." She continued, "poetry is important for the safeguarding of often-endangered languages, as well as the maintenance of linguistic and cultural diversity."
Azoulay said, "2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, led by UNESCO, to reaffirm the commitment of the international community in supporting indigenous peoples to preserve their cultures, knowledge and rights.
This designation comes at a time when indigenous people and their languages and cultures are increasingly under threat, in particular from climate change and industrial development.
"As part of our efforts to safeguard living traditions, UNESCO has included a number of poetic forms on the Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity, such as the Hudhud chants of the Philippines, the Mapoyo oral tradition of Venezuela, the Eshuva, Harákmbut sung prayers of Peru, and the Koogere oral tradition Uganda," Azoulay said. "Every form of poetry is unique, but each reflects the universal of the human experience, the aspiration for creativity that crosses all boundaries and borders of time, as well as space in the constant affirmation of humanity as a single family. That's the power of poetry!"
According to Jahman Anikulapo, curator, Culture Advocates Caucus (CAC), "though conceived as a tribute to honour the 1986 Nobel laureate in literature, Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka, on the occasion of the UNESCO-declared yearly World Poetry Day, An Evening of Life and Ideas with WS has been designed as a showcase -- of the diversity of the Nigerian poetic voices and traditions."
A youth-centred event, Anikulapo said, "it is the flagship event of the Providus Bank Poetry Café, a periodic exploration into the intricate world of African poetic traditions and literary heritage."The event will line-up a coterie of mid-career poets, students, youths drawn from some of the extant and emerging poetry communities of Lagos. The line-up comprises:
Sammy Sage Hassan
He was in the forefront of recording and publicly staging poetry events in various cities around the country. He has two poetry albums; over five videos that enjoyed generous play on major national radio and TV stations, where he also made a score of live appearances.
Iquo Diana Abasi
She often performs her poems with a touch of culture-rich Ibibio folklore. Her first collection of poems, Symphony of Becoming, was shortlisted for the NLNG Nigeria prize for literature, and the ANA poetry prize; both in 2013.
Adebola Afolabi (REZthaPoet)
His works also probe the notion of identity and culture and; often seek the binding factor towards unity, in acknowledgement and celebration of diversity. He is the convener and co-host of the monthly event Griots and Bards (G.A.B), which holds at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos.
In her debut collection, Orchestra of Her Last Rites (2018), poet, book reviewer, Salamatu Sule celebrates the deathless beauty of womanhood and motherhood; connecting between the glorious past and contemporary society.
Author of critically acclaimed poetry collections, Scar in the Heart of pain and Love to a Flowerbird, Uche, a performance poet, was first prizewinner of ANA Lagos Poetry Performance Festival (LASPOFEST) in 2006; Second Prize Winner of Ken Saro-Wiwa Contest USA 2010; Second Runner-up in the National Poetry Slam Competition 2012; Third prizewinner for Poetry at the FNLPOETRY Competition 2012 and Top Poetry Winner (March) of the African Street Writer 2013; as well as the Spoken Word Poet of the Year 2015 at the Nigerian Writer's Award 2016. Four poetry communes in Lagos, Poets in Nigeria, LoudThotz, AJ House of Poetry and Bariga Poets Collective will also perform in the evening of creative expression.