• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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Culture and Literature breathe life into Uyo at the Boldoz Book and Arts Festival

Culture and Literature breathe life into Uyo at the Boldoz Book and Arts Festival

The Boldoz Book and Arts Festival’s inaugural edition was an outstanding success over the weekend of June 21-22, 2024, as authors, artists, students, and invited guests relished the well-prepared panel discussions, book chats, and performances presented at the Ibibio Union Museum in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

The venue itself was iconic. On the comfortable lawn and spacious walkway, Festival Director, Mrs. Enobong Etuk welcomed attendees with hugs. Guests chatted unhurriedly in eager anticipation for the event to start.

The Ibibio Union Museum situated in Unity Park, Udo Udoma Avenue in Uyo celebrates the diverse ethnicities that make up Akwa Ibom. This year’s festival theme, Mbuk Nyin, “Our Story” provided the perfect setting for stories to be told.

As guests climbed up the steps, they were reminded of the six points of lights, men sent from this region of the country to schools outside the country.

Some returned, a few did not make it back alive. One of the authors headlining the Boldoz Book and Arts festival this year is himself a returnee. All the way from Saskatoon, Canada, Michael Afenfia acclaimed author of Mechanics of Yenagoa, Don’t Die on Wednesday, Rain Can Never Know, and Leave My Bones in Saskatoon was in Nigeria, his first time back after relocating in 2019.

Poised to deliver the festival’s keynote address, he and the other guests were about to be welcomed in true Akwa Ibom style.

Pulsating drums and energetic dancers signaled that the event was about to start. Each move, trick, twist, and turn drew the audience in and they reciprocated with several rounds of applause as the joyful performers entertained all.

With chairs arranged in a semicircle, picture listeners at a storyteller’s feet, the orange panels graced with photographs of rulers in the region from colonial times to present added more vibrancy to an already electric posturing.

Akwa Ibom’s Commissioner of Culture, Honorable Commissioner Charles Udoh, and Mr. Raphael Edem, SSA on Tourism/Branding were two leaders present for the festival’s opening remarks.

The Commissioner reinforced the state government’s commitment to supporting the Arts and so did Mr. Edem during a panel discussion on “How Do We Tell Our Stories?” Oto-Obong Uwah, author of Ibibio Nation: History and Culture moderated this panel that had as its key takeaway, it is the stories that are told, history remembers.

The hosts for the festival, The Boldoz Book Club invited the convener of the Uyo Book Club, deme Nana to moderate a book chat with author, Anietie Usen.

This was the first of many book chats that featured books such as What Happened to Janet Uzor? by Miracle Emeka Nkwor, Civil War Child by Nestor Udoh, Grit by Obari Gomba, and Leave My Bones in Saskatoon by Michael Afenfia.

Repeatedly, students in the audience would roar with approval as the festival featured professors, teachers, and lecturers who had the responsibility of guiding their creative paths in secondary and tertiary institutions. Included in the lineup for panel discussions were Professor Effiong Johnson, Eyoh Etim, and Elizabeth Michael.

The panel discussion on ‘Children Books Gaps & Opportunity’ was a real eye-opener. Moderated by Mrs. Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi, she revealed that the children’s book industry was worth billions of dollars and in need of more writers and illustrators for the genre.

Francis Onuk, a trained illustrator buttressed this point when he said a page of illustration can cost N30,000-N50,000 depending on the level of detail. Dr. Eno Attah, author of Super Healthy Kidz- Hygiene Book shared that her children’s book inspiration was drawn from books she read in her childhood and those of her children as a parent.

As a few attentive students in the audience were awarded books both for their personal and school collection, it became apparent that they too were on the right track to becoming reading and writing influencers.

The influence of Akwa Ibom when it comes to food and fashion has been deeply etched. Thus, the panels, “Come and Eat in Uyo” and “Our Clothing and Culture” provided learning opportunities for all. Delicacies such as Edikang Ikong, Ekpang Nkukwo, Afia Afere, Abak Atama, and Afang were discussed at length.

Honorable Itoro Etim took everyone on a journey of clothing from the first man and woman to the future of school children in Akwa Ibom tying wrappers to school, even for the males, as they showcase their culture and origin. She also shared that the Victorian styled Onyonyo was indeed a twist adorned with culture to the Victorian ball gowns introduced to the region.

With ears, heads, and hearts full, it was sad to see the Boldoz Book and Arts Festival that had begun with so much energy draw to a close. Still, a lot had been shared in the space of two days.

Obari Gomba had led a Masterclass in writing for theater, comparing laying out a narrative to gathering ingredients for one’s favorite soup.

His play, Grit won the coveted $100,000 NLNG Prize for Literature in 2023 and everyone wanted to know how he did it. Michael Afenfia had emphasized the need to change the narrative for what success should look like, calling co-author Miracle Emeka-Nkwor up to the podium for the audience to follow her on Instagram and support her body of work.

Laughter, conflicting opinions, and an understanding that Akwa Ibom needs more literary festivals such as the Boldoz Book and Arts Festival had been shared. Visitors had flown in from Lagos, driven down from Bayelsa and Port Harcourt to Akwa Ibom.

Akwa Ibom was the host that kept on giving. Books were autographed, encouragement given, and traditional meals shared in small circles.

The unspoken question on the lips of many was, when will we do this again? As we all stay tuned for when the next edition of the Boldoz Book and Arts Festival will be, it is apparent that our stories will continue to be told so history remembers that just like the people in the photos on exhibit at the Ibibio Union Museum, we too were once here.