LABAF, AFRIFF and Ake Festival all in one week

Festivals are the most realistic means of showcasing what a nation has to offer in terms of culture. Be it fashion, film, books, arts, or food; there is no better time to lure foreigners into a country to treat them to a feast of what each of its different cultural sectors have to offer. Without apology.

For Nigeria, it appears that that time was this past week with three major arts and culture festivals happening back to back within the space of one week. That’s discounting Art X Lagos which we are still too cautious to call major even after a stellar 3-day debut to the West African (not even Nigeria o) culture scene early in November.

Honestly though even if the 3-day long Art X Lagos which managed to successfully fuse the arts, music, lifestyle and culture all in one art fair at first try hasn’t made it to the headline today, it’s still worth mentioning. Tokini Peterside‘s TP-Collective definitely changed the game between the 4th and 6th of November, 2016 at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island. The foot traffic from all over Africa and beyond alone was enough to score the newcomer a straight A. Except that the fair continued to deliver it’s A game up until the last event.

The beauty of Art X Lagos was enough to fear for the veterans of the culture scene like the Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF) which came up next in line this year. LABAF had promised to deliver the 18th edition of its book-inspired-but-completely-arts-oriented week long festival between the 10th and 13th of November at the Freedom Park, Lagos. Whether or not CORA (LABAF) organizers truly delivered is something to mull over.

But the festival happened and right after it, the out-of-town arts and book festival, Ake, happened. Oh wait! The Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) wedged itself somewhere between the end of the 18th LABAF and this year’s 4th Ake Festival in Abeokuta.

This was probably the only drawback this year. The AFRIFF and Ake Festival being so scheduled. We had to choose which of the two to pay attention to. Thankfully though, AFRIFF opened early enough for those who chose Ake Festival to catch its opening film, Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation on Sunday, the 13th of November.

Nothing spectacular about the back to back line-up to be honest. World over, the festival “week” calendar stays tight. It’s like no one wants to risk losing the foot traffic of culture lovers -especially the foreign ones by spreading out their own event too far from the others. Well, Lights! Camera! Africa!(LCA) did and it didn’t exactly hurt the fairly new film festival.

All just goes to prove that no matter how tightly scheduled the organizers of these events make them, we are here for all that provided each one delivers on its promise. And this year, we’ll tell you for free that it’s been a mostly fulfilling festival season for the Arts in Nigeria.

LABAF braved an often excluded topic in contemporary discourse: ‘The Terror on Knowledge‘ – inviting a host of scholars including those of the Islamic faith as well as highlighting books like Andrew Walker‘s Eat the Heart of the Infidel, a non-fiction that highlights the insurgency in that has been ravaging North East, Nigeria. The festival also went a few steps further than its peers by seriously engaging the kids and young adults. The only apparent setback for LABAF – and it was a major setback – was the lack of proper organization. It was too painful watching the volunteers move on and off the stage while panels where on going trying to set things right.

Ake Festival on the other hand scored only As from organization to content and even the hospitability extended to guests, and visitors alike by the team members and volunteers. It’s most certain that every festival-goer left this year’s festival with a promise to return next year. All four days, the festival’s conversations explored any and every topic that would show the Africans ‘Beneath this Skin’ –this year’s theme.

Now, exhausted as we are from all these festivities, we await the next wave of culture fests next year in the hopes that each organizer surpasses the feats they have achieved this year.

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