Authors at the Labaf festival 2016

Authors at the Labaf festival 2016

The Lagos Arts and Book Fair 2016 was hosted in the Nigerian capital from 10-13 November. The festival in its 18th year described as ““the biggest culture picnic on the continent” had the theme as “The Terror of Knowledge: Education as a Terrifying Weapon Against the Forces of Darkness.”

The festival which is popularly known as Labaf is organised every year by the committee for Relevant Art a group of artistes, art enthusiasts, art promoters and art writers committed to the development of the Arts of Nigeria and their enabling environment. Every year, Freedom Park in Lagos is the host of exhibitions, panel discussions, book chats, concerts, poetry presentations and a whole lot more.

Obinna Udenwe with festival headliner Professor Femi Osofisan

Obinna Udenwe with festival headliner Professor Femi Osofisan

This year the festival headliner was Professor Femi Osofisan who has written many works in prose and for the stage. His three prose contributions are Ma’ami, Abigail and Cordelia, which according to his Wiki page were first produced in newspaper columns. Several of his plays are adaptations of works by other writers: Women of Owu from Euripides’ The Trojan Women; Who’s Afraid of Solarin? from Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector; No More the Wasted Breed from Wole Soyinka’s The Strong Breed; Another Raft from J. P. Clark’s The Raft; Tegonni: An African Antigone from Sophocles′ Antigone, and others.

The theme of the festival enthused that the book is a terrifying weapon against the forces of incapacity which is a strong idea on its own. Of course most reasonable observers would see that it was a dig at the madness of Nigeria’s most famous anti-education nutters.

With the book at the centre of the struggle against the forces of incapacity there was a plethora of panels which you would find in any literary festival the world over. These panels had names like Campaigns of purification (Ethnic cleansing or Insurgency). How did this creep on us: Breeding Fields of Terror. The Knowledge Society and its Rewards. The Conversation: Gender Equality and the Funk of Feminism.


Some of the guests, authors or otherwise, seen there were Jumoke Verissimo, Diekara Oloruntoba, Obinna Udenwe, Sam Omatseye, Hawa Jande Golakai, Toni Kan, Dr Yinka Olomojobi, Dr Razinat Mohamed, Chuma Nwokolo, Molara Wood, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf and many more.

It wasn’t just about the books as this was a full on arts festival. Guests at the festival got to watch the movie Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako which looks at the brief occupation of Timbuktu, Mali by Ansar Dine.

There was also the art exhibition at the Kongi Harvest Art Gallery which was named WHO WILL BLINK FIRST curated by Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo of Mild Red Studios, Lagos. You can read more about the art exhibition proper here.

There were also events which targeted kids who are the next generation of readers and writers. They must be inspired.

At the end of the week  long festival many acknowledged that this had to have been one of the better editions since it was started 18 years ago.