For me, 2016 in Nigeria had cultural moments that could be clasped in between firm palms and made to stay forever. As the year runs out now, all that is left of those experiences is the sweet lingering taste of memory. From the Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF) to the Lagos Live Festival to the Ake Book and Arts Festival, the year was full of unforgettable moments. And while it is extremely difficult to pick favourites, here is a list of my top three cultural moments in 2016:
First on my List is Felabration 2016. Felabration is an annual Music Festival during which the late Afrobeat Legend and Activist, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is celebrated. This year’s edition took place between the 10th and 17th of October. It was a week long of intense celebration with discussions around Fela’s life, music and politics, dance performances by Qudus Onikeku, a dance artiste that stands out with a unique style that combines dance and acrobatics, and musical performances featuring top Nigerian Artistes including Fela’s sons – Femi and Seun Kuti. This year also featured an Art exhibition of works by Lagos-based artist, Abolore Shobayo, themed ‘Echoes’ in the Terra Kulture Art Gallery at Victoria Island, Lagos; Echoes was aimed at capturing Fela’s essence and his struggle for freedom and Pan-Africanism from the perspective of an artist. Felabration this year year had us remembering Fela in a very special way. It was an immensely exciting experience, connecting people once again to Fela’s legacy.
Ake Books and Arts Festival
This year’s Edition of the Ake Book and Arts Festival was another cultural moment that we won’t be forgetting soon. The Ake Festival, organized by the formidable writer, Lola Shoneyin, since its inception in 2013 has been one of the leading Art Festivals in Nigeria where people get to enjoy four full days of cultural immersion with book chats, panel discussions on socio-political and socio-cultural issues, musical and theater performances and so on. Between the 15th and 19th of November, Ake took place with the theme: Beneath This Skin with conversations around race and identity. This year’s festival was festival was a rich cultural experience with an interesting array of guests including the acclaimed Kenyan writer, Ngugi Wa Thiong’O that produced four days of delightful cultural engagement.
My last but by no means least important pick, is Afropolitan Vibes. The monthly live music concert where alternative music is showcased to an enthusiastic audience is definitely worth the mention. Afropolitan Vibes, created by Ade Bantu and Abby Ogunsanya in 2013, takes place every third Friday of each Month at Freedom Park on Lagos Island. The concert particularly stands out because apart from the regular performances by the 13 piece Bantu band that hosts the show, it consistently offers an exotic mélange of many different and interesting forms of African music by contemporary artistes whose music has been influenced by Afrobeat, Afrofunk, Highlife, e.t.c. The concert continues to succeed in bringing to the fore great musicians, a good number of whom are not exactly mainstream but produce great music worth listening to. Throughout the year, not unlike the previous ones, Afropolitan Vibes offered a deeply rewarding cultural experience for music lovers. Apparently Afropolitan Vibes is still not done for the year as it will be holding its first ever Afropolitan Vibes Festival between the 16th and 17th of December where there will be series of performances, music workshops and lots more!
2016 was brim with lots and lots of unforgettable cultural moments and it has been interesting to watch how culture continues to grow and reinvent itself and how people are increasingly interested.