It was a rich potpourri of spoken work performances as U.S. Ambassador W. Stuart Symington hosted a “Night With Performance Poets”, in Abuja, in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each year, April is recognised as National Poetry Month in the United States.
Titled, “Naija: Life, Love, and the Hustle”, 10 distinguished performance poets and three dance groups entertained an audience from Abuja’s literary, artistic, and diplomatic communities.
The performances spoke to the challenges and dreams of people everywhere, telling stories of hope and despair, heartache and humour. In his remark, Ambassador Symington said that National Poetry Month had become the largest literary celebration in the world, recognising poetry’s vital place in all cultures, including American and Nigerian.
In a tribute to Nigerian performers, Symington said: “Many people think Nigeria’s most valuable products come out of the ground, but the country’s artistic tradition shows that its greatest treasures derive from the hearts of its people.”
He added that poets occupy a special place in both the American and Nigerian societies, citing the accomplishments of Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Wole Soyinka and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
The poets included Chukwuemeka Obi-Obasi, a 13-year-old performance poet; Hybrid, a performance poet, thespian, and entrepreneur, Ukwe Achebe, whose works have been published throughout the United States, Canada, and Nigeria; Saddiq Dzukogi who has been published in numerous national and international journals; Odoh Diego Okenyodo, a finalist for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2009; Jamila Abbas, a 22-year-old student of microbiology at the University of Abuja; Debbie Braide, a chemical engineer and Abuja Literary Society Slam Champion; Reward Enakerakpor, a movie director, television presenter, and grand slam winner of the Abuja Literary Society Poetry Slam; and Awe Olatunder Ebenezer, known as Omoake, who borrows from Yoruba and Pidgin English in his comedic stylings. Tru Dance Art, Urban Dance TV Africa, and JemimAngulu comprised the evening’s dance performances.
Benjamin Ubiri, “The Penpusher,” served as the evening’s master of ceremonies. “Naija: Life, Love, and the Hustle” was organized by the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs and Consular Sections in collaboration with the Abuja Literary Society.
National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. “Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.”