Poets as advocates for mental health at FPC 2020 | Utibe-Eno Ekpuk

  • Walls and Windows as Routes for Poetry and Poets at Festival Poetry Calabar 2020

“Bells of Depression: Walls and Windows” was the thematic concern of Festival Poetry Calabar (FPC), 2020. The festival, an initiative of Poets in Nigeria (PIN), hosted her 6th annual fiesta in the Paradise city of Calabar from 16th to 19th of December. With keen observation of global times, the festival was majorly staged via an online platform, ZOOM, for the first time since its inception in 2015.

As it has now become a culture of the epoch event, Festival Poetry Calabar began with a “Walk for Poetry” where poets and literary geeks resident in the city of Calabar and her neighboring cities, converged at James Ene Henshaw Foundation (JEHF) for a walk through major roads in the city to showcase a thrilling spectacle of poetry.  Performing were: Eneminyene Eromosele, an Akwa Ibom-based poet; Worden Enya; Michaelking Esukpa, member PIN CRUTECH Connect Centre; Favour Ele; Neji; Psalms and Proverbs; Takeem; New Wave, a throng of poets in Calabar; Solomon Godson; Speechful, etc.

Day two (2) of the festival paved way for an introduction of virtual activities with participants joining in from diverse parts of the world. This session was moderated by Ifeanyi Agwazia, member PIN, Calabar Connect Centre and Ifunanya Juliet Ottih, interning Assistant Secretary, Poets in Nigeria Initiative. In attendance were, amongst others: Sir Eriata Oribhabor, President, Poets in Nigeria; Mr. Kolade Freedom, Executive Secretary, PIN; Mr. Bassey Asuquo, Chairman, Local Organizing Committee; Miss Elizabeth Ita, Secretary, LOC; Randelle Ellis @TheLKNPoetry.

The LOC Chairman, Mr. Bassey Asuquo officially opened the festival with a remark highlighting major features of the festival and why modalities differed with regards to the virtual situation of which the event was set to accommodate. He stated:

But in this its 6th edition, Festival Poetry, this year, has had to face up to a novel challenge in the way and manner of planning…
And so for FPC 2020, the LOC decided that part of the festival be held virtually via Zoom.

The captivating activities did not exclude poetry performances from OddFelix Ayuk, Kingsley Whiteflag, Eromosele, etc. There was also an open mic, PIN showcase, and of course, “Calabar Welcomes.” “Calabar Welcomes” in the words of Mr. Chairman is a rich and “exciting repertoire of songs, ballads, and graceful dances depicting the cultural heritage of the people of Calabar”.  For the 6th edition of F.P.C, there was a video-recorded background music by Chief Inyang Henshaw that displayed the royalty of Cross Riverians, a virtual tour to 10 places in Cross River State (Cross River National Park, Obudu Mountain Resort, Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort, Calabar Christmas Festival: Calabar Carnival, Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Abokim Waterfalls, The film house cinemas, Slave History Museum, Ikom Monoliths, and Mary Slessor Missionary House). Again, there was a folklore performance that chorused a warm welcome in Yakurr, Boki, Ejagham, and Efik languages, all in Cross River state. This session was moderated by Utibe-Eno Ekpuk with amazing performances from Josephine Oba-Akasi, Lawrence Essien, Michaelking Esukpa and Speechful.

Precious Uwen and Utibe-Eno Ekpuk, lead representatives, PIN UNICAL and Calabar Connect Centres respectively were moderators for day three (3) of the festival. As expected, the lineup for this day cut across an educative, entertaining and poetry-friendly atmosphere.

There was a virtual poetry gallery enabled by slideshows of creative poets, an exhausting talk on “Poetry and the New Normal” given by Mr. Kolade Freedom, poetry performances, a book chat interrogating Pamilerin Jacob’s “Gospel of Depression” with Utibe-Eno Ekpuk, break-out sessions with Bashiru Amunemi on “Managing Burnout and Stress” and Worden Enya on “Writer’s Block and Depression”. Miss Elizabeth Ita also shared on “Stress, Social Media and Depression” in a bid to explore the theme some more.

The festival had a grand closure with an infusion of poetry, rap, music, unveiling of cake by the awarded best committee FPC, 2019: The Cabaret. The overflown hall had seated in it renown performance poets and entrants for Festival Poetry Calabar slam. Moderating the Cabaret were Ruth Okim and Ifeanyi Agwazia while the slam winner was announced by Miss Elizabeth Ita after expressing her gratitude to the LOC and entire audience on behalf of Festival Poetry Calabar and Poets in Nigeria at large for a successful 6th outing. The 15th through 18th of December, 2021 was announced as date for next year’s festival.

Emelda Ita, Keesh Rowland and Solomon Godson were selected after a thorough judging process as first, second and third prize winners respectively who chronicled to the panel’s satisfaction, the theme for the poetry slam.

Rap battles, pictures and an exciting networking dispersed the audience.

Utibe-Eno Ekpuk
Festival Reporter

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