A vibrant World Poetry Day 2024 celebration honouring Soyinka at 90 — Terh Agbedeh

World Poetry Day 2024 witnessed a spectacular celebration of words, culture and creativity as lNigerian poets and their counterparts from around the globe gathered in Lagos to honour the quintessential poet at 90, Prof. Wole Soyinka. 

The event held at the Grand Ballroom of Eko Hotel, showcased a diverse range of poetic expressions and performances that captivated the audience.

The event featured a diverse lineup of talented poets, including returnee poets from previous editions and notable poets from Kenya, Abu Dhabi, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

As the evening unfolded, attendees were treated to mesmerising performances that showcased the power and beauty of words, celebrating the essence of poetry and its ability to transcend boundaries and unite people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Evelyn Osagie, known for her evocative verses, presented “A Humanist Ode for Chibok, Leah” and “Death at Dusk – Death is the Dawn,” highlighting poignant themes that resonated deeply with the audience.

Oko Owi Ocho’s poetic prowess was on full display with “Twelve Canticles for the Zealot” and “Ujamma,” showcasing a blend of storytelling and social commentary.

Mgwatilo Mawiyoo’s performance of “Ujaama” and “The Child Before the Mirror of Strangers” drew attention to introspective reflections and societal complexities.

The performance by Uche Uwadinachi, heralded by a talented violinist, added a unique musical dimension to the evening, enhancing the emotional impact of his poems “Her joy is wild” and “Night.”

Salamatu Sule’s thought-provoking pieces “In the small hours” and “Procession hanging day 1” delved into introspection and societal challenges.

Malika Booker stirred contemplation with her statement, “poets do not inspire, they annoy,” which she attributed to a writer she did not name, offering a fresh perspective on the role of poetry in challenging societal norms and perceptions.

“We dissect language, we challenge language,” she added and went on to perform the poems “I annoying my flesh”“To one in labour,”  and “The section – more – an anthem to humanism”.

Ruth Mahogany’s poems like “A child before a mirror of strangers,” “Civilian and soldier,” and “Eulogy to the ugly duckling” explored themes of identity and acceptance.

Akeem Lasisi’s powerful renditions of “In the Spirit of Bringer of Peace,” “A Humanist Ode for Chibok, Leah,” and “The Savages Are Back in the Sacred Zone” resonated with the audience’s quest for peace and social justice.

Nathalie Handal’s retrospective presentation of “Selected poems 1965-2022” offered a journey through time and poetic evolution, showcasing the enduring relevance of her works.

The highlight of the evening was a collaborative performance by Akeem Lasisi, Edaoto and other artistes titled “Ori Agbe for Soyinka,” paying homage to Prof. Wole Soyinka’s contributions to literature and activism.

The event concluded with a heartfelt presentation of a painting to Prof. Wole Soyinka, symbolising gratitude and admiration for his lifelong dedication to the arts and humanity. 

This year’s annual World Poetry Day event organised by Providus Bank reached new heights with a star-studded gathering on March 21. One of the highlight of the evening was a captivating speech delivered by Mr. Walter Akpani, the Managing Director/CEO of Providus Bank.

In his address, Mr. Akpani expressed his delight in addressing the distinguished audience at the prestigious event, which has become a tradition over the past five years. He acknowledged the invaluable leadership and mentorship of Prof. Wole Soyinka, who has served as the event’s patron poet and mentor, providing guidance and inspiration for each edition.

The event, which began modestly in 2019 at ProvidusBank’s headquarters, has grown in stature and significance, attracting poets from various backgrounds and regions to share their poetic interpretations on global issues. Despite the challenges faced in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has continued without interruption, showcasing the resilience and commitment of the organisers.

This year’s celebration holds special significance as it marks the fifth anniversary of Providus Bank’s support for literature through World Poetry Day and coincides with Prof. Wole Soyinka’s 90th birthday. Mr. Akpani expressed his excitement about the elaborate plans in place to honour Prof. Soyinka’s milestone and praised him as a mentor, icon, global citizen, and humanist whose legacy will inspire future generations.

Mr. Akpani extended a warm welcome to all participants and thanked those who have consistently supported the event over the years.

The Providus Bank World Poetry Day celebration continues to be a testament to the bank’s commitment to promoting literature, creativity, and cultural exchange, making it a highlight on the annual calendar of literary enthusiasts and poetry lovers alike.

World Poetry Day 2024 in Lagos proved to be a vibrant celebration of creativity, diversity, and the enduring power of poetry to inspire and provoke thought.


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