By Liberty Bassey

The International Ibom Arts and Book Festival began on a grand note in the City view Hall of Watbridge Hotels and Suites on Thursday as advertised. Its theme: The Artist and The Art: reclaim and redefine opened the doors to a world preview of authors in collaboration with Uyo Book Club.

In attendance at the festival was an audience comprising of students, youths, and the elders; a crowd you’d legitimately call the readers, the leaders, and the learners as actually one is never satisfied with knowledge acquisition.

As you would come to know, books are full of knowledge and life lessons. They teach about hardships, love, fear, and everything else that comes with living. Books have been around for hundreds of years, and they are full of details about our stories, civilizations, and cultures.

Life stories are often compelling and relative to other people’s experiences. They help us understand how other people live, give us a bigger view of the world, change the way we think about politics and social issues, teach us how to be better people, and make us feel less alone.

It could be because each person who reads the pages will learn a different lesson or see things from a different point of view, and as people, we want to know and understand each other through these lessons.

These lessons were well captured in the Chat and Review series with the featured authors as moderated by the able hosts of the day, Lawrence Okon and Ntangese Akpan.

How do you do justice to a great book in just a few words within the stipulated half hour?

Well, as members of the audience came to realize, it is possible with the well-selected incisive and brilliant conversationalists. And like all works of art, no two books will be the same.

Despite being a newbie at Book Chats, Uboho Bassey, author of the book From Trauma to Triumph: Finding Liberty began the discourse on featured authors in conversation with Anthony Gregory, and moderated by Abraham Asukwo.

This is Uboho’s first novel, coming after three poetry books, but she has complete control of her story which she calls – a story of dreams, poems and purpose…as told by Uboho.

Ibom Arts and Book Festival

In her book, she captures overcoming trauma, a life where someone saw in her only a reflection of their preconceived biases of who a woman should be, what heights she should attain; the closed boxes of stereotyping and faulty perceptions that denies individuality, questions identity, and limits potential. Some of the saddest outcomes; of the direct and collateral effects of cultural beliefs against women have done nothing but hold her tight in the grip of mediocrity, inferiority complex, feelings of unworthiness, and the fear to step forward and assert herself, even when she has the innate and acquired capacity.

With chapters on review such as: What is in a Name? Who is in Charge? Remember the reasons; Pain and Purpose; she felt connected as Anthony led the audience through her book, resonating with anyone who faces challenging issues – knowing there’s a triumph at the end, where you eventually begin to live in the truth of your identity and dignity. She left the audience with this quote: “Defining who you are – is defining who you will never be again.”

As a Microbiologist who has become a prolific writer, she assures the students present that there are no career limitations that would preclude the art of one from becoming a writer.

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Ibom Arts and Book Festival

If you came a little bit later, I guess you witnessed the second Author in an electrifying literary display as he replayed his role as a child when he acted in the drama: “This is Our Chance.” The session with Dr. Martin Akpan, in conversation with Aniefiok Udoh, was moderated by Aaron Solomon as his book The Crumb Eaters was reviewed. Yes, he is a practising Medical Doctor, and once again, the fact is buttressed that the capabilities of the brain is limitless and boundless. He has another book, The Brain Wave to his credit.

The Crumb Eaters written in 1999 captures afresh the reality of our political landscape and odyssey, with the issues and characters as relevant in the present day as it was at the time the book was written. Regaling the audience with his political travails years back,  It is to be said that the author might be a “prophet of sorts” definitely gifted with the garb of great writers to speak into a future that does not yet exist in the present!

In suggesting the way forward, Dr Martin urged everyone to choose not to be crumb eaters as we advance on the Masters’ Table just as Mr. Aniefiok Udoh, in a revelatory insight opined that Nigeria’s political table has been wiped clean of bounty. In his words, there are no more crumbs! This got the hall in loud laughter!

The only way to reclaim and redefine the Nigeria of our dreams, they agreed, was to get our PVC’s for the coming elections so as to bring in visionary and credible leaders that will lead the Country into a better future.

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Ibom Arts and Book Festival

The story of Iniobong Josiah as told in her book The Wait was reviewed in conversation with Mary Jonas and Tijah-Bolton Akpan, an Engineer.

You’ve probably asked yourself this question once or several times in your life.

“How am I going to make it through this tough season?” The answer is right there in the pages of this book where you learn how to wait with the right attitude.  And who says waiting to become a mother is easy? Or waiting to find the meaning of your existence, your purpose in life? As sensitive as the issue of infertility is in Africa, with the underlying stigmatization, the Author boldly bared her heart and led the audience through the soul-wrenching challenges of waiting to conceive in the midst of an insensitive society.

A Pharmacist and author of 13 books, you’d conclude she’s more than determined to share her message and leave her mark! She left no one in doubt that there’s always a silver lining on the clouds when your wait comes to a defining stop with your miracle.

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Ibom Arts and Book Festival

The Book, Ekòng Nkè – Our Stories; authored by Ini Ite Ubong, feels absolutely real, as though I’m back in the ambiance of my grandmother’s homestead. The narrative voice is wonderful – serious at times, but also very witty, which makes for an engaging read.

She led the audience captive in a spellbinding grip of our almost forgotten folktales, regaling us about the stories that only a few privileged children of the new generation are privy to. According to her, the book is here to bridge the gap between the past and the present, being certain that to lose one’s culture amounts to losing one’s identity.

The stories shared in this book take us on a journey from the farm, to the animal kingdom, and then from the land of the dead to the King’s palace.

Most importantly, it takes us back to our roots, where love is a strong bond, and the power of good always overcomes evil.

Issues that came to the fore included the possibility of audio versions, a challenge to all to preserve our culture and share our stories to children raised in countries far away from their origin. After all, Eto ìsìdàhà ikpöñg ikappà àkaî (A single tree cannot become a forest all by itself) and like it’s often said, Utit ofòñ Idara! (Joy is often certain at the end)!

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The story may have been told before, but never before with such intensity; filled with wittiness and what the reviewer calls faction; a blend of fiction and facts. Anietie Usen has had a distinguished career as a journalist and is considered an accomplished high flyer with another book, Audacious Journalism in his kitty.

His book Village Boy was reviewed in absentia by Imaobong Okpon and Felix Nyong who led the audience through a graphic storyline of the author growing up through the early loss of a father, abject poverty, and lack, to emerge into a life of significance. Village Boy is an extremely powerful story of determination, of strong ideals, woven in the cultural ambience of village life – a life without a silver spoon – a life where a snake bite is cured with herbs, where lunch is a cold serving of fufu and dinner is roasted crickets.

But beyond the dire situation, Village Boy is a story of hope, of overcoming, of divine interventions and of the indefatigable human spirit.

You certainly wouldn’t want to miss reading these books!

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What a grand festival!

The review of the five books is proof that there’s no single narrative to our stories. The youths can gain direction and enrich their dreams towards professionalism, networking and mentorship. For the students, the sky is wide enough to accommodate our individual stories as you upskill and reskill yourself for impact, influence, relevance and recognition.

The Ibom Arts and Book Festival is here to Reclaim and Redefine Narratives.

Be Authentic!

So, don’t give up, keep working on your books and give them an opportunity to earn the recognition they deserve. If you have time, let’s talk! That was the parting shot by Mr. Felix Nyong, of Wordworks!

What was in it for you??

One would conclude that everyone gained insights into the journey of self-discovery.

*Uyo Book Club rocks*

#Ibominternationalartsandbookfestival

#uyobookclub

#readersareleaders

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