When poets and the literary community all over the world celebrated the World Poetry Day, it was a great opportunity to improve the existing relationship between Nigeria and Korea as was displayed during the 5th Korea-Nigeria poetry feast in Abuja.


Organised by the Korean Cultural Centre Nigeria (KCCN), in collaboration with the Arojah Royal Theatre, the theme for this year’s festivity, ‘Travel,’ was carefully chosen to depict the benefits of travel to poetry as beautifully expressed in the prize-winning poems.

The KCCN is the first Korean cultural institution established in Africa that has played a crucial role in promoting cultural exchange between Nigeria and Korea.


The annual event which was launched in 2010 to mark the opening of the KCCN also played host to poets, writers and government functionaries and specially featured the director-general of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Dr Sally Mbanefo, who made a poetry rendition titled, ‘Poverty Alleviation.’


Apart from the feast, the KCCN also organises annual poetry contests, art exhibitions, Korea-Nigeria student quiz competition, African Arts and Crafts Expo as well as Art in Ability and Disability, all targeted at expanding mutual understanding between the two countries.


In her address, Mbanefo said poetry gives one freedom of expression and could change one’s attitude. She stressed that great poets like the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, criticised the environment and political system through poetry.


On whether poetry thrives in a peaceful environment, she said, “Absolutely and that is why we want to encourage Nigerians to travel to the peaceful parts of the country because the president has made Nigeria liveable and has given us a great future to look forward to when it comes to poetry, leisure and travel.”


Mbanefo was hopeful that poetry could be the turning point to cripple the activities of insurgents just as she appealed to the literary community and creative industry to key into the vision.


According to her, “People need to celebrate Nigeria and we have a president who has prepared the background for us. We have the railway system working and over 25,000 kilometres (km) of road network are good.


“If people can travel within the country to explore the beauty of Nigeria, poets will be inspired, people in the creative industry and artists will also be inspired to draw and paint and it will be like a drop in the ocean that can cause a ripple effect through the environment,” she concluded.


Responding, the director of the KCCN, Mr Kwon Yong Ik, was optimistic that culture developed invaluable heritages in different parts of the world. He stated that literature has been playing a crucial role in promoting mutual understanding between the people and that the event was in line with centre’s efforts to promote the exchange of literary heritage between Nigeria and Korea, saying that it was expected to make great contribution to the consolidation of friendship between Nigeria and Korea through cultural exchange.


Kwon revealed that plans were underway to expand the cultural events and other programmes organised by the KCCN into exciting festivals with active participation of the Nigerian culture and Arts organisations. He assured that the KCCN would compile the prize-winning poems into a book as was done in the past and ensure wider circulation to the public.


Also speaking, the artistic director of the Arojah Royal Theatre, Mr Jerry Adesewo, regretted that Nigerian poets hardly received assistance in the country and were only celebrated by foreigners. He admitted that culture played a crucial role in globalisation and peaceful co-existence around the world and stressed that the event had greatly improved in terms of prizes, quality of entries received and level of participation from mere 66 entries in 2011 to 126 in 2015.


On his part, the director of Culture, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Mr Ayo Ayanwale Olayanju, called on the federal government to encourage creativity right from the primary schools.


He said that creativity only thrives in a peaceful environment and note that traditional poets should be provided with the right platform to express their feelings. Also, an award winning author and poet, Mr Cain Rabbi Tubal, was hopeful that the magnitude of violence experienced across the country would be reduced if poetry was prioritised.


While commending the KCCN and Arojah Theatre for their wonderful packages, he said such fora should pave way for grooming young ones to imbibe the culture of creativity instead of being lured into violence.


First published in Leadership

3rd April, 2015