Kaduna is the sleeping cousin in Northern Nigerian Literature. When you talk of the literary landscape in the north, contemporary writing is centered in Minna, Abuja, Jos, Kano, Kaduna and Makurdi. Minna and recently Abuja have together been the adroit hub of literature written in English in Northern Nigeria, and Kano the unequivocal hub of writing in indigenous languages, mostly Hausa. Kaduna the self-pledged capital of the northern region has been dwarfed in recent times in terms of literary engagements. Lately, there has been a modest gesture towards the revival of literary activities in the ancient city of Kaduna best symbolized by initiatives from Ilmi House.

Ilmi House Poetry Slam

I first learnt of Ilmi House when it hosted one of the weekly readings of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Kaduna Chapter (ANA Kaduna). It is a serene center for the literary and creative arts located at Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna with a library at its base supporting a collaborative community of readers, writers and creative minds, through readings, talks, conversations, debates, music and workshops. Early this year, I was invited to attend the maiden edition of the Ilmi House Poetry Slam 2016.

On February 14, there was a buzz of literary love around the Unguwan Rimi area of Kaduna, where writers of all breed gathered in the open space of the specially designed, Ankara-enclosed Ilmi House building. Rosy flowers hanged from decorated vases. A suya barbeque stood at one end. Roasted fish, music and loads of zobo drinks provided a rhythmical backdrop. Everyone was anxious to get the event started.

Participants at Ilmi House

The poets took over the stage. With aAn array of talents were on display, from renowned and celebrated names led by The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets finalist, Shittu Fowora, Maryam Aliko, Olawale Muideen Jimoh, Bakam to , young and emerging talents, Aminu Aliyu, Mustapha Umar, Oshinette, Hussain Ahmed and the youngest performer of all, 8 year old Jamila that dazzled the crowd with her confidence and slithering rhymes. Poets bathed us in doses of poetry and music; and there was a hilarious rib-cracking comedy skit by The Parrot. Creative minds from all over Nigeria mingled and felt cozy in the warm reception provided by Ilmi House as the drums of poetry rolled out through out the evening and into the night. Poets all decked in traditional outfits and different sleeks of denim jeans and Ankara clothing outdid one another with thrilling performances to savour, . All decked in traditional outfits and different sleeks of denim jeans and Ankara clothing providing a rich African texture with a mix of contemporaneous exuberance. The literary scene in Kaduna suddenly jumped to another height.
The event came to a close with an Ankara parade. Ankara outfits swaggered and the audience picked out the best dressed in an Ankara in a fun way. Kudos should be given to the Ilmi House crew for bringing back Kaduna to the literary landscape. This being the maiden edition of the Ilmi House Poetry Slam, we hope to see many more initiatives in the nearest future. It was indeed a sumptuous evening of literary offerings packed full with literary habitués.

Sada Malumfashi is a writer living in Kaduna. He was recently long listed for the Awele Creative Trust Award. He writes from Kaduna.

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