The Bayelsa Food and Art Festival is a spin-off or rebrand of the Bayelsa Food and Drinks Festival, a festival engineered by a business alliance of young Bayelsans passionate about creating something that would serve as a reminder of the beautiful history and culture displayed by our rich cuisine and the inherent art talents in not just Bayelsa but her sister states.
This alliance is led by; Sylvester Sede of Silverflame Media owner and manager of the festival, and supported by a beautiful partnership manned by Emeritus Harry Porbeni of PlanetHarry Solutions, Austin Mathias Otuogha of ThislookslikeBayelsa, Asieri Odusi of Efikomedia and Geetee of Geetee Shotit Photography with responsibilities spread across marketing communications, brand management, photography and videography. After two years, the event became the event to watch out for because of its richness in uniting people from different sectors and presenting an avenue for Bayelsans to celebrate food and art ingenuity, while being entertained with family and friends.
The last edition of the Bayelsa Food and Art festival, which lasted for three days from December 13th – 15th 2019 at Peace park, Onopa, recorded great success not just because of the skillful and meticulous use of social media and good marketing strategies by the organizers, but the responsiveness of Bayelsans in general to the festival. And especially, Bayelsans on social media, who evidently showed that social media could serve as a channel for economic, social and political change. Bayelsans who were in attendance expressed their delight about the festival and showed concerns about the implications of organizing such an event consistently in a place like Bayelsa where people chose when, how and where to get entertained and are easily on to the next thing.
The festival had attendees from within and outside the state being hosted to a three day event featured by food exhibitions which had over 30 food vendors, 10 artists, and a joint art exhibition by indigenous visual artists. The event was also lined with musical performances, comedy, cooking and eating contests crowned eventually with a raffle for a trip to Dubai sponsored by Tamarks Travels and Tours.
Another side to the festival is the social and business directory that it birthed, and the sense of communality that it instituted. A good stock of businesses that are Bayelsa owned and operated were taken as a result, especially the ones that were on social media. While businesses outside the hospitality industry also showed interest in exhibiting and marketing their businesses, showing that more Bayelsa businesses were conscious of the exposure, market and the advantageous use of social media.
While it has aroused questions as to whether the state is conducive enough for business and the creative industry, the success of the festival gave answers to these questions. One thing is sure, pulling off an initiative like the Bayelsa Food and Art Festival takes more than just a desire to sell tickets and make money; it takes a commitment and readiness to promote Bayelsa, her talent and skills at all costs – and that is what the organizers of the festival demonstrated.
As an artist, a creative writer and a promoter of literature, and art in not just Bayelsa, but the Niger Delta, I would note that the festival was more food than it was arts. The literary and arts community which is also a vital part of the creative, arts and entertainment industry saw only a miniature representation of itself in the festival. It may be because food is considered more sellable and appealing to audiences like Bayelsa, nevertheless more formidable efforts should be made to give equal attention to the arts community, as there are young, talented artists within and outside the state who would find the festival a good platform to explore and promote their crafts. And I hope that the Bayelsa Food and Art Festival will get the needed support, and attention it deserves to transform it into a national and international festival standing in the same line as its counterparts in the West.
And as far as a next edition goes, the Corona Virus pandemic has introduced challenges that are difficult to ignore, if the festival will retain its essence and richness, but I hope the organizers find a way around it.