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Arts/Literary

Parade Of Rivers Literary Icons

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In the contemporary world of today, there is a widely held, negative impression that places the development of any nation in the palms of the political class, oblivious of the fact that every other member of the society has a role to play in the development of the society.

One class of people that has made valuable contributions to the society is the literary artists who use their great talents and literary skills to tell the story of their people and promote their culture through literature.

It is true that those in the pinnacle of political power have the powers to make and unmake, but whatever impacts, positive or negative, they make in the society are often shaped by critics, mot of who are made up of literary icons, playwrights, musicians, actors and actresses.

While those in corridor of political power depend more on commonwealth than their intellectual endowment to make whatever impacts they deem necessary, those in the literary world solely employ their intellectual skills to build their society. With a touch of imagination and creativity, literary artists metamorphose the happenings around them into plausible texts which in turn become a relevant reference point to the society.

Literary icons like the legendary Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, Ola Totimi, Zulu Sofola etc have made great impacts not only to Nigeria, but to the world in general through arts and literature. They are an institution every student must pass through in the world of literature.

Due to his literary works, professor Soyinka, the first African Nobel  Laureatte  needs no introduction in any country of the world. His literary acumen and intellectual contributions to the world have earned him and his country, Nigeria an unenviable image among the comity of nations. Today, while Soyinka’s face is an international passport in any nation’s airport, Nigeria is regarded as a nation endowed with skills. This is one golden laurel the combined efforts of all Nigerian politicians have not earned Nigeria since its 50th year of political independence.

In the 43 years of Rivers State creation, there are many people whose literary genre has earned Rivers State good reputation. The legends among them are Emmanuel Elechi Amadi, Claude Ake, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Margaret Kay Williamson and Rex Jim Lawson.

Through their numerous works, these great writers and artiste projected the Rivers State culture and folkcore in such a way that those that belong to other cultures were able to appreciate the Rivers people.

For instance, ELECHI AMADI is a playwright and author with a strong passion for African Literature, and with a thrust of native languages. Unlike many writers who seem to have no cultural affinity on which to hang their writings, and who as a result, rely on foreign words, idioms and imitations, Elechi Amadi is a roots writer with a vision.

A well-known creative writer with African folklores, this 76 year old son of Aluu in Rivers State belongs to the core of artistes who explore the range of his local, native challenges and document them in his works.

Like a griot from the Sahel region, Amadi takes African literature to contemporary level and promotes Rivers culture to an international level.

And like the legendary Wole Soyinka and J.P. Clark whose separate, famous poems on Abiku (the reincarnate) are being driven by African beliefs, myths and mysteries, Amadi’s verse play, Isiburu is rooted in his native Ikwerre language and culture.

Due to the excellent presentation of his works which evolve pre-colonial African societies as ruled by the gods and which is wedded in the core traditional myths, Amadi is popularly acclaimed as the leading authority in the supernatural in African literature. He has in his kilts, among others, the reknown trilogy: The Concubine (AWS 25), The Great Ponds (AWS 44) and The Slave (AWS 210).

CLAUDE AKE is another prolific writer of Rivers State origin whose numerous scholarly articles in learning journals spread across six continents. His seminal work “A political Economy of Africa” was simultaneously published by Longman in London and New York in 1981, and was declared the best text book in the United States of America in 1981. The Soviet Academy of Science translated the book into Russian language in 1985.

Till date, Professor Ake’s literary works remain a reference point in political science all over the world. This achievement, in no means earns Nigeria and Rivers  State in particularly an unenviable image in the world. And until his death through a plane crash in 1993, this Professor of Political Economics and founder of the Nigeria’s first private Think Thank called centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS) was an intellectual kingpin in Nigeria.

As for  KEN SARO WIWA, he was one fearless writer who, in order to draw attention of the world to injustices in his community, turned to pen and paper and gave vent to his creative impulse. Before his death on November 10, 1995, he had written 27 books.

Through his writings, he highlighted the social and economic ills of the Nigerian society, as well as helped to tell the nation’s political leaders what they were not doing right, even when it was obvious that his criticism could cost him his life.

Even though he was from a prominent family in Ogoni, he was consistently concerned about the treatment of the Niger Delta within the Nigerian federation. The non-violent movement for social and ecological justice which he launched in 1990 against oil companies operating in Ogoni though precipitated genocide in Ogoniland, later forced Shell Petroleum Company out from Ogoni in 1993.

It is however unfortunate that the struggle for justice for his kinsmen cost this great writer and former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) his life in 1995.

In a male- dominated world where the voice of women seemed unheard and under- appreciated, it is difficult to see many women stepping forward to distinguish themselves. But Margaret Kay Williamson did.

Even though, she was born in Hereford England in 1935 and had all her education in England, Mrs Williamson was one writer who devoted her writings to the promotion of Nigerians, especially Niger Delta languages. Her  Doctoral thesis was on the Ijaw language.

Titled “A Grammar of the Kolakuma Dialect of Ijaw”, the thesis was later revised and published in book – form in 1965. This thesis, by and large, promoted the Ijaw language all over the world.

It was therefore not surprising that she was given a befitting State burial in 2005 by the Bayelsa State Government at Kaima, her adopted Nigerian home-town.

Last but not the least is the music legend, Rex Jim Lawson (a.k.a. cardinal). With a compelling African rhythm and cultural affinity, Rex Lawson’s highlife music was steeped in the style of the early superstars like E.T. Mensah of Ghana, Bobby Benson and Victor Olaiya of Nigeria.

Through music, which he started playing from his primary school days under late reverend D.S.H Bob-Manuel, Cardinal was able to project the African culture, especially his Kalabari language through the use of native words, parables and anecdotes.

Within his 33 years sojourn on earth, Rex Lawson was able to compose and record a total of 109 songs.

There is no doubt that these arts and literary giants have, through their works, left valuable and indelible legacies that would continue to be a source of pride to the Rivers people.

Therefore, the best way to keep the memories of these legends alive is by improving on the legacies they left behind. This is one area the Rivers State government has a role to play.

And one way in which this can be done is by organizing special annual arts and cultural festival and literary week that would provide opportunity for the younger generation to highlight their literary skills.

 

Boye Salau

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Social/Kiddies

How To Keep Kids Safe

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Raising a child in this digital era is not easy.  Children can easily hurt themselves as it is part of growing up.  This means that parents should do their best to keep them from preventable accidents.
A lot has to be done for parents to achieve that.  Parents must set up basic safety rules and regulations for their children to abide by.
We are aware that parenting can be stressful but abiding by experts advice can help achieve that.
It is necessary to take photographs of  children before they get to a  place with large number of persons.
A place like Pleasure Park, or any other tourist centre which might be crowded   can be an example.  Children from many homes can look alike and may want to leave with others as soon as they become friendly in such places that have large-volume attendance.
If you are not careful, some may also walk across the roads and walk into moving vehicles.  In as much as parents do not wish that happens to their children, it is better to be prepared in case it happens.
According to experts, a parent can take a picture of her child before visiting an amusement park or attending a birthday party.
When a parent does that, you can have a picture of how children are and the kind of attire put on that very day in case the children get lost.
If it is a tourist centre for instance, the parent will show the childrens’ picture to the authorities concerned and it will make it easier and more effective.
During parties and outdoor visits, watch what your children consume because they will like to taste every delicacy prepared.
Allow them take only the quantity they can consume.  Some may not be used to a lot of dishes and drinks especially in-house prepared drinks and juice.
The effect of excess consumption might be when you finally return home for a rest and the children begin to react to food poison.
Domestic accidents are easily noticed among kids.  Keeping inflammable substances away from children is important.
An incident occurred where a four-year-old boy stroke a stick of matches into a jerry can that contains petrol at the corridor of his house.  This got their entire residential building into flames.
However, the kid had minor burn as his elder siblings together with him escaped through the back door from the kitchen.
Children should be discouraged from using candle light.
Gas cylinders must be tightly closed when not in use as they can turn it on when not in use.
Washing detergents like bleach, hypo and others must be out of reach of children because they may take them as water.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Arts/Literary

Exploits Of Nigerian Writers On Global Stage …As Other African Countries Dominate Literary Prizes In 2021

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In spite of all the numerous problems bedevilling the Nigerian literary scene, it could be said that Nigerian literature has come a long way, considering the teeming number of writers that have emerged and the giant achievements of writers China Achebe and Sole Soyinka.
Achebe’s legendary Things Fall Apart has been translated into about 50 languages globally. Soyinka, on the other hand, has done Africa proud by winning the Nobel Prize in 1986. Nigerian writers of the new generation have equally pushed Nigerian literature to the pinnacle by winning some of the most prestigious literary prizes.
Ben Okri won the Booker prize for his The Famished Road in 1991, Helon Habila, Segun Afolabi and E.C Osondu, won the Caine Prize for their Prison story, Monday Morning and Waiting, respectively.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has, like Habila, won the Commonwealth Prize for Literature. She has well won the Orange Prize with her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun.
Beyond setting international literary standards, Nigerian writers have also succeeded more than any group in the country in exporting our culture and tradition to other part of the world. This fact was eloquently stressed by the renowned literary critic, Professor Charles E. Nnolim.
According to him, “Nigeria today stands tall before the international community because of the collective endeavours of her writers that some of the world’s biggest literary awards, including the Nobel, Booker and Goncourt have gone to Africans this year is a sign of the continent’s emergence as a major force in publishing and a region with a direct line to the pressing questions of our time.
“We are witnessing a reawakening of interest in Africa among the European literary world”, said Xavier Garnier, who teaches African literature at Sorbonne in Paris. He described the string of awards for Africans as “Striking”.
They include Tanzania’s Abdulrazak Gurnah becoming a Nobel laureate, South Africa’s Damon Galgut winning Britain’s Booker Prize and 31-year-old Senegalese Mohamed Mbougar Sarr becoming the first writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win France’s top literary award, the Prix Goncourt.
That’s not all, Senegalese writers won this year’s International Booker (David Diop) and Prix Neustadt (Boubacar Boris Diop) while Portugal’s Prix Canoes went to Paulina Chiziane of Mozambique.
These are not token gestures by prize committees to look relevant, experts say. Rather, as Garnier put it, they reflect the Western industry finally recognising a booming literary scene that “no longer really needs recognition”.
Publishing houses have sprouted across Africa in recent years, along with literary reviews, festivals and regional prizes.
“There’s a huge reading public for African writers, and that’s been underlined during the pandemic when we’ve seen the scale of the community as it shifted online”, said Madhu Krishnan, who teaches African literature at Britain’s Bristol University.
“People don’t come out of nowhere. We just don’t always see these smaller worlds from Europe”.
African literature had a previous heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, though it was tied up with politics and decolonisation, embodied by figures like Senegal’s poet/President Leopold Sedar Senghor.
Today, the themes are much broader and writers less concerned with how they are viewed by outsiders.
We’re seeing more experimentation, ecologically engaged texts, African futurism, There’s a lot more variety – a lot more that isn’t concerned with explaining itself to Western audience.

By: Jacob Obinna

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Arts/Literary

Demystifying Perception Of Africa Through Return Of Artefacts

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A popular Latinate aphorism goes thus: “Lies have short life span”. Interestingly, this aphorism is traceable to a Biblical foundation of truth written in the book of Proverbs 12 verse 19 which says “The truthful lip shall be established forever, a lying tongue is but for a moment”.
This is where the avalanche of a negative appellations and indeed erroneous perceptions of Africans postulated by Eurocentric Scholars readily comes to mind.
For instance, more than 150 years ago, German Scholar George Hegal argued that “Africans were sub humans and the only way they could come to the lower rung on the ladder of humanity was for them to undergo slavery in Europe”.
Apparently, a renowned academic as George Hegal supported and justified slavery.
At this juncture, one may wish to ask, are Africans truly sub human?
Worse still, professor Hugh Trevor Roper in his inaugural lecture in 1963 asserted: “African past is darkness and darkness cannot be subject for historical investigation”.
Professor Hugh Trevor Roper did not mince words when he described African past as “unedifying gyration of barbarous tribes in picturesque but irrelevant comers of the globe”.
As if that was not enough, another Eurocentric writer, David Hume also said “Africa has no ingenious manufacture, no arts, no science”.
David Hume continued to transmit his Vernon when he said again”I am apt to suspect the Negros to be naturally inferior to the white”.
Infact, the film entitled The Birth of a Nation also known as Clansman in 1915 directed by D. W. Griffith made mockery of the backrace by painting Afro-Americans as stupid and further eulogized white supremacy.
There is no gain saying that these negative perceptions of African by eurocentric writers were geared towards justifying slavery and other forms of humiliation of the African race and glory in free labour.
In other words, those eurocentric impressions were and still are deliberate attempts to undermind the invaluable contributions of Africans to humanity.
For instance, the Al-Qarawiyin University, Moroccois reputed to be the oldest University in the world as well as University of Timbuktu, Mali, West Africa which began in the first instance as centres for Islamic Studies.
Today, the return of artefacts to Benin,Edo State and Nigeria at large is an eloquent testimony to the creative ingenuity of Nigerian and Africans at large.
It would be recalled that recently Cambridge University handed over Benin Bronze Cockerel to Nigeria, stolen about 124 years by British Colonial Forces in 1897.
This was followed by the return of Sculpture of Oba of Benin by University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
It is common knowledge that the return of artefacts particularly to Benin,Edo State has been on going but not limited to the examples of Cambridge University and University of Aberdeen.
Records show that on June 20, 2014 at a ceremony held at the palace ground Benin, Edo State, two looted Benin bronzes namely ‘Oro’ described as bird of disaster and gong bell were returned to the Oba of Benin by two Britons Doctor Adrians Mark Walker and Chief Steve Dunstone.
One thing is clear; artefacts are evidences of ancient culture and civilization of a people.
It is an evidence that there was a generation who lived with archaeological evidence of their implement and relics and technology.
In the words of the erudite arts historian and specialist in Nigeria antiquities, Barbara Winston Blackmun (1928-2018), Bronze bell have been cast South-Eastern Nigeria for over 1000 years.
Barbara Blackmun disclosed that the oldest bells have been excavated at Igbo Ukwu East of Benin and dated to the 9th century.
The revelation of no less a scholar Barbara Winston Blackmun predates the ranting and evil postulations of eurocentric writers of 18th and 19th centuries.
It is, therefore, not true of David Hume and his cohort to say that Africa has no ingenuous manufacture, no arts, and no science.
The question agitating the mind of Nigerians and indeed Africans now is, after the return of artefacts,what next?
The Professor of Film Studies University of Port Harcourt, Professor Femi Shaka in an interview posits “The thing about the return of artefacts is that it goes to disprove that Africans have no culture”.
“Most of these looted items are thousands of years in carbon-dating which goes to tell us that Africa had flourishing culture much more advance than that of Europe”.
Another Scholar, a Professor of Textiles and Fashion Design University of Port Harcourt, Professor Pamela Cyril Egbare insists that museum should not be seen as a dumping ground for useless materials. The lesson is that slavery is a bad thing and ignorance is not a good thing”.
According to Mark Olaitan, Curator National Museum and Monument: “One will count it as ignorance on the side of the White who came to our country to loot our property”.
According to him, “By the time, this looted materials got to the outside world, they came to understand that Africa has culture even superior to their own culture”.
As recorded in the Bible book of Romans 10:12 “For there is no distinction between the Jew and Greek for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him.
God created all human beings equal and in His own image.
This is where it becomes pertinent to suggest that Nigerians and indeed African leaders must resist the penchant to playing second fiddle by begging their counterparts in America and Europe for aid.
Nigeria must rise up and take advantage of the returned artefactesto reconstruct a new national pride and entrench its big brother role in Africa Diplomacy.
Nigeria must rise up and articulate a new world order and march Europe and America, science for science and culture for culture.
Professor Femi Shaka cited above, advised the Federal Government to put in place institutional infrastructure for the maintenance of these artefacts” such as world standard museum and training of man power.
According to Mr. Mark Olaitan, Curator, National Museum and Monument, Port Harcourt: “The return of artefacts will heal many a wound inflicted by the expedition by British colonial forces and further build the broken walls of relations between Africa and the West”.
In the words of Professor Pamela Cyril Egbare, “The National Museum and Monument should learn to open up to the public; let people know that tourism is good while government must create the needed awareness on the returned artefacts, advertise on national radio, Tv, because artefacts are revenue earner and promoter of tourism”.
The time to act is now.

By: Baridorn Sika
Baridorn Sika is a broadcast Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst
Email: bscommunication@yahoo.com.
Tel: 08033409667.

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