By Uduma Kalu
ItÂ was a two-week ofÂ intenseÂ activities as Nigerian artists, writers and political activists, including, governors trooped out to honour the Nobel Prize laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
But while the writers, represented by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Lagos, held theirs last Saturday at the Aina Onabolu arts gallery, National Theatre, Lagos, the Committe of Relevant Art (CORA) honoured Soyinka also at the National Theatre last Sunday while the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism held its tribute for him last Monday.
Season of Soyinkaâ€™s plays
But earlier before this, â€˜A Season of Wole SoyinkaÂ Theatre@Terraâ€™ presented the 3rd AnnualÂ Season of wole Soyinka. Entitled The Season of Stage Plays Celebrating Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the plays were written and produced byÂ Wole Oguntokun.
Slated for all the Sundays in June and July again, and the venue again is Terra Kulture. Short plays and sketches written by SoyinkaÂ precede each play.
July 19 and 26) are remaining days for each performance starting from 3pm and 6pm through the Season.
Soyinkaâ€™s new works, craft
But at the literary gathering, featuring holidaying Nigerian writers such as Profs. Obi Nwakanma and Maik Nwosu who came from the United States with his wife, Angela as well as featured guest, University of Alberta, Canada based scholar, Nduka Otiono, with otwers guests such as former WRITA president, Mrs Mobolaji Adenubi, Akin Adeoya, Toyin Akinosho, Veronica Uzoigwe, Funmi Aluko, Daggar Tola,Â Chike Ofili who chairs the state union., among others.
In their contributions, the writers focused on the Soyinkaâ€™s generation writings to look at their generation, and wailed that publishing has hit the new writers harder than it did the Soyinka age.
But Otiono who raised the point noted that the older writers were also hit by the publishing menace. For example, he said that not many people now know that the poet, John Pepper Clark, has four other books, and Soyinka who also has new books. Even Soyinkaâ€™s writing, he went on, has shifted in his grappling with critics that his works were obscure, adding that publishing affects knowledge of Soyinkaâ€™s other works.
ANA, he went on, needs a new orientation andÂ new leadership which will be current with 21st century realities. The organisation which he was its ex former national scribe, needsÂ to know how to get funding, network, and organise.
Responding to a writerâ€™s remark that she was confused on which to call home-Â USA or Nigeria,Â Angela and her husband said there was no confusion for them that Nigeria is home. Angela said USA taught her that solitude is not a game.
Maik reminded the house of Soyinkaâ€™s profundity, excellence and faithfulness to craft.
Our prizes can beat Westâ€™s
For Nwakanma, though new writers should take examples from the Soyinka -Chinua Achebe generation, Soyinkaâ€™s Nobel PrizeÂ did something on the African imagination.
â€œIt gave validity to the African imagination. Achebe did it earlier but Soyinkaâ€™s Nobel revalidified it. But we donâ€™t need Nobel Prize to give us that,â€ he pointed out.
He wondered why the NNLG literary prize, which is bigger than Caine prize, does not get the kind of attention Caine gets.
â€œWhy do ANA prizes fizzle out after the award ceremonies? Why do we swoop on Caine prize? Why canâ€™t we project ourselves? ANA prizes can be projected,â€ he went on.
In her response, Adenubi told the house that while in Zimbabwe during its book fairs, writers in that country said they were involved in choosing school books. â€œWe should be involved.â€ she frowned at the use of federal character in selecting school books, saying it undermines quality.
But Nwakanma said there was need for Nigerian unity through schoolÂ books. But writers and Ministry of Education, he argued,Â need to meet on the books to reflect true Nigerian literature. ANA award winning prize books , for example, should reflect in the school syllabuses, he pointed out.
WritersÂ not organised
But the poet and brand expert, Akin Adeoya, was furious that writers are not serious with to their profession.
â€œWe are not business like. We do not exhibit what is going on in our writingâ€ he began.
Adeoya noted that notes were not being taken at the reading, and that at the end of the event, no action would be taken.
â€œMinistry of Education may not listen to us as they have a system they use to get theirÂ books. There is need to lobby the ministry, the media. We need to organise ourselves. We need to be careful in organising
At CORA Stampede
The next day,Â Sunday, the writersâ€™ argument took the centrestage ofÂ CORAâ€™s discourse on Soyinka.Â Entitled Legends and Legacies,Â the 87th Art Stampede, also dedicated to the late Steve Rhodes.
The gathering at the Sunday quarterly Art Stampede of the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) agreed that the arts sector needs advocacy and fund-raising to solve its problems. But lack ofÂ cohesion among art and culture workers was also seen as key factor among the troubles in the art house.
The speakers spoke on the need to â€œexplore strategies through which the work of legends and heroes of Nigerian art and culture sector can be adequately documented and preserved for the benefit of succeeding generations of artists as well as the nation in general.â€
Honour at Journalism Centre
Soyinka, was also last Monday point of discourse as politicians and media practitioners gathered in Lagos at the second media lecture series of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.
The lecture, commemorating Soyinkaâ€™s birthday, re-echoed the call for the quick passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI) by the National Assembly.
In his lecture entitled â€œNarrating the Nigerian Story: The Challenge for Journalism,â€ Dr. Olatunji Dare, an Associate Professor of Journalism at the Bradley University, Illinois, United States, advocated a special designated fund to be instituted for journalists to investigate deeply the problems of the country.