The Arts

August 29, 2013

A literary feast with contenders for NLNG’s $100,000 prize

A literary feast with contenders for NLNG’s $100,000 prize

*Seven of the eleven contenders for the prestigious NLNG Prize for Literature present at the event

By Prisca Sam-Duru

Last week, the Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA) in collaboration with the sponsors of  the Nigeria Prize for Literature, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) organised a Book Party in honour of the 11 shortlisted poets for the prestigious Nigeria prize for literature. It was an evening that many book enthusiasts eagerly waited for and the day afforded them another opportunity to partake in the literary intellectual and stimulating feast.

An analysis of the 11 Books shortlisted for the 2013 Nigeria Prize for Literature which focuses on Poetry, largely shows how unique this year’s edition of the Prize is. Out of the 11 poets whose works made the initial list, three; former Vanguard Art editor  and Columnist, Obi Nwakamma;  Afam Ake and Ede Amatoritsero are Nigerians in the Diaspora while the rest; Nnadi Amu,Iquo Eke, Ogochukwu Promise, Egbewo G’ebinyo, Gomba Obari, Tade Ipadeola , Launko Okinba and Raji Remi are local writers which is an eloquent indication that writers based in the country are not doing badly after all.

*Seven of the eleven contenders for the prestigious NLNG Prize for Literature present at the event

*Seven of the eleven contenders for the prestigious NLNG Prize for Literature present at the event

Another interesting point in this year’s Prize is that a student (Prof  Remi Raji) is competing with two of his teachers; Prof Egbewo G’ebinyo who taught him in the secondary school and Prof Femi Osofisan (Lanko Okunba) who was his lecturer at the University.

Very unique is the point that poems by this year’s contenders all make useful contribution to addressing the challenges that the nation is facing. As was the case in 2009 when the Prize  was not given to any poet as the advisory board decided that none of the works submitted, possessed the prerequisite for winning the award, this year based on the quality of the works a winner must surely emerge.

Also worthy of note is the fact that out of the 11 shortlisted  poets, only two female poets; Iquo Eke and Dr Ogochukwu Promise, made the initial list. And with all that, the 2013 Nigeria Prize for Literature appears more competitive than the previous ones

The book Party kicked off with a performance by Aduke and Friends while the actual party which was moderated by Deji Toye, commenced with each poet, reading two poems from his/her collection which was later followed by an interactive session. Interestingly, poets in the Diaspora were not left out of the party as they communicated live on digital video via Skype.

The main point of documenting experiences relating to exile, topped the subject in most of the works and Deji wasted no time throwing questions bothering on the subject.

Marsh Boy  Egbewo G’ebinyo noted, has literary relevance in pursuance of struggle for Niger Delta; “Farm lands have been destroyed by oil spillage, people are sick because of gas flaring, the average man from Niger Delta believes in arms struggle and except the problem is addressed there might be full blown war.”

Tade Ipadeola said that a poet can’t depart from existing tradition. The most important thing, he stressed, is truth, beauty and the ability to tap from one’s culture. Gamba on his own disclosed that he drew inspirations from works of Achebe and other writers. “We should domesticate global knowledge, by so doing, our contributions as a people to the world becomes a global heritage exchange.”, Gamba said.

Asked if living abroad influenced the writings of the diaspora citizens, Afam explained that exile is not what one chooses to write about but comes from experiences. “Our generation of writers are largely influenced by the social media and ‘Letter Home and Biafran Nights’ is my first collection since living outside Nigeria which also contains reminiscences from home.

For Ede Amatorisero, the issue of exile “ is a generational thing. Having lived outside Nigeria for two decades, writing about exile becomes relevant as I try to capture issues relating to disillusionment, bad governance, and youths scattered all over the world. Its good to show that situations forced many of us out. Exile is a broad theme because we were separated from Nigeria even before we travelled.”

Ogochukwu Promise , “I thought of leaving at some point but chose to stay behind and help solve the problems of the nation. In as much as there are so many problems, there are beautiful things about Nigeria. so, I believe we can put resources together and fix it”.

Raji Remi, “ I never left or stayed in Nigeria, but I have taken what is good about Nigeria and made good use of it. Global encounter is found in my poems, which is the sixth collection.”

At this juncture, Afam expressed disappointment that Ogochukwu implied that writers in the diaspora only run away from Nigeria’s challenges, pointing out that diaspora citizens only end up contributing heavily to national development, adding that “most of us chose to stay outside Nigeria just to stay alive.”

In defence of the re-occurrence of traditions in her poems, Iquo Eke explained that she draws from the traditions of her people as it is filled with sayings and proverbs that help in  developing a people. She however pointed out that considering the situation Nigerians find themselves, it is not fair to think that going back to traditions only, can solve Nigeria’s problems so, government individuals and groups must be truthful to what we need to do rather than being disillusioned so that we can move forward.