“Our Country is not Doomed” – Professor Niyi Osundare

25 Jun

Guest Post – by Femi Morgan

ARTMOSPHERE, a leading monthly platform for the revival of a vibrant reading culture and the promotion of creative expressions in literature and the arts hosted world renowned poet, scholar and social critic, Professor Niyi Osundare on Saturday June 20, 2015 at NuStreams Conference Centre, Ibadan.

The evening commenced at 3pm with readings from Professor Niyi Osundare’s numerous poetry collections. This was followed by an interactive session centred on the backstories behind his works, the creative process, literature and political as well as social issues confronting our nation and people today. Tade Ipadeola, author of the award winning poetry collection, The Sahara Testaments moderated the session. There was also music performances by D’Jazz Band as well as a book signing session.

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L-R: Femi Morgan, Professor Niyi Osundare and Tade Ipadeola

Poet, dramatist, critic, essayist, and media columnist, Niyi Osundare is a Professor of English at the University of New Orleans, USA. He has authored over ten volumes of poetry, two books of selected poems, four plays, a book of essays, and numerous articles on literature, language, culture, and society. His works of published poetry include Songs of the Marketplace (1983), Village Voices (1984), A Nib in the Pond (1986), The Eye of the Earth (1986), which won both the Association of Nigerian Authors Poetry Prize and The Commonwealth Poetry Prize in its year of publication. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Folon/Nichols Award for ‘excellence in literary creativity combined with significant contributions to Human Rights in Africa’. Other published volumes of poetry include Songs of the Season (1987), Moonsongs (1988) and Waiting Laughters which won the 1989 ANA/Cadbury Prize for Poetry. He is a literary figure per excellence and the sole recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award in 2014.

Tade Ipadeola, award winning author of Sahara Testament, introduced Prof. Osundare describing him as a man of wisdom whose grey hair has been earned in every way. He also commends Osundare’s simplicity as well as his musical depth in conveying ideas in his poems. ‘Osundare’s poem has a concentrated musicality that I have not encountered elsewhere. His is the height of sophistication even in the height of simplicity’.

Femi Morgan, curator of Artmosphere said that WriteHouse Collective, the parent body of Artmosphere is involved in publishing, content management and arts events in the country. He noted that WriteHouse is interested in ‘pushing the boundaries of literature and arts in Nigeria beyond its present limitations’. He also acknowledged the presence of Servio Gbadamosi, co-managing of WriteHouse Collective and the team. Others who were the event were Prof. Hyginus Ekwauzi, Dr Yomi Ogunsanya, Peter Akinlabi, Temitayo Olofinlua, Nwachukwu Egbunike and others.

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In Prof Osundare’s Opening remarks, he thanks Pastor Francis Madojemu, CEO of the Nustreams Culture and Civic Centre, for making ‘this kind of garden of poetry and philosophy’ available for artistic and creative expressions in Ibadan. He described the work done by WriteHouse Collective as a renaissance of the Mbari spirit. ‘Ibadan has always been the capital of Nigeria’s literature, it is the city of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, JP Clark, Isidore Okpeho and Tade Ipadeola and with what I am witnessing today, the Mbari spirit is here’.

He admonished the audience that they should strive towards ideas and not financial gain. Here he described Nustreams Culture Centre as a place of ideas and in collaboration Artmophere he remarked that ‘what is happening here is a silent war against ignorance’.

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‘When I see Femi Morgan and the rest of the Artmosphere team making use of Nustreams I have an answer for many of my Nigerian students who come to me and say that Nigeria is a hopeless country. You said this country is doomed, yet you are trying to becoming a graduate in a field of study, you will get married and give birth to children. I believe somewhere along the line these children should take you to court for bringing them to a world that you knew was doomed ab initio. Our country is not doomed. We have all it takes to change this country, we have all it takes to resolve the terrible challenge between the vast millennial estuary, the resources and the human resources of the country. Everything we need is in this country. The Canadians built there country, the Americans built theirs, what are we doing to our country?

Osundare also said ‘It is good to write good poetry, short stories, speeches but it is important that we are conscious of our society. We must hold those who rule us to account-for you to write the best poem, if you are hungry you’re not likely to write the best poem, essays or creative writing piece.

‘I was talking to the publisher of  Sahara Reporters and I had to gush. It is important to gush. Critics should criticize when they see things going bad but to see things going the way it ought and not say anything is to relapse into a state of cynicism. What the Artmosphere team and Nustreams Centre is doing is laudable and we must encourage them to do more.’ He admonished that artmosphere and Nustreams involve secondary school students in their arts and culture projects.

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Servio Gbadamosi

Form
‘Form is extremely important to art else art disintegrates. Form is there, it should be there-We go back to rediscover it.  This is what Sahara Testament did so expertly. Free verse was championed by Walt Whitman who helped liberalize and democratize poetry, without deviating from the currency of poetry. This is similar to what the Beatles did in popular music-all these things are linked to America’s democratic experience.

Nevertheless, Osundare noted that a poem should find a balance between form and content. ‘ when form cheats content, it becomes a problem. It makes a poem simply formalistic and well put together-a pretty poem’. He noted that for a poem to be beautiful it must be a symbiotic relationship. Using the Yoruba indigenous motif, it has to be beautiful and useful. It is the two that makes the work of art thick.

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City Without People and The Katrina Experience
Femi Morgan asked on the occurrence of natural disasters linking it to the lack of capacity of governments to attend effectively to disasters.

Osundare noted ‘The first email sent to me after Katrina was from Wole Soyinka,where he called me ‘the-man-from-the-back-of-the-beyond’ . He had tried everything possible to make sure I was rehabilitated in another university, but because I was somebody without an address for about a week, I didn’t see it’.

“In that mail he said ‘I have just driven along Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos and I’m wondering when the Nigerian Katrina is going to happen’. The slightest shower, the lagoon rises and it is making for the land.” Some of the cities in Holland also have to grapple with this picture.  ‘Water is a friendly element but water has anger, it has memory-those parts of Lagos that were claimed from the sea, it would keep quiet but in its own time and tide it takes what was originally stolen from the sea’. New Orleans was stolen from the sea and the sea came came back to take its property’.

Chukwuka Okonkwo with Prof Osundare

Chukwuka Okonkwo with Prof Osundare

According to Osundare, the Hurricane Katrina is 10 years and two months short of the day it happened. He said that the effects of the Katrina experience lingers on ‘You grab the pen and you sit, ready to pen your inspiration down and then it evaporates’. It also prevents you from writing new ones. Osundare said he had turned down the idea of hypnosis to regain the memory of his lost manuscripts. Yet he notes that there are gains ‘ everything we posses, possess us. My father used to say ‘ People who don’t have money have problems but it those who have money’ have to grapple with the challenges of ownership because they subconsciously link their personality to their wealth.  For Osundare it dawned on him when he found himself and his wife in the ‘elemental stage’ after Katrina. He also said he was grateful for the assistance he received from friends, family and other people from all over the world.

Pastor Francis, CEO of Nustream Culture Centre thanked Prof Niyi Osundare and praised WriteHouse Collective for their tenacity in organizing the event for five years.

#TrollCabal and a New Conceptualization of Trolling

24 Jun

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

The Web I want

Early this year, I participated in a session that discussed Internet Trolling in the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit “The Open Internet: Local Perspectives, Global Rights” that held in Cebu, Philippines. It was fascinating that speaker after speaker derided trolls. It made sense considering the torture some have faced and continue to face from them.

Who Is A Troll?

Urban dictionary asserts that a troll is “one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” Wikipedia is more expressive:

In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

What is striking about the different renditions of trolling or trolls is that inherent intent to malign, disrupt and cause undue havoc. Thus it was only reasonable that expressions like ‘chock the trolls’ ‘don’t feed the trolls’, etc rolled out in that session in Cebu. However, can there be other portrayals of trolling that does not include this deliberate intention to destroy?

Nigeria’s Political Twitter, a Background

Anyone who follows Twitter Nigeria will agree that it is a pool of boiling conversations – from the good, to the bad and to the damn ugly. While Twitter remains a loose architecture that restricts with its 140 character limit, Nigerians have evolved ways of having a thriving discussion despite these constrains.

In the build up to the 2015 General Elections in my country, I highlighted the bi-focal disruptive political narrative that was inflicted on Nigeria’s Twitterati networked public sphere:

The streets of Nigeria’s Twitter are hot and harsh these days. The clash of the politico-twitterati on each side of the divide – opposition and the establishment – has been characterized with vile tweet-blood. Politico-Twitterati means those influential tweeps or overlords who are active partisan politicians. They differ from “political tweeps” (or political activists) who though they tweet on politics, owe no allegiance to any political party. The narrative as expounded by each side of the divide can be grouped into two: disruptive narration (by the opposition) and confutative narration (by the establishment).

Many of us saw beyond the façade then that this bifurcated narration was essentially political – either to keep hold on power or to take hold of power. It had nothing to do with love of country or the much trumpeted patriotism.

Besides, my ethnographic immersion as a participant-observer in Twitter Nigeria’s networked public sphere had made me more skeptical than ever. Truth is that nothing is what they seem, not only in Twitter but also in the country. Besides, social media in Nigeria is the public sphere for many whose only media is the social media. Unlike many digital immigrants, there is nothing ‘new’ in new media for digital natives.

We Are the #TrollCabal

Ikenna Okonkwo (@FailedRift), a geologist, university lecturer, blogger and social media aficionado is the founder and pioneer Convener of Twitter Nigeria #TrollCabal. Okonkwo resigned this year and passed on the baton of leadership to your sincerely, Nwachukwu Egbunike (@feathersproject).

This group’s aims are entirely non-confessional. #TrollCabal is made up of Nigerian tweeps from diverse ethnic nationalities, political leanings and cultural sympathies. The cabal has gradually swelled to admit so many tweeps who wanted a break from the bile that characterized conversations in TwitterNG. Later the group diversified into Sub Delivery Service (SDS) and Yardists.

Essentially the #TrollCabal makes mockery of the drama that characterizes Nigeria political space. We also mimic the Twitter Overlords and their conversations. This takes off the heat, which often bothers on pure hate, from the Twitter’s space. In addition, it provides a counter narrative that is non-violent and at the same time humorous.

Obviously the real impact of the #TrollCabal on the public conversation in Twitter will need a systematic unpacking by media scholars. However, the noon day clarity of the vibrancy of Nigerians on Twitter is one that needs no diviners peering. The #TrollCabal hopes to continue blazing the trail in this new conceptualization of Internet Trolling. For once these are trolls with no intention to disrupt, destroy or inflict undue pain.

Join us today. We are the #TrollCabal!

 

 

 

Pan-Atlantic University Hosts Nwachukwu Egbunike and Servio Gbadamosi at Her Maiden Poetry Reading

25 May nwachservio

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Pan-Atlantic University invites the general public to her maiden poetry reading session. The event will feature Nwachukwu Egbunike, blogger, essayist and author of the new poetry collection, Blazing Moon and Servio Gbadamosi, an Arts Administrator and author of the poetry collection, A Tributary in Servitude. Both poets will read from their collections and engage the audience on their works as well as social issues.

The event will hold on Wednesday, June 03, 2015 by 3PM at the main campus of the prestigious Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos.

Blazing Moon front

Blazing Moon is a book that draws you out, strips you naked, and asks you to confront yourself, define yourself and know who you are. There is no room for quibbles, for middle-of-the road stances: you must yourself pick up the gauntlet and fight your own battle of honour, of faith, of self. In this you will confront striking contrasts that paint human follies in the garb of lifting sanctity: thirsty, loves the drought; hungry, loves the famine; the contents though spilled, yet never exhausted. You would be telling yourself, I know a story like that. Thoughtful, aware and introspective, Egbunike publicly invites the reader to share in his skeptical penetration of conventional patterns.

Here’s a poetic journey from the celestial to the very roots of the poet’s nativity. Most profound are the metaphors that give each verse a sense of identity. Even so, far from the less rhythmic verses and formlessness that has become a banner of sorts in post-modern poetry, this poet draws our attention to the economy of words as one of the primes of poetry. In Nwachukwu Egbunike’s Blazing Moon, poetry is royalty.

A Tributary in Servitude Cover

A Tributary in Servitude captures the complex struggles of a generation whose words have been silenced, whose rage and search for meaning have been quietened. Divided into six sections that trace the course of Africa’s servitude through a maze of histories, politics, social upheavals, prophesies and personal struggles; the poet deftly weaves metaphorical threads into a tapestry of songs that flow from different tributaries into the sea of universal existence.

The voices of Christopher Okigbo, Okot p’Bitek and Tchicaya U’Tamsi resonate in the collection as verse after verse is forcefully delivered in a language that bristles with elegance and ebullience. In A Tributary in Servitude, every line is heavy with promise. This is the sort of poetry that fills the reader with magic, music and awe.

For additional information about the event, please contact the Director of Student Affairs, Pan Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos.

 

#147NotJustANumber: #Garissa will Never Be Forgotten!

9 Apr

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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A nation united in grief (Images courtesy of Boniface Mwangi)

Alas, terror seems to be taking a devious hold on Africa – from Baga to Garissa. The devious lunatics of gruesome hate are on rampage. The numbness of death has precipitated unlimited grief. Our common humanity is tested. But we shall not be cowed. We shall never submit to fear!

While we grief these deaths, yet we must humanize the dead. Their identity matters, they are no mere statistics. That’s why the naming ceremony in many parts of Africa is not mere trifle: it’s a rite. The precursor of the definitive passage, death.

Thus, after the terrorist massacre in Kenya’s Garissa University College, Kenya’s are united in grief. Bent but not broken they honour the dead with a vigil on April 7 and 8, 2015. A statement by the organizers reads:

…the tragedy of terrorist attacks that have plagued Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, and escalated sharply between 2012 and 2014. In the second deadliest terrorist attack on Kenyan soil, 147 innocent lives were lost in the senseless attack. The victims included students of Garissa University College, police officers who responded to the alarm, soldiers who were called in to battle and a night guard who was doing his duty. This is just a year after Kenyans were left reeling from the Westgate attack that took 67 innocent lives.
Speaking before the vigil, one of the organizers Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi said, “We have a responsibility to honor the memories of our departed brothers and sisters. The 147 were brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, the greatest dishonor we can give them is to reduce them to a mere number, they are not just a number. This vigil is about all Kenyans observing their responsibility to one another We must not allow our selves to be numbed by this attacks so that we just move on like it’s the norm. As a nation we have been through trying times and today we forge together and not even a terrorist’s bullet will break us apart.”
As a show of support, Kenyan activist Ory Okolloh also known as @kenyanpundit on Twitter, coined the hashtag #147NotJustANumber in an effort to humanize victims of terror. The hashtag has gone viral worldwide, with support coming from online social media users across the world.
Here are some pictures from the vigil [photos courtesy of Boniface Mwangi]:

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Incite Violence and Go To Jail: ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda Warns Nigerian Politicans

18 Mar

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

Fatou Bensouda (Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court)

Fatou Bensouda (Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court)

Gambian-born International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has delivered a stern warning to Nigerian politicians ahead of the 2015 General Elections.

Nigeria will hold presidential elections on March 28, 2015. The major contenders are the incumbent, Dr Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress.  Already there is a palpable fear of post election violence in Africa’s most populous nation.

In a statement released from the ICC, Mrs  Bensouda reiterated her previous message following her visit to Nigeria on February 3-5, 2015, that “Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence in the context of the upcoming elections or otherwise – including by ordering, inciting, encouraging or contributing to the commission of crimes that fall within ICC’s jurisdiction – is liable to prosecution; either by Nigerian Courts or by the ICC.”

Below is the text of Press Statement

Following my statement of the 2nd of February 2015, and my Office’s subsequent visit to Nigeria from the 3rd to the 5th of February, I reiterate my previous message.

At a time when abhorrent levels of violence already plague parts of the country, I recall that the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court'”) has jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of Nigeria. Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence in the context of the upcoming elections or otherwise – including by ordering, inciting, encouraging or contributing to the commission of crimes that fall within ICC’s jurisdiction – is liable to prosecution; either by Nigerian Courts or by the ICC.

No one should doubt my Office’s resolve to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of ICC crimes, whenever necessary.

Violence is not a solution. The conduct and outcome of elections in Nigeria, free from violence, will not only prevent further instability in the country, but will also send a clear message that electoral competition does not have to result in violence and crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.

 

Why I am a ‘Fenceist’ [#NigeriaDecides2015]

12 Jan

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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Nigeria Twitter has been boiling for some months now. As the general elections in February draws nearer, campaigns are nearing a crescendo. Currently, there exists a vicious bifurcation between the supporters of the ruling party, PDP and the opposition party, APC. The lies, blackmails, accusations and counter accusations between both sides have assumed epic proportions. In view of the above, I have decided to sit firmly on the fence.

The shouting match on whose presidential candidate is better than the other is all one hears on Twitter these days. Unfortunately, this ‘my candidate better pass your candidate’ has spiraled into mudslinging that will certainly embarrass professionals Motor Park touts. Rarely are issues discussed. When they come up it is usually pursued via the argumentum ad hominem pathway. More often than not, one notices so many ‘logical fallacies’. Some folks have patented the franchise of making unsubstantiated opinions which they present as equivocal ‘facts’.

I do not begrudge those who have taken sides, firmly dug into their respective trenches as supporters of either President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) or General Muhammadu  Buhari (GMB). As a matter of fact, I respect them, for it is no mean feat to consistently stand behind a candidate on TwitterNG streets. It matters nothing if these e-supporters are hired for their services or do so purely out of ‘patriotic’ zeal.  It is their choice and I respect their freedom of association.

Nonetheless, I will not be persuaded into joining the fray, a simplistic reduction of the presidential candidates or their parties as the ‘messiah’. Nigeria is so large and complicated to be reduced to a one man or woman having the key to reset all our woes. As a matter of fact, no single person – living or dead – holds the exclusive prescription to our national malaise.

I also hope that the fanatic supporters of both candidates on TwitterNG will be civil enough to respect my decision to remain on the fence. It’s my choice and I don’t see why it is so difficult to accept ‘fencism’ as a legitimate position.

But some folks have already ascribed divine omnipotence to themselves: that ability to read minds and to question the free decision of others. For some, a ‘fenceist’ is a traitor that sits idle while Nigeria burns. The only ‘legitimate’ freedom, according to them, consists in taking a stand for or against. It must either be for or against GEJ or GMB. Odiegwu! It does not stop there; you MUST profess the credo of your support all day long on Twitter. However, I am yet to see how their vicious rants and tweet fights translate into patriotism. But that is a story for another day.

Fencism is not neutralism! I have my political bias but I will not be bullied into displaying it on Twitter. Fencism is objectivity, realizing that both candidates have their flaws and not turning a blind eye – as many do – on them. Fencism is having the courage to tweet for and against any of the candidates. Not being held under the fanatical slavery of ‘my candidate better pass your candidate’. Fencism also means that I will vote on that day but will not waste my precious time only tweeting about the elections.

In my ‘yard’ the fence is sturdy and impermeable. The space on the fence also has an infinite coefficient of expansion. You are free not to accept my fencism, no big deal but at least respect it.

Feathers Project Blog: 2014 in Review

30 Dec

The 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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