By Nwachukwu Egbunike
On Saturday, November 3, 2012 friends of Rotimi Babatunde, author of Bombay Republic and winner of the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing, gathered in the Drapper’s Hall, Institute of African Studies of the University of Ibadan to celebrate one of their own. This was not a praise-singing congregation but a convocation of friends who critically discussed Emerging Aesthetics in Nigerian Literature using Babatunde’s Bombay Republic as a template.
Babatunde gained the pseudo name – Icarus years back. Icarus is the legendary ancient Greek mythological character whose escape from Crete suffered disastrous failure because of his inability to keep to a simple instruction. Icarus had acquired a wing – feathers drenched in wax – from his father Daedalus, but he was warned not to fly up to the sun. He did and the rest they say, na yarns.
However, Babatunde – as one of the discussants noted – negates Icarus but in many ways is similar to him. In Bombay Republic, Babatunde dared fly to the sun but without suffering the tragedy of a melted wing. Though he possess an unassuming mien, known more for his plays than his prose, yet the fusion of the past with the present in Bombay Republic stands him in the stead of Icarus. Besides, that may have contributed to the altercation that emerged from certain literary circles that queried: who is Babatunde Rotimi?
The spectrum of discussants was: Deji Toye, Kunle Okesipe, Benson Eluma, Jumoke Verissimo, Iquo Eke, Niran Okewole (the Aristotelian psychiatrist), Kola Tubosun and Peter Akinlabi. Each turned out aspects in the novel that pointed towards the theme of the colloquium. Their interventions were as varied as the composition of the panel.
Ukamaka Olisakwe [author of Eyes of a Goddess], Emmanuel Iduma [author of Farad] and Ayodele Olofintuade [author of Eno’s Story] read from their works respectively. It was not just an evening of prose but also of jazz.
The event would have remained in the realm of ideas if not of the commitment of these people: Benson Eluma, Kayode Adeduntan, Adebayo Mosobalaje, Kola Tubosun, Ayo Olofintuade, Ropo Ewenla andYomi Ogunsanya. And of course, the unbeatable Dr Sola Olorounyomi.
Photo gallery (Credits: Nwachukwu Egbunike)