“Our Country is not Doomed” – Professor Niyi Osundare

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.

Mama Mia!

By Nwachukwu Egbunikemaryandchilds

 

Tossed into a vicious sea
These waves shred
Almost drowning

Keep mute, it’s prejudice
Speak out, it’s intolerance
Sketch, and be judgemental

Darkness descends with rage
Night blankets all
Evil smiles unhindered

Clouds condense
Rains will come
With cymbals of thunder as company

All run amok
All inflicted with infirmity
All afflicted with pestilence

Humanity is shaken
Shredded with filth
Shrouded with silk

Hold me in your arms
Have my head on your bosom
And with your mantle wrap me safe.

 

‘Mama Mia’ is part Blazing Moon, a collection of poems by Nwachukwu Egbunike to be published in 2015 by Feathers and Ink.

What I am

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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Infinitely finite
Bearer of a luminous spark
Scion of the sun
Who made home for time

I’m god

Deified, mortal
Eternal, ephemeral
Transcending self, within self
Adopted, a slave
Royalty, a serf

I’m god

God became man
Men become gods
I’m god.

 

‘What I am’ is part of Blazing Moon, a collection of poems, by Nwachukwu Egbunike to be published next year by Feathers and Ink.

Writing Process Blog Tour: My Story

Nze Sylva Ifedigbo has dragged me into an interesting wahala – the Writing Process Blog Tour. Last week Nze allowed us to peer into his amazing world of words: what he has written about, what he intends to write about and what moves him to write. 

blog tour

What am I working on?

I am currently working on a collection of poems. The working title, I said working since titles of books are never definitive until they go to press, is “Blazing Moon”.

This manuscript is a collection that spans from 1996 till date. It is still under works and I hope it is finally published this year. Yes, hopefully because I have been on this project for sometime now. I started working on it after the publication of my the collection of my essays, Dyed Thoughts: A Conversation in and from My Country,  in 2012.

Don’t ask me when I intend to complete it? Or if I’ll get a publisher willing to take the risk to it on? I cannot supply answers because I have not been able to create the time to give it the attention it deserves. I pray I do so soon!

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Frankly I think a brutal feedback from the editors of the manuscript or from the reviewers of the published collection will be the most objective answer to this query.

Nonetheless, I have always accepted the fact that every writer writes based on the world view that has shaped his/her perspective. And poetry essentially should evoke imagery that comes from the inner self or from the experiences that have shaped the poet. In my case, I hope to tell my story and thus stand out from other works in this genre.

 

Why do I write what I do?

I write for a multitude of reasons. I was seduced by words and I her slave. I think that forms the core motivating reason for my writings: creative, factual and research. Besides, it is impossible to live in this country and not want to write – Nigeria is beaming with stories waiting to be told. A never ending story.

 

How does my writing process work?

Do I have writing process? I have to check that out…

Basically for my creative writing, it depends on time, energy and when I caught by the writing fever. But for non-creative writing, that comes more naturally. I find it easier to tell stories via essays because this country is full of fiction already. The academic writing is a different process entirely. I suppose that the time limit to turn in a paper for review works the magic!

Essentially, I demand a great deal from myself. I never seem to complete some works even though I have made an outline but the words sometimes are not just there. Or they just refuse to flow.

 

I am passing the Writing Blog Tour torch to the following people:

Sifa Asani Gowon

Sifa Asani Gowon

Sifa Asani Gowon who blogs at SifaSpeaks

Sifa is a mom, baker and writer who thinks she really should read and write more than she does. She spends her time trying to balance ‘life stuff’ and tends to listen to music even as stories spin in her head. She tries to pen them down in a way that pleases her Lord. She lives in the scenic city of Jos with her husband, kids and weird dog.

Kola Tubosun

Kola Tubosun

Kola Tubosun, who blogs at KTravula

Kola describes himself as a poet and linguist, but his work spans a lot of relevant fields of enquiry. His travel blog, KTravula.com, for instance, is a travel blog ostensibly, but its scope and preoccupations have touched on history, teaching, language, politics and policy, and advocacy. He has been published both as a poet and as a short story writer, and as a travel writer in Nigerian and international publications. He is a Fulbright Scholar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don Luici

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

Spill not shared times
Nor soil the splendour of a living past
Cast as stone in Agbowo
Seeds sprouted into a virile canopies

Bloody saccharine
Enticed by words, scalpel-like wit
Eyes beaming unending warmth
Humour that glares with charm

Proud of the green passport
Unabashed tenderness for these seven hills
Immersed in Trenchard
Impressed with Orisha and Ekpe across the seas

A speedy spiral, hedged in peace
Grabbing Joseph’s sturdy hands
Climbed those stairs
Same like sixty moons past

Great party you aroused
Telling tales of chivalry yore
Like here surrounded by younglings
So there engulfed by family

Those rascals
Reflection of silvery hair
Adventure of youth
Frail but ever young

The loins grants not fatherhood
Dance now, surfeit with symphony
Pains scourged once, flows now with flames
Pipes piques not tar but beatific fragrance

Now you rest after labouring with no rest
Preaching and teaching love
Seduced first under dimly flare
Contemplate forever with blazing stare

Celebrating #Mandiba II: Nigerian Musicians and Mandela’s Freedom

This tweet from Nze Sylva Ifedigbo, got me thinking:

And least the history Nigeria’s fight for the break of South Africa’s apartheid policy fades into oblivion, I curate below some Nigerian Musicians who sang for Mandela’s freedom.

1.  Fela Anikulapo Kuti  Beast of No Nation

In 1989, Fela and Egypt ’80 released the anti-apartheid Beasts of No Nation album that depicts on its cover U.S. President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and South African Prime Minister Pieter Willem Botha (Wikipedia).


2.  Majek Fashek Free Mandela

Majekodunmi Fasheke, popularly known as Majek Fashek, is a Nigerian reggae singer and guitarist  (Wikipedia).

3. Sony OkosunFire in Soweto

Sonny Okosun, “Fire in Soweto” (1978). Nelson Mandela had a direct connection to reggae music, even if he wasn’t able to hear its ascent while he was imprisoned. He had, however, met with one of the spiritual fathers of reggae music, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, in Ethiopia in 1962, the same year that Mandela began his incarceration. Reggae, born in the streets of Jamaica less than a decade later, took up Mandela’s cause while he was holed up in Robben Island prison. In addition to Eddy Grant’s “Gimme Hope, Jo’Anna,” Nigerian high life singer Sonny Okosun delivered his incendiary reggae jam “Fire in Soweto” in honor of South Africa’s plight (“Nelson Mandela and Music: 10 Essential Anti-Apartheid Songs”, Los Angeles Times ).

4. Onyeka OnwenuWinnie Mandela

…from the mid-eighties, to 1990 when Nigerian musicians tried to outdo one another in the composition and rendition of songs eulogising Mandela and calling for the unconditional and immediate release of Mr. Mandela from incarceration on Robben Island. Onyeka Onwenu it was, I think, who set the ball rolling with her Winnie Mandela – Yakubu Ibn Mohammed

I have only tried to place some Nigerian musicians – that I can presently recall – who stood by South Africa and Mandela during the dark nights of apartheid. This list is in no way exhaustive and I will be glad to add more – with your help of course.

Nonetheless, it is imperative to state that Nigeria’s and Nigerians input traversed all areas – writers, politicians, diplomacy.