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‘We need a culture of grants, sponsorship to keep arts alive’

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Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) held a two-day capacity building workshop for its states’ executive members on the theme ‘Innovations in Contemporary Literature Awareness Campaign in Nigeria,’ which recently took place in Ilorin.

Special guest of honour was Justice Mustapha Akanbi (rtd), who in his address acknowledged the contributions of Dr. Wale Okediran for working to make sure the association fulfils its aim and objectives of promoting literature in both indigenous and English languages among others. Akanbi said he knew Okediran as a writer not a medical doctor, which he is by training and practice because he had read so many of his writings. He advised that knowledge is power and people should develop a reading culture, which is what made him in life. “Forget about the people stealing,” he said, “read avidly and your life will be better.”

Akanbi, who has been promoting education for as long as he remembers, said he was glad to help promote education which is the only thing he could leave behind as his footprint in the sands of time, which is what matters.

According to Akanbi, “Money is not important. What you impact in people’s lives is what matters and education is key. If Nigeria were doing this long time ago, we would have been far ahead. Japan is far ahead as a result of their reading culture.”

Akanbi, who donated a hall located within the Mustapha Akanbi Library to ANA, encouraged the association to contact him anytime they needed help and even as a pensioner, he would do his best to assist.

ANA president, Abdullahi Denja, in his opening address said each year the association tries to justify the support given to it by their patron, Mallam Yusuf Ali, by making sure that they hold good programmes that make impact.

According to Abdulahi, “Ali has been supporting the association since 2012 with N3 million each year, which he gives without us reminding him and which he has promised to give as long as he is alive. In my capacity as the president of ANA, I can tell you that his support has done a lot to stabilize the association. Some of us may wonder about the three million naira. I tell you, it is small and it is big. In this present Nigeria, if you ask a rich man for N200,000 you will pursue him for two years to get it. When you write to government for such support your letter will come back to you saying, ‘we regret to inform you that we can not assist, but we like the programme. Go ahead; God help you.’ So, if an individual, out of his own belief, support and love decide to do this, it must show that he is very passionate about this subject. It is with his grant that we use to plan a lot of things and make sure that this association is kept alive.”

Abdulahi said Ali was impressed with what ANA leadership has been doing with the money since he started giving it, adding, “In the western world, art is kept alive by grants, commitments, foundations giving regularly; that process has to be in Nigeria. That is what we are advocating. Our benefactor has been generous to us year in year out; he has thrown a challenge to us. We have to keep on our toes in terms of fashioning new skills in innovative things that will make the grant keep coming; we cannot rest.”

Abdulahi asked state chapters to change the old ways they were doing things, saying the world was fast moving beyond that otherwise they would not make impact. In order to further enlighten them on new innovations, resourceful people were brought to share their experiences with the hope it would have a ripple effect through the participants.

To speak on ‘Managing and Financing Literary Projects and Programmes for Optimum’ results than former president of ANA, Okediran, who has managed all sorts of projects for ANA for four years. As he said, “With ANA’s objectives of literary projects and programmes such as to promote literature in both indigenous and English Languages, to discover new and emerging writers in the country and see to the improvement of their welfare among other objectives, capacity building for organisational effectiveness cannot be over-emphasised as it is the ability to strengthen an organisation to achieve desired outcome. It is inevitable that the association must perform all of the functions of a healthy not-for-profit NGO such as sufficient income to ensure stable programming, internal source of cash or ready access to cash in times of shortfalls, as well as engage in income-based, rather than budget-based, spending.”

The importance of funds could not be overemphasized as Okediran insisted that the association must retain a positive cash flow balance so that when deficit occurs, there are accumulated surpluses sufficient to cover the current year’s deficit and that the board and management hold themselves responsible for the financial stability of the organisation among other things.

Okediran advised that state chapters should establish good avenues to keep writers busy as well as have their works critiqued and edited and to develop good interactions among other writers who are invited as guest writers and to encourage good publicity in local media. He encouraged writers to attend residencies, which are enabling environments for writers to complete their ongoing works in an atmosphere of serene tranquility and quietness needed for the craft, adding that it is new in Nigeria but necessary and expedient.

He did not fail to mention the challenges that come with residency. According to Okediran, some of the problems encountered are funding, political/social problems, hosts community, relationships may be misunderstood, supervision of residents, poor understanding of residence programme by some writers as some of them get to the venue before thinking of what they want to do and also developing health problems while at the residence.

Having worked on several projects, he acknowledged that raising funds for literary event was challenging due to the twin problem of apathy to literary activities and a shrinking economy, as well as literary event not being a crowd-pulling event among others. The former president told ANA executive to always assist writers in the north, as it is usually a bit more difficult to do things there. He, however, encouraged members not to be scared of fundraising.

Another presenter from Pukyong National University, Busan South Korea, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, Okeke Job Izuchukwu, who was a member of the association before going for further studies in Korea, spoke on ‘Digital and Literacy in Nigeria: Surmounting the Challenges of Disruption and Enhancing the Reach of the Story.’ Izuchukwu said the World Economic Forum held this year conceptualized the creative industry as the portion of the economy containing jobs that rely on knowledge-based and non-repetitive skills as their key attributes. This encompasses creative endeavours such as music, film and television, gaming, advertising, publishing and literature, as well as architecture, design, arts and fashion.

Izuchukwu, however, focused on the area of interest, which is literature. He said before the colonial era, the main pastime of the people was storytelling. During the colonial and immediate post-colonial Nigeria, literary culture flourished and the best of Nigerian literary craft such as Things fall Apart, The Concubine, The Lion and the Jewel among others were created at this time. He said the digital intrusion into the economy is not all about Nigeria but all over the world and that there is debate ongoing about the role of technology in shaping what content audiences are exposed to and defining what types of content flourishes online.

He said publishers have used technology to find bigger audiences for their content but have less direct control over how that content is discovered. He noted that the disadvantage was that local publishing industry, especially in Nigeria, the digital makes it more difficult to push our kind of literature content to the consumers who are increasingly tech savvy, and would prefer soft copies which are cheaper and more convenient to carry, among other challenges.

He, however, questioned how creative writing and the publishing industry are reshaping itself in the digital era in order to reap from works. Izuchukwu suggested solutions to the numerous problems the industry faces in a digital age and said literature should be made part of pop culture by deepening existing book/literature through book clubs, book programming on radio and TV shows, Facebook and video book clubs. He advised participants not to say they couldn’t do these things, but that they should begin discussion how to achieve some of the goals.

He also suggested building synergy with government by bringing book events to the public domain as well as adapting them into movies among other things.

Children were not left out of the discussion, with Funmi Ilori describing them as the future of the country. Ilori is a professional teacher, a child lover, innovator and storyteller and founder of the first innovative mobile library for children in Nigeria. She said exposure to knowledge is the main trigger for innovation and creativity, adding that sustainable development goals call for ambitious progress, ensuring all children receive high quality education that develops the breadth of skills they need to be successful in a changing world.

Children are the adults of the future and they have open minds that can be influenced and educated positively, she said. As such, Ilori suggested that in order to reach 150 million children by 2030, there was need to find new ways to move faster and reach more learners.
Ilori’s ambition is to transform libraries so that every community in Nigeria has access to an attractive, vibrant, multi-functional library services.

Her strategy for achieving this is to place the libraries at the centre of local communities to ensure universal access, establish campaigns to promote literacy services among other things. Among other things, Ilori encouraged participants to dream big but start small.

ANA Vice President, Mr. Camilus Uka, commended ANA Ilorin Chapter chairman, saying it was not about the name of the city but what comes out of it adding, “We have two distinguished personalities, Akanbi and Yusuf Ali. This city is a pilgrimage for this association!”

Chairman, Lagos State chapter of Nigerian Publishes Association, Mr. Alli Semaka Okunade (left); Mrs. Folake Bademosi; president, Nigerian Publishers Association, Mr. Gbadega Adedapo; the association’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Abimbola and member, Mr. Olakunle Sogbein at the press briefing last… in Lagos

Seminar On Challenges, Opportunities Of Publishing In Africa Holds In Lagos

On Wednesday, May 9, publishers from around the world, under the auspices of International Publishers Association (IPA), will converge on Eko Hotel, Lagos, and deliberate on challenges and opportunities in Africa in a seminar of its kind on the continent. Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) made the announcement last week in Ikeja and released an outline of the issues to be discussed. The seminar will chart a path to future of publishing business on the continent.

President of Nigerian Publishers Association, Mr. Gbadega Adedapo, while addressing journalists, said, “This event is extremely important for the International Publishers Association, the African publishing industry, and Nigeria in particular. Not since the 29th International Publishers Association Congress, held in 2012, has there been a more important international event that focuses on the significant progress the African publishing industry is making.

“Publishing, literacy and access to books are prerequisites for success in life and the development of our countries and continent. We must always remember that strong publishing industries and national cultures of reading are the foundations for socio-economic development and are critical for participation in most areas of life.”

Some of the most prominent and influential figures in the world of publishing will attend the seminar and is centred on the theme ‘Publishing for Sustainable Development: The Role of Publishers in Africa’ and will consist of six high level panel discussions. It will be held on the sidelines of the yearly Nigeria International Book Fair (NIBF) scheduled for University of Lagos from May 7 through 12.

Some of the topics of discussion include the publishing industry’s socio-economic contribution to Africa, strengthening African educational publishing, bringing the voice of African writers and publishers to the world, the role of technology in overcoming illiteracy and promoting reading, addressing freedom to publish challenges in Africa, and enhancing enforcement of copyright and intellectual property (IP) laws.

According to Dr. Michiel Kolman, president of IPA, “This seminar reflects the importance of the African publishing industry and its potential in terms of both cultural and economic progress. The topics up for discussion not only highlight the challenges being faced, they also explore a diverse set of possible solutions.

“While every nation is different and each market unique, there are still many common goals for publishers across the African continent and this gathering of such distinguished and accomplished guests will certainly help to establish those and move forward in both ambition and action.”

Other publishing experts expected at the seminar include president of Publishers Association of South Africa, Brian Wafawarowa, president of Ghana Book Publishers Association, Elliot Agyare, MD of Norwegian Publishers Association, Kristenn Einarsson, and Secretary-General of IPA, José Borghino. President of Emirates Publishers Association, Bodour Al Qasimi, will deliver the closing speech.

Adedapo said the IPA seminar has benefited from support of partners like Emirates Publishers Association, Sharjah Publishing City, Emaar Properties PJSC, London Book Fair, National Aviation Services, American Association of Publishers, Norwegian Publishers Association, and Frankfurt Book Fair.

Other Nigerian publishers at the event who sued for support for the seminar included Mrs. Folake Bademosi of University Press Plc, NPA’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Abimbola, Lagos State chapter chairman of NPA, Mr. Alli Semaka Okunade, Executive Secretary of Nigerian Book Fair Trust (NBFT), Mr. Abiodun Omotubi


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