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With lion and the jewel, TK delivers a talking point for his 70th birthday

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National Theatre


Three months from now, Tunde Kelani will be 70 years old. As he releases his latest movie, Sidi Ilujinle, in cinemas from December, the country’s most important filmmaker is inadvertently providing the material for the talking buzz around that landmark birthday. Sidi Ilujinle is the first film adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s Lion and The Jewel, a play first performed 58 years ago. Kelani is always fascinated about the idea of translating Nigerian literary texts into the motion picture.

In the late 1980s, he was involved in the production of IWA, an adaptation of Adebayo Faleti’s Idaamu Paadi Mikailu, directed by Lola Fani- Kayode. As a film auteur, he has produced and directed Koseegbe, (from Akinwunmi Ishola’s text of the same name), Oleku, adapted from a novel by the same author and several other texts. TK has spoken fondly of turning Cyprian Ekwensi’s The Passport of Mallam Ilia into a movie, but it hasn’t happened.

To turn Lion and The Jewel into Sidi Ilujinle, Kelani consulted Kehinde Olojede, provost of the College of Education, Akoka, for the translation of the play into Yoruba and asked Taiwo Egunjobi to do the screenplay. There will be a lot of celebration by the arthouse crowd, as TK turns 70 on February 26, 2018, but this superbly talented artist has cleverly chosen a Soyinka play as a central theme for the party.

Why UNILAG Students Didn’t Review JP Clark’s Book
A key highlight of the seven day programme of the Lagos Book and Art Festival was an interaction between three undergraduate students of English at the University of Lagos and the author JP Clark, first African born professor of English language studies. The conversation was to centre on
Clark’s America Their America, published when the 84 year old professor was in his late 20s, in 1964. The student-reviewers didn’t show up. Instead, the expectant audience was presented with three lecturers of the department, engaging, with keen observation, the wide range of issues in the provocative text, with Clark in attendance. “It wasn’t entirely their fault”, explained Hope Eghagha, Head of the UNILAG English department and convener of the event, who himself was absent as a result of an out-of- town engagement.

“It was a breakdown in communication”, he testified. “They were expecting me to contact them a day or so prior to the session”. Jahman Anikulapo, programme director of the Book Festival, regretted the students’ no-show. “We were hoping for some sort of baton exchange ritual”, he said of the reason for the event. “We need to grow the review segment of the creative sector of the publishing industry and for that, a continuous identification of fresh minds is imperative”, he said. “We somehow find a way to grow new writers, but the entire publishing infrastructure is incomplete without the critic”.

ArtX “Move Over Foreign Buyers, There’s Enough Money Here”
The ArtX Fair is intended as a huge extrapolation of the scope for sale and purchase of contemporary art in Africa. “We want to be loud in proclaiming the vibrancy, the quality, the diversity of art produced here”, declared Tokini Peterside, founder of the fair, speaking at a session on Visual arts at the Lagos Book and Art Festival. She said that ArtX proposes to expand the collectors’ market far beyond the current bunch of usual suspects; there are young Nigerians with good career and means who could be readily converted into keen art buyers and there are artists who are doing exciting new work but don’t feel that the market is large enough to sustain them.

“I am not concerned as such with buyers from abroad”, Peterside said on a panel entitled Art: The Disruptive Expansion- Discussions around new developments, two days after the conclusion of ArtX 2017. “There’s enough money in this country to have a thriving art scene”. In a sense, Ms. Peterside hopes her platform, now in its second year, will inaugurate a grand, indigenously propelled Nigerian visual art market. She told the story of a gallerist who participated in last year’s edition of ArtX out of the willingness to encourage the organisers. “She said her focus was on international buyers and she was only participating because she wanted to show support, but minutes after the show she called me to say she was surprised and thrilled at the turnout”. Peterside said: “When you can show your sponsors that you’ve increased visitors to your fair from 5,000 to 9,000 in one year, they will be ready to back you again.”

“Go West, Young Man”-Excerpt for the Month
“Bulu has been cooking here for seven years, an important fact, as Jean-Louis the junior cook arrived just after I did. I have no idea where Bulu comes from. Bulu is not a local name. But he looks to be ocean-fed, stocky and muscular: central casting Ga. Jean-Louis is younger, maybe twenty, tall, a Beninois. His shirts remain an undefeated white despite the heat. He also wears a jacket with his name in navy cursive that his last employers gave him when their Lagos gig was up. Jean-Louis insists that though these last employers were truly kind – a Norwegian with a childless wife and braying guilty conscience who, decrying the size of the servant’s quarters in relation to their mansion, had insisted that each servant have a bedroom in their house – the downside to their kindness was the constant chipper chit-chat. It wasn’t enough to feed them well. He had to know them well, too.

Better a boss, says Jean-Louis, who couldn’t care less about your life than questions from a boss who couldn’t hope to understand it. When curious Jorg was recalled to Stavanger, he gave all his servants the option to come. Jean-Louis considered, but he doesn’t like the cold. A Beninois friend suggested he ‘Go west, young man!’ and so it is that Jean-Louis now sleeps on piles of latex foam, unquestioned”. Excerpted from Taiye Selasi’s short story: DRIVER, published as part of the ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ in the 123rd edition of GRANTA.
This column is compiled by staff of Festac News Press Agency


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Tunde Kelani

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