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Artsville: Fagunwa’s denouement: Soyinka holds on to the fantasy and other stories


Wole Soyinka

The playwright Wole Soyinka unveiled a new book on Daniel Fagunwa in Ibadan last Friday with a light hearted titbit about the stubbornness of facts and the allure of fantasy, a reference to the many stories around the demise of pioneer Nigerian/Yoruba novelist and man of letters. “There’s something about fantasy that makes it safe to indulge in; it’s not reality, it is fantasy so you don’t have to worry about keeping to it”, he told the hundred plus gathering of scholars, members and friends of the Fagunwa family, as well as a horde of culture enthusiasts attending the launch of Celebrating D. O. Fagunwa: Aspects of African and World Literary History at the University of Ibadan. Several myths have been built around Fagunwa’s passage, no doubt inspired by the legend’s fantabulist works of fiction, in which a large population of ghomids, ghosts, spirits,  djinns and sundry other other-worldly characters interact with humans in mystical settings.

A popular story about Fagunwa’s demise is that he deliberately disappeared into a river and was never found. The novelist’s widow Elizabeth Fagunwa had indeed debunked the many myths at a conference in Akure in 2013, telling of how the author fell into the river Wuya, near Bida, after the ground fell beneath his feet. “He was a good swimmer”, Mrs. Fagunwa had explained, “but he sank because a canoe by the river also fell and collapsed on him.” When he was discovered the third day, Fagunwa had his reading glasses, shoes and cap on and his dress intact, Mrs. Fagunwa testified. “He was brought to Ibadan where we lived …and taken to (his birthplace) Oke-Igbo, where a funeral service was arranged for him at the St. Luke Anglican Church and buried in the church cemetery on December 10, 1963”. But at last Friday’s event, Mrs. Fagunwa looked straight ahead, betraying no emotion as Professor Soyinka, himself a compulsive mythmaker, declared he’d rather hold on to fantasy.He (Fagunwa) stands on the shore of a river and walks a short distance and disappears”, he told the audience. “The likelihood that one of the characters in his books emerges from the water and whisks him away is appealing. I still prefer my own version of the story of how he left us, the fantasy”.


NPL: The Poetry Prize Is the Most Hotly Contested

The quadrennial award for poetry in the Nigeria Prize For Literature (NPL) season has always made for the prize’s keenest competition. The NLNG sponsored NPL focuses on one literary genre every four years, moving year to year from poetry to prose (short story collection and novels) to children literature to drama, so that it entertains one of these four genres only once in four years. The year of the poetry however brings out the biggest masquerades in the country’s literary firmament. This is because Nigerian writers are, first and foremost, poets, secondly novelists and lastly dramatists. If in doubt, ask Kudo Eresia-Eke, General Manager, External Relations at the NLNG, sponsors of the NPL, who, himself, is a published poet. About 1,630 books have been submitted for the NPL since the inception of the prize in 2004. Of this, 533, representing 32 per cent, were submitted in the poetry category. “The number of (poetry) entries for the 2017 edition, which is 184, exceeded the (prose style) entries for 2016 by six percent.  Four years ago, some of the most renowned names in Nigerian literature came out for the contest.

Femi Osofisan, whose winning of the first ANA awards in 1983 with a poetry collection helped birth the most recent tendency for literary awards in Africa, was one of the contestants. So were Remi Raji, Obari Gomba, Obi Nwakanma, Afam Akeh, Promise Ogochukwu, Amatoritsero Edeh. This year’s long listed authors include the veteran Ojaide, the long distance runner Ifowodo and Verissimo. Gomba is returning.  The 11 books contesting the prize include Peter Akinlabi’s Iconography, Ogaga Ifowodo’s A Good Mourning, Obari Gomba’s For Every Homeland, Hyginius Ekwuazi’s One Day I’ll Dare to Raise My Middle Finger at the Stork and the Reaper, Lari Williams’ Trips, Humphrey Ogu’s Echoes of Neglect, Tanure Ojaide’s Songs of Myself:Quartet; Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresaid, Abubakar Othman’s Bloodstreams in the Desert Jumoke Verissimo’s The Birth of Illusion  Ebi Yeibo’s Of Waters and The Wild.

CORA Hosts the Eighth Annual Book Party in Lagos

The Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) is holding its eighth Book Party for writers longlisted for the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature (NLP). The reading and networking feast is scheduled for next Sunday, August 6, 2017 at the TerraKulture on Victoria Island. The special guests of honour are the authors listed above. “The party is used to celebrate the authors and their works for emerging as some of the very best in the country”, says Jahman Anikulapo, CORA’s Programme Chair. “If you make it to the last 11 out of 184 highly competitive entries, the public needs to hear your voice”. The former editor of The Guardian On Sunday says that the authors will be brought face-to-face with the core of Lagos literary community as well as members of the larger public who show up at the party. An audience of over 400 people will encounter the poets and engage the works that have been adjudged fitting to earn the $100,000 (N305Million) prize money. “Individual poets read from their works, which will be reviewed, discussed and critiqued in the course of the programme”, he explains. “It is a package of literary feasting, featuring performances, wining and dining”.  The Nigerian Prize for Literature was inaugurated in 2004. The book party was launched five years later, precisely after a review of the first five years of the award. CORA is a group of artistes, art enthusiasts, art promoters and art writers committed to the flowering of all the contemporary arts of the peoples that make up Nigeria. It has organised, every year since 1999, the Lagos Book and Art Festival.

In 10 Days, Akpos Gets The Girl Again, Except…

In the end, Akpos walks away with the pretty damsel. Unilike the earlier encounters, however, he has to fight tooth and nail, like James Bond, to keep the girl. And for the first time in the series, it is not the girl he meets during the adventure to the foreign land; it is the woman he travels with, whom he almost loses. 10 Days In Sun City is the most intelligent of all three of AY Makun’s Travel adventure films, which are, admittedly good entertainment, but are not known for their intelligence. It’s the only one with some depth and content. 30 Days in Atlanta was for laughs. A Trip to Jamaica was meant to be the same, except that there’s a police intervention, for a fuzzy crime escapade. 10 Days In Sun City is the first of the series not written by Makun and that may, perhaps be the reason for the breadth of fresh air. It pays homage to old fashioned filial love and declares that loyalty should not be only about N30Billion in your account. The South African input in the film is surprisingly subpar; Sun City does not come across in a tiny fraction of its well-advertised glory; the local actors are not exactly actors in the way we know South African actors to be. They sound and act like they were picked from the street. And how do you have an investment conference in Sun City, in 2017, without a single white man in the audience?

Compiled by staff of Festac News Agency

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Wole Soyinka
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