Adimora-Ezeigbo thrills audience at LASU
The Theatre Arts auditorium at Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, wore the festive mood of an inaugural lecture recently, as the audience packed it to the brim. They had novelist, poet, literary theorist and lecturer, Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, as guest writer of the Department of English who partly read and partly performed from her latest works before her audience that comprised students, lecturers and the media.
Forget the fact that Adimora-Ezeigbo has since left the University of Lagos; it seemed like making the journey from across the city from her former university that perches on the shores of the famous Lagos Lagoon. The Board Room of the Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos had played host to guest writers and the students had interacted with some of the writers they study in class.
LASU’s relatively novel idea of having a guest writer became palpable in the sheer number of attendees. Where a handful of students turn up at UNILAG, the enthusiasm of students of LASU showed how much they thirsted for the golden opportunity to listen to an important writer like Adimora-Ezeigbo, not only to hear her read from her large body of works, but also perform before them in song and dance.
However, the poor acoustics in the hall, made worse by the louvred windows with some already fallen off, somewhat make listening a hard task for those at the back. Also, the neglect the hall that serves as rehearsal ground for future theatre practitioners currently suffers is disincentive on its own for any performative venture. The three klieg lights in the middle of the hall hang precariously loose over the audience; they can fall off any time soon. They have long seen better days and are in dire need of replacements; the danger they pose to audience members alone is source for concern.
Of the 17 fans, only one managed to turn its blades in seeming protest at its lonely job. And you wonder, do stage performances still hold in this hall anymore? The authority can certainly do better to gift the university’s humanities a fitting hall.
A redeeming feature from this bleak hall lies on the L-shaped side of the hall with an upper terrace that has an interesting photo gallery displaying iconic cultural figures, both local and international.
From Wole Soyinka to Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Hubert Ogunde, Femi Osofisan, Sunny Ade, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Henrik Ibsen, Samuel Beckett, Lagbaja, Shakespeare and others, students of the Faculty of Arts have an early introduction to the cultural icons they already encounter in their studies.
But the gallery needs updating its collection to accommodate newer cultural icons emerging every day. Perhaps, these worthies were also what gave Adimora-Ezeigbo further wings to soar that afternoon as she plied her writerly craft before the student audience, with them silently watching and listening in to her performative act that swelled beyond the boundary of the hall to merge with the band of student musicians practising at a tent just outside the auditorium.
Adimora-Ezeigbo, who had her husband, also an academic, in the audience, also displayed four of her latest works. Two non-fiction works: Fact and Fiction of the Literature of the Nigerian Civil War, A Companion to the Novel, and two fiction works: Mixed Legacies (poetry) and Magic Breast Bags (novel) complete her newest creations. A Companion to the Novel was an instant favourite among the students.
Apart from reading from Magic Breast Bags, where she performed a song and danced nimbly, admirably to, Adimora-Ezeigbo also performed three major poems. First was Flight of the Songbird, which she dedicates to the memory of Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awonoor, who was felled a few years ago by bullets of Islamic terrorists in Kenya, then ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’ which explores hope for an embattled country like Nigeria. She also read a pidgin poem that is a social commentary on vanishing values in Nigerian society and how sharply contrasting today’s youth is to his counterpart in times past.
Adimora-Ezeigbo, who was astonished at the large turnout of students, confessed, “LASU surprised me. They are in a class of their own. I thought Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Anambra State, Awka, beats every other institution in (terms of) attendance of events, but LASU has broken that record!”
Among the questions, some of them the usual suspect kind about the process of writing and what a beginner should do, was the national question about how to achieve national integration in a sharply divided country like Nigeria that has failed to learn from the experiences of the bloody civil war fought many years ago.
According to Adimora-Ezeigbo, “we (Nigerians) have not learnt enough lessons from that war. We need to tolerate and embrace justice, equity; we need to have tolerance towards one another. A nation is a family; we must love each other, embrace each other. We need to love one another in this country, whether from the north or from the south.”
The Department of English, led by its Head, Dr. Rachel Bello, presented a plaque to Adimora-Ezeigbo in appreciation of her work and for being an honoured guest. Bello promised to keep up the momentum of having regular guest artists interact with her students, as a form of bridging the Town and Gown gap. Former Nollywood actor, Sola Fosudo, now a professor of theatre, was among the academic staff who honoured Adimora-Ezeigbo’s reading performance.
No comments yet