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Akure set to host Ṣóyínká, Fágúnwà, and Yorùbá artistic heritage conference


Fagunwa Illustration

Arrangements have reached conclusive stages for the Wọlé Ṣóyínká, D. O. Fágúnwà international conference.The conference, organised by Fagunwa Study Group (FSG), is partly sponsored by the Ondo State government.The study group comprises scholars and intellectuals largely of Southwest origin in Nigeria, who are in universities located in the country and outside. The group organises regular scholarly activities such as, conferences, seminars and debates on Yoruba cultural, literary, educational issues and matters of interest to the promotion of Yoruba artistic heritage, as well as Africans at large.

The first conference, in 2013, was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing on of D.O. Fagunwa. At the end of that conference, a book was published and launched in 2017 at the University of Ibadan.According to Prof. Tunde Babawale, a member of the Fagunwa Study Group (FSG) and chairman of the local organising committee, “the book, to date, remains the most authoritative work on D.O. Fagunwa.”

Babawale, former chief executive of Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) and now a member of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), said the conference has been scheduled to hold from August 7 to 11 at the International Culture and Events Centre (The Dome), Akure, Ondo State.


The conference theme is, “Wọlé Ṣóyínká, D. O. Fágúnwà, and the Yorùbá Artistic Heritage and it will examine both broad and specific intersections and elements of the theme. Babawale said broad spectrum of the work of Wọlé Ṣóyínká, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, is the primary focus of this edition of the conference.Essentially, this international conference has been organised to celebrate the 85th birthday of Prof. Wole Soyinka.

In Babawale’s words, “we felt this year that Soyinka is 85, there was need to celebrate this icon of African literature. And every thing that should be done to celebrate him must be in the right direction.”He noted that Ṣóyínká and Fágúnwà are two of the foremost figures in 20th-century Nigerian and African literary history. The two writers work in different primary languages, but prominent features of their imaginations, sourced deep in the Yorùbá artistic heritage and then elsewhere, cross one another in many profoundly stimulating ways.

“Their works seem to interact at several points, even though they wrote in two different languages. They both drank from the same cultural well,” Babawale said. “We are particularly motivated that these two literary figures have done a lot not just to promote the Yoruba artistic heritage but also Africa’s artistic heritage. To a large extent they have been able to raise a lot of issues about the positive aspects of our tradition.”

According to the organisers, primary language or medium notwithstanding, their works offer “forward-tilting progress (ìlọsíwájú) and upward escalation (ìdàgbàsókè) as chief driving forces of life and the artistic-narrative contemplation of same.” They noted, “ the most significant questors in Fágúnwà’s adventures are often charged with the task of obtaining from their journeys new templates for social living, new ways of being human, and ever novel ways of attaining the common good and coming to ever better approximations to it.

“Ṣóyínká remains the preeminent scholar, translator, and populariser of Fágúnwà’s works. This is not just in terms of Ṣóyínká’s pioneer status in the enterprise but also in how influential his interpretations of Fágúnwà have been on subsequent efforts. Together and in the context of the expansive cultural and literary traditions they draw from, their work allows us to critically juxtapose and interactively explore key elements of modern African sensibilities and consciousness: orality and literacy, community and the individual, tradition and innovation, secularity and religion, freedom and unfreedom, ethics and aesthetics, the modern nation-state and its fragments, culture and politics, and antiquity and modernity.’

Also speaking, Kunle Ajibade, a member of the local organising committee, said, “we hope that this conference would provide us opportunities of exchanging ideas about some of the issues raised in the works of these eminent literary giants.”

Speakers at the conference are expected to present original research on any aspect of the work of Wole Soyinka, and/or in conjunction with that of Fagunwa and other writers. Areas include but are not limited to: Yorùbá Culture and Philosophy as Common Backcloth, Soyinka and Nigerian & African Literature and the Arts, Wole Soyinka and D. O. Fagunwa: Intersections, Soyinka, Fagunwa, and Nigerian & African Literature and the Arts, Soyinka and the State in Africa: Writers in/and Politics, Monotheism, Polytheism, and Modernity, The Play of Generations: Wasted & Fecund, Translation: Culture, Language, Politics, Modernism and the Emergence of African Literature, Development (Idàgbàsókè), Progress (Ilọ́síwájú), and Ọ̀làjú (Modernization), Novelty and the Open Future: Time, Timing, Timeliness, Belatedness, Ethics and Aesthetics in Contemporary Yorùbá and Nigerian Cultures, Culture-Heroism and Militarism, The Oral, the Written and the Performed, Cultivating Metalanguage and Discourses: Literature, Performance, Philosophy, Sociology, Science, Engineering, Soyinka, Fagunwa, and Nollywood, Institutions: Culture, Religion, Politics, and the State, Soyinka: The “Interventions” Series, Fagunwa, Soyinka, and Yoruba Music and Visual Arts.

The conference is expected to attract governors from the Southwest, Prof. Soyinka, Prof. Biodun Jeyifo, the chairman of the board of FSG, Prof. Ropo Sekoni and other eminent scholars and intellectuals from the country.Two keynote speakers are expected. They are Prof. Adeleke Adeeko, Department of African American and African Studies, Ohio State University, Columbus, United States of America and Prof.Moradehun Ajetumobi of University of California.Prof. Tejumola Olaniyan, the Louise Durham Mead professor of English, and African languages, and literature, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is convener of conference.


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D.O.FagunwaWole Soyinka
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