Nduka Otiono’s new book, DisPlace, launched in Canada
Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies and the Department of English Language and Literature recently launched Nduka Otiono’s latest book titled DisPlace: The Poetry of Nduka Otiono. Organised as a hybrid event with in-person and virtual audiences across the world, the well-attended launch held on March 30, 2022.
Among dignitaries who made memorable remarks at the occasion were: Professor Benoit-Antoine Bacon, President, Carleton University; His Excellency, Adeyinka Asekun, High Commissioner of Nigeria to Canada; Professor Christine Duff, Director of the Institute of African Studies; Professor Janice Schroeder, Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature—represented by Nadia Bozak, coordinator of the Creative Writing Concentration at the Department of English; and Professor Tanis McDonald, Series Editor for The Laurier Poetry Series published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, publishers of DisPlace.
The high-profile event, which was held at Carleton’s College of the Humanities Lecture Theatre in Paterson Hall, was compered by award-winning South African- Canadian writer, Kagiso Lesego Molope, and the Nigerian-Canadian Executive Director of Impact Black Global, Sisi Akhigbe.
Professor James Tsaaior, Senior Research Fellow at the Department of English, University of Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa was the book reviewer. In his review, Tsaaior observes: “The idea of death as an agentive force of physical and psychological displacement is ubiquitous and resonates strongly in Otiono’s DisPlace. It can be gleaned from his painful, traumatic personal losses of intimate family members, not the least, his beloved father and only sister.”
The reviewer argues, “The poet’s private interests translate to public concerns as he wields his voice and etches it on the public agenda. By so doing, the poet declares that he is because of the community and the community is because he is, a remarkable and salutary affirmation of the philosophy of ubuntu which idealises and upholds communal values and principles.”
Speakers at the launch ceremony listed above were unanimous in their praise of Otiono’s creative and scholarly productivity and creativity. While Carleton president Bacon lauded Otiono’s ‘truly outstanding’ and “remarkable achievements in a long and impressive career,” Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada placed Otiono’s intellectual achievements in the context of ‘Nigeria’s solid tradition in Literature’ with internationally acclaimed writers such as Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.
The publisher’s representative at the book launch, Professor McDonald, paid glowing tribute to DisPlace and expressed her company’s appreciation of the book’s quality and the exceptional collaboration between the author, his editor Peter Midgely, and the press.
Other highlights of the evening included enchanting poetry readings by Otiono, as well as impressive music and spoken word poetry performances by three young artists. First, Peter Kuhl dazzled the audience with a trumpet piece. Kuhl is a music producer/composer and trumpet player in his third year at Carleton, where he is studying trumpet with Travis Mandel and spoken word poetry with Nduka Otiono.
The next performer was the spectacular Amarachi Attamah, a chant performer, poet, broadcaster, Mother-Tongue advocate, and graduate student in the Department of Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage Preservation at Syracuse University. Finally, Dieko Obi, Kavalierbariton baritone/Musicologist and multi-genre singer wrapped up the presentations for the evening. While Kuhl and Attamah gave commanding performances of Otiono’s poems — “The Rooms We Live In” and “Grandma’s Pipe,” respectively — Nigerian-born, Canada-based Obi delivered a riveting performance of Louis Armstrong’s popular jazz composition, “What a Wonderful World.”
The vote of thanks was given by Deborah Allotey, the Administrative Assistant at the Institute of African Studies. To conclude an excellent book event, guests were treated to “surprise light refreshments” that included Nigeria’s party delicacies: jollof rice and kpof-kpof (puff puff). The event rounded off with autographs and photo sessions.
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