Connect with us

Arts

The Parable of Chinua Achebe

Published

on

EXCUSE ME, Your Excellency. If anybody tells you that I hate the Igbos, that person is far from the truth. The fellow does not even know me. I say anyone who insinuates that I do not like the Igbos is just being silly. God knows I love the Igbos, and I will tell you why.

Some of my best friends on earth are Igbos. I cannot count them on my fingers and toes. They number more. They are a lovable people. They are industrious. They work like ants. They work round the clock. Each ant trains the other ant from birth, from infancy.

Apprenticeship is a golden rule of thumb amongst the Igbos. You must understudy your senior and seek to surpass them in buying and selling. Every Igbo man knows that there is an anthill to build in the savannah, and every ant works tirelessly towards that idyll.

The Igbos see life as a chess board upon which they must take the best step from the onset of the game. Every pawn and every lord, right up to the king and queen, know they exist because they must build the anthill they found their fathers building.

I could jolly well pass for an Igbo man, and I have often been mistaken for one at Onitsha market, to say nothing of Ariaria market. Take it from me. I have been fascinated by Igbo culture and language from the day I read Eze Goes To School and Things Fall Apart.

You don’t have to ask me before I tell you that Chinua Achebe’s sense of plotting is masterful, and I have every reason to make that point crystal clear every time I read a book written by Achebe, perhaps Nigeria’s most gifted prose stylist. I shudder to think that he is of blessed memory. His voice, his raw opinion on the state of the Nigerian nation, cannot be heard any more.

Whoever reads Things Fall Apart is more than likely to be affected by the story in a personal way. I still feel goose pimples on my skin when I think of Ikemefuna. I was virtually there, in the pages of the book, when Okonkwo hacked him to death along a narrow path in the forest.

Go and read the story again. Not many readers can feel at home, on the other hand, with the turgid prose of Wole Soyinka. Achebe’s contemporary. Feel free to quote me on this. It is unfortunate that Chinua Achebe did not win the Nobel Prize for Literature in his lifetime.

So now you know why I love the Igbos. I have additional respect for Achebe on account of the simple reason that he had the presence of mind to start the Association of Nigerian Authors, the first body of writers in Nigeria. That was in 1981, a year after I passed out of Nembe National Grammar School. I was not even aware of the milestone event at that time, ensconced as I was in my father’s house.

That is a legacy that remains abiding, and I share in that legacy. I have the privilege of being the one writer who followed the example of Chinua Achebe in the brand new state of Bayelsa. I count as the pioneer chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Glory Land chapter.

So, you see, I love the Igbos. My favourite Igbo phrase, the expression I look out for when the news is translated on television is this: “…odina ndoro ndoro ochichi.” Don’t ask me what it means. I took note of it from the days when Chief Jim Nwobodo was Governor of Anambra State.

I will go so far as to say that I count as a Nigerian poet today because I assimilated the poetry of Pol Ndu and Christopher Okigbo. As we speak, I am undertaking a special book project on the poetry of Okigbo entitled “Tiger Mask & Nude Spear.”

Let’s just put it point blank. The Igbos know how to sell themselves. Every Igbo man with a shop to his name has a selling point. Feel free to quote me on that as well. I grew up as a boy in Igboland, before the war, when my father was a classroom teacher at Basden Memorial College, Isulo, somewhere in present-day Anambra State. My immediate younger brother, Fakuma, was born in Isulo. My father was a teacher in Onitsha when the war broke out.

My mother sang Igbo songs in my ear, in church and at home when we baked bread together. I still love the music of Steve Crown, Samsung, Buchi, Joe Praise and Chioma Jesus. I even studied the Igbo language as an optional course for one whole semester at the University of Port Harcourt, and Professor Kay Williamson was frank enough to score my efforts with a B plus.

But that’s as far as it goes. My territory is mine. My space belongs to me. As peoples of the Niger Delta, our boundaries are clear-cut, carefully delineated by language, history and sundry cultural practices. So far, we have lived well together as neighbours, we and the Igbos. Why should anyone wake up one morning and insist on making me subservient to a dream I do not share?

Do you get my drift, Your Excellency? It seems I did not make myself clear in my last epistle to you. I said nothing about the Niger Delta Republic. I did not mention the new country that shall be ours, if indeed Nigeria were to disintegrate into pocket nations with pocket flags of their own.

For the third time, quote me on this. I am saying that Biafra should feel free to declare their own president, and the Niger Delta Republic should equally feel free to name our own president, if it comes to that. The two countries shall remain good neighbours, and the twain shall know their boundaries.

The Niger Delta States run along the coastline. The landlocked Igbo-speaking states cannot go that far. Their boundaries are set and well defined, and they will do well not to breach them. Somebody please pull the ears of Nnamdi Kanu. Let the kite perch, and let the egret perch too. He who says no to the other, let his wings break. Ask Chinua Achebe.

Contributed by Nengi Owei

NB: Owei is an award winning poet and writer with several books to his credit.

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots

Arts

CHIMAMANDA WINS BEST TITLE AT 2023 INDIE BOOK AWARDS

Published

on

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a celebrated Nigerian author, keeps making waves in the global literary scene with her superb storytelling and provocative narratives.

At the 2023 Indie Book Awards, Adichie’s most recent book, “Notes on Grief,” was rewarded with the prestigious Best Title of the Summer category.

On June 23, the penultimate day of Independent Bookshop Week (IBW), Adichie was announced as the winner of the Non-Fiction category for her reflection on the death of her father, Notes on Grief (Fourth Estate).

Speaking on the selection of Adichie’s book, Mel Griffin, chairman of the judging panel, said: “It was a privilege to chair the 2023 Indie Book Awards, and the whole panel agreed that the shortlists were particularly strong this year, making the decision-making process challenging. However, in the end, we unanimously selected Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the non-fiction winner.”

“This utterly beautiful essay says so much in very few pages, and we found it extraordinarily powerful. Although it focuses on one individual’s experience of grief, we felt that it would speak to many people, transcending culture and circumstances, with one judge describing the reading experience as ’cathartic’, Griffin added.

Accepting the award on her social media page, Chimamanda Adichie said, “I have always felt like there is nothing more life-affirming and meaningful than going into an independent bookshop because you know that the people there actually love books. So, I think independent bookshops are the best things ever,” she said.

“I am so grateful, I am so moved, and I am so pleased to have Notes On Grief honoured with the Indie. And it is mostly because I love Independent bookshops and also because this book is so meaningful to me. I hope that it brings some kind of comfort to other people who have experienced grief. Thank you”

This accolade acknowledges not only the exceptional storytelling prowess of Adichie but also the evocative power of the book’s title. “Notes on Grief” invites readers to embark on an emotional journey, contemplating the various dimensions and stages of loss and grief. This award reaffirms Adichie’s status as the world’s literary icon, further highlighting the profound impact her writing has on readers around the world.

Adichie’s literary accomplishments have won her widespread praise and solidified her place among the most significant voices in history. Her earlier books, such as “Purple Hibiscus,” “Half of a Yellow Sun,” and “Americanah,” have won numerous awards and captured the attention of readers all around the world. With “Notes on Grief,” Adichie skillfully combines societal commentary with superb storytelling to make an impression that will not soon fade.

For her novel Demon Copperhead, which is based on the events of Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, Barbara Kingsolver took home the prize in the Fiction category. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, written by fantasy novelist Steadman, took first place in the Children’s Fiction category.

The largest international awards ceremony for independent writers and publishers is called the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The award, now in its seventeenth year, was created to recognise and honour the best independently published books in more than 80 categories for the year. It is presented by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group in collaboration with Marilyn Allen of the Allen Literary Agency (previously the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency).

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading

Arts

[POETRY] CHIKA JONES: A NIGERIAN WRITER CREATING AWARENESS OF SOCIETAL ISSUES THROUGH HIS POETRY

Published

on

Image: Portrait of Chika Jones. Credit: Imogirie Gaston

A young Black man thriving in the poetry scene in Nigeria and the U.K. is Chika Jones, who is only 32 years old.

His poetry and writing prowess got him an endorsement from the Arts Council of England for a Global Talent Visa. This aided his relocation to the U.K. where he continues to make waves through his talent.

In an exclusive interview with FunTimes, Jones opens up about what inspires his creativity and how poetry contributes to storytelling, which is the base of cultures.

Please introduce yourself and your poetry/writing career

My name is Chika Jones. I am a 32-year-old Nigerian, born by Yoruba and Igbo parents. I lived most of my life in Lagos and recently immigrated to the United Kingdom. I think that’s it, really.

About my poetry/writing career: I fell in love with books at a young age, and that love was honed when I stumbled on a library in my secondary school – Akokwa High School in Akokwa, Imo state. I started out writing poetry and fiction.

In 2013, as a university undergraduate, I got the chance to perform on radio – Rhythm FM in Port Harcourt, and I got quite good feedback from that performance. This made me more interested in performance poetry. At the end of 2013, I auditioned for and won the National Poetry Slam – War of Words in Lagos, and that was a launch pad into a career of writing and performing poetry.

I have written fiction and non-fiction, but the bulk of my work is in written and performed poetry. Performing in Lagos, Owerri, Abuja, Abeokuta, Kaduna, Berlin, and London, among other places, has made me fall in love with this art.

What topics do you usually write about in your poems?

I would like to preface with this – I did not set out to write about certain, most of my initial poems, have been responses to societal issues. I have written about gender-based violence and rape, about how the poor are marginalized in Lagos, about Lagos itself as a city, about the Biafran war, about what it means to be Igbo in Nigeria, about love like most poets, and more recently about racism. However, since 2021, I have been very interested in the concept of joy, what it is, why it is important, and how to capture and share it through poetry and performance.

How do your poems develop? Please guide us through the stages of a standard ‘Chika original’ poem

In my earlier years, my poems came from seeing something and feeling very strongly about it. Most times, this feeling was anger. This formed the bulk of the poems I wrote and performed. Of course, there were poems that weren’t borne out of anger. I had the occasional poem that is inspired by a book I read, or by a concept shared in a poem by a poet I love. These days, the poems rarely come from anger; they usually come from reading or feeling something, usually joy.

Because the process has been fine-tuned by the years, I can talk through it. Usually, I start with what I am trying to say or a feeling I am trying to elicit from the reader. The writing usually comes in a burst. After the initial draft, I then go over it to strip away the excess, the over explanations, and the unnecessary. As part of the final steps, I look at musicality and technique. Three final questions I ask are: Do the lines sing or hum at the end? Does the poem make you relook the familiar furniture of everyday life? Does it bring joy to read? Of course, as with most poems, these are questions you never answer, but I find it helpful to ask all the same.

What’s the best advice someone has given you about storytelling through poetry?

I would say it is to always allow space for the reader to come in. And this was something I read in an essay about photography either from Emmanuel Iduma or from Teju Cole. Maybe both. When writing, never let it be closed off, finished, done. Always allow space for the reader to enter because only then can they really enjoy what has been written.

What’s the worst advice someone has given you about storytelling through poetry?

I rarely receive or solicit writing advice; most of what I know and have taken to heart is from reading. So, no worst advice.

What do you feel is more freeing in poetry that is restricting in other forms of literature?

Nothing. I don’t think anyone comes to literature looking for freedom. However, if we consider differences in medium, I have learned that they are not all that different in goals. In all forms of literature, we are trying to tell a story and hoping that someone out there will understand it and it will change their life for the better.

Has there ever been a moment when you didn’t want to share one of your poems with the world because of its subject matter? If so, what did the subject matter address, and why did you choose not to share it?

I have a few love poems written solely for my wife that I haven’t shared anywhere. Mostly because I want them to live only for her. Sometimes, publishing or sharing a poem takes on a commercial nature, and I want to leave those poems out of that.

Do you think poetry will gain its deserved relevance in Nigerian/African society? Why or why not?

Poetry has always been relevant in Nigeria and Africa, and it will always be. If the question is about popularity as compared to, say, music, for example. Then the answer is there is poetry in music. Omah Lay’s recent album ‘Boy Alone’ is a good example of this. Will poets ever be as popular as musicians? On aggregate, no, because the audience they cater to are different, despite the overlap, and it will always be like that. Because you need a certain deliberateness to listen to and enjoy poetry that music does not always require, life places a lot of demands on people, and they will always find it easier to listen to music than to listen to poetry.

What do you feel poetry can or cannot contribute to a country’s political system, culture, and traditions?

Poetry contributes to storytelling, which is the base of cultures. And everything else comes out of culture, even political systems. Can poetry change Nigeria? Yes, and it does every day. Everyone that reads a good poem is changed by it. However, what is more urgently needed is political activism and protests and even poems cannot be a substitute for that.

Now having a duality in two different countries, England and Nigeria, how can fellow artists in your position bridge gaps to create work that resonates across multiple countries?

I would not encourage artists to try to make work that resonates across multiple countries. Instead, they should focus on making work that they personally enjoy. My guiding principle is your work should always be, and this is a phrase from Teju Cole, ineluctably particular. When your work is so particular, it gains universality. Never start out with the universe in mind, start out with yourself in mind. That is easier when you have a firm grasp on the things you love and the things that are important to you.

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading

Arts

JUDGES UNVEILED FOR ARTS FOR CHANGE COMPETITION

Published

on

Judges for the 2023 edition of ArtsForChange Competition

Organisers of ArtsForChange, a creative talent hunt competition powered by Black & White Ideas in conjunction with National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), has unveiled the judges for the 2023 edition.

The judges are expected to screen all the multitude of entries submitted and to recommend top 10 works for final consideration at the second round to select a final winner.

Judges are to consider, adherence to the theme of the competition, which is ‘Nigeria: Stronger Together’, creativity, aesthetic and originality’ of each work submitted.

The judges unveiled by the organisers are Oliver Enwonwu, a renowned visual artist, who holds a Master’s degree in Visual Art from University of Lagos; Halima Abubakar, a freelance documentary photographer who is currently the Artistic Director and Curator for the 19th Emir of Zazzazu; Mufu Onifade, inventor of the Araism painting technique and founder of the now famous Araism Movement and Steve Ayorinde, cultured journalist and former Commissioner for Tourism, Arts, and Culture in Lagos State.

Enwonwu comes from a long line of artists; his grandfather was a reputable traditional sculptor and his father, Ben was widely celebrated as Africa’s pioneer modernist.

In his work, Enwonwu elevates Black culture to challenge racial injustice and systemic racism by celebrating the cultural, political, and socio-economic achievements of Africans through an examination of African spirituality, Black identity and migration, contemporary African politics, Pan Africanism, and the global Africa empowerment movement.

From 2009 to July 2021, Enwonwu served as the president of Society of Nigerian Artists, established in 1963 as the umbrella professional body for all artists in Nigeria, which exists to engender the highest standards of practice and teaching of the visual arts in Nigeria.

On her part, Abubakar is a freelance documentary photographer, researcher, archivist, and artist with an insatiable interest in exploring culture and identity.

She started her photography journey by exhibiting at Lagos Photo Festival 2012. In 2013, she co-won the prize for the outstanding concept at the National Art Competition themed “Identity”.

Abubakar’s work interrogates the environment around her through her long-term projects aiming to depict her life experiences through a combination of colour, texture, patterns, and symbolism. These are captured through the conceptual visual narratives that she weaves, often through the idea of self-portraiture, in expressionistic and diaristic ways. She has a high level of credibility when it comes to her practice and creatively stays true to any subject matter she is exploring.

A critical thinker, this helps give her the discipline to be rational, open-minded, and factual about topics she explores. As an advocate for preserving history and cultural heritage, Abubakar works on projects that will help inform future generations about things they will never experience.

On his part, Onifade is celebrated for many first. He is an award-winning artist trained at The Polytechnic, Ibadan (National Diploma) and the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (B.A, Fine Arts), and won the Best Student Prizes.

He earlier attended the African Art Museum and Training Institute, Ethiopia where he obtained a Certificate of Training in Painting on Animal Skin, and much later, the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, for his M. A, Art History.

Onifade has held three solo exhibitions, one joint exhibition, and over 100 group exhibitions. In 2010, he was among the five international artists selected from Nigeria, Barbados, the USA, and South Africa to take part in the Greatmore Art Studio’s Residency programme in Cape Town, South Africa. He was also one of the 26 artists selected from across the world to participate in the Great Walk and More Art Festival in Cape Town.

He was one of the 16 artists selected from seven countries to take part in an art project titled ’16 Pieces’ organized by the Ifa-Yoruba Contemporary Trust, UK, funded by the London Arts Board. Onifade has successfully participated in international exhibitions in Nigeria, France, Belgium, Austria, the UK, the USA, etc.

Among many local and international art competitions, Onifade, a Fellow of the Society of Nigerian Artists (fsna) has been an adjudicator for the annual National Festival of Arts and Culture by the National Council for Arts and Culture, Felabration Arts Competition, MODHAFEST Art Competition and many more.

Last but not least is Ayorinde. Aside from being the immediate past Commissioner for Tourism, Arts, and Culture in Lagos State, Ayorinde was the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy.

He was also at a point the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of the National Mirror newspaper. Before then, Ayorinde was the Editor of The Punch newspaper in Nigeria.

Ayorinde is also regarded as one of Nigeria’s most renowned film and art critics, serving on the Juries for some of the world’s most recognised film festivals and awards, including the Toronto International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, AMAA, and Mumbai International Film Festival.

An author, Ayorinde has credit for three books namely Masterpieces: A Critic’s Timeless Report (Spectrum Books, 2008); Abokede: The Man, The Hill, The City (ArtPillar Books, 2011) and Cascade of Change: A Decade of Liberal Thoughts (Liberal Publishing, 2015). He also edited For Law, For Country: Conversations with the Bar and the Bench (Global Media Mirror Publications, 2012).

Educated at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, he also attended the University of Lagos, Akoka, and the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, where he earned a Master’s degree in Globalization and Communications. Ayorinde is a European Union Fellow at the Foundation Journalists-in-Europe (1997–98), a comprehensive one-year training scheme for mid-career journalists, and also an alumnus of the State Department’s International Visitors’ program (IVP) in the United States, the Goethe Institute, Berlin, and University of Siena for Foreigners, Italy.

Speaking at a judge unveiling event held recently in Lagos, Mr. Titiloye Amzat, a representative of Black & White Ideas, noted that the judges for this edition of the competition are some of the finest in the industry. According to him, they were picked based on their achievements over the years in the creative industry.

He said, “For us at Black & White Ideas, only the best would do as judges. The judges for this edition are some of the best we have around.

“A knowledgeable art writer, a Master’s Degree holder in Visual Art, the creator of a unique painting technique, Araism and a documentary Photographer, what more can you ask for as far as raising the bar in talent discovery and promotion is concerned?

“Having been selected, they now have the responsibility of picking the best entries from the multitude of entries submitted with a focus on four core areas namely, adherence to the theme of the competition which is; ‘Nigeria: Stronger Together’, originality of the work, creativity, and the aesthetic of the work.

“I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate our partner, First Bank, they have truly proven their support of the arts,” Mr. Amzat concluded.

ArtsForChange promotes authentic Nigerian culture and encourages artists of all manners to show their creative side in a bid to unearth and promote young and yet unknown talents in the country.

Entry for the 2022 edition closed on November 25, with over 500 entries received from six zones of the country namely North West, North East, North Central, South-South, South East, and South West.

The unveiling of the winner and presentations of the grand prize will take place this month with the winner walking away with N500,000, while other shortlisted participants will win consolation gifts and certificates of commendation.

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading

Trending