‘How I climbed 2000ft mountain bare-footed’
After defying his father’s instruction never to climb the rocky mountain of Idanre, 10 year-old Sunday Akinwunmi, a JSS 11 student emerged the winner of the maiden Mare mountain climbing festival in Idanre. That feat has won him a state-sponsored scholarship up to university level. Little Sunday spoke with Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME how he achieved the feat.
From answering the call of nature on the rocky mountain of Idanre to participating in the Mare mountain climbing festival, ten year old Akinwunmi Sunday, a JSS II student of Methodist High School, Idanre last Friday emerged the winner of the maiden Mare mountain climbing festival in Idanre, Ondo State. The fifth child of a family of six, climbed to the top most part of Idanre Mountain within a record time ahead of others from the community that participated in the mountain climbing festival. Young Sunday was immediately received on the hill top by the professional mountaineers from Europe who got there before all others.
Speaking shortly after emerging winner, Master Sunday who wore a Chelsea Football Club’s regular blue T-shirt on a dirty white short said he did not undertake the mountain climbing purposely to contest but that he went up the hills to answer the call of nature. "I went up there to ‘shit’ when I saw people climbing the hill. I later joined them in the climbing which I did with my bare hands and feet because some parts of the hill are slippery. I had to move in between holes, trees and shrubs to overtake the older people who were also climbing. I met some monkeys and squirrels on the way up. At first, I was scared of encountering other dangerous animals because no body had climbed that far on the hills in recent time.
"Before the festival, I used to climb the hills regularly to make traps for rodents and hunt for snails. But I have never gone this far in climbing. I will continue to climb the hills in future festival so long as God spares my life," Sunday told The Nation. Few hours after, Sunday’s name became a household name in the rocky town of Idanre, as visitors, especially journalists sought to interview him.
In appreciation of his gallantry performance and courage, the Ondo State government awarded him a state-sponsored scholarship up to university level, and an all expenses paid trip to Europe for future exposure. Governor Olusegun Mimiko described Sunday as ‘exhibiting the traits of gallantry and courage of an average Ondo state youth.’ He said ‘Mare is about culture, tourism but Mare is also about scaling new heights, Mare is about doggedness, creativity, and courage; that is the new Ondo state.’
To his old father, Pa Akinwunmi Joseph, 70, who is a prophet with the C &S Church, Oke-Isegun, Idanre, Sunday’s feat was the handiwork of God because he has always warned his son never to go up the hill. "It is the work of God. Before he left for the hills, he was with me and I asked him to get me some water. Later, I heard the news that Sunday has been declared winner of the mountain climbing exercise. At first, I did not believe it because I have warned him many times never to go up the hill because of the danger. But now I am happy for him because God actually did it for him," Pa Akinwunmi said smiling.
According Ondo state commissioner for culture and tourism, Mr. Tola Wewe, the scholarship is awarded Sunday to enable him realise his potentials by first providing him free education up to university level. He said the sponsored trip to Europe is also to expand his horizon in order to make proper choice of career in life.
The maiden edition of Mare festival which ran from 17 to 19 December 2009 was initiated by ministry of culture and tourism in collaboration with a private tourism outfit, Motherland Beckons, to promote the assets of Idanre town and its scenic hills as a tourism destination. Mare is a coinage from (Mare Bo), a Yoruba word meaning don’t fall off. The festival also exhibited the local customs and traditions of the people through a carnival of dancing and drumming that drew participants from across all local councils in the state.
Speaking at the festival, the commissioner said the festival has opened various opportunities for Idanre people apart from being a rallying point for the celebration of mountain climbing.
"We are all here today for several reasons; there are those who are here to do business; to meet their loved ones, friends and to see the beautiful mountains surrounding Idanre. There are those who are here for the fun of it, they just want to be here to enjoy the music, dance, float that we are going to witness today. There are even those who are here to sell pure water; even some cynics are here, they just want to see what is happening, what we are doing here. All these summed up is tourism; this is what tourism is all about," he noted.
Wewe stressed that the era of oil is gradually fading-off; as the whole world is now investing on tourism and Ondo state cannot be left out. According to him, this is the time for Ondo State to invest on tourism. "What we are seeing today is a part of investment. As a matter of fact, it is like a farmer sowing some seeds. Investors, economists and business men will refer to what we have put into today’s programme as seed capital. So, whatever the amount we have spent on today’s programme is an investment and by the grace of God we shall reap it. Idanre is unique in terms of the physical structure and historically; there is no two cities like Idanre in the whole world. The history of Idanre too, is unique and it is on this note of its uniqueness that we have decided to partner with Motherland Beckons to organise this project called Mare. So, we are today investing on tourism, let us build Ondo state, and unite to invest on tourism," the commissioner said.
Netherlands honours legendary El Anatsui
•Wins Prince Claus Fund laureate for 2009
Four months after he was selected as one of the eleven recipients of this year’s Prince Claus Fund laureates, Prof. El Anatsui last Friday in Lagos received a cash prize of 25,000 Euros at an award ceremony, two days after the principal prize of 100,000 Euros was awarded to Colombian architect, Simon Velez in Amsterdam, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports.
A few minutes before seven in the evening, guests were already seated in the reception hall of House 14 a/b, the Netherlands Embassy on Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos. And the occasion was the Prince Claus award presentation by the Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Arie van der Wiel. It was a well-attended ceremony that attracted diplomats, arts enthusiasts, collectors, artists, top government officials and art writers.
For Prof. El Anatsui, last Friday night was like harvest time for his exceptional contributions to visual arts as he received a cash prize of 25,000 Euros courtesy of Prince Claus Fund Award 2009. The award though funded by a foreign culture agency, further confirmed the great contributions many African arts scholars are making towards the growth of the global art culture.
Speaking at the ceremony, he said awards are not only what they represent or do, but are for the marketing of artists’ works. He noted that while awards are laudable they don’t alter the course of global aesthetics as Picasso and Vincent van Gogh did. Accordidng to him, some awards serve as public event while many create a new order in public space. To him, art is not only the joining of man and materials but about originality that points to new future.
The Ghana-born art scholar is a board of trustee member of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos.
He was honoured for the outstanding aesthetic and intellectual qualities of his creations; for his innovative use of materials to highlight the dialogue between culture and nature, and for his dedicated and inspirational role in the development of the visual arts in Africa.
Each year, individuals, groups, organisations or institutions that have made outstanding contributions to culture and development within the Prince Claus Fund’s area of interest receive the prize. The awards are given to individuals, groups and organisations around the globe, but primarily in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The principal award of 100,000 Euros was awarded to Colombian architect Simon Velez whilst 10 others received 25,000 Euros each. They included Santu Mofokeng (South Africa) Sammy Baloji (DR Congo) and Doual’art, an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 1991 that has revolutionised the art scene in Cameroon.
El Anatsui, born in 1944, is a beacon in contemporary African art. Graduating from Kumasi University of Science and Technology with art and art education degrees that focused on European traditions, he turned his attention to African aesthetics. Each year, the Prince Claus Fund invites an expanding network of colleagues, partners and experts in fields relevant to the fund’s mission to nominate candidates, offer insights and give second opinions on the proposed candidates. Nominations were received for this year’s awards. Documentation and research on the nominations were considered at a meeting of the awards committee on December 4, 2008, A shortlist was established and the staff of the fund’s bureau then carried out further research and gathered extensive second opinions from advisors in the fund’s network. On May 27 and 28, 2009, the awards committee met again for an in-depth assessment of the shortlisted candidates and the jury selected eleven recommended recipients for this year’s Prince Claus awards.
El Anatsui: His work, life
In 1998, a book, EL ANATSUI: A Sculpted History of Africa was co-authored by John Picton with Gerard Houghton, Yukiya Kawaguchi, Elisabeth Lalouschek, Simon Njami and Elizabeth Péri-Willis. Highly regarded in Africa, where he is considered to be one of the leading sculptors of his generation, El Anatsui is rapidly establishing a wide international reputation. Chosen to represent the African continent at the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990, he has since participated in many exhibitions abroad – in England, Germany, Japan, the United States and Brazil – and is a leading contributor to a number of international workshops for artists. While there have been numerous articles that deal with his impressive body of work, this book represents the first attempt to draw together, under a single cover, the many aspects of El Anatsui’s singular career. The book offers those interested in the expanding field of modern art, as well as readers particularly interested in contemporary African art an overview of El Anatsui’s career and an analysis of his work to date. The various texts are complemented by carefully selected colour reproductions of his work. Just as El Anatsui is concerned with the hidden histories of different cultures, so too this volume is a composite tissue woven from different sources and written in different languages. The contributors are John Picton, Reader in African Art at SOAS, University of London; Gerard Houghton, writer and linguist at the October Gallery; Yukiya Kawaguchi, Curator at the Setagaya Art Museum of Tokyo; Elisabeth Lalouschek, Artistic Director of the October Gallery; Simon Njami, Editor of Revue Noire, Paris, and Elizabeth Péri-Willis, an expert on West African visual artistic practices.
Anatsui on materials
"About six years ago I found a big bag of liquor bottle tops apparently thrown away in the bush. At the time I was searching for a pot monument (pillars of stacked pots, each of which represents bereavement in the village) that I had seen decades before in that locality. I kept the bottle caps in the studio for several months until the idea eventually came to me that by stitching them together I could get them to articulate some statement. When the process of stitching got underway, I discovered that the result resembled a real fabric cloth. Incidentally too, the colours of the caps seemed to replicate those of traditional kente cloths. In effect, the process was subverting the stereotype of metal as a stiff, rigid medium and rather showing it as a soft, pliable, almost sensuous material capable of attaining immense dimensions and being adapted to specific spaces.
"To me, the bottle tops encapsulate the essence of the alcoholic drinks which were brought to Africa by Europeans as trade items at the time of the earliest contact between the two peoples. Almost all the brands I use are locally distilled. I now source the caps from distillers around Nsukka, where I live and work. I don’t see what I do as recycling; I transform the caps into something else. If there is a direct link between the bottle tops and the fabric cloths, it is probably the fact that they all have names linked to events, people, historical or current issues. Take Ecomog gin: this refers to the regional military intervention force which brought the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia to an end. The brandy called Ebeano (meaning ‘where we are now’) references a popular electioneering slogan from the last political polls in the state in which I live. Similarly, kente cloths are given names like takpekpe le Anloga (conference at Anloga) or can be named after a personality. Fading cloth is more of a formalistic name, with the full blooded reds at the top and bottom of the cloth yielding to creams and other pale colours in the centre. Flattening and stitching the caps is laborious and repetitive – a very different process to my earlier work using power tools on wood. I have several assistants working with me, and we start with strips and eventually assemble them into the final composite results. The process of stitching, especially the repetitive aspect, slows down action and I believe makes thinking deeper. It’s like the effect of a good mantra on the mind."
Developing culture workers for improved productivity
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Tourism, Culture and National Orientation Minister, Senator Bello Jubril Gada, has charged culture workers to be properly educated on the national cultural agenda vis-a-vis their roles as important stakeholders in the nation’s desire to make culture a key sector for economic growth. He said culture could contribute significantly to national wealth creation, job creation, and poverty alleviation, if the nation’s resources are effectively mobilised.
The minister, who was represented by a director in the ministry, Chief George Ufot, spoke at a recent workshop organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), on repositioning Nigerian culture workers for improved productivity held at the Hamdala Hotel, Kaduna. He stressed that the culture and tourism sector of the economy is critically relevant to the achievement of President Yar’ Adua’s seven- point agenda and the realization of vision 20-2020. He noted that as professionals in the sector, workers have a critical role to play in harnessing the cultural resources for economic gains. "We are fully convinced that if our cultural resources are adequately and effectively harnessed they will be a credible alternative to crude oil," he added.
In his address, the executive secretary of NICO, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, said the three-day workshop was conceptualised as a platform where professionals in the culture sector at the federal, state and local government levels meet annually to be kept abreast of developments and trends in the sector so as to enhance their productivity.
He noted that there are problems professionals have to grapple with, which he said, include wrong perception of culture by policy makers and top government officials, degeneration in values, growing decline in the use of indigenous languages, formidable threats to cultural identity and national pride posed by globalisation and the urgent need to make culture responsive to the clarion call for a diversified economy.
The workshop which featured eight speakers, resolved in a communiqué that ‘culture should be properly repositioned to its central role in national development; Nigeria should embark on cultural revolution before economic revolution like China, Japan and Korea to bring out the best values in her citizens; the government should undertake well-funded researches and documentation of all aspects of our culture to preserve it for the education of the future generation.’
It also resolved that ‘Nigeria’s cultural tourism potentials should be adequately harnessed through proper exposure of festivals, fiestas and sites, continuous interface of internal/domestic tourism that generates the inflow of international tourists and the adoption of the one village, one product strategy; culture should be placed at the centre of development; and that Nigeria can advance its image and relationship with the rest of the world through cultural diplomacy by promoting the positive aspects of things that are distinctively Nigerian in music, sports, art works, movies, clothing, cuisine and literature.’
Among speakers at the workshop were Prof. Olu Obafemi, Dr. Elizabeth Ben-Iheanacho, Prof. A. Adelakun, Prof. Barth Oshionebo, Dr. A. Olaoye, Dr. Mohammed Inuwa Buratia, Dr. Abba Gana Shettima, and Dr. Douglas Anene.
The Woman of Calabar goes on screen
The myths and misconceptions surrounding The Woman of Calabar will soon be uncovered for many Nigerians in their living rooms when the TV adaption of the Elechi Amadi’s play, The Woman of Calabar comes on air. Beyond that, the TV drama will bring to the fore issues of unity and love in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria, reports Assistant Editor Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME.
After years of stage presentations, Elechi Amadi’s The Woman of Calabar is being adapted for television in the second quarter of next year. The adaption of the play is being carried out by Bode Alao of the Kaymouzo Productions, a Lagos-based company. The production of the 13-episode TV serial, set in Ibadan, Port Harcourt and Calabar, has since commenced. It will feature popular artistes, such as Ngozi Nwosu, Tina Mba, Toyin Osinaike, Omobogogo Ombo, Emmanuel Ozzi, Ify Omalicha, Charles Iluluodu and Egechi Elechi Amadi.
Produced by Mrs. Victoria Emamouzo Ajayi and directed by Jide Alli, the serial brings to mind the erroneous beliefs and misconceptions about certain ethnic groups and people in the post-colonial Nigeria. It tells the intriguing story of a young Nigerian graduate surveyor, Eme, who falls in love with Adia, a ravishing beautiful girl of Efik extraction in Calabar, Cross River State.
But Eme’s mother, the over-protective Debo Akrika, would not have her only son get married to a Calabar girl. Mrs. Akrika’s anxieties are not unconnected with the age-long perceptions, which ascribe witchcraft and fetish inclinations to the average Calabar maiden. Worse still, the sad memory of Debo’s brother who suffered a cruel fate, allegedly in the hands of a Calabar lady, lingers. The above are the undercurrents that set the stage for a confrontation between Mrs. Akrika and Adia.
Despite the confrontation, two botched attempts to separate the lovers (Eme and Adia) set the stage for the final showdown between the Calabar woman and her estranged would-be mother-in-law. The Woman of Calabar is filled with romance, suspense, and a display of wits. Interestingly, the encounter between Mrs. Akrika and Adia culminates in a revelation that fosters a quick resolution of the conflict. The drama explores the theme of love and ethnic hatred.
Speaking on location in Lagos, Mrs. Ajayi said there is always a message in Elechi Amadi’s works and that the author is her role model. She noted that he plays around the many myths about a Calabar woman in the play.
Ngozi Nwosu (Mrs. Akrika) observed that the quality of the script spurred her interest in featuring in the production, saying the cast is equally very good and committed. She, however, warned the young producer to be passionate about the job otherwise she would be frustrated by many obstacles, especially funding.
On the message of the TV drama, Nwosu stressed that in these days of global village everyone should follow his or her heart and let love be no respecter of ethnic, religion or race.
Seventeen-year-old Egechi, daughter of Elechi Amadi, who is appearing on TV drama for the first time, said she was scared at first when given the script of the play. "But I was excited too to be part of the play because I enjoy the play. However, being Elechi Amadi’s daughter is a lot of burden for me because people expect a lot from you in terms of morality, behaviour and intelligence," she added.
For Ify Omalicha, at first, acting the role of a 19-year-old girl was her biggest challenge in the production of The Woman of Calabar. She has, however, overcome that after a series of researches on the Calabar woman and her myths, especially her memories of her father’s short stay in Calabar as a bachelor.