Feasting in murky water
Amid protests and controversies, Nasarawa State emerged overall winner of this year’s NAFEST, beating Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states to second and third position. The traditional wrestling competition was allegedly marred by controversies as Ogun state contingent protested the verdict of the judges in its bouts with Bayelsa counterpart, reports OZOLUA UHAKHEME
Despite postponements, this year’s NAFEST could not hit the appreciable mark in terms of organisation and attendance of state contingents. Of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, only 23 contingents participated in the opening of the festival that ended last Sunday amidst controversies and logistic bottlenecks. Except for the Brass Band’s sterling performances, the opening ceremony was predictable.
The opening that was held on Tuesday at the Uyo Township Stadium did not commence until two hours after and the organisers resulted into ‘dragging’ different cultural groups from the hosting state to perform as fillers. These impromptu performances kept the audience occupied until Governor Godswill Akpabio who came in company of his wife emerged shortly after his deputy.
Accessing the entrances to the stadium, venue of the opening would have remained impossible but for the local organising committee’s efforts,(using caterpillar to constantly spread sharp sand on the murky water that forms pool everywhere).
Like the opening, the welcome performance by the host state did not hold till around 11pm when most guests have left the Ibom Hall, Uyo, which was equally flooded by water, especially the open lawn where state contingents were expected to mount their stands.
The media centre was not more than a room with few plastic chairs and tables and two computer sets, which were used mostly by NCAC staff. No internet services for journalists to send reports just as programme of event became scarce commodity for journalists. Not until Wednesday, a day after the official opening, most journalists couldn’t get the brochure. But for the poor state of venues, the competitive and non-competitive activities like traditional wrestling, food fair, traditional music, crafts and expo exhibition, creative design and the special projects comprising DVD screenings events would have been successful.
Up till Thursday, November 4, states were still constructing stands for the display of their exhibits because the venue was flooded.
Speaking at the opening, President Goodluck Jonathan charged the government at all levels including the private sector to explore the potential inherent in the culture sector for even socio-economic development. He said culture could be used to be to diversify the economy for sustainable wealth creation.
On the gains of the festival since its inception 40 years ago, Jonathan who was represented by Governor Akpabio maintained that NAFEST has done a lot in preserving Nigeria’s unity and described the years cultural event as a bedrock of wholesome development, adding that it is a wake up call for stakeholders to pay greater attention to the sector, as it could provide the needed solutions to the problem of unemployment and poverty in the country.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, said the choice of Akwa Ibom as the host state for this year’s outing was predicated on the historical and cultural antecedents expressed in the flourishing cultural industries in the state. NAFEST, according to him, has evolved from its original concept of a tool for fostering national unity into a veritable instrument for economic development.
Mohammed noted that on assumption of office, he saw the need to repackage the culture and tourism sub-sector given its potential to lead the global economy in future.
He stressed that this year’s theme, Cultural Industries and Economic Empowerment, would be on audio visual presentation by the participating states to encourage global marketing of the sector.
Ogun State contingent that was awarded the most creative and innovative prize, allegedly petitioned the organisers of the festival, Mr. Mwajim Malgwi Maidugu-led National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), for being robbed of victory in the traditional wrestling competition between Ogun and Bayelsa states.
Literary festival first on my mind, by Amaechi
This year’s Garden City Literary Festival, which opens on December 8, will witness a historic meeting of two literary titans, Nobel laureates Prof. Wole Soyinka and J.M.G Le Clezio, the French writer who won 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State said he never had a nightmare over security when he initiated the Garden City Literary Festival three years ago. He said the take-off of the literary festival, which has attracted giants, such as Nobel laureates Prof. Wole Soyinka, JP Clark and Kenyan literary icon, Ngugi Wa’ Thiong’o and Kofi Awoonor, as well as young writers, such as Sefi Atta and Igoni Barrett, was the only issue on his mind.
This year’s festival, billed for December 8 to 11, will witness a historic meeting of two Nobel laureates — Soyinka and J.M.G Le Clezio, the French writer who won the 2008 Nobel Prize for literature. Le Clézio, who is one of the special guest writers at the festival, has more than thirty literary works to his name, including short stories, essays, novels and children books.
He began writing at seven and his first novel was published when he was 23. He has received many prestigious awards, including the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1991, he wrote the novel Onitsha, which was translated to English in 1997. Partly based on his childhood in Nigeria, the work recounts the journey made by a young European boy to the country. It tells the experiences of the boy, his family and the people they met in Nigeria.
Recounting what motivated him to initiate the festival, Amaechi explained that he wanted to use the annual literary festival as a forum for young writers to engage in critical issues.
He said: ‘It was to create that environment for more argument, for more creativity and to see where it will take us. It was also to create an environment where the young writer.”
Three years on, the festival has provided several opportunities for old and young writers to share ideas on writing skill and publishing challenges, among others.
He noted that he was moved by the size of the audience present at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) hall when Prof. Wole Soyinka was presenting his address during the second edition of the festival.
To him, the greatest fulfillment is using the forum to nurture a movement from culture of acquiring certificates to that of absorption of knowledge.
“In fact, that will be my greatest achievement. But to assess the impact of this, we really have to wait for some time. You can only measure my administration’s performance in education 20 years after I have left office. That will be when the quality of graduates from primary, secondary to tertiary levels will be measured,” he said in a chat with art editors in Port Harcourt.
Amaechi observed that after Chinua Achebe wrote the Man of People, which is a creation of post-independence politics, no Nigerian novel has ever made him laugh like Man of the People. He explained that the novel is one he could pick up and still read even though it is not a very radical piece. According to him, the novel belongs to the conservative school of thought which is incomparable to other Nigerian novels in terms of presenting a socialist view point.
“But, you can clearly say that it is a creation of the Nigerian politician of post-independence. If Achebe created the Anthills of the Savannah to present the picture of what the local government looks like in post-independence Nigerian politics, how many Nigerian writers are doing this?”
He expressed concern over the dearth of critics, saying: “I doubt if we have critics like the days of Yemi Ogunbiyi, Chidi Amuta and so on. There is a difference between critics and journalists who enjoy themselves in reporting literature. We have wonderful writers in the media and if you want to enjoy yourself you find many materials in the media. We used to celebrate critics when they came for conferences. I have gone to several conferences and I have not seen new critics being celebrated,” he added.
On the impact of the festival, he said the festival could not be used to measure the impact on literary growth in the state but that there is the need to up the creative efforts by making the tempo and gains worthwhile. He disclosed that if there are funds in the future, “we can think of Writers’ Forum where funds can be released to train people.”
Reacting to questions on plans to establish a Writers’ Village in the state, the governor said such proposal should come from Rainbow Books, manager of the festival, who must also come up with how to source the funds and the relevance of the village to the festival.
“But I have this mental picture of a Writers’ Village, a quiet environment. Can we find a quiet environment in Port Harcourt that is suitable for such? Port Harcourt is a very noisy place unlike Calabar,” he noted.
The festival will feature a book fair, photo exhibition (9ja@50), a collection of rare images of Nigeria at independence, workshop/master class, interaction, seminars, drama presentation of Love’s Unlike Lading by Femi Osofisan and A Feast of Return by Odia Ofeimun.