ktravula – a travelogue!

art. language. travel

Saworoidẹ Again

IMG_5604Yesterday, at the Lights Camera Africa Film Festival at the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos, this movie, Saworoidẹ, from the stable of Mainframe Opómúléró, was screened.

It is not a new film. It was released in 1999 (and, according to the director, was premiered during the inauguration ceremony of at least one state government in Nigeria during the transition to civil rule in 1999). It was however a fresh intervention both as a way to look back at the country and where we’ve been, and as a way to contrast today’s movie production to where the industry had been. That was not the stated objective, of course, of the showing. This is my conjecture, purely. The film was screened as part of an exhibition of films at the annual film festival.

For me seeing the movie again for the umpteenth time, and for my family members who were watching the show for the first time, it was a a trip back into a familiar cultural resource. From the regular folk songs strategically placed into parts of the movie to reinforce particular didactic points, to the copious but tasteful use of proverbs and aphorisms, Saworoidẹ delights in ways that can’t be successfully described to a non-Yorùbá speaker. Even for Yorùbá speakers not fully versed in the oral literature, some appreciation of the work might lack in depth, but never completely. The story is well told, well shot, and very well portrayed by the seasoned actors. It’s sad to imagine native speakers of Yorùbá not being able to fully appreciate all of what the work serves to the viewer.

For someone familiar with some of the actors in the film, the showing was also a drive through memory lane. Now deceased Dr. Lárìnde Akinlẹ̀yẹ‘s efficient portrayal of a corrupt chief was and remains a bitter-sweet treasure. The actor and professor died at 56 from injuries sustained in a motor accident in Ibadan in 2004, but not before appearing in a couple of films by Mainframe, including Ó Le Kú (1998), Thunderbolt Magun (2001), among many others.

One question I forgot to ask the director Túndé Kèlání during the Q&A session at the end was how the casting process was like which resulted in a presence of some of the biggest veterans in Nigerian media in many of his movies. Saworoidẹ was written by Professor Akínwùnmí Iṣọ̀lá, and stars as big as names like Adébáyọ̀ Fálétí, Tóyọ̀sí Arígbábuwó, Lérè Pàímọ, Akínwùnmí Iṣọ̀lá, Bukky Wright, a young Kúnlé Afọláyan and a young Kabirat Káfidípẹ̀, among others.

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Jeremy and the Boys

IMG_4023A reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Jeremy Grange, stopped by my workplace earlier in the week to talk about literature and linguistics, and the writing environment in Nigeria today. He is in town interviewing a number of Nigerian writers about the current state of the writing industry today. He was referred to me by a mutual colleague who thought that he would be interested in my work particularly the angle of the Nigerian language.


We met at my workplace, Whitesands School, talked for over half an hour about my writing, my childhood influences, my other work in promoting the use of indigenous languages on the internet, and other related topics. It was a lively and stimulating conversation. He mentioned, in the end, that my description of the language environment in Nigeria reminds him of Wales and the despair that many people felt about the language dying off. What the Welsh people did, he said, was to create an aggressive campaign to increase the use of the language in all spheres of life, and it worked. Welsh is now being spoken by more people than before. This is one incentive for me to visit the United Kingdom in the near future.


Pictures courtesy of Whitesands School

Talk eventually led to the literary work done by my students whose creative writing and art works were published earlier in the year in an anthology that we called The Sail. A second edition is in the works. The journalist wanted to speak with some of the boys whose work appeared in the book to get an idea of their literary influences and writing purpose. Five of those boys gladly obliged, taking some time out of class to talk about the books they read, what influenced their work in the anthology, and even reading excerpts from the book. In short, it was a hugely productive encounter.

I am grateful to Jeremy for stopping by, and to Emma Shercliff for connecting us. The programme, to be narrated by Nigerian writer Wana Udobang, will air in late October to early November, 2015. As soon as it airs on the BBC World Service (and posted on their website), I will put up the links here.

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Attempted Speech & Other Poems

Fatherhood-Chapbook-Web-page001-620x438Some good news! This morning, my first (adult*) chapbook of poems was published on Saraba Magazine. It is a collection of 15 (mostly*) never-before published poems. It is titled Attempted Speech & Other Fatherhood Poems.

Most of the poems centre around the birth of my child, my contemplations of the fatherhood process, and other ruminations about him, children in general, and surrounding experiences. Please head here and download it. It is free to download and to read.

The publication also features an interview with the magazine, along with readings of three of the poems in the chapbook, uploaded to Soundcloud. I hope you enjoy the package as much as I did writing it. Special thanks to Emmanuel Iduma, Dami Ajayi, and Adebiyi Olasope for their work in bringing this to life.


* I say “adult” only because I find it necessary to give a hat tip to my first (and altogether ill-fated) outing from ten years ago in a collection called Headfirst into the Meddle (2005). I say “mostly” because a few of the poems in this current collection, in a different form or another, have been featured/workshopped on my social media pages at some point in the past. In any case, ignoring occasional outing of one or two other poems in LitMags across the world, this is my first major literary debut in ten years.
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Calabar’s Old Residency

I came across this brilliant travel piece on Aljazeera a couple of days ago. It was written by Femke van Zeiji about a notable building in Calabar, South-South Nigeria, along with the histories it embodies. Worth a read.

“The Old Residency itself, however, could tell stories the museum does not. Like how, about 10 years ago, when looking down the hill, you might see Charles Taylor swinging his racket on the governor’s tennis court while enjoying the asylum the Nigerian government had granted him – and how the former Liberian president disappeared again in 2006 after Nigeria announced an end to its hospitality. Taylor is now serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes in a UK prison.

The Old Residency also served as a prison. At the back of the wooden building rises a white stone annex that used to house the kitchen. It was in the cellar below this kitchen that Oba Ovonramwen of Benin was imprisoned in 1897.

He was the monarch of one of the last independent kingdoms in the region and was resisting annexation by the British. In 1897, a military invasion put an end to that independence. British soldiers burnt down the city of Benin, killing many of its inhabitants and looting its treasures; countless pieces of art – some of which can still be found in museums in Britain and elsewhere outside Nigeria. The string-headed Oba was eventually imprisoned in the cellar that now serves as the computer room of the museum.”


Read more about it here where from these excerpts were taken.

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 The Nigerian Prize for Literature: Children’s Fiction 2015

(Being a speech given today at the World Press Conference of the NLNG Nigerian Prize for Literature 2015 Award by Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, Chairman, Advisory Board, Nigerian Prize for Literature)


The Nigeria Prize for Literature sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited was instituted in 2004 with the aim of promoting literature and recognizing excellence. The initiative has witnessed steady progress since inception. The prize rotates among four genres namely – Poetry, Drama, Fiction and Children’s Literature. The 2015 The Nigeria Prize for Literature competition is for Children’s Literature.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has since 2004 rewarded eminent writers such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2005, poetry), Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2005, poetry); Ahmed Yerima (2006, drama) for his classic, Hard Ground;  Mabel Segun (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her collection of short plays Reader’s Theatre; Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) with her book, My Cousin Sammy; Kaine Agary (2008, prose); Esiaba Irobi (2010, drama) who clinched the prize posthumously with his book Cemetery Road; Adeleke Adeyemi (2011, children’s literature) with his book The Missing Clock; Chika Unigwe (2012, prose), with her novel, On Black Sister’s Street; Tade Ipadeola (2013, Poetry) with his collection of poems, Sahara Testaments and Sam Ukala (2014, drama) with Iredi War. In 2004 and 2009, there were no winners.

Perhaps at this point, it is necessary to explain very briefly what children’s literature entails. Children’s literature reflects the cultural milieu, norms and values of any given society. It molds, teaches, corrects, entertains and crucially inspires the next generation of readers and writers. In most of the entries for this year’s contest, it was discovered that inappropriate prominence was given to the following: violence, eroticism, mediocrity, cheating in examinations, bullying, exploration in mysticism and negative peer-pressure.

A distinction needs to be made between children’s literature and literature about children. Children’s literature should be a creative works of aesthetic and social values for children.

This year, 109 entries were received. Eighty-nine (89) entries did not meet the preliminary criteria for assessment. This number represents 81.6% of the total number of entries received for 2015. The percentage by any standard is worrying; especially as there is a paucity of literature for children. Creative writers are urged to pay particular attention to children’s literature because this is the fundamental stage for child growth and consequently national development. In this year’s competition, the following criteria were used for assessing the entries: language\diction, theme(s)/content, social relevance, style, quality of production and originality.

Language plays a major role in literary production. Creative writers are normally expected to pay special attention to the use of language, particularly so with regard to children’s literature. The Nigeria Prize for Literature demands stylistic excellence as manifested through an original and authoritative voice, narrative coherence, and technically accurate writing. Unfortunately, the entries this year fall short of this expectation as each book was found to manifest incompetence in the use of language. Generally, published works are expected to be attractive, attention-catching and of good quality. The entries assessed for the 2015 The Nigeria Prize for Literature competition did not reflect the above qualities to an acceptable degree. Many of them showed very little or no evidence of good editing.

In view of the above assessment, it is clear that no entry met the standard expected of a good literary work of children’s literature. Therefore none of the entries is found suitable for the 2015 The Nigeria Prize for Literature Award.

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