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THE VIRGIN AND THE NARROW PATH MOVIE NIGERIAN FORUM, FORUMS, SOCIAL NETWORK, NIGERIA JOB FORUM, BLOG, WEBSITE, SITE, NOLLYWOOD, ONLINE MESSAGE BOARDJanuary 27, 2010
NIGERIAN LITERATURE IS RAISING AGAIN ACCORDING TO BROTHER LINDSEY BARRETT-FROM THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER,OCT.17,2009October 17, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Nigeria’s Literature At Odds With Her Poor Politics, Says Lindsay Barrett
LINDSAY Barrett is one Diaspora Pan-Africanist, who boldly stuck out his head in the heady days of the 1960s to relocate from Jamaica to parts of West Africa before settling down finally in Nigeria. He was consumed in the vibrant Literature and cultural life of the land he chose to make his home and significantly made his contributions as journalist and writer. Although in his late 60s, Barrett is still active in his journalistic and creative engagements that have earned him fame. More than these, his relevance as a writer also came to the fore recently when he was shortlisted, along other eight nominees, for the NLNG Prize for Literature with his new work, A Memory of Rivers. However, at the Grand Awards Night ceremony last weekend in Abuja, the judges said no winner emerged, and thus, the prize money of $50, 000 was decreed to be given to the Nigerian Academy of Letters to develop Literature. In this encounter with ANOTE AJELUOROU, Barrett reminisces on the journey back to his African roots and the milestones so far. Excerpts:
IT would look like you have been there forever, even while still having your works relevant to issues of today. When you look back at this long stretch of involvement in Nigerian Literature, what really occurs to you?
I’m always saddened by the fact that Nigeria has produced the greatest body of Literature of relevance and strength of any African nation yet little matching national development. Its work is as important if not more so to the rest of Africa than any national Literature, like South African Literature of resistance, Ghanaian Literature of political awareness. Nigerian Literature has cut across all formulas and yet we have produced a national Literature that seems to be at odds with our seeming inability to get the administrative strength of our nation right.
I came to Nigeria directly because I was influenced by her Literature. I came to Africa because I wanted to renew the spirit of ancestral hope. I felt that there was hope in knowing where you came from and that we could renew our links, that we could strengthen our systems.
But for anybody coming from the Diaspora, you don’t have to choose any one country. Quite frankly, if you come from Jamaica, you may be inclined more to Ghana. There is a strong sense of the Akan story in the Afro-centric areas of Jamaica. If you are from Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba or Brazil, you get inclined to Yoruba. If you come from Haiti, you will look back to Angola or Central Africa. Once you begin to know about cultures, you see similarities, you see polarities that attract you. So, if one is academically inclined, you may have a sense of this root movement. I have not been so inclined. I tried to be a Pan-Africanist. For me I look at the contemporary, political issues and see all Africa’s relevance in trans-nationality terms.
But through Nigeria’s Literature I found that there seemed to be a chart. I saw Nigeria producing such rich Literature. There was no constant interaction between the creative and the service sector. When I came that was a disappointment, but Nigerians continue to be the most creative people, expressing creative elements in African life.
By failing to do something, you inspire criticism. You have Soyinka; you have Chinua Achebe and the rest. So Nigeria is a paradox by failing to meet the expectation of those who have the highest expectation. It throws up incredible responses. And, that keeps happening; that is what creative people do. That is what is happening in Literature today. But unfortunately, look at your media (the Radio, the Television), which should be the public media throwing this expression out so that people become infused with the spirit.
Our modern media is behind in Literature. When I came into this country, I lived on writing at least two serious radio drama every month and I re-branded for four years. I lived on programme production, producing a programme called ‘The story-teller’. I wrote two stories every forth-night. I was paid 7 pounds, 7 shillings but because I had the facility to do that and the medium was there to do it, I could make a living but you can’t do that now. Our media has fallen behind even the musical aspect of the media is less than what it was.
When I came into the country, there was a newspaper called, Daily Express. I remembered that the literary days in the Sunday Express was as good as any newspaper. There were incredible critiques from people like J.P. Clark and others. And so we are living a life where the spirit is willing but the material reflex is weak.
There was a time you had small group talking literary stuffs like the Mbari Club. But such things do not seem to happen any more?
Basically, the tradition did not catch up and take hold of its own creative tone. And we had the period of materialism that came up in the oil boom years, and people became enamoured; these things became less important. What is also probably responsible is the fact that nobody really got around to finding a way to make a living out of the arts as pop music and others.
There’s no one place that Soyinka’s plays are regularly staged and viewed; nowhere, and yet we have so many brilliant playwrights among the old groups that came out of Soyinka – the late Wale Ogunyemi and Bode Sowande and so on. It’s sad because we all lionise Wole. But I always tell my son that the tragedy is, all of you that lionise Wole, how many of you have read his books? But how many of those that shout loudest about Wole actually know something about his works that appeal to them.
I wish that all the taxi drivers had seen the ‘road’ in his plays. I wish everybody that shouts about him really know what Jero is, really could see the role Jero played in his book Trials of Brother Jero. This man is an artist of a popular sensitivity, but he has been put in his compartment and seen as an obscurantist, which he is not to me. We throw up great artists but we do not actually live and believe in their work. We’re all part of the fault, really.
Amongst those personalities you have mentioned: Soyinka, Clark, Okigbo and the rest. Which of them did you have more bonding with at the time?
I don’t see differences; I see similarities. The person who got me this hotel accommodation is Wole’s son, who is like my son like other Wole’s children. They know how I interact with their father. Christopher Okigbo was the first person I really bonded with in this country when I got here and he died shortly after that.
He was the one who put me in Mbari as secretary. J.P. Clark was the person who insisted that I should come to Nigeria when we met in London in 1961 or so. I was producing a programme with some Nigerian writers, and J.P. was one of them. So he said, what the hell are you doing in Europe, a man like you? You belong in Africa; you belong among us. You come to Nigeria; any time you get to Nigeria, you’ll see that we are your people. You know how J.P. talks. I took it as a joke but five years later, I remembered it when I was living in Sierra Leone; and I told myself, why not go to Nigeria?
The truth is that in my life, I just make friends and they all had some meaning to me in their works. J.P. Clark’s The Raft was actually one of the things that drove me to writing plays, and I wrote several plays. I did not act in it but I did effect in a radio production of The Raft in London. And, it was an excellent, extraordinary work.
It reminded very much of my home in Jamaica, my actual home, which is near the sea. When I got to Paris, I wrote a series of plays that were produced. Well, I don’t know where most of my works are, unfortunately. It was during the Commonwealth Festival in 1965. It was a play largely influenced by The Raft. That was a play called John Pukumaka. Pukumaka is a Jamaican term for big stick. They have influenced me in various ways.
Wole strongly influenced me not so much by his works but his activism, social activism. We have not always seen eye to eye, politically; but I strongly respect his commitment to whatever he believes in. After all, when Wole was in detention I was serving the Nigerian government on the federal side seeking to prevent secession. At that time, my biggest fear was the balkanisation of Nigeria.
Some people asked me after nearly 50 years in Nigeria, if that thing happens again, would you be on the same side? Now, I’m not so sure what side I will be. I will just pack my bags and leave. At that time we had this block against Africa’s division, and I empathise and sympathise with Wole’s plight because Wole did not promote secession. Wole believed that we need a different mood in the federal side to encourage the Igbo not to go rather than to fight them physically to prevent them going. That was his theme.
The people I was working with were no less patriotic than him. But they felt that the other side was less altruistic than Wole thought. Of course, in a military era, things were not always as planned. When I was working on the federal side, it was made publicly known that I was praying for and advocating for the release of Wole Soyinka.
I have always gotten away with that in Nigeria. I suppose it’s because I’m a very poor man and nobody thinks I have any interest. So when I make these comments, Wole will say, don’t mind Barrett. But we remain friends even when we fall on different sides on any argument but I will support him to hold his side.
With the kind of disappointment that greeted you on Africa’s failures, why didn’t you pack your bags and head back home to Jamaica or Europe?
Where do I go again? I have made my life here; I’m 68 years. This year I will be 43 years in Africa. I have been back to Europe several times and I have lived elsewhere. I was in Liberia before the civil war came. But it’s not something you can just give up. Remember that the objective I have in coming to Africa will always be there no matter how disappointing I get.
I have several children here and in Liberia, and I live for their sake, whether they know it or not. If I lived in Jamaica or Europe, I could live off writing. But the fulfillment of struggling to put in place the renewal will not be there. I have said I may be disappointed by things that have happened in Nigeria but I’m not totally disappointed by Nigerians because the struggle continues.
Like the event that happened recently (the CORA Party for nine shortlisted poets for the Nigeria Prize for Literature); it means there is progress at certain levels. The other thing is that one doesn’t just give up because your life is not your own. So, I don’t have the right to give up.
I was telling somebody that Nigeria is celebrating her 50th birthday next year. Nearly everyone I told said, what are we celebrating? They said we are celebrating nothing. I said, no; celebrate the fact that you have survived so far because of the civil war of such brutality when you were not 10 years old. And you call yourselves Nigerians 40 years after that civil war.
We who are inside Nigeria tend not to know the extent to which we are actually better off than many others. The challenge that we have to overcome is to assume our full potential, but not to say we have achieved nothing. We have achieved a lot. History has it that Nigeria picked the bills of anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. Abacha, who we all abuse, is the same who brought peace to Sierra Leone.
Somehow, the President is looking to 2020 to set a target that can be owned. Why don’t we own our mistakes and our triumphs in the last 50 years? We don’t. Nigeria’s failures have been so spectacular that why not just celebrate the fact that we could fail so spectacularly and still be alive?
We seem to over-look not only our potentials but sometimes, willingly fail to recognise the opportunities offered us. We should work harder to own our opportunities more in the next 50 years; that should be our concern.
How familiar are you with writings coming out of Nigeria at the moment? And, are you satisfied?
There are lots of incredible writings going on. One of those I can say without fear of being challenged for nepotism is when I say my son, Igonibare (Igoni Barrett), is one of the finest writers I have seen over the years.
I’m particularly happy to say I have nothing to do with developing his talent. What I did was when I saw his talent I told him I admire it and asked him to keep it up. I have distanced myself from promoting him until he could see any of his achievement, which resulted to his book of poems that is recognised globally as a brilliant work. This made me happy.
But he is not the only one. There’s an interesting thing going on among the women. You have Chimamanda; she is a brilliant writer although I still have my reservations about her style. But, no problem. The real original is Sefi Attah. I haven’t really read much of her works except excerpts on the web but she writes beautifully. There are two others, who have not gotten equal recognitions. One of them is Kaine Agary, who won the LNG prize with Yellow Yellow last year; brilliant book.
Then there is a girl, Bimbola Adelakun with her Under the Brown Rusted Roofs. The book is not well put together. If I had the money I really would have loved to publish that book. It’s an extraordinary book. I find her potentially much more satisfying than Chimamanda, who is, herself, quite a talent. Then there is a book called Burma Boy (by Bandele Thomas, a Nigeria resident in Great Britain); extremely brilliant. Nigeria is producing a national Literature totally at odds with her inability to get her politics and management of her affairs correct.
There is so much other stuffs coming out that is not properly produced, not properly edited and so on. It means there is a lot bubbling in the pot, and how to get it out. What we need today is the coming together of the media to make this industry big.
As it was before, Nigeria Literature is beginning to have world audience again. It had it before, and it’s coming like a second time around. I think government should take note of this and encourage essay competitions, literary clubs in schools. It’s clear that the world wants to hear Nigeria; and, they want to hear something better.
In most parts of the word, Literature has a way of permeating into politics and governance. But here those who govern don’t even read the available books on major issues. Why is this so?
Actually, I can’t agree with you more. Literature elsewhere is an integral part of the spirit of governance because it has influence on those who govern.
I think that in Nigeria, an important cause of this dichotomy goes back to education. The average Nigerian is not educated enough to treat Literature as a vital element of service. And, what is regarded as higher is making money to sustain the family. But the truth is that Literature is the basis on which everything else is based.
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Sun. 7th Sept. 2008
Two entries make literature prize shortlist
By Akintayo Aboderin
AgaryKAINE Agary’s Yellow-Yellow and Jude Dibia’s Unbridled have been short listed for this year’s Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) sponsored Literature Prize.
The literature committee comprising of emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, Chief Joop Berkhout, Professor Charles Nnolim, Mr. Ben Tomoloju, Professor Dan Izevbaye, Mrs. Pheabean Ogundipe, Professor Theo Vincent, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, Mr. Dan Obidiegwu, Professor Munzali Jubril and Alhaji Abubakar Gimba made the announcement on Thursday in Lagos.
The Professor Theo Vincent led committee, in a departure from announcing a shortlist of three works announced only the two works as being of sufficient quality to vie for this year’s award. The two books emerged from a long list of 11 novels released a few weeks earlier. The 11 initial books are: Ozioma Izuora’s Dreams Deferred, Mark Nwagwu’s Forever Chimes, Obi Akwani’s March of Ages, Outrage by Promise Ogochukwu, The Conquest by Chinedu Eze, Treasure in the Winds by Odili Ojubuonu, Jude Dibia’s Unbridled, Abimbola Adunni Adelakun’s Under the Brown Rusted Roof, When the wind blows by Camillus Chima Ukah, Yellow-Yellow by Kaine Agary and Wuraola Forever by Femi Osofisan writing as Okinba Launko.
The committee noted that the two works were of outstanding quality. The winner, if any eventually emerges, will be honoured at the Grand Award Night which will hold on October 11 at the MUSON Centre.
DibiaBoth works vying for the award centre on the lives of women trying to make sense of their existence. In Yellow-Yellow, Agary looks at the life of a young girl of Greek and Nigerian parentage struggling to find an identity for herself in Port Harcourt, while Dibia in Unbridled, focuses on a woman who is determined to be independent from the men who have dominated her life.
While Yellow-Yellow is Agary’s first book, Unbridled is Dibia’s second novel. His first book, Walking with Shadows, won the ANA/NDDC Ken Saro-Wiwa Prize in 2007.
If one of the authors emerges winner of this year’s award, s/he will walk away with a $50,000 prize money, an increase from last year’s $30,000. The prize drew a lot of controversy in 2004 when none of the works, due to their supposed poor quality, was deemed worthy of the prize. In 2005 and 2007, the prize had joint winners: Gabriel Okara/Ezenwa Ohaeto and Mabel Segun/Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo respectively.
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“FROM NOLLYWOOD TO NOLLYWEIGHT?OR REFLECTIONS ON THE POSSIBILITIES OF LITERATURE AND BURGEONING FILM INDUSTRY IN NIGERIA”BY PROF. FEMI OSOFISAN FROM AFRICULTURES.COMMay 19, 2008
From Nollywood to Nollyweight ? or, Reflections on the Possibilities of Literature and the Burgeoning Film Industry in Nigeria
by Prof. Femi Osofisan
publié le 18/07/2006
[Cet article est pour le moment disponible exclusivement en anglais] Being the text of keynote by Prof Femi Osofisan – dramatist, actor and director and lecturer at the University of Ibadan – to the 6th ITPAN FORUM, held July 6 to 8, 2006, at the Lagos Business School, Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.
Ladies and gentlemen,
1 The first appropriate gesture I must make, on this platform, is that of gratitude. With your kind permission, I want to use this opportunity to publicly express my gratitude to the entire artist community, my friends, and all well-wishers who have so warmly and so generously rejoiced with me on the occasion of my birthday. What a wonderful world – to paraphrase the great bard – that has such good and friendly people in it !
Next, please also allow me to thank the organizers of this Forum, for the honour of being asked to give this keynote address. I am not myself, as you all know, a film maker. I am just one of your customers.
I take it therefore that, if you have asked me to give the keynote address today, it is because you want some feed-back from your audience. That is something certainly that I can offer, and I hope I will not disappoint you. My business is literature, not film. I deal with words, with the texture and architecture of the written phrase ; you with pictures and frames, the tones of light and shadow, colour and chiaroscuro. As a dramatist, I tell stories, just as you also do ; but only for the stage, and not for the screen. However, already in that magical territory of fabulation, of story-telling and myth-making, you can see where we have a meeting place and share a common interest.
This means that we should be able to work together, we writers and film-makers, as indeed we have witnessed in other countries and in other film industries. But so far this kind of collaboration has been rare in the Nigerian film industry. And it is this lapse I intend to talk about today.
2 The enormous commercial success of the contemporary film in Nigeria – at least of the genre that has come to be known as “Nollywood” – is now a familiar, if astonishing, fact.
Everywhere you care to travel, both within the country and outside our borders, the Nollywood films, you will discover, would have preceded you with their ubiquitous presence. In most African homes on the continent or in the Diaspora, the films have established themselves conspicuously as the staple diet of domestic entertainment. And in places as far distant from one another as Nouakchott or Ndjamena, Banjul or Nairobi, even the minor stars are household names. Like the icons of the football field, they adorn the covers of glamorous magazines ; their lives provide the juicy menu of the gossip journals and newspapers ; some of them are better known than many heads of state.
Such has indeed been the scintillating tale of the Nollywood adventure that even the Federal government, not normally known to accord any importance to mere artists, however gifted, startled all of us recently by coming out openly to shower encomium on the industry and its practitioners. It even talks of collaborating with them for some future projects !
This is by any consideration a most phenomenal story, for a business that began almost by accident, was sustained by expediency, and has not benefited from the support of either the political Establishment or the orthodox financial institutions. A totally homegrown industry, all that has kept it afloat and buoyant has been the fabled ingenuity of the Nigerian entrepreneur !
It will never cease to be a marvel then, the fact that a group of half-literate dramatists of the popular travelling theatre tradition, seeing their trade tottering on the brink of extinction because of the harsh economic policies of the time, could, out of desperation and entirely on their own volition, seize a hitherto neglected and subsidiary technology, and, in alliance with spare parts traders and such small-scale businessmen, harness it with such inventiveness that they have turned it into a multi-million naira business, till their products have almost completely displaced the far more sophisticated, far more technically competent products of Hollywood and Bollywood.
Without any precedent example, without recourse to foreign assistance, without the benefit of hefty budgets or of any of the dazzling gadgetry of Hollywood, the Nigerian Nollywood outstripped all its former predecessors and competitors, within the first decade of its birth, and initiated a completely novel cinematic genre. It is worth a celebration.
3 So, in the wake of these sterling achievements that it has garnered, how does one dare voice any negative criticism of the industry – “that is, without the risk of subjecting oneself voluntarily to derision or abuse from its practitioners ? Especially if one has himself never produced a single film, how can one criticize without seeming to be asking to be fed with hemlock ?
But it is a gamble nevertheless that one has to take, if only because the industry is one that has enormous implications for our people’s development. The films have been proven to exercise a tremendous impact on our people’s minds, on their ways of thinking and their habits of perception, on their attitude to the world, to work, to family, to their neighbours. The films also have significant influence on the way that others see us, and hence on the way they relate to us. We cannot but be concerned therefore about what they are saying, what attitudes they are promoting, what image of us they are projecting.
Precisely because they have deservedly won ovation everywhere, the Nollywood films have come to assume an authority over our values and our lives, such that what people see in them comes to be taken not as just a fictional projection by one imaginative consciousness, but as the true, authentic mirror of what we really are, as a veritable marker of what our society represents, and much worse, of the ideal that we aspire, or must aspire, towards.
This is where the films present us with a great dilemma, and where, in spite of our pleasure, we must take a stand in the interest of our collective survival. For we cannot but remark that, however popular the films may be, and however much in demand, the picture that the majority of them present of our world is one that we must not only interrogate, but indeed reject very strongly, if what we seek is the transformation of our society into a modern, progressive state.
I will not, as you know, be the first to make this complaint. Even our friends outside have voiced the same unease about the ambiguity of Nollywood. The common question that people ask, as you know, is – “why this unceasing preoccupation with juju, this relentless celebration of dark rituals and diabolical cults ? Practically every Nollywood director seems to have been caught in the spell – “mix a diet of grotesque murders and cacophonous chants and bizarre incantations, and smile all the way to your bank !
Then, again, those who wish to be different from the rest, who want to demonstrate the ineffectual power of juju rituals, what do they do ? They show us scenarios where the brutish African cults and priests are overpowered and devastated by the agents of Christianity ! Thus one mythology replaces another – “this time the one imported from abroad simply replaces the barbaric local variant. Tarzan is reborn, only this time in black skin, and wearing a cassock ! And it is a sign of the deep damage done to our psyche and our consciousness by decades of European proselytizing that the filmmakers themselves are blissfully unaware of the racist and cultural implications of this fare they offer to the public !
4 What I am saying is that, with all their commercial success, our films parade a number of serious deficiencies, viewed from the cultural and ideological perspectives. These have been summarized before into four broad areas, and I will rapidly recall them here, as follows : – First, is their lack of thematic profundity, of subtlety and complexity in characterization, and the repetitiousness of the scenarios ; – Second, the lack of adventurousness in the area of filmography, or is it “videography” ; with the most basic rules in such matters as costuming, lighting make-up and so on, being regularly compromised ; – Third, the promotion of superstitious habits, of the belief in miracles and witchcraft rather than in concrete, empirical extrapolations and direct physical participation in social struggle. This, ironically in spite of the fact that all the special effects they employ to conjure up their magic are achieved only with the aid of technology, with scientifically-manufactured implements ; – And the fourth, the most serious of them all, is their open promotion of cultural alienation and inferiority complex among our people, even more brazenly than the colonialists and their films did.
It is not of course that the films deliberately set out to do these things. Rather, these perceived deficiencies are due, obviously, to what one may describe as the intellectual deficit of the people involved in the profession. [Now one has to be careful here, not to appear to be patronizing these practitioners or to be undervaluing their intelligence.]
What I mean, to be more precise, is that those who provide the financial means, as well as those who conceive the scenarios for Nollywood are, for the most part, only interested in film as a fast business, as a means merely of making quick money and raking a quick profit, (just like their imported spare second-hand goos), and so can not be bothered by the larger aesthetic or ontological dimensions of film production.
This is why indeed there is most often no script available at all for the actors on most locations ; what you will get is only a scenario, or a series of scenarios, which will be verbally announced by the director or producer as a general guide for improvisation, just as in the old days of the travelling theatres.
5 Given all these problematic areas, all these cultural and philosophical anxieties, the suggestion has been made that what we need for Nollywood is a stricter and more extensive form of censorship. Some have even called for an outright ban.
But censorship is never safe nor fool-proof, nor even predictable. It is not to be trusted ; it can be a dangerous tool in the hands of dictators. Especially with our experience so far of government as terrorism in Nigerian history, it will be most careless of us to assume that the ogre of dictatorship can never rise any more to haunt us. To approve of censorship in such circumstances is to deliberately shut our eyes to danger, and help prepare the way for our own eventual subjugation.
In any case, the effect of censorship is quite often to drive the forbidden good underground, and, like cocaine, make it even more attractive to the consumers. There is such a fervent demand by our people for films that whatever they find available will be gobbled up as soon as it comes out, whatever its quality, and however much they complain afterwards about it. This compulsive appetite of our people, this uncritical and almost insatiable demand for film products should, in my opinion, be a guide about what solutions to suggest.
I want to recommend therefore that, instead of wasting our time with censorship, the line that will be more productive for us to pursue, in order to displace the deficient films from the market, is simply to embark on the production of an alternative repertoire of films, and to making sure that they are abundantly available for consumers. Now, this is where I believe that we writers can come in, as it has been done in other places. An alliance between film makers and the producers of literature is what I believe is most urgent for the necessary recuperative work that Nollywood requires, and deserves.
Our writers are not only good story-tellers, but they have proved for the most part to be story-tellers concerned not primarily with material gratification, but rather, with the overall wellbeing of the community. They entertain, but also instruct and enlighten. They propagate our cultural heritage, but without necessarily glorifying superstition or on the other hand, deliberately demonizing our local religions and customs. They have, that is, the ingredients to enrich and radicalize Nollywood, even while boosting its revenue potential. A good number of books are there on the bookshelves that can be made into profit-yielding projects on film.
Only Tunde Kelani, (and the younger less well-known Demola Aremu), have tried so far, to my knowledge, to exploit the potentials of this fruitful collaboration, but it is no exaggeration to state the immense success that TK has reaped, and is still reaping, from the venture. Almost all his films, until recently, were film adaptations of the works of Professor Akinwunmi Isola, one of our most talented writers, and they helped catapult TK to his position of eminence among the film producers.
There are two possible ways of undertaking the kind of collaboration that I am calling for. The first is to select from a number of successful books already in print, and adapt them for the screen. Here, one can suggest a few titles, apart from the already much-recycled Things Fall Apart. There are also the same author”s Arrow of God, Man of the People, or Anthills of the Savannah. From Cyprian Ekwensi, there are Jagua Nana, the sequel, Jagua Nana”s daughter, The Passport of Mallam Illia, Iska, and so on ; Elechi Amadi”s The Great Ponds ; Onuora Nzekwu”s Danda, Chukwuemeka Ike”s Toads for Supper, Wole Soyinka”s Ake, Isara, and Season of Anomy ; Saro Wiwa”s Sozaboy ; and numerous recent works by Eddie Iroh, Ifeoma Okoye, Zaynab Alkali, Ogochukwu Promise, Akachi Ezeigbo, Maik Nwosu, Okey Ndibe, Helen Oyeyemi, Tony Marinho, Chimamamba Adichie, Sefi Atta, and others.
Apart from novels, there are also very dramatic plays which could yield exciting film scripts, such as the works of Sam Ukala, Olu Obafemi, Ahmed Yerimah, Akinwunmi Isola, Bayo Faleti, Emman Nwabueze – ¦ the list is long ! Nor does the choice have to be confined to only those books written by Nigerian authors. In both East and Southern Africa alone, there are thousands of books waiting for an adventurous film maker !
The second approach I can recommend is for you to liaise with some of the established writers mentioned above, and to commission them to produce original scripts. You will be amazed by what you would generate from them, and then from others who will be inspired by them. Certainly the current bogey of thin stories and trivial or merely sensational themes, of insipid dialogue and worn verbal and lexical garbage, of dull and uninspiring plots, and so on, will become a thing of the past, if the film-makers agree to exploit this idea of collaboration with our writers.
And instead of “Nollywood”, what we will be celebrating, come next season, will be the advent of “Nollyweight !”
I thank you for your attention,
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Selected Comments on the Wizard of the Crow
Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o “mounts a nuanced but caustic political and social satire of African corruption of African society with a touch of magical realism – or, perhaps, realistic magic, as the Wizard’s tricks hung on holding a not-so-enchanted mirror to his client’s hidden delusions. The result is a sometimes lurid, sometimes lyrical reflection on Africa’s dysfunctions – and its possibilities.” STARRED REVIEW Publishers Weekly, August, 2006.
“Magic realism drives this mammoth novel set in the imaginary African country of Aburiria, and exiled Kenyan writer wa Thiong’o roots the wild fantasy in the brutal horror of contemporary politics. His ridicule of the powerful knows no bounds as the novel chronicles greed and corruption in Aburiria and in the West, including the Global Bank’s funding of the Aburirian ruler’s Marching to Heaven Tower of Babel. But even more than the crazy plot of coup, countercoup, flattery, and betrayal, what holds the reader here is the intimate story of one couple. Quiet secretary Nyawira, secret leader of the people’s resistance movement, persuades her intellectual lover, Kamiti, to give up his search for himself in the wild, and they embark on a plan to change the world, with Kamiti disguised as a sorcerer. Set off by the global farce, this unforgettable love story reveals the magic power of the ordinary in people and in politics.” HAZEL ROCHMAN. Booklist.
“Ngugi has perfected in Wizard of the Crow an art of radical simplicity, of sharply defined conflicts that, paradoxically, is less reductive than ostensibly more nuanced accounts of Africa proffered by historians and political analysts. At once an epic burlesque of a sick lumbering state and a praise song to the manifold forms of African resistance, the phantasmagoric saga of Aburiria is as clear a view of Africa as we are likely to get for sometime.” JAMES GIBBONS, Bookforum, Summer 2006.
“I have every expectation that his new novel, Wizard of the Crow, will be seen in years to come as the equal of Midnight’s Children, The Tin Drum or One Hundred Years of Solitude; a magisterial magic realist account of 20th-century African history. It is unreservedly a masterpiece.” STUART KELLEY, Scotland on Sunday, August 13, 2006.
“In its best scatological moments, it echoes the great Latin American novels of dictatorship by Miguel Angel Asturias, Carlos Fuentes, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez…. It now stands as a vivid portrait of postcolonialism and the banality of evil.” SIMON GIKANDI, in a review of the Gikuyu original in Foreign Policy.
“Ngugi writes with bite on contemporary African themes like corruption and sexual discrimination, but he isn’t caustic or heavy handed. It’s magical realism meets Africa, and it hits the mark.” FLORENCE WILLIAMS, Outside, August, 2006.
“In his crowded career and eventful life, Ngugi has enacted, for all to see, the paradigmatic trials and quandaries of a contemporary African writer, caught in sometimes implacable political, social, racial, and linguistic currents …The tale is fantastic and didactic, told in broad strokes . . . its principal actors wear physical distortions like large, firelit masks.” JOHN UPDIKE, The New Yorker, July 31, 2006.
“The pull and promise of Wizard of the Crow … is evident in the labyrinthine wonders of its opening chapters, which involve the authors most raucus and ambitious combination to-date of satire, social realism and supernatural occurrence.” RANDY BOYAGANDA, Harper’s Magazine, September, 2006.
“The effort to throw off the[se] shadow chains of the [colonia] past while establishing an authentically African continuum has been at the thematic center of much African literature, but in Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s epic novel, “Wizard of the Crow,” this theme may well have found its ultimate expression….[I]t is essential reading for a world that only seems now to be finally waking up to its own reality, bathed in a vision of ever potential hope.” DAVID HELLMAN, San Francisco Chronicle.
“For all the angry force of Mr. Ngugi’s storytelling, his tale ends on a note of hope and, indeed, happiness. “Wizard of the Crow” is not a nostalgic celebration of folk-wizardry, as if quaint belief will solve the troubles brought on by Africa’s encounter with the modern world. It is, though, a reminder that people can find within themselves redemptive resources.” ROGER KAPLAN, The Wall Street Journal.
“This delirious comedy feeds on itself… At its deepest level … the novel is really about re-centering the author’s discourse in Africa itself by a radical focus on multiple African voices. There are many tellers of tales in this saga, and each has an individual authenticity.” KEITH GAREBIAN, Globe and Mail, August 19, 2006.
“Aburiria is recognisable as Africa in all its splendour, squalor, economic malaise and venality, but it comes with more than a touch of magical realism. (…) Despite the book’s faults, it is hard not to be cheered by the spirit of gentle resistance that is at its core, in defiance of everyday greed.” The Economist.
“Wizard of the Crow is the most ambitious entry yet from a writer whose output feels essential for those hoping to understand contemporary Africa.” GREGORY MILLER, The San Diego-Union Tribune, August 6, 2006.
“The shades of humour range from the caustic when lampooning a corrupt politician to affectionate when exposing the frailty of ordinary struggling to survive … it is also a love story that leaves lingering tenderness.” RUTH WILDGUST, Post-IE, The Sunday Business Post.
“Wizard of the Crow … is an impish and hallucinatory satire on dictatorship — as though Saddam Hussein had won a coup d’état in Wonderland, then sent Alice and the rabbit to a Soviet labour camp.” Sunday Times (London), August 26, 2006.
“This novel is restless, epic, allusive. Ngugi wa Thiong’o gives himself scope to tackle big themes, to explore the nature of political oppression and corruption. His book attempts to explode assumptions about the essence of reality. It blurs and frequently juxtaposes visions of everyday consciousness and visionary truth… This is a book about choosing sides. A book above all about the individual’s responses to moral dilemmas… It’s a book of wonderful purple phases (the greatest lyrical description of making love I have ever read, a marvelous evocation of wilderness).” TOM ADAIR, The Scotsman, August 12, 2006.
“Why should a reader invest in Wizard of the Crow nearly 800-page bulk? Simply because this novel is a literary masterpiece, woven in the rich nuance of Africa’s oral tradition, as real as spilt blood, a mythical dance of great power.” SKYE K. MOODY, The Seattle Times, August 27, 2006.
“ …a compelling novel… a first class masterpiece.” Aesthetica, Issue 14, 2006
“A remarkable book, sure to be widely read.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review.
“One of the best reads of the year.” Essence, August 2006.
Links to Articles:
Wizard of the Crow
By Laura Mitchell
Odyssey of an African Sorcerer
By Stuart Kelly
Follow link, click on “Article Index”
Scroll to “Review” section
Ngugi wa Thiong’o; Doris Lessing
By Rosemary Goring
Inconstancy of Rain, Homes and Politics
By Lesley McDowell
UC Irvine Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
Publishes Long-Awaited Novel
Allegory of Post-colonial Africa Takes Flight
Reviewed by David Hellman
Playing the Role of a Voice for Freedom
By John Freeman
By Tom Adair
By Cornel Bonca
Fictionalized Africa, Ills Intact
Wall Street Journal
Thiong’o is Back
By Davina Morris
Kenyan novelist, 68, refuses to be silenced
By John Freman
Wizard of the Crow:
Rooted in reality, steeped in the supernatural
By Skye K. Moody
Wizard Of The Crow
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African literature refers to the literature of and for the African peoples. As George Joseph notes on the first page of his chapter on African literature in Understanding Contemporary Africa, while the European perception of literature generally refers to written letters, the African concept includes oral literature. 
As George Joseph continues, while European views of literature often stressed a separation of art and content, African awareness is inclusive:
“Literature” can also imply an artistic use of words for the sake of art alone. Without denying the important role of aesthetics in Africa, we should keep in mind that, traditionally, Africans do not radically separate art from teaching. Rather than write or sing for beauty in itself, African writers, taking their cue from oral literature, use beauty to help communicate important truths and information to society. Indeed, an object is considered beautiful because of the truths it reveals and the communities it helps to build. 
1 Early written literatures
2 Oral literature
3 Precolonial literature
4 Colonial African literature
5 Postcolonial African literature
6 Noma Award
7 Major African novels
8 Major African poets
9 Secondary literature
10 See also
12 External links
 Early written literatures
North Africa had an early literate indigenous civilization (Ancient Egypt) some of whose hieroglyphic writings survive. North Africans also contributed to writing in Phoenician, Greek and Latin. Phoenician material, from Carthage and other colonies on the continent, has been very largely lost. Encouraged by the royal patronage of the Ptolemaic rulers, scholars in Alexandria assembled the famous Library of Alexandria and Alexandrian writers contributed not insignificantly to the material housed in this institution. North Africans writing in Latin include Apuleius and Saint Augustine.
In Islamic times, North Africans, such as ibn Khaldun attained great distinction within Arabic literature.
 Oral literature
Oral literature (or orature) may be in prose or verse. The prose is often mythological or historical and can include tales of the trickster character. Storytellers in Africa sometimes use call-and-response techniques to tell their stories. Poetry, often sung, includes: narrative epic, occupational verse, ritual verse, praise poems to rulers and other prominent people. Praise singers, bards sometimes known as “griots”, tell their stories with music.  Also recited, often sung, are: love songs, work songs, children’s songs, along with epigrams, proverbs and riddles.
 Precolonial literature
Examples of pre-colonial African literature include the Epic of Sundiata composed in medieval Mali, The older Epic of Dinga from the old Ghana Empire, and the Kebra Negast or book of kings from Ethiopia. One popular form of traditional African folktale is the “trickster” story, where a small animal uses its wits to survive encounters with larger creatures. Examples of animal tricksters include Anansi, a spider in the folklore of the Ashanti people of Ghana; Ijàpá, a tortoise in Yoruba folklore of Nigeria; and Sungura, a hare found in central and East African folklore. 
 Colonial African literature
The African works best known in the West from the period of colonization and the slave trade are primarily slave narratives, such as Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789).
In the colonial period, Africans exposed to Western languages began to write in those tongues. In 1911, Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford (also known as Ekra-Agiman) of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) published what is probably the first African novel written in English, Ethiopia Unbound: Studies in Race Emancipation  Although the work moves between fiction and political advocacy, its publication and positive reviews in the Western press mark a watershed moment in African literature.
During this period, African plays began to emerge. Herbert Isaac Ernest Dhlomo of South Africa published the first English-language African play , The Girl Who Killed to Save: Nongqawuse the Liberator in 1935. In 1962, Ngugi wa Thiong’o of Kenya wrote the first East African drama, The Black Hermit, a cautionary tale about “tribalism” (racism between African tribes).
African literature in the late colonial period (between the end of World War I and independence) increasingly showed themes of liberation, independence, and (among Africans in French-controlled territories) négritude. One of the leaders of the négritude movement, the poet and eventual President of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, published the first anthology of French-language poetry written by Africans in 1948, Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française (Anthology of the New Black and Malagasy Poetry in the French Language), featuring a preface by the French existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre. 
 Postcolonial African literature
With liberation and increased literacy since most African nations gained their independence in the 1950s and 1960s, African literature has grown dramatically in quantity and in recognition, with numerous African works appearing in Western academic curricula and on “best of” lists compiled at the end of the 20th century. African writers in this period wrote both in Western languages (notably English, French, and Portuguese) and in traditional African languages.
Ali A. Mazrui and others mention seven conflicts as themes: the clash between Africa’s past and present, between tradition and modernity, between indigenous and foreign, between individualism and community, between socialism and capitalism, between development and self-reliance and between Africanity and humanity.  Other themes in this period include social problems such as corruption, the economic disparities in newly independent countries, and the rights and roles of women. Female writers are today far better represented in published African literature than they were prior to independence.
In 1986, Wole Soyinka became the first post-independence African writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Algerian-born Albert Camus had been awarded the 1957 prize.
 Noma Award
The Noma Award, begun in 1980, is presented for the outstanding work of the year in African literature.
 Major African novels
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Nigeria)
Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country (South Africa)
Gracy Ukala, Dizzy Angel (Nigeria)
Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa, Ogboju odẹ ninu igbo irunmalẹ (The Forest of a Thousand Demons) (Nigeria)
Mariama Bâ, Une si longue lettre (So Long a Letter) (Senegal)
Ousmane Sembène, Xala (Senegal)
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, A Grain of Wheat (Kenya)
Benjamin Sehene, Le Feu sous la Soutane (Fire under the Cassock) (Rwanda)
Thomas Mofolo, Chaka (South Africa/Lesotho)
Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions (Zimbabwe)
Dambudzo Marechera, The House of Hunger (Zimbabwe/Rhodesia)
Yvonne Vera, Butterfly Burning (Zimbabwe)
Mia Couto, Terra Sonâmbula (A Sleepwalking Land) (Mozambique)
Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (Ghana)
Ben Okri, The Famished Road (Nigeria)
J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace (South Africa)
BAYO ADEBOWALE’S NOVELS:”THE VIRGIN”,”OUT OF HIS MIND” AND “LONELY DAYS”(NIGERIA)
 Major African poets
Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Gracy Ukala (Nigeria)
Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)
Christopher Okigbo (Nigeria)
Lenrie Peters (Gambia)
Kofi Anyidoho (Ghana)
Dennis Brutus (South Africa)
Kofi Awoonor (Ghana)
Chidi Anthony Opara(Nigeria)
 Secondary literature
Encyclopedia of African Literature, ed Simon Gikandi, London: Routledge, 2003.
The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature, ed Abiola Irele and Simon Gikandi, 2 vls, Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Table of contents
Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writing by Women of African Descent”, ed Margaret Busby (Random House, 1992).
General History of Africa vol. VIII, ed. Ali A. Mazrui, UNESCO, 1993, ch. 19 “The development of modern literature since 1935,” Ali A. Mazrui et al.
Understanding Contemporary Africa, ed. April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon, Lynne Rienner, London, 1996, ch. 12 “African Literature”, George Joseph
“Great Poets From Around The World (Nigeria)”,World Poets Society Official Website,www.world-poets.blogspot.com
 See also
List of African writers
^ George, Joseph, “African Literature” ch. 12 of Understanding Contemporary Africa p. 303
^ ibid p. 304
^ George Joseph, op. cit. pp. 306-310
^ African Literature – MSN Encarta
^ Leopold Senghor – MSN Encarta
^ Ali A. Mazrui et al. “The development of modern literature since 1935″ as ch. 19 of UNESCO’s General History of Africa vol. VIII p. 564f Collaborating with Ali A. Mazrui on this chapter were Mario Pinto de Andrade, M’hamed Alaoui Abdalaoui, Daniel P. Kunene and Jan Vansina.
 External links
African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
African Literature Association
The 100 best African books of the 20th century
Research in African literature and Culture
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