Posts Tagged ‘AFRICAN AMERICANS’

AFRICAN WRITERS!! BAYO ADEBOWALE IS BEING HONOURED AGAIN AS A CHIEF IN HIS OWN LAND!!!!

February 25, 2017

DR. BAYO ADEBOWALE
HONOUR FOR A PROPHET
IN HIS HOMELAND!
Bayo Adebowale,the accomplished African Novelist and Poet will on Saturday,4th March 2017 be honoured with the prestigeous Chieftaincy title of ONIGEGE ARA OF IGBO-ELERIN by the Igbo-Elerin Council of Baales. This is a well-deserved honour coming from the Literary Icon’s kith and kin….
What a feat!
Congratulations, author of The Virgin, Out Of His Mind,Lonely Days, A New Life, Talent, African Melody, Oriki,Village Harvest, and A Night of Incantations!

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BAYO ADEBOWALE’S LATEST HOT POETRY BOOK PUTS AFRICAN IMAGERY ON THE WORLD MAP! -GET YOUR COPY NOW!

August 14, 2012


BAYO ADEBOWALE’S AFRICAN MELODY
SINGS FULL-THROATED POETIC SONGS FOR AFRICA
Bayo Adebowale’s newly- published book, AFRICAN MELODY, (A Poetic Exposition of the African Essence) combines sweet melody with harsh melody, melody of expectation with melody of hope, for the African Continent. The 144 page book, containing a total of 61 poems, takes readers on a poetic excursion through the socio-cultural history of a Continent at the focus of global attention.

Nature and landscape in the book receive close scrutiny, as much as a number of selected political and historical events in the life of Africans on the Continent, and Africans in the Diaspora. (e.g slave trade, colonialism, coup d’etat, poverty, class distinction famine, racism, genocide, etc.)The poet adulates the achievements of the heroes and heroines of the land, while despots who smear the Continent’s beautiful garment with mud, receive castigation and several knocks on the head.

Sweet melody reverberates right from the beginning of the book, as readers encounter ‘motionless crocodiles basking under the blazing afternoon sun, at the magnificent swimming pool of Limpopo’ (p.12); ‘termites milling protectively round their Queen in the palatial fortress, inside the kingdom of the giant anthill’ (p.86); ‘photographs of brown-grass savannah teeming with spotted long-necked giraffes journeying on the express road of the mind in the open horizon of Pategi’(p.19) ; ’ the receding evening sun sitting down on the busy bay of Lake Chad, immobile like a fat market woman transacting business.’(p.6)

Harsh melody, in one other section of the book, exposes Africa as ‘an ailing giant walking with the limbs of a stegomyia and nursing a pulsating numbness in the region of his left leg’(p.53). The ancestral land here has become ‘an elephant crippled by a snare; an antelope caught in a trap; an impala extricating from a tightening noose; a puff adder with his stomach swollen by an undigested rodent; and an earthworm dancing the dance of death in a lake of salt.’(p.59-60)

Melody of hope resounds in the book with the arrival of notable icons – African role models like Shaka –‘ the black pugilist of the unconquered land of the rugged Zulu nation’(p.14); Kwegyir –‘ the amiable Goldcoast whiz kid who at school chanted multiplication table with ease and acted Daniel in the Lion’s Den with dexterity’(p.21); Makeba – ‘the cool evening nightingale perching on the African bamboo, dishing out symphonies of pleasant solo tunes in mezzo-soprano octave to a listening universe’(p.84); Luthuli – ‘the blooming banana rhizome on the bank of the roaring River Orange’ (p.10); Ali –‘ the buzzing bee with a deadly sting, the graceful butterfly floating in the openness of the blue sky’(p.110); and Mandela, ‘who trod, unscathed, the narrow freedom road, strewn with pricks and pains, thistles and bristles.’(p.98) and Barrack Obama – ‘the long African broom, sweeping the New World horizon incredibly clean and penny – bright… the arrow head of mighty Luo spear shooting staright to target’ (p.124).

In Bayo Adebowale’s AFRICAN MELODY, it is music all the way; Music ‘touching the incore of our heart; jerking us to alertness; and stimulating in us, wonder and incredulity’… Music,’ soft as the murmur of the dove at dawn, pervading our days with delight, in cadences of joyful bubbles; and music, harsh as the monotonous tap on the blacksmith’s anvil permeating our nights with grief, in sequences of sad gurgles.’ (p.23)

The inclusion of a Classified Index in this brand new book is unique, so also is the full-colour display of imaginative photographs {nine of them}, supplied with highly creative captions by the poet, for readers delight. Adebowale’s AFRICAN MELODY indeed is a ‘deeply-researched and competently – crafted work of art.’
PROFESSOR ISAAC ADEBAYO ADEYEMI
VICE CHANCELLOR
BELLS UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, OTA.

Cover Price of the Book: N600; $5 {+ $2 Postage Cost}; £4 {+ £1 Postage Cost}
Page: 145
Year of Publication: 2012
Contacts for Purchase:
– African Heritage Publishers (AHP); P.O.Box 36330, Agodi Post Office, Ibadan, Oyo State, NIGERIA.
– Email : africanheritagelibrary@yahoo.com
– Phone: +2348034495485
+2348072871715
Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade: +2348160176922
Gbemisola Edun: +2347063413233

“WE HAVE GREAT WORK TO DO. WE HAVE BEEN CALLED UPON TO BUILD A NEW AFRICA AND A NEW BLACK WORLD!”
DR. BAYO ADEBOWALE,DIRECTOR/FOUNDER
AFRICAN HERITAGE RESEARCH LIBRARY AND CULTURAL CENTRE
nigeria-arts.net/literature/institutions/african_heritage_research_library/

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AMIRI BARAKA CALLING ALL BLACK PEOPLE IN “SOS” – A GREAT BLACK POEM IS ANALYSED HERE!

February 26, 2012

On “SOS”

Jay R. Berry

Baraka pays careful attention to rhythm, even in poems that do not employ or experiment with traditional forms. “SOS,” the opening poem on Black Art, contains short, terse, telegraphic phrases that are reminiscent of a radio transmission:

Calling black people
Calling all black people, man woman child
Wherever you are, calling you, urgent, come in
Black People, come in, wherever you are, urgent, calling
You, calling all black people
Calling all black people, come in, black people, come
on in.

Content and form blend effectively in this poem. The radio transmission asks blacks to “come / on in.” The final line break calls attention to the word change, thereby emphasizing the message. This word change has at least two connotations. On one level, the phrase invites readers into the book of poetry. In this sense it is a fitting opening poem. On another level, it cajoles blacks into claiming their share of the American political, social, and cultural systems on their own terms.

From “Poetic Style in Amiri Baraka’s Black Art,” in CLA Journal, December, 1988. Copyright © 1988 by the College Language Association.

Phillip Brian Harper

Dudley Randall’s anthology, The Black Poets, published in 1971, is significant not so much for the texts it provides of folk verse and literary poetry from the mid-eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries as for its canonization of poetry from the contemporaneous Black Arts movement. The concluding (and by far the longest} section of Randall’s anthology is titled “The Nineteen Sixties,” and it is prefaced by the short poem “SOS” by Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), which is printed not in the main text but on the title page for the section: . . .

Given the epigraphic function that Randall confers on it, we can reasonably conclude that Baraka’s “SOS” is somehow emblematic of the poetic project of many young black writers of the late 1960s, and it is not particularly difficult to identify exactly in what this emblematic quality might consist. We know, after all, that radical black intellectual activism of the late 1960s was characterized by a drive for nationalistic unity among people of African descent. As Larry Neal put it in his defining essay of 1968, “The Black Arts Movement”:

Black Art is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept. …The Black Arts and the Black Power concept both relate broadly to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood. Both concepts are nationalistic. One is concerned with the relationship between art and politics; the other with the art of politics. (P. 272)

Addison Gayle also embraced the nationalist impulse in his conception of the movement, outlined in his 1971 introduction to The Black Aesthetic. According to Gayle, “The Black Aesthetic…is a corrective—a means of helping black people out of the polluted mainstream of Americanism” (p. xxiii}. And in 1973, Stephen Henderson elaborated the development of this impulse through the late 1960s: “The poetry of the sixties is informed and unified by the new consciousness of Blackness …[, which has] shifted from Civil Rights to Black Power to Black Nationalism to Revolutionary Pan-Africanism …” (p. 183}. Thus did three of the Black Aesthetic’s most prominent theorists conceive the importance of nationalist unity to the Black Arts movement. It probably goes without saying that such a nationalist impulse, having once been manifested, can develop in any number of different directions. For the sake of the present analysis, however, we can suspend consideration of this important point while we confirm the existence of that impulse, in however rudimentary a form, in Baraka’s poem.

In the introduction to their authoritative anthology, Black Nationalism in America (1970), John Bracey, Jr., August Meier, arid Elliott Rudwick identify as the basis of black nationalist thought “[t]he concept of racial solidarity” which, they assert,”is essential to all forms of black nationalism” (p. xxvi). It is precisely this fundamental impulse to racial solidarity that is manifested in Baraka’s “SOS.” Considered with respect to nationalism, the political import of the poem inheres not in the stridency and exigency of its appeal, but rather in its breadth, in the fact that Baraka’s call apparently embraces all members of the African diaspora, as it is directed explicitly and repeatedly to “all black people,” thereby invoking a political Pan-Africanism posited as characteristic of the Black Arts project. Moreover, the enjambment of the last two lines and their modification of the injunction definitively transform the SOS from a mere distress signal into a general summons for assembly. What is striking about Baraka’s poem, however, is not that it “calls” black people in this nationalistic way but that this is all it does; the objective for which it assembles the black populace is not specified in the piece itself, a fact I take to indicate fundamental difficulties in the nationalist agenda of the Black Arts poets, as will soon become clear.

In the meantime, I think it is useful to consider Baraka’s “S0S” as a synecdoche for all of his poetic output of the 1960s, which constituted a challenge to other African-American poets to take up the nationalist ethic he espoused. As the source of this influential call, Baraka can certainly be seen as the founder of the Black Aesthetic of the 1960s, and “SOS” as representative of the standard to which his fellow poets rallied. “S0S” is part of Baraka’s collection Black Art, comprising poems written in 1965 and 1966, and published, along with two other collections, in the volume Black Magic Poetry, 1961-1967 (1969). Its message was subsequently engaged by other black writers from different generations and disparate backgrounds. For instance, in her 1972 autobiography, Report from Part One, Gwendolyn Brooks, who built her reputation on her expertly crafted lyrics of the 1940s and 1950s, made Baraka’s enterprise her own as she described her new poetic mission in the early 1970s:

My aim, in my next future, is to write poems that will somehow successfully “call” (see Imamu Baraka’s “SOS”) all black people: black people in taverns, black people in alleys, black people in gutters, schools, offices, factories, prisons, the consulate; I wish to reach black people in pulpits, black people in mines, on farms, on thrones(.) (P. 183)

Sonia Sanchez, on the other hand, in her 1969 poem, “blk/rhetoric,” invoked Baraka’s language to question what might happen after the calling had been done:

who’s gonna make all
that beautiful blk/rhetoric
mean something.
like
I mean
who’s gonna take
words
blk/beautiful
and make more of it
than blk/capitalism.
u dig?
i mean
like who’s gonna
take all the young/long/haired/
natural/brothers and sisters
and let them
grow till
all that is
imp’t is them
selves
moving in straight/
revolutionary/lines/toward the enemy
(and we know who that is)
like. man.
who’s gonna give our young
blk people new heros

[. . . .]

( instead of quick/fucks
in the hall/way of
white/america’s
mind)
like. this. is an S.0.S.
me. calling. . . .
calling. . . .
some/one.
pleasereplysoon.

Sanchez’s call—prefaced as it is by her urgent question, and attended by the entreaty to her listeners in the final line—is more pleading than Baraka’s, which is unabashedly imperative. I would suggest that the uncertainty that characterizes Sanchez’s poem is the inevitable affective result of writing beyond the ending of Baraka’s “SOS,” which it seems to me is what “blk/rhetoric” does. By calling into question what will ensue among the black collectivity after it has heeded the general call–succumbed to the rhetoric, as it were—Sanchez points to the problematic nature of the black nationalist project that characterizes Black Arts poetry.

What remains certain, in Sanchez’s rendering—so certain that it need not be stated explicitly—is the identity of the “enemy” against whom the assembled black troops must struggle. While Sanchez’s elliptical reference might appear as somewhat ambiguous at this point, especially after the emergence in the early and mid-1970s of a strong black feminist movement that arrayed itself against racism and sexism, it seems clear enough that in the context of the 1969 Black Arts movement the enemy was most certainly the white “establishment.” But this is the only thing that is “known” in Sanchez’s poem, and while the identification of a generalized white foe is a central strategy in the Black Arts movement’s effort to galvanize the black populace, here it provides a hedge against the overall uncertainty that characterizes the rest of the poem—a definitive core on which the crucial questions about the efficacy of nationalist rhetoric can center and thus themselves still be recognizable as nationalist discourse.

from “Nationalism and Social Division in Black Arts Poetry of the 1960s,” in Harper, Are We Not Men? (Oxford UP, 1996.)

BAYO ADEBOWALE’S AFRICAN MELODY SINGS FULL-THROATED POETIC SONGS FOR AFRICA! -GET YOUR COPY NOW!A

February 26, 2012

BAYO ADEBOWALE’S LATEST GREAT POETRY BOOK IS OUT ! -“AFRICAN MELODY: A POETIC EXPOSITION OF THE AFRICAN ESSENCE” ! – GET YOUR COPY NOW ! -IT’S HISTORIC AND THERE HAS NEVER HAS BEEN ANY POETRY BOOK LIKE THIS BEFORE ON AFRICA!

NIGERIAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION CONVENTION 2009 VISIT TO AFRICAN HERITAGE RESEARCH LIBRARY AND CULTURAL CENTRE,ADEYIPO VILLAGE OUTSIDE IBADAN

September 20, 2010

BAYO ADEBOWALE-A GREAT AFRICAN WRITER-AN INTERVIEW IN NEXT ON SUNDAY,JUNE,2010

June 26, 2010

FROM 234NEWS.com

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One of the author’s works was adapted into a Tunde Kelani Film, ‘The Narrow Path ’ Photo: AKINTAYO
The writings of a village man

By Akintayo Abodunrin

June 20, 2010 01:16AM
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Novelist Bayo Adebowale dabbled into poetry some years ago with ‘Village Harvest’, a collection of poems. He has since published ‘A Night of Incantations and Other Poems’ and ‘African Melody’.
“There is no strict demarcation between prose and poetry,” he states while explaining why he took up poetry. “If you are writing prose and poetry, you are virtually writing on the same plane; using almost the same diction. So, poetry can be prosaic and prose can be poetic. If I want to express my ideas in a compact form, I dabble into poetry but if I want to expand what I’m writing, I dabble into prose.”
An interesting feature of ‘A Nights of Incantations’ is its exposition on incantations, an aspect of Yoruba tradition. The poet highlights malevolent, benevolent and propitiatory incantations in the work and explains his action.
“All the three are aspects of our culture and tradition. When you are angry and you think you have an enemy, you can recite incantation that will bring down God’s anger on him.
“In the same token, if you find yourself in a difficult situation and you want to escape, you can recite incantations that will save you. When you burn roots and leaves of trees to cure yourself, you propitiate with them and you recite special incantations for that.”
He adds that the collection has sections on curses, desperation, voting and protest because, “It’s part of the culture of the people to curse. If you feel wronged by your detractor or your foe, you can curse him. When you curse, it’s a general phenomenon, not just in Africa but in other parts of the world. When you say may the devil take you, may you go into perdition or things like that in anger, it’s part of the culture. It is common to find people cursing their enemies. Those who have caused harm or brought unhappiness into their life.”
But is it Christ-like to curse?
“Don’t you think that even in the holy Bible we have things like that? Why is Jerusalem cursed? ‘If I forget Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.’ Have you forgotten ‘woe unto you that betray the son of man? All these woe are curses in the Bible, they are reflected in Christian liturgy so you cannot say these things are not evident in the Holy Bible. Even in churches you curse the enemy. You bring fire down upon your enemy. May the enemy be consumed by the fire of the Holy Ghost. I have gone to services in churches where they devoted a large part of their prayer to cursing the enemy. ”
The Virgin
‘The Virgin’ published in 1985 is Adebowale’s first novel and arguably his most popular. Two villages go to war over Awero, the major character who loses her virginity contrary to tradition. Though virginity appears somewhat trifle for villages to war over, the former Deputy Rector, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, insists that “The cause of the matrimonial problems of nowadays can be traced to virginity. The lack of trust in your wife, the suspicion the wife has of the husband can be traced to virginity. If your wife did not come to your house as a virgin, it will continue to haunt you throughout your matrimonial life. But if you met your wife a virgin, you will have implicit trust and confidence in her that if she can keep herself like that, I should trust her to a large extent. Mistrust and suspicion can be traced to virginity so it is relevant even nowadays.”
He also discloses how the novel was first adapted into the short film, ‘The White Handkerchief’, and later the feature film, ‘The Narrow Path’, by Tunde Kelani’s Mainframe Productions.
“It was Tunde Kelani who came to tell me that they are interested in the story. He told me what will change and what will remain. He told me the title will change and that the ending would also change because in the novel, Awero did not commit suicide but she did in the film. He said the impact will not be felt by viewers if she walks away. If she commits suicide, they will know that there is a good reason for war.”
The self-confessed writing addict who took up the art in 1963 also reveals what made him adopt the tack he did in ‘Out of His Mind’, his second novel. “It’s not everything that you tell your wife in real life. It’s not that you want to harm her but out of consideration for her flexible mind. You say instead of disturbing my wife, let me get over it. I can always tell her later. It’s the same with Alamu. They were newly married and he didn’t want anything that will upset the lady, hoping that sooner or later he would sort the problem. In any case, if he divulged the secret to the wife, there would be no story to tell again. The suspense will not be there again.”
Starting out
“I started with short stories and I have over 100 published short stories. It might interest you to note that my novels are adapted from my short stories. ‘The Virgin’ is from a short story ‘The Wedding Day’. I expanded another short story, ‘Burden of a Secret’ into ‘Out Of His Mind’. It’s the same with the short story ‘Lonely Days’ and the novel also so titled. I have been expanding on my short stories.
“Right now, I’m on another one, ‘Beyond Control’ and it is also adapted from one of my short stories titled ‘Tanko’s Exit’. There is not much difference in the technique of writing short stories and novels because they are all prose so I find it convenient. It is only that you have to be more compact, straight to the point in short stories whereas in the novel you have the liberty to expand and to explain certain process.”
Inspiration and influences
Adebowale was inspired to write by reading literary works. “I started telling myself this is something I could do too. I began by criticising the works of writers I read, and then I started writing.” Though the works of authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Alex Dumas, Charles Dickens, Chinua Achebe and Cyprian Ekwensi among others influenced him, his primary influence, “is my background as a village man.”
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reader comments (1)

Posted by Olajide on Jun 25 2010
Having been taught by Dr Adebowale while I was at The Polytechnic, Ibadan I believe he has the prowess as exemplified in his novel. He is a man to celebrated always.

The virgin (Egret romance & thrillers)

Out of His Mind
Posted by YEYE AKILIMALI FUNUA OLADE at 6:09 AM
Labels: AFRICAN LITERATURE, AFRICAN WRITERS, BAYO ADEBOWALE, BLACK MEN, BLACK PEOPLE.AFRICAN AMERICANS, BLACK WOMAN, BLACK WOMEN, GREAT AFRICAN WIRITERS, LITERATURE, THE BLACK RACE

NIGERIAN LITERATURE IS RAISING AGAIN ACCORDING TO BROTHER LINDSEY BARRETT-FROM THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER,OCT.17,2009

October 17, 2009

From ngrguardiannews.com

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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