Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Zmirage… Grooming 77 Youngsters For Soyinka’s 77th Birthday Outing

By Anote Ajeluorou

With 77 bright students set to emerge for the grand finale of the Zmirage International Contest, the stage is set for them to also meet Africa’s first Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka in Abeokuta, his home town as part of this year’s International Cultural Exchange second play season

As activities rev up for the second edition of Zmirage’s International Cultural Exchange code named WS7728086 starting next month to coincide with the 77th birthday of literary and theatre icon, Prof. Wole Soyinka, the 77 youngsters that will emerge from the children’s International Essay Contest will have audience with him. The meeting will culminate the activities of the students that are being drawn from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
  Confirming this development recently was the Production Manager and Nollywood star actor and producer Mrs. Lilian Amah Aluko, who said, “I can confirm now that Prof. Wole Soyinka has consented to meet the 77 students who would write the final essay. He will receive them at his abode in Abeokuta on Thursday, July 14, 2011”. However, principal play for this year season is The Waiting Room, which will be performed at Terra Kulture on July 17.
  Amah Aluko also confirmed that the children would be treated to a play performance on the same day after meeting and interacting with Soyinka. Apparently, Zmirage, organisers of the International Cultural Exchange using theatre as vehicle, is seizing on Soyinka’s love for children as the only hope for a regenerative Nigeria as springboard for the coming interaction. The students will be treated to Bode Sowande’s Ajantala Pinocchio on that day.
  Another play slated for the WS7728086 is excerpts from Kongi's Harvest by Wole Soyinka. This particular excerpt was successfully staged at the just concluded inauguration of His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun State. The elite cast confirmed to the Executive Producer of WS7728086, Alhaji Teju Kareem, that they would be performing the same play in honour of Soyinka to mark his birthday on July 13.
  Cast members include Kunle Bamtefa as Oba Danlola, Jimi Solake as Sarunmi, Taiwo Obileye as Suprintendent, and Teni Aofiyebi as Wuraola. Ayo Oluwasanmi, who would also be directing it for Soyinka’s birthday, directed the play. These main acts will also perform Dance of Liberation at the Theatre Tabernacle in London on July 1 & 2.
  Other plays scheduled to be performed during the International Cultural Exchange programme include Recee and Etike Revo Wetin? and directed by DR. Tunde Awosanmi.
  Also, Zmirage’s novel red carpet reception featuring 77 theatre artists of repute will part read and part perform excerpts from some of Soyinka’s plays in honour of the man, whose plays have had a defining influence on Nigerian theatre right from the early 60s when he appeared on the scene. This was especially so when he performed The Swamp Dwellers as part of 1960 Independence celebration.
  On the children’s International Essay competition with title “I Love my Country, Nigeria”, Amah Aluko said finalists have started emerging from the states. So far, she said Aaliyah Ovayoza Ibrahim of Zamani College, Kaduna, Aliyu Aminu of Blue Crescent Schools, Sokoto and Osunniyi Segun Emmanuel of St. Augustine College, Kabba have been confirmed winners from their states. Other winners include Aminat Kadiri of Edidot College, Lagos and Oladipo Faith Taiwo of Fakunle Comprehensive high school, Oshogbo.
  Others are Fasanya Oluwaseun of Graceland International School, Portharcourt, Faje Elijah Kashope of Harmony Secondary school, Lokoja, Ajayi Mosinmileoluwa of Queens School, Ibadan, Brenda Michael Asotibe of Concordia College, Yola, Samuel Precious of Aunty Ayo Girls Comprehensive and Adebisi Oluwatobiloba of Lead City High School, Ibadan.
  Already, these bright youngsters are guaranteed of a meeting with Prof. Soyinka on July 14 as they have already won their places among the 77 elite students expected in Lagos for the grand finale of the essay competition. The remaining finalists are expected to emerge this month.
  Meanwhile some companies with a high sense of corporate social responsibility, especially towards children, are beginning to also identifying with Zmirage and making available gifts for the essay competition. Ben TV, London, is the exclusive TV broadcast partner for the event in London while the Voice newspaper has also signed on as a partner.
  To follow progress of all events relating to the Zmirage International Cultural Exchange play season 2 code-named WS7728086, readers should link up to

Ogundipe at 70… Encomiums for foremost feminist, activist, critic

By Anote Ajeluorou

One of Africa’s finest scholars, feminist, critic and literary theorist Prof. Molara Ogundipe recently turned 70. Although resident in Accra, Ghana, where she has devoted all her time to scholarship, Ogundipe returned home to her roots to celebrate her 70th birthday last Saturday in Lagos in the company of relations, friends and former colleagues at Ibadan, where she started her scholarly journey

The list of eminent scholars that gathered was small but impressive; they had come to honour the erudite Ogundipe, who has helped reshape feminist thinking in Africa away from its imported belligerent Western type to a humanising, African cultural context. The event symbolically held at the less known Lagos State Women Development Centre, Agege, Lagos. It seemed such a perfect place to celebrate Ogundipe, whose scholarly endeavour has been devoted entirely to the development, promotion of, and advocacy for women.
  There were Prof. Ayo Banjo (an emeritus professor), Prof. Ropo Sekoni, who gave the lecture, and Prof. Oyegoke. Others were Dr. Doyin Abiola, Dr. Dele Balogun, Dr. K. Awosika, Mrs. Babawale, who represented her husband, Prof. Tunde Babawale, director-general, Centre for Black African Arts and Culture (CBAAC), Mrs. Titi Akosa, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, Mrs. Ogunye, and Mrs. Comfort Ogunye.
  In all the submissions, it would seem Ogundipe’s scholarly career seemed to have made the most impact in her ability to domesticating and Africanising seemingly chaotic feminist views from Europe and America. In other words, she caused feminism to wear an African face, especially in the humanist manner she situated her discourse to ease the conflict between men and women.
  For Banjo who knew Ogundipe from infancy, it was a moment of nostalgic recollection of childhood spent in privileged homesteads, of educated parentage in the new colonial dispensation at the time. Although both of them had gone ahead to attend the then University College, Ibadan, it was Ogundipe’s era that announced a new equation in the relation between the boys and the girls. Ogundipe, according to Banjo, “beat all the boys in their own game as first student to earn first class honours degree in English!”
  Thus marked Ogundipe’s roaring career in sterling academic excellence. “I thank Molara for organising this ceremony,” Banjo said, “I also congratulate her on her 70th birthday and welcome her back home. I’ve known her back several decades; I saw quite a lot of her while growing up. In all her years, she has shown commitment, leadership and intellect. She has had an inheritance she has used very well.
  “The remarkable thing about her is that as a student she was not complaining about the dominance of the males. She beat all the boys in their own game as first student to earn first class honours degree in English. That is the sort of determination she had.
  “Molara’s distinct contribution to feminism arises from her ability to draw from literary, politics, history and culture to define what feminism should be in Africa. She’s moved from being a theorist to activism, where she has raised certain bars. Her idea of STIWANISM has been very apt in defining feminism for her African cultural situation. That is very important, the old discourse now being properly contextualised; it’s her call for a need for collaboration between the sexes. Indeed, her views can be extended to the whole universe.
  “Now, most of the feminism ideas have been borrowed from the U.S. and Europe. It takes a person of Molara to domesticate these ideas to the African situation. So, she has been able to find a niche for herself in feminism, and to make all of Africa proud of her, especially in the making of a wholesome new view of feminism and to make a wholesome debate on feminism. I wish her many laurels in her profession.”
  Giving a strident voice to the African woman so she could be heard in global arena since the 1970s, according to Awosika, another feminist colleague of Ogundipe at the Association of African Women for Development and Research (AAWORD) founded in 1977, has been one of Ogundipe’s main contributions to women development issues. Ogundipe co-founded AAWORD. She described Ogundipe as a role model in academia, modesty, and especially in bringing up young ones through mentorship.
  She confessed, “At the international level, Ogundipe’s presence makes Nigeria proud just like that of Prof. Joy Ugwu (former director-general, Nigeria Institute for International Affairs- NIIA, now at the UN). Ogundipe made sure that the African voice was heard at international meet. We’re celebrating a scholar, a mentor and a phenomenon”.
  A former student of Ogundipe at Ibadan, and later a colleague at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, where Ogundipe was pioneering head of English Department, Prof. Oyegoke, attested to the septuagenarian’s elegance the first time she stepped into class and how she really dazzled them all. He stated, “She is a distinguished national and international scholar. I pray she will continue to impact on lives. Although she is better known today in feminism studies, but she had established herself as a literary theorist and critic long ago. She has made a mark as a poet, too.
  “Ogundipe has a way of encouraging young people. She has a way of bringing out the best in anyone she connects with, and a way of bringing out the African essence in people”.
  Nwosu-Juba, one of her mentees, also paid tribute to Ogundipe’s untiring efforts at bringing out the best from young people with her unassuming and inspiring nature. She said Ogundipe is a person for whom people should aspire to be like.
  Also, director, Female Leadership Forum, Ogunye praised Ogundipe’s cerebral intellect in distilling issues with the ease and finesse that were disarming, saying it was the hallmark of the Septuagenarian’s scholarship. “I find her writing very inspirational and insightful,” Ogunye stated. “Ogundipe’s been a great advocate for women; her inspiring writing has enriched some of the things we are doing working with young women.”
  The birthday event that was punctuated by an intellectual discourse had Sekoni speaking on ‘Decolonising the Mind: African Scholarly Struggles since the 1960s’. Sekoni asserted that Ogundipe’s scholarly works, especially in humanising feminism, especially in making it a double-gendered cultural affair, has been at the forefront of decolonising the African mind from the vice-grip of Western thought that sought to continually imprison the African mind in denying him of a culture, religion and independent thought.
  He praised Ogundipe as one of the few female thinkers on the continent, who are pre-occupied with such complex issues as decolonisation of the African mind. Sekoni traced the history of decolonising the African mind back to the Harlem Renaissance period at breaking free from white supremacists and their inferiority tag on the African mind after years of slave trade and colonisation. He states three critical areas where Ogundipe’s efforts have most paid off: Scholarship, activism and advocacy not only liberating the female-folk but in creating a harmonious relationship between men and women.
  In discussing Sekoni’s paper, Dr. Abiola also commended Ogundipe’s contributions to female empowerment and the advancement of the female cause. She, however, drew attention to the April elections, where she said Nigerian women performed badly and woefully. She wished that Ogundipe had been one of the resource persons in many of their conscientisation campaigns as it was evident that what was lacking was the application of ‘common-sense’ the way Ogundipe has applied it in advancing and domesticating her feminism theories while taking African cultural milieu into context.
  She also praised Ogundipe for her humanising approach to feminism in being able to synthesis divergent approaches to feminism and finding a common ground in her ‘double-gendered culture’ that seeks a harmonisation of the sexes rather than needless bickering on who is superior or inferior.
  Abiola further stated that women’s emancipation was still far from being realised in Nigeria in spite of the good intentions of the nation’s constitution in giving legal backing to such ideals as the purported equality that should exist between men and women. What existed in reality, she said, has no bearing on the life of the Nigerian woman.
  Ogundipe cut her birthday cake with some of the dignitaries present.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Quality of literary criticism still high, says Irele

By Anote Ajeluorou

Although the state of scholarship and critical erudition in Nigerian higher institutions, especially the universities, is said to be demonstrably appalling, it would seem there is still a silver lining on the horizon and that all is not yet lost as testified to by a man who should know

Prof. Abiola Irele is a scholar of no mean repute. Testimony of his scholarship, genius and critical bent of mind had several scholars, both young and old, gathered in a colloquium for him last month at the University of Ibadan, where it all started for him both as a student and as a scholar. For him and several others, Ibadan had been the battle-ground, where excellence in scholarship had been fought and possibly won. But he had been away a long time now to seek the proverbial golden fleece.
  But as an international scholar and traversing such great institutions as Harvard and Ohio State University, all in the U.S., amongst several others and hearing reports of the decline of educational standards back home, he was pleasantly surprised by what was offered him at the colloquium. For him, it was a restoration of faith of sorts even though he admitted that a lot more still needed to be done to put things right again. As a foremost critic, he knows what it means to be put on the slab and be grilled.
  So that when he, as a critic, was being feasted upon by his fellow critics it sounded familiar and strange at the same as he was to admit. But it was all part of the critical rubric of academia. His excitement, however, stemmed from the performance of the younger critics, who seemed to have surpassed themselves in properly situating Irele within the diversity of his own critical imagination. For him, therefore, any anxiety about the quality of the critical imagination in Nigeria could be put to rest by what was on display as younger critics showed that they could hold their own even amongst the best. He felt proud of them.
  And so Irele, who recently turned 75 declared, “I’m really embarrassed when I’m being called upon to speak because I really don’t know where to begin. So much has been said that at some point at the presentations, I began to ask myself, But who are they talking about?
  “Basically, what I should do here right now is to say a big thank you to all the presenters and people who have come to take part in this celebration; because this has been nothing but a celebration.
  “One thing I must say is that there has been so much anxiety expressed about the continuity of intellectual life at Ibadan, and Nigeria, generally. So much anxiety expressed about it that will the younger generation continue, will they be able to sustain the high quality of teaching that was going on at Ibadan? So, there has been this anxiety; but listening to these younger people, who presented today, I’m delighted. The analysis, the summaries, the presentations show that these are people have very carefully read my work, and I’m extremely delighted, extremely grateful.
  “There were a few points that were made that, in fact, enlightened me even on my own thought-processes. So maybe, there is no anxiety, at least on my part, which does not mean that everything is all right at Ibadan or any of the Nigerian universities. We need water, electricity and comfort and so forth. But… but it seems the achievements at Ibadan is being carried on, is being drawn out of the adversity that has struck the country. Still, there is no doubt that the foundation is there. The conditions can be improved; the intellectual life can be strengthened so that the teachers can produce better graduates than themselves. So, I have very little fear that Ibadan indeed still has the standards”.
  On his choice of settling in a far smaller, less known and younger university at Kwara State University near Ilorin after returning from his sojourn abroad, Prof. Irele said he needed to be part of a new start in something that promises to be a harbinger of the old ideals that Ibadan stood for as a model of scholarship and a new orientation in approach to academic mentoring. He particularly praised the efforts and vision of the Vice Chancellor of the new university in trying to reshape the fortunes of the university away from the old order, especially in making the institution more practical-oriented than what has obtained in the older universities.
  “It was Prof. Femi Osofisan who said, when Prof. Abdulrasheed Na’Allah, the Vice Chancellor, had gone, that he didn’t know what I was doing at Kwara State University. He would not only have merited the displeasure of Na’Allah but his hatred also because what Na’Allah is doing is to create another Ibadan at KWASU. Whether the conditions will permit him to do it we do not know, but it is worth the effort. But while Ibadan remains a model amongst the older universities, it is not a model for the new universities.
  “But while I am very grateful that I’m back here, I’m really very touched beyond words by this tremendous ceremony, this tremendous demonstration that you have done in my honour. I’m also, shall we say, would like to achieve something at KWASU; it seems very exciting. I’m very glad I came back home and in touch on a daily basis on what is happening in the country.
  “I thank you all collectively and individually, especially Dr. Sola Olorunyomi. But like I said, it’s just been too much for words; so let me shut up!”