By Anote Ajeluorou
A winner has emerged for the grassroots short story contest Literary Star Search competition. The prize is worth N1 million. The winner is Bonaventure O. Chukwu. He won with his short story ‘Mother’. The prize-winner was announced last Saturday, January 19, at Nustreams Conference and Culture Centre, Kilometre 110, Ibadan at the first edition of Ibadan foremost literary and art event, Artmosphere, which had ‘Timeline’ as theme.
Chukwu’s ‘Mother’ beat two other writers - 'Chasing Lizards' by M.S.C. Okolo and 'The Woman without a Name' by Bode Asiyanbi – to win the maiden edition of the prize.
While addressing a gathering of writers and artistes at the event, spokesperson for the prize Seun Jegede commended Chukwu for his winning story and urged other writers to emulate him and participate in the next edition of the contest to be announced soon. He said although writers were in a minority, but a vocal minority and urged them to bind together so as to be heard loud and clear.
Earlier, three writers and a songster had treated the audience to poetry, spoken words and music. This was spiced up with the interrogation of the difference between spoken word performance and traditional poetry and their relevance in addressing social issues.
Author of Antonyms of Mirrage, Atilola Moronfolu, who does not subscribe to being called a poet, was the first to perform. With the fluidity of an eel, Morunfolu spoke her words to her audience. First she did ‘The Wrestler’, which narrates her unwilling contest with life and its many uninvited struggles that confront a man or woman even he or she is not ready to face up to it. But having been knocked down several times by life’s many struggles, the persona is compelled to square up to the challenges life throws up. With the supernatural power of the most high God, the persona is finally able to overcome life’s challenges.
Her second performance was ‘Akani Street and the Atheist’ in which the persona takes a swipe at modern-day Pentecostal churches that make many a neighbourhoods living hell on account of the cacophonous noises that emanates from their ‘spirit-filled’ activities. She wonders whether such negative activities do not negate the spirit of the love of neighbour, which is the foundation of Christian doctrine preached by Jesus the Christ!
Ironically, for raising her voice against the noise pollution being generated by these churches in Nigeria’s neighbourhoods, Moronfolu is often seen as an atheist. In response, she performs another one titled ‘The Atheist’ in which she lampoons the dominant hypocrisy being peddled by many a Christian in their daily negation of the confused doctrines they affirm.
On her part, founder of Pathway Initiative and womanist poet, Funmi Aluko rendered ‘The Hood’ in which she confronts issues of womanhood, her place in a patriarchal society and how she could break free of inhibiting barriers erected against her. And in ‘Seasons’, Aluko went down memory lane to the days of social upheavals in Nigeria, with dictators swashbuckling and squelching many a dream in their deranged mentality. A folklorist to the core, Aluko did not perform without first engaging her audience with folk songs in the song and response format.
In between the two female performers, a student of English Department, University of Ibadan, Rasaq Malik also performed his dark poem, ‘Song of a dying nation’. Michael Obot performed songs to thrill the audience while Nwachukwu Egbunike read hilarious, satirical pieces from his collection of essays Dyed Thoughts.
While Moronfolu argued that she was comfortable with her spoken word genre that is fast gaining ascendancy because of its accessibility, noting that traditional poetry was too difficult to understand even though she liked the folk songs Aluko sang before her performances. Aluko, on the other hand, said poetry needed not be seen in that light. She also noted that poetry without its baggage of the tradition and culture of the people that it embodies would be meaningless poetry if it merely dredges up current issues.
A respondent in the audience stated that there something wrong with the way Nigeria’s education was structured with students no longer interested in deepening their knowledge on things around. He added that whether spoken word or so-called traditional poetry, people needed to immense themselves in learning else society becomes shallow. He also said even with the hiphop culture from America, Americans still read the traditional poets and other deep philosophic materials that at the core of their development.
He charged Nigerians to take education seriously ands stop the dichotomy between science and arts in secondary schools. This way, he noted, the perennial complaint that Wole Soyinka is a difficult writer would be overcome! He noted that Nigeria’s educational system has retrogressed so much in recent years with mass failures in national examinations as evidence that something drastic has to be done to save the country’s continuing slide in fortunes. The fellow also informed that between Moronfolu’s spoken word performance and Aluko’s rendering of ‘traditional’ poetry, which is seen as difficult, there were underlying messages about society and the need to save humanity from anti-social elements bent on making life difficult for everyone else.
In other words, both forms of poetic performances spoke to the human condition using the primary mode of communication, words as vehicle. While spoken word relies on a fast-flowing, rap style of evoking scenic situations, the other is more deliberate and invokes deep images that conjure emotions. Both Aluko and Moronfolu showed the seeming polarity between two sides of poetic performances, with the spoken word appealing to the hiphop, younger people and the other reserved for older, mature people. Yet the two forms can also have fans in both generations, so long they speak to the human condition, as the two performers did last Saturday!