VENUE: Behind NUJ House, Makurdi DATE: Monday 18th June, 2012
The role of literature should be to instruct and entertain – Horace
The event started at 16:35hrs.
H. O. C. Kochis’s opening prayer was in the form of a creative piece titled ‘Creative Invocation: Approaching the Muse.’ By the end of his rendition, there was confusion as to whether to say an ‘Amen’ or applaud…
This session was anchored by Joshua Agbo, lecturer and author of How Africans underdeveloped Africa. The topic was the ‘Death of the artist’ in us which sought to gauge people’s feelings and perception on whether the artist in us is still alive or dead when we concentrate too much efforts writing on politics and in most cases, depend on politicians to sponsor our works thereby compromising our stand. The stance also sought to know if the art of writing was still in the artist or was being killed by other factors.
Mom Lazarus energised the start offering that ‘The writer is alive but art is dying.’ Art , he said, was being killed by a number of factors including a school system that isn’t inspiring; death of storytelling; and a publishing sector that was more business inclined and by extension, more tilting towards academic than literary. Writers aren’t being encouraged and as such, despite the best intentions, the craft is dying. Differing a bit, Joshua Agbo said that the issue of writers not getting attention or publishers was a sorry excuse as people ‘would look for you if you are a fine writer with a compelling story.’ Dr. Terver Chieshe, who brought out a new poetry collection of his, Once an Orphan and shared to guests present, said that he had decided not to focus on monetary rewards to writing. He had launched a book some years back which did not do too well. His wife had chided him. It got bad he was admitted into a psychiatric hospital. It inspired a song which he sang to the amazement and grateful applause. H. O. C. Kochis said that we are in a dark circle and not reading, which translates to little illumination coming our way. Francis Amedu in his submission said that the black man is an enthusiast of literature but we are more concerned with development – the modern white man’s civilisation: ‘We had our own civilisation. The white man came and brought his own. We are still coping with the shock of the interruption of our civilisation and forceful entrenchment of their [the colonialist’s] will on us.’
Introduction of everyone
There was a general introduction of everyone around. The greater percentage of the attendance included people from Benue State University, Makurdi.
Short Story Reading: Kurannen Baaki ‘Silent Night’ (The story can be found at https://sevhage.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/silent-night-a-short-story-by-kurannen-baaki/)
Kurannen’s reading of his ‘Silent Night’ was done in near hushed tones that had most of the audience straining to hear what he was saying. There seemed a conflict on whether to concentrate on the faint voice and paper or on the artist reading.
When Kurannen was through, the first hands commented on his reading ability. Kurannen confessed it was something he had been fighting with. Mrs. Maria Ajima asked that the author give a psychological excursion into the heart of the lead character in the story and if possible, offer reasons why one might want to blow a church. Kurannen said sometimes there was no definite psychological explanation or motivation for such things. Some people simply did some things for the fun of it, to get a certain ‘high’. At this, there was a bit of controversy as to the push factor. Some members of the audience opined that the push factor should have been embedded in the story while others, mainly Lawrence Injo, said that since it was a short story, there was no compulsion. The argument against overstretching the tale was summarised in the statement: ‘A small car should not be stretched to become a limousine.’
In all, the audience appreciated his craft and wished him well.
Citation of Unoma Nguemo Azuah
The moderator, Su’eddie Vershima Agema called on the poet and award winning short story writer, Mrs. Maria Ajima to read the citation of Unoma Nguemo Azuah. The accomplishments of the guest reader as carried in the citation wowed most of the crowd who stood up in her honour. In the end, Unoma confessed it was one of her best citation ever read.
A Crunchy Delivery of Edible Bones
Unoma read from two parts of her novel, Edible Bones. The first part was from the Prologue where Kaito, the protagonist of the book tries to fight away people trying to gain access into the American embassy. The second excerpt she read was Kaito’s entry into America right up to where he is driven out by April when he uses her toilet leaving the house totally smelly. Unoma read in character and tried to be the true voice of her characters switching easily from Ghetto English for April to typical Nigerian English for Kaito. The humour of the second excerpt left most of the audience giggling.
Moderator talk with the Guest Author
Joshua Agbo took the front once more to have a chat with the guest author. Joshua praised the book saying that it was a lovely book: ‘If it were a woman, most men would want to claim her hand in marriage!’ He proceeded to the book talk. He asked why Unoma had decided to name her book ‘Edible Bones.’ She explained that it was as a result of Kaito’s expectation of a feast in America. He found bones instead.
Joshua suggested that he felt a feminist twist to the story which was evident in many areas. Taking an example from the read excerpts, he asked why it was only the men who kept farting. He pushed a bit and in the end, Unoma surrendered that it wasn’t conscious but most of it [the feminist portrayals] was evident of the way things were in reality.
The next question came from a perspective on the character, Abuda. Joshua said that Abuda had been portrayed as a man of earnest quest for knowledge. He had taken one degree after the other but still remained in America without coming back. In this wise, was Unoma not being like Abuda? In a subtle escapist answer, Unoma replied that she would return ‘someday’. Dr. Chieshe interrupted at this point stating that we are a pilgrim people and that no one should insist on our coming back or staying at home for good, or bad.
The questions continued with the basic thrust of the book. Unoma answered that the book was generally meant to capture the misconception most people here have of life in America and abroad generally. ‘It is something I was guilty of. People think that when you go to America, it’s a better life. Living here is better than going out as an illegal immigrant. People are struggling to survive there. Going abroad doesn’t make you rich. America is a land of opportunity but you have to be prepared for it. Once you get there, remain legal.’
The feeling of inferiority complex shown in the book was the next question. The particular point of interest was Kaito’s feelings of extreme excitement after bedding a white girl. This, Unoma replied was only normal to what sher had heard expressed of most black men. She said that such a feeling could also be explained in the context of a person who was expecting everything abroad to be perfect: ‘Sleeping with a white woman would be the perfect cap to the entire experience.’
Feedback from the audience
Lazarus Mom said the reading had been one of his best ever. He asked to know the major difference between writing in Nigeria and writing abroad? In response, Unoma said that writing abroad was double faced. Everyone could get a laptop there and there was the added advantage of constant electricity power supply. The other part was with time, with which one’s memory of home starts to fade. ‘You struggle to adapt. You struggle to remember. You have to call friends at home to confirm your memory and things.’ It’s one of the reasons, she said, she comes back home at every opportunity she has.
Dr. Lucy Vajime said that she had been impressed with the proceedings at the readings and was glad that people could come together to criticise themselves in order to become better as well as have an established writer around. She praised the efforts of Unoma in joining the ranks of Chimamanda Adichie and Chika Unigwe in filling the blanks and showing the diasporan view from different fronts. Francis Amedu said there was a trend of departure from Achebe’s traditional style to something rather more urban and ‘civilised’ in the writings of contemporary writers. Kerakaa Terlumun commented on Unoma’s delivery saying it was interesting. He however wondered on the usual headache of why the black man is still where he is in life generally. Dorcas Doobee Targba said that she had come to have a sense of pride in her race from her relations with white people (mainly her tutors) in secondary school. It had made her to vow never to go out especially since we were Kings over here. She applauded the guest author and said the book was great.
A raffle was held with several books from authors as diverse as Hyginus Ekwuazi, Nadine Gordimer, Chinua Achebe and C. L. Innes, Bernth Lindfors being won by different people including Yima Antiev, Amedu O. Francis, Regina Achie Nege, Mercy Ugwu, Dr. Moses Tsenôngu, Tersoo Ayede, Sunday Abo Echenu, and Aondohembafan Akase.
Announcements were made and despite the departure from the hall, book signing and pictures took place till the guest author left.