Funfair, as writers converge on the sunshine state

Funfair, as writers converge on the sunshine state

It was funfair, fantasy and myth galore as Association of Nigerian Authors held its 29th International Convention in Akure, Ondo State, last week... SUMAILA UMAISHA reports:

HELD under the theme, ?Myth, Fantasy and Indigenous Theatre? the three-day convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, turned out to be a symbol of myth and fantasy not just in the discussions of indigenous theatre, but in the success of the event. What appeared as a mere wish, according to the organisers, became one of the most successful ANA events held in recent times. It was indeed a funfair. From the arrival day, Thursday 28th to the departure day, Sunday 31st October, 2010, writers who came from the various ANA chapters across the country had a field day discussing their trade..
On the arrival day, while registration of members was taking place at Owena Motels, the conference kicked off with a cocktail and Festival of Life (drama presentation) from 7 pm at Parliamentary Hotel. And the following day, Friday, featured a courtesy visit to the Chief Host of the event, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Segun Mimiko.
The grand opening ceremony, which took place at Babafunke Ajasin Auditorium, began around 11 am and lasted up to about 3.30 pm. The event was attended by the governor and key government officials of the state.
In his welcome address, chairman of Ondo State chapter of ANA, Hon. Bode Betiku, expressed gratitude to the governor for sponsoring the convention. He recalled that the chapter made its first appearance in ANA convention only last year. ?We found it hard to convince the body that we could host the conference this year, but at last we were successful. And the turn out of the event so far has shown our ability.?
The Chairman of the occasion, Barrister Benson Onikuomehin, Commissioner, NNDC, was also impressed by the success of the event. While showering praises on the organisers, he observed that ?ANA is the only hope for Nigeria, because through the works of writers we can peep at the past and mould our future?.
In his own address the National President of ANA, Dr. Jerry Agada, acknowledged that ?the feat that is being experienced today was made possible by the total support the branch has received from the government and people of Ondo State through the instrumentality of His Excellency, Dr Segun Mimiko, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, who we can say without fear of contradiction that he is a friend of the house and a partaker in the progressive and egalitarian ideals which writers hold dear to their hearts?.
According to him, the theme of ?Myth, Fantasy and the Indigenous Theatre? was chosen for the convention in order to re-focus attention on the primal role which myth-making and dream-like projection play in Nigerian literature and the thrust they can play in the quest for a wholesome national rebirth. ?Also, we chose this theme in commemoration of the prodigious contribution of an illustrious son of this state, the late D. O. Fagunwa, to our literature through writing in the indigenous languages,? he said, adding that Fagunwa?s masterpieces in the Yoruba language have continued to be relevant to this day, enriching socio-political discourse and being resource materials for brilliant adaptations in contemporary theatre practice.
After an interlude with a cultural dance, the governor declared the conference open with glowing tribute to the Nigerian writer, describing him as a dreamer, visionary and progressive, who influences the society and reflects the future. He said no nation can develop without the writer, because through his fertile mind, he represents the future of the country. He then hoped that, with the efforts of Nigerian writers, Nigeria will move forward.
Speaking on his achievements as the state governor, he affirmed, ?We are recreating Ondo State; we are redefining the government. The dichotomy between government and the people is being bridged. People have started believing the government when it says we should make sacrifice today for tomorrow. We are translating writers? ideals to reality in Ondo State. We are bringing development that will make people matter?.
As it was discovered later during excusion by participants to some project sites within Akure, the governor?s statements weren?t mere claims. Led by the Commissioner for Information, Pastor Ranti Akerele, participants saw the state-of-the-art primary school, Caring Heart Mega Primary School, meant to render primary education free of charge; Mother and Child Hospital, which renders free service to mothers and their babies; and Neighbourhood Market, a modern market established specifically for the small-scale business men and women taken off the street.
The keynote address was delivered by Kalu Uka, Professor of Theatre Studies, Department of Theatre Arts, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Titled 21st Century Environment and the Relevance of the Writer in Nigeria, the paper addresses the need for the writer to understand his environment in order to enhance the relevance of his works.
According to him, environment for writer should not be local only but also international and that understanding this was fundamental if the writer is to make the desired and permanent impact. Nigerian writers, old or new, must understand their environment, he stressed.
On the question of relevance, Professor Uka observed that relevance itself as a necessity and as a concept is what makes writing come out, stand out, not just as words on a page, or as pictures in an illustration, or as a character we can?t remember when the curtain is drawn, or as tune that vanishes when the music and musicians are gone. Relevance, according to him, ?makes a writer an inventor; inventor of memorable characters, of challenge-meeting situations, of language that, with all these, are all so managed and symbolised that all consumers of the art relish them as relating meaningfully to their lives?.
He further stressed that like Achebe and Soyinka, the Nigerian writer in the indigenous theatre can, through being relevant, learn to re-use myths and fantasies not as temporary titillations but as creators of a permanent ambience of the classically durable.
Mr Chima Ibeneche, Managing Director, Nigeria LNG, who was the Guest Speakers at the event shared similar views while speaking on the topic, ?Ideas have Consequences?.
Day two of the convention featured the Annual General Meeting of the association at Parliamentary Hotel, sight-seeing within Akure and Award Dinner at the Government House.
Issues discussed at the AGM included the ANA land in Abuja. According to the chairman of the land committee, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, architectural design of the site has be made and it contains 36 blocks, one for each state chapter of ANA, with the building reflecting the different cultures of the states. Other aspects of the design include a theatre with a capacity of 350, a dormitory for artists at subsidised rates, a supermarket, recreational facilities, halls, a hotel and administrative blocks. On how the project would be founded, the chairman said the committee suggested that each of the 36 chapters? buildings should be sponsored by the state governments. Also, to facilitate fund raising for other projects on the land, they suggested that the President should be made patron of ANA, while some notable political leaders could be wooed into sponsoring the construction of some buildings and name such buildings after them.
The need for members to be financially committed was also discussed with the house unanimously voting to peg the annual membership due at N5,000 and registration of members at annual conventions at N5,000. Members also agreed on the establishment of a Central Working Committee comprising of chapter chairmen.
As usual, the bidding for the hosting of the next convention stirred a heated debate among the contenders. At the end, it was put to vote and Ogun scored 11, Lagos, 22, and Abuja got 45. So the right to host the 2011 convention went to Abuja ANA chapter.
After the sight-seeing from 3 pm to about 6.30 pm, the award Dinner began at 7pm at the Government House.
Highlight of the award night was the Award of Special Patron of ANA to the governor, Special Award to King Sunny Ade and the announcement of the winners of this year?s ANA literary prizes.
According to one of the judges, Maria Ajima, who announced the winners, this year ANA received 7 entries for the ANA/NDDC Flora Nwapa Prize for Women Writing, 10 entries for the ANA/Jacaranda Prize for Prose, 7 entries for the ANA/Chevron Prose Prize on Environmental Issues, 26 entries for the ANA/NDDC Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Prose, 21 entries for the ANA/Cadbury Prize for Poetry, 45 entries for the ANA/NDDC Gabriel Okara Prize for Poetry, 51 entries for the ANA/NNDC J.P. Clark Prize for Drama, and 10 entries for the ANA/James Henshaw Prize for Drama (Unpublished). In all, a total of 177 entries were received.
On the general impression of the entries, she said there was much enthusiasm on the part of budding writers to respond to the call for entries and the quality of submissions was generally high. The rising wave of violence and the oppressive conditions of the Niger-Delta, according to her, preoccupy the themes of several entries.
Winners are as follow:
ANA/NDDC Flora Nwapa Prize for Women Writing (N100,000) ? The Knots of Karma by Ngozi Onyioha-Orji
ANA/Jacaranda Prize For Prose (N50, 000) ? The Bear Hug by Godwin Noah.
ANA/NDDC Ken Saro-Wiwa Prize for Prose (N100, 000) ? Against the Odds by Ben Igwe.
ANA/NDDC Gabriel Okara Prize for Poetry (N100, 000) ? Songs from my Mother?s Heart by Seyi Hodonu.
ANA/NDDC J.P. Clark Prize for DRAMA (N100, 000) ? Long Walk to a Dream by Arnold Udoka.
ANA/Cadbury Prize for Poetry ($1,000) ? That Other Country by Hyginus Ekwuazi.
Esiaba Irobi Prize ? Waiting for Savon by Isaac Attah Ogezi.
The children?s literature prizes were in five categories. According to the Acting Chief Judge for the categories, Mr. John Asiedu Sarpong, who announced the winners, some of the entries were full of grammatical and other errors. But the following winners were able to beat such shortcomings:
ANA/Funtime Prize ? The Missing Chip by Spencer Okoroafor.
ANA/Atiku Abubaklar Prize ? Biggy Bam Bam and little Toochi by James Uwaleke.
ANA/Lantern Prize ? Kabira by asma?u Baike.
ANA/NECO Prize ? The Country I love by Iyeyinka Omigbodun.
ANA/Mazariya Teen Author ? Paths of Sunlight by Omeye Emenike.
The Literary Journalist of the Year Award went to Abimbola Adelakun of Punch newspaper.
The award night marked the end of the conference and the following day, Sunday, participants departed to their various destinations; to reconvene again at Abuja in 2011.

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