Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Review: Across the Desert




Today I will be discussing Across the Desert by Charles Umerie. This book is not out yet, but I was privileged to read it. The author did an amazing job putting the story together. The book discusses feminism, religion and other social issues we face today. And the author did it within an intriguing story. This is not the type of book you will get tired of reading, because it’s totally something new. The culture and the people are not what we are used to, and you will definitely learn a lot reading this book.

It’s a historical fiction that took place in the 15th century. The author also painted a picture of how people in that era behaved, especially how they treated women. One of the things I learned from the book was that the empire this book was centered on was once the world’s supplier of gold. I also learned that someone from the empire discovered America 200 years before Christopher Columbus.

There are a lot of things to learn in this book, and it’s also a quick read. If you are really into Historical fiction and love movies like Troy or 300, this is a book for you.

That’s all I can share now about this book. Once it’s out, I will do a full review on it.

I advise you to follow @charlesumerie on Instagram and Twitter so you will know when this book is out. There might be some discounts, so don’t miss your chance.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

African literature, the english language and the nation – Part 3

 Image result for african literature
The fifth problem is associated with the ironic twist in an African writer condemning European values while employing an European language, which in itself is an European value item. This is probably what Sartre means when he says, “if he destroys it (French value, that is) in French, he poetizes already.” As Ulli Beier observed in 1957, the African writer’s work is “naturally concerned partly with a criticism and rejection of European values – and yet he has to use a European language to express the same rejection”. This may be a sweet twist but it has the deeper connotation of insufficiency, for curses are more efficacious if uttered in one’s own tongue!

Truth be told, the African writer who must earn respectable financial dividend from his/her writing would have to write in one of the major world languages, of which the English language is a prominent one. The world languages are largely European languages which offer a very wide market for a writer’s artistic works. The local languages, apart from being spoken by small populations, are in most cases yet to be developed. Moreover, those literate and committed to reading in the local languages are usually restricted groups. In a situation in which only two or three African writers at the moment may be able to sustain themselves on the proceeds from their writings, to further cut the market could be a drawback to their development as writers.

These burdens impede the writer’s work, but they also pose challenges to him/her. The issue of language is so crucial in African literature that more than fifty years after the debate on it started, it is yet to subside. In 1991 and 1992, two most prestigious African literary journals, African Literature Today No. 17 and Research in African Literatures Vol. 23, No. 1, devoted each of the respective editions to the language problems in African literary expression. This is to be expected since literature is essentially a by-product of language, the formalized representation of life through the crucible of imaginative thinking. To contend with the language question, a number of strategies and options have been advanced and practised by African writers and intellectuals: a new English as propagated by Chinua Achebe, a return to orality, a detour to the mother tongue and the experimentation with Pidgin English.

African Literature, the Nation and Liberation
More than one idea may be read from a literature and the nation. Homi Bhabha (1949 – ) recently popularized ‘nation’ as a critical site and challenges the Enlightenment conception of nationalism and nationality and questioned the possibility of an essentialist or universalist idea of the nation. This cannot be what we desire. ‘Nation’ is an aggregate of people, nay African people, desirous of physical and mental liberation in which development is a target. Thus this seems quite close to my notion of nation and liberation which refers to any deliberate attempt made to open a people’s eyes to both what is wrong with themselves and what is wrong with their society. Tied to liberation is development to which relevance is predicated My thinking of ‘national development’ is ‘growth’ in the mental and psychological attributes of the individuals who make up a society, and so ultimately engineer society’s growth. Consequently, to grow demands that we do so according to our personal and national capabilities, potentialities and endowments, needs and environments. In other words, in our drive to develop, we need not imitate a European man or woman of our age, nor should Nigeria strive to be England or Switzerland. We should grow according to our nature, and the nurture we receive, predicated on the preparation which our own circumstances have permitted us. A seed grows in consonance with its genesiology, the type of soil, space, sunshine and water available to it at the point of germination. An ube seed will never grow into an udara tree, nor would an ukwa seed turn out to be an iroko, no matter what is done or given to it.

Are African nations engaged in true development at the moment? My answer is few and far between. Instead of the Eldorado hoped for at independence some 60 years ago or thereabout, Africa is today bedevilled with a myriad of problems which makes the level of disillusionment Emmanuel Obiechina in 1976 observed inherent in the immediate post independence African novels (three of them) a mere child’s play. Since the late 1970s, African political economy has taken a massive nose-dive for the worse marked by decadent production structures, slump in investment – domestic and foreign – endemic inflation, poor balance of payments, absolute fall in living standards, governmental corruption and the breakdown of civil peace and order (Offiong 1980; Onimode 1983; Ake 1979 and 1985; Akpuru-Aja 1998 etc.). These have had their worsening impact on every facet of African life: distrust between segments of society (e.g. Fulani herdsmen); ethnic rivalry (being stoked in Nigeria, Kenya, the Sudan, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia etc. by those in leadership positions); lack of faith in policies (some of which are nepotistically churned out); the breeding of an unproductive moneyed class made possible by institutional failures and weak, uncommitted punishment system; decline in qualitative education; emergence of leaders who serve themselves and their ethnic groups rather than their nations; and a general lack of social and political will to engage eye-ball-to-eyeball any observed anomaly in the civic configuration with a view to exorcising it.

On the driving seat of this wagon of African woes are the African governing elite, busy doing the bidding of international capitalism with the intention to feather their private nests, the proceeds of which are usually lodged in foreign bank vaults. As a consequence, a low moral now pervades the current social and political climate of African discourse – both at home and among the African Diaspora. This pervading climate of doubt (aporia), this ‘season of anomy’ – to employ a famous Soyinka title – is no more than the result of a cumulative consequence which stretches “not only from the beginning of colonialism but also through and beyond it in the form of neo-colonialism and other guises by which the advantages of colonialism are retained to the disadvantage of the previously colonized”. A recognition of the reverse conditions for genuine development, the opposite of which we have just tried to admit, will ensure that we abandon ‘a faulty foundation’- to employ a popular Pentecostal clichĂ© – and embrace a solid groundwork. It is from an underbuilding which recognises that “a seed grows in consonance with its genesiology” that we may later become whatever we desire to be as a people. It was probably the non-involvement of the African-experience data in the continent’s development forward lunge that led Steve Ogude to observe that “the greatest problem of development in modern African societies is that it is not rooted in the African tradition”. It is only literature – oral and written – that always hammers on the autochthonous and has the immediate capacity to arouse us into action, of taking us back to the drawing board. In fact that is what we should really be doing now – that is returning to the initial steps because, we have really missed both the rhythm and the trend.

African Orature/Verbature and Development
One agrees with Olatunde Olatunji when he insists that oral literature and written literature enjoy “a simultaneous existence and are contemporaneous” (3). However, one would like to give separate treatment to the impact of each in the context of both liberation and development. This way, each of them – verbature and ecriture – may be appreciated for what it is, and can do or achieve in the African quest for growth and development.

The term ‘orature’ was an attempt by the East African critic, Pio Zirimu, to avoid the implication of ‘litera’ which means that which is written, while as we know oral tradition is meant to be verbalized rather than scribbled down. Thus I make bold to add the term, verbature. Orature or verbature stands for the product of a people as they live out their lives on a minute-by-minute basis. In this day of an expansive chirographic influence around the world, it is important to note that there are still people who consciously create in the various oral genres without any inclination to immediately subject their oral artefact to the glitch of writing. As a living tradition, the oral text attains sustenance and survivability by constant use. This is different from what happens to the written text which, in addition, enjoys storage and forms of preservation. So saying, a useful oral literary text is a breathing one. Thus verbal literature or verbature is often used for immediacy, to draw the attention of individuals, and or society to their profane and obdurate ways.

So enthused was Ezenwa-Ohaeto about the Igbo icon of caustic orality, onyekwuru/onyekulie (who said?), the night masquerade, that he cast his artistic mould after this high spirited, dramatic disguise. Onyekwuru set for himself the bounden duty of reviewing from time to time the foibles and follies of individuals in the community and such misdemeanours to their hearing. But this is usually at night when darkness would cover his face and his voice would travel farther than it could ever have done. Ezenwa entitled his 1996 poetry collection, The Voice of the Night Masquerade. No format of criticism other than verbature may successfully do what the night masquerade does without lawsuits. The aggrieved victim of a nocturnal masque’s satiric barbs can only grumble, and should he/she complain to other members of the community, they would discourage him/her from doing anything funny as that could aggravate the situation. Oftentimes what onyekwuru knows and speaks about is already known by the villagers; the night masquerade only emblazon it. Meanwhile, the onslaught against one’s poor moral showing, arrogance, acts of wantonness, horniness, misadventures, wickedness or avarice, poor leadership displays, even at the family level has been exposed, and things could never be the same again. As Professor Sam Uzochukwu summises about orature , it helps restrain people from anti-social acts which are detrimental to their general well-being, and by so doing creates a conducive environment necessary for national development”.

African Ecriture and Development
Compared to other cultures, the African culture is new to ecriture (writing). In fact without ecriture formulated in English and French, one doubts if there would have been ‘African literature’. By ecriture, one is referring to the written text which is propagated as a social institution, invested with ‘public’ meanings. The author, the initiator of ecriture is regarded as only an intermediary in whom the action of writing precipitates the elements and codes of the pre-existing linguistic and literary system into a particular text. It is because of the preserved and preservable nature of the written word, its beauty and compactness, and retrievability that a French philosopher and sociologist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) has had to state, albeit racist in tone: “The depicting of objects is appropriate to a savage people, signs of words and of propositions to a barbaric people and the alphabet to a civilized people” (qtd in Derrida 3). Georg Hegel (1770 – 1831), a German objective idealist put it more crudely when he said: “Alphabetic script is in itself the most intelligent”. One does not intend to join the fray in terms of which one is more liberating – the verbal/oral or the scriptic. It is my considered opinion that both of them in so far as they are the bearers of the literary sign are roots of intellectual extensions central to personal and social development.

Modern letters in Nigeria, particularly the sophisticated and written literature, recall Chinua Achebe’s writings which began in 1958. This does not in any way suggest that nothing had been written amounting to literature in Nigeria and Africa before him. Or that Achebe wrote alone. What is being said is that Achebe’s writings “inaugurated the Nigerian tradition in literature”. Nnolim advances his contention by further saying:

It is Chinua Achebe who originated and finally defined what I shall call the Nigerian tradition in literature. By that tradition I mean… the literary conventions and habits of expression deployed by Achebe in the practice of his art. It subsumes other narrative techniques employed by other Nigerian writers, especially Achebe to highlight the Nigerian worldview in literature. By the Nigerian tradition in literature, I further mean that tradition which takes its roots from our oral literature and folkways and is given ballast by vigorous and robust recourse to our folk culture. (Nnolim, “Writer as Nigerian” 3)

One has been keen to quote Nnolim at length because in his remark about Achebe’s place in written Nigerian literature, he (Nnolim) consciously emphasizes the famous writer’s penchant for using the oral heritage, thus the two traditions of literature – oral and written – cohabit in one writer’s body of works. Most African writers achieve similar feats in their oeuvre because they are both Africans, and at the same time colonial victims upon whom foreign languages have been imposed willy-nilly.

With respect to African poetry, we easily remember the infectious style of Okot p’Bitek in whose poetry, just like in Achebe’s fiction, both the oral and the scriptic reside. Not only is his poetry cognitively simple and perceptible, his ‘songs’ are various tearful lamentations which compellingly return us to what we should have loved to forget about the colonizer’s social and cultural castration of the African. In his major poetry volumes – four of them – he devotes each to the sorrowful circumstances of the African, imposed on him by colonial conquest as well as how poorly the colonial victim has had to grapple with the emergent situations. His tone is largely abusive and mocking, reflecting the Igbo response of “ama nwata ajo nkwukwa, ajo ikwu afuo ya n’onu” (if a child is given a dangerous shove, maledictions issue from his mouth). Thus p’Bitek’s personae’s catachreses are not lost on us as we know the source of the vituperative response. The poet strives to arouse us out of our complacency as when Ocol thinks he is now a new and superior species of the African just because he has received unhelpful Western learning or his Clementine who paints her lips and uses toning ointments to mediate the colour of her skin.

In African drama, I have the singular honour of referring to another Nigerian, Wole Soyinka, who perches at its apogee without yet harbouring the intention of flying away. Not only is he the first African to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, he has written in all genres of literature, including autobiography and mythology. Specifically, his drama is filled with a passion for challenging the African who has failed to utilize the energy inherent in his cultural nexus. He is often identifying with Ogun, the Yoruba god of creativity and destruction, god of war and iron, and the patron saint of blacksmiths. He sees in this deity a combination of forces which may turn our lives around if only we would exploit its symbolic and artistic depictions. Although Soyinka’s drama is often lodged in ‘ritual aesthetics’ which occasionally alienates his audience, his writings are always calling for a revolution of sorts against injustice, misrule, oppression, corruption and general amnesia. Thus, many of his plays are often directed at Africa’s anaemic leaders and their antics. For him, it is only when this category of misleaders declines in importance, shall Africa experience genuine renaissance.

Conclusion
My conclusion is that ‘African literature’, ‘the English language’ and ‘the nation’ are not settled issues. For a long time, African intellectuals will continue to toil over those epistemes because they are protean, rapidly assuming different shapes and forms. For instance, when the definition of African literature was all the rage, the novels with ‘gender agenda’, those with Marxist orientation or novels by migrant Africans were not part of the picture. Ngugi, taking after Obiajunwa Wali, abandoned writing in English, but tolerated the translation of his works into English. This Ngugi paradigm recalls the picture of the man in an Igbo anecdote who fearing he may be poisoned threw away the oiled ugba delicacy placed in his outstretched hand but immediately licked the palm! While Achebe regards Ngugi’s stance as “doctrinaire”, Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1992 described it as “some posturing”. Simon Gikandi, a fellow Kenyan asks: “Did his (Ngugi’s) new writings belong to the world of Gikuyu literary expression or were they novelistic or dramatic genres in the European tradition?”. These counter positions by critics of Ngugi’s ‘defection’ to the mother tongue school show that the debate on the use of the English language in African writing remains unsettled.

With respect to ‘the nation’, the concept is still expansive and the discourse is ever mutating. For instance, is Sahrawi Republic a nation? We knew what happened in Rwanda in the 1994 when more than a million Rwandans lost their lives to ethnic cleansing. In Nigeria, are we in a nation where colonialism compelled over 250 ethnic groups to be compressed into one country in which those at the helm think first about their tribes before they think about Nigeria, in which Nigeria’s money is laundered in order to buy commercial and residential houses in developed nations and then bank the rest? If the Sudan had been a nation, would there have been a Southern Sudan today? Does the 2008 Kenya post-election crisis which sacrificed over 1000 nationals prove that Kenya is a nation? We can go on and on. However, African writers should not lose hope; they should continue to question their respective countries until things change for the better.
• Nwachukwu-Agbada is a professor of Literature at Abia State University (ABSU), Uturu.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Book Review: Missing Girl by Juliet Ekwealor


Okay, I have to be honest with you. This novel 'Missing Girl' by Juliet Ekwealor is mind-blowing. I don't think I've ever read a crime fiction such as this one. The author sure knows how to take the reader's hand and lead him/her into a gripping suspense-filled journey. I love everything about the book; the intriguing characters, plot twists, dialogue and atmospheric tone of the writer. Just when you think Anna, the missing girl will finally be found, another unexpected twist occurs. I sincerely wish every Nigerian Police Officer can perform their work with so much passion and commitment like Detective Daniel. I won't be surprised if it is adapted into a movie.



SYNOPSIS:

A teenage girl disappears, throwing her parents into a huge turmoil. Detective Daniel Ayokun sets out to find the young girl, despite all odds. What started as a less dramatic investigation turned into an eye-popping, unexpected twist as a Catholic Priest suddenly becomes the prime suspect.

Amidst pressures of an inter-tribal marriage with his journalist fiancée and a languid police force, Detective Daniel began to unravel the mysteries surrounding the missing girl.

Contact KC- 08135065693 for your own physical/ hard copy of the book. Also available online in soft copies at Amazon, Okadabooks and Lulu.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Interview with the author of Desert Roses



We have gone through a lot books this year, but so far, there's something about Desert Roses that made us want to share more about it.

Desert roses is a novel that tells the story of a certain group of people and follows a series of events that lead to the connection of the lives of two remarkable ladies Simi and Lolade.
Simi’s life was a bed of roses and she thought she had a wonderful life already laid out for her. But after the loss of her parents, friends and fortunes, she felt she had lost everything that had guaranteed her a perfect future. As a result, her spirit was shattered and she was thrown into a life of darkness and insecurity.


It was left to Lolade, a youth corps member who found Simi in one of her darkest hours to give her the strength she needed in order to strive against all odds. Using her own experience as a guide, she was finally able to restore Simi’s confidence and regain the perfect future she once thought she had lost. Thanks to her, Simi was able to thrive like a desert rose, rustic and relentless.
 Visit the link to order your copy!

  
Meet the author
We also had the chance to meet the author, Tolani Olorunfemi, and below is our interview with her:
 

QUESTION:  Tell us everything about yourself.

My name is Tolani Olorunfemi Opeyemi, born on 13th of September 1987, a native of Ondo State in Nigeria. I am the first of three Children of my parents. My dad is a retired school principal and my mom is a school teacher. I had my primary school education at Saint Isabel Private School, Ibadan, Oyo State, and my secondary school education at All Saints' College, Oyo State. I later graduated with a B.Sc Microbiology at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. I also studied film producing and production management at PEFTI Film Institute, Lagos, Nigeria. Right now I live and work as a microbiologist in Lagos Nigeria.
I love watching movies, sight seeing and telling stories, and my passion for story telling is channeled through my music, script writing and writing books.
My experience when writing Desert Roses was a wonderful one because it was my very first book also the characters and the events of the story came together nicely to pass across an interesting, inspirational and motivational message. 

QUESTION: We are happy to have you on our blog. I have gone through your book, Desert Roses, and I must say it’s a good read. Can you tell us more about it and what inspired you to write it?

Desert Roses is not your regular book because it's not just meant to relax you but it is also meant to inspire and motivate you, though the book is a friction but the characters and events of the story come together nicely in such a way that can easily relate with it and imbibe at least one important message.

QUESTION: What inspired you to write it?

I wrote this book shortly after I graduated from the university, what inspired me was the need to relieve myself of the anxiety I was feeling  as a result of searching for a Job at that time. "Desert Roses" was actually my escape and it gave me the encouragement I needed to pull through that difficult time and since it work for me I decided to share it with the rest of the world.


QUESTION: This question is definitely for young writers out there. I know a lot of them complain of not being able to complete their book. So can you tell us how you wrote your book, what methods did you use?

It took me about a month to write this book, before then I already had the complete idea of the story on my mind then I took some hours of my day when I block off all forms of distractions and settle down to transfer the idea into black and white. My writing routine usually involves working first with my pen and paper before transferring a somewhat edited version of my notes on to my laptop. Writing a book is definitely a serious business but it doesn't mean it can't be a pleasurable experience my advice to potential writers is to discover the writing style that is most suitable for them and be really dedicated to see their project through.


QUESTION: Do you have unpublished work? Or a book you are still working on?

I definitely want to publish more books in the future although at the moment am more about promoting Desert Roses, but I  also have a particular story that i am working towards publishing next year.


QUESTION: How would sum up the reading culture in Nigeria now?

In my own opinion the reading culture in Nigeria is quite low and I think some of the factors responsible for this is the fact that many people are not interested in reading generally, the low literacy level and few numbers of libraries in Nigeria just to mention a few.


QUESTION: It was definitely nice having you. To surprise our readers, tell us one weird fact about you. Something about you that is almost unbelievable to anyone that knows you.
 

I do talk with myself a lot, I swear I am not crazy! Its  just that as a creative person that I am, I imagine a lot of scenarios which I have to act out most of the time before developing into a project.




Sunday, 3 June 2018

Writers to the rescue in absence of consciousness

 
Guests at the May edition of the Abuja Writer Forum’s Guest Writer Session have advanced that writers the world over have in many instances rescued nations by deploying their art towards evoking thought (consciousness), eliciting responses and protesting bad leadership or governance.

In his presentation, the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, Marcelino Cabanas Ansorena, who traced the evolution of literature in Spain as well as its contribution to the social development of the country, noted that writers the world over help motivate social consciousness particularly in certain unfavourable circumstances.

The ambassador, therefore, drew an analogy between the Spanish and the Nigerian literature, saying that the two evoke consciousness towards societal ideals.

“For example, in Spain for instance after Civil War, the writers made the Spanish society conscious of the circumstances in which we were living, especially the misery that we were living and the difference between the well-being of economy of the European countries.

“I think that also Nigerian writers are doing so. They make society conscious of the impact of for instance the situation in the Northeast wreck by the Boko Haram insurgents. I’ve read a lot of books about that and I see that it’s very important,” Mr Ansorena noted.

In her contribution, Habiba Alkali-Nur, the author of ‘The Pantom Army’, told the untold narratives of terror and destruction caused by the insurgency in the North-eastern part of Nigeria.

Mrs Alkali-Nur said she actually started writing as a form of mental therapy to try and get over the fear that was endemic in her and also in the entire atmosphere of the North-eastern part of the country in the early days of the insurgency, 2009.

“It was more like a diary collection at the time so later on it started materialising into a book and so most of the events where written in real time and the events are real life events and everybody who once lived in Maiduguri would attest to that,” she said.

Speaking on why she put her experience into writing, she said: “I needed to capture what happened and freeze it in time. If I now go back and read the book, I myself get surprised at some point because sometimes while some shooting were going on I was on my computer typing. That’s how I wrote the book.

“My sister told me she couldn’t read pass the prologue as soon as she started reading she started crying because she remembered every single thing we went through. I just felt that these stories needed to be told,” she said.

On his part, Foluso Adedoyin Agoi, popularly known as Folu Agoi, who is a creative writer, poet and literary critic, read from his new poetry collection, ‘I Know The Smell of My Lover’s Skin’ in which he romanticised his ideal woman.

Mr Agoi, however, pointed out that he is yet to find such woman with a blemish-less character and immaculate body mass, especially having experienced joys and sadness, conquests and capitulations in the hands of love.

One of his poems read: “I seek a woman
A real woman
Not a walking shadow …
“I seek a woman
A real woman
Not a mere piece of gorgeous flesh …
“I seek a woman
A real woman
Not a pretty bimbo …”

Asked whether he is by nature a romantic human being, Mr Agoi dribbled out of the question, saying that he didn’t like talking about his private life in public. He, however, confessed that his inspiration comes from the environment in which he lives.

Norway to digitise books in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba

Image result for norway

The Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Kjemprud Jens-Petter, said on Wednesday that the National Library of Norway was interested in digitising literature books published in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.

Jens-Petter told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that the agreement to digitise the literature books would be signed between the National Libraries of Norway and Nigeria, this month.

“We hope that this month, an agreement will be signed between Norway and Nigeria to digitise all written materials in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages.

“And this will be a monumental development in our two countries’ relations.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia raises money from citizens to pay off $251bn national debt

“We have done this in Norway and wish to share our technology with other countries, including Nigeria,’’ he said.

According to him, the National Library access and use the literature of Norway and it is interested in digitising and making available for public use, books published in foreign languages.

Jens-Petter said the Norwegian National Librarian, who was particularly interested in the preservation of Nigerian literature, now also believes in and recognises the brilliance of Nigerian students.

The Ambassador said that the National Library of Norway had been in communication with the National Library of Nigeria in making the literature digitisation in Nigeria a reality.

“The National Library of Nigeria wishes to make its collection of books available in digital format, for easier and wider access by users.

“The high-tech facilities we have in Norway has the capacity to offer such digitisation which will give the Nigerian National Library the opportunity to make its literature easily accessible to the population.

“We can also offer some of the literature to people of Nigerianorigin who have found their way to Norway,’’ he said.

The National Library of Norway was established in 1989. Its principal task is “to preserve the past for the future.’’ The library is located both in Oslo and in Mo i Rana.

The digitisation agreement is the first entered into by two national libraries.

The project is to serve as a model for other countries, and help create a fully-fledged African digital library.

The costs for the project are to be shared; the Nigerian Library of Nigeria is to be responsible for collecting the works, while the National Library of Norway will carry out the digitalisation, with transportation costs to be borne by the Norwegian Embassy in Nigeria.
Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Kjemprud Jens-Petter

The Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Kjemprud Jens-Petter, said on Wednesday that the National Library of Norway was interested in digitising literature books published in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.

Jens-Petter told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that the agreement to digitise the literature books would be signed between the National Libraries of Norway and Nigeria, this month.

“We hope that this month, an agreement will be signed between Norway and Nigeria to digitise all written materials in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages.

“And this will be a monumental development in our two countries’ relations.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia raises money from citizens to pay off $251bn national debt

“We have done this in Norway and wish to share our technology with other countries, including Nigeria,’’ he said.

According to him, the National Library access and use the literature of Norway and it is interested in digitising and making available for public use, books published in foreign languages.

Jens-Petter said the Norwegian National Librarian, who was particularly interested in the preservation of Nigerian literature, now also believes in and recognises the brilliance of Nigerian students.

The Ambassador said that the National Library of Norway had been in communication with the National Library of Nigeria in making the literature digitisation in Nigeria a reality.

“The National Library of Nigeria wishes to make its collection of books available in digital format, for easier and wider access by users.

“The high-tech facilities we have in Norway has the capacity to offer such digitisation which will give the Nigerian National Library the opportunity to make its literature easily accessible to the population.

“We can also offer some of the literature to people of Nigerianorigin who have found their way to Norway,’’ he said.

The National Library of Norway was established in 1989. Its principal task is “to preserve the past for the future.’’ The library is located both in Oslo and in Mo i Rana.

The digitisation agreement is the first entered into by two national libraries.

The project is to serve as a model for other countries, and help create a fully-fledged African digital library.

The costs for the project are to be shared; the Nigerian Library of Nigeria is to be responsible for collecting the works, while the National Library of Norway will carry out the digitalisation, with transportation costs to be borne by the Norwegian Embassy in Nigeria.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Nigeria has produced some of the world’s best authors—so why is its reading culture so poor?

A woman buys a book at a book store in Lagos, Nigeria.

Back in February, Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank announced the launch of The Dusty Manuscript, a contest for Nigerian crime and romance fiction writers with finished but unpublished novels.
The top three authors from the contest will get a publishing contract with Kachifo, one of the country’s renowned publishing houses. Kachifo distributes some of the Nigeria’s best known authors, including Chimamanda Adichie, Jowhor Ile, and Eghosa Imasuen.

Over the last decade a number of literary prizes like these have helped support Nigeria’s literary fiction circles. They include the 9Mobile Prize for Literature, backed by the telecommunications company formerly known as Etisalat, the Nigeria Prize for Literature, sponsored by the NLNG gas company, and the Miles Morland grant, which supports authors working on a novel for a year.
While these prizes will help up and coming writers gain exposure as well as the chance to sell their work, it’s important to ask what kind of market their books will be entering.
  
The reality on the ground is that demand for literary fiction in Nigeria is low. Nigeria’s rich literary history includes some of the world’s most respected authors, such as Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, which has been translated to more than 50 languages; Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first’ Nobel laureate for literature, and Florence Nwapa, who is often referred to as the “mother” of modern African literature. In the current era, Nigeria boasts one of the world’s best known authors in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose literary success has been amplified by her commentary on everything from feminism to African politics.

Despite that rich history and the current growth and interest, the reality on the ground is that demand for literary fiction in Nigeria is low.

It’s unclear if it’s about people not wanting to read for leisure, or in fact not having access to fiction. Books have become increasingly expensive in the country as bookshops have shuttered, and with an adult literacy rate of 51%, it’s not surprising that some supporters of literature in the country are concerned about how novelists might fare once their books are published.

“Forget the number of books you see being sold in traffic and our global acclaim for excelling—Nigerians read only when they have to.” Wale Adetula, the founder of The Naked Convos, one of Nigeria’s popular youth-oriented blogs, is one of those people. He conducted an online poll surveying over a thousand users of his site on their reading habits, and found that many said they only read one book a year. These results inspired him to launch the TNC Stories app, which carries the disconcerting tagline, “Reading is dead.” This app allows contributors to create and share stories using text video, audio and music—Adetula’s attempt to keep Nigerians reading, albeit in non-conventional forms.

“The reading culture in Nigeria is poor,” Adetula says. “Forget the number of books you see being sold in traffic and our global acclaim for excelling—Nigerians read only when they have to.”

Adetula believes a culture of reading is not being written into Nigeria’s educational system. “Students see it as some sort of necessary evil. And it becomes harder when you have to deal with the many distractions and challenges that come with being an adult and living in a country like Nigeria.”
Indeed, most of the sales for Farafina Books, an imprint of Kachifo, and one of the country’s most popular publishing houses, come from religious or educational texts, not fiction, according to a senior editor there.

Okada Books, one of the sponsors of the Dusty Manuscript contest, also makes much of its money selling educational, self-help, and motivational titles, but is similarly trying to cultivate a love of reading amongst young Nigerians. The free reading app publishes ebooks written by Nigerian authors covering a host of genres, from memoir to comedy to thrillers. Customer support representative Karo Oforofuo says that authors from the diaspora have reached out to discuss potentially distributing their books to an African audience on the app.

Oforofuo believes Nigerian reading culture “is getting better by the day, given the computer age and advent of ebooks.” Nigeria has a limited number of bookshops, and printing books domestically is a difficult and expensive process. Ebooks are easier to distribute, as people only need the app to download as many books as they want, Oforofuo says.

In 2011, academics from Lagos State University released a paper titled “Poor Reading Habits Among Nigerians,” which cited the benefits of reading for self-improvement and mental and emotional health and hypothesized that Nigeria’s reading culture had suffered from widespread poverty, corruption, deprioritization, and a dearth of dedicated quiet reading spaces like libraries. “A reading nation is an informed nation,” the authors write. “Nigeria can not be regarded as a reading nation because the younger generation of Nigerians does not consider reading a leisure activity.”

The Nigerian literary canon will keep expanding and developing, thanks in part to the interest expressed by private institutions. But it won’t get far if it doesn’t spread to the offices of elected representatives, or if people don’t view reading as a enjoyable hobby. If new genres continue to be supported, books redistributed and reoriented as multimedia content, and the government takes an active role in the refurbishment of existing libraries and the redesign of the school curriculum, some things might change. For now, the players in the small, but growing industry keep fighting to keep reading alive.