9 WRITERS, 4 CITIES: The Book Tour hits Ibadan Cambridge House, Onireke, Ibadan, Saturday May 9, 2009 Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
The event which held at the now memorable Cambridge House in the Onireke area of Jericho, had in attendance the distinguished Professor Ayo Banjo (two-time Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan and a world-famous grammarian) as the guest of honour. The host, Joop Berkhout, is the former publisher of Spectrum Books, and a delightful host of the evening of readings, signings and literary interaction.
The programme began at 3.00pm with a journey down memory lane, as the host narrated the history of the Cambridge House and its first and most famous occupant, Christopher Okigbo. The poet and then representative of the Cambridge University Press had lived there before he left in 1967 at the beginning of the Civil War. Professor Banjo took over from Joop Berkhout with a reading from the text of the speech delivered at occasion of the dedication of Cambridge House to the memory of the seminal poet by his brother Pius Okigbo. In fact, most of the activities of the day centred on the Cambridge House and its most famous occupant. The poet polemicist, Odia Ofeimun, later read a poem from his first collection, dedicated to the memory of Christopher Okigbo, while veteran broadcaster Lindsay Barrett also did the same. A plaque at the entrance to Cambridge House is dedicated to Christopher Okigbo.
The first author to read from his work was Tade Ipadeola, poet and lawyer, author of A Time of Signs and The Rain Fardel, who read from his two works of poetry. One of his poems is a dedication to Odia Ofeimun. According to the poet, his motivation to write came mainly from his upbringing which had books littering every room in his house. A second motivation came at adulthood with his introduction to the works of Odia Ofeimun.
Then there was Jumoke Verissimo who read from her debut collection, I Am Memory. Jumoke – it goes without saying – was a captivating performer whose pregnant pauses and smooth reading cadences took the audience on an enchanting ride on the curves of love poetry. First she read “Ajani”, then “I am Memory”, and the audience broke into loud applause. For Jumoke, writing was all she had always wanted to do since childhood, and as a confessed shy personality, writing was to her a most comforting medium of expression.
Next was Eghosa Imasuen, author of To Saint Patrick, who had travelled all the way from Warri to be present at the reading. Speaking at a get-together after the event, Eghosa, who was born in Ibadan but who had never been to the city since birth, claimed to have gone into writing with a healthy dose of inferiority complex which he claimed helps the writer maintain a cool head that constantly seeks improvement. His book is an alternate history of Nigeria, written with a bold look at the “What Ifs” of our recent history. Responding to Anwuli Ojogwu’s attempt to tag him permanently into that category of writers-of-alternative-history, the medical doctor/writer immediately objected, saying that he didn’t write alternative history but wrote it. One would imagine that his next book would not have to be the alternative history of the United States Election 2008 like someone had cheekily suggested.
Toni Kan, Lagos-based poet and story writer, read a story from his book of short stories, Nights of the Creaking Bed, to rounds of applause. He had first read from his latest poetry collection, Songs of Absence and Despair, which in his words, was inspired by his observation of helpless women in a long line of Western Union collection point in the bank, and his own overwhelming feeling of loneliness while on a writing grant in Germany. His collection is published by Cassava Republic.
The next writer to read was Abimbola Adunni Adelakun, who read an excerpt from her book, Under the Brown Rusted Roofs, a novel that was longlisted for the NLNG’s Nigerian Prize for Literature 2008 and the ANA Prize. Her book tells a tale of many things in the city of brown rusted roofs, and the excerpt which the author read got the audience roaring with laughter. If there was something that Bimbo succeeded brilliantly at in this work, it was dialogue. The author, in portraying a notorious godfather of Ibadan politics, captured the crude politicking of the Molete palace that has come to define Ibadan and its way of life. Speaking before her reading, Bimbo stated that her motivation to write came primarily from a challenge by another writer Professor, Femi Osofisan, who had said at a public lecture at the University of Ibadan that writers from the city had a responsibility to tell its many stories to the world.
The famous poet of The Poet Lied fame, Odia Ofeimun, read next from his three new books, (the republished) The Poet Lied, Under African Skies and Dreams at Work. First was “All my vision vexed”, which he wrote while fleeing to Ghana from the newly created republic of Biafra in 1969. With an angry tone but lucid beautiful writing, the poem expressed the frustration of a citizen with a once functional system that had crumbled before his eyes. He next read a poem to the memory of Christopher Okigbo, before his final rendition of a poem written totally in Nigerian Pidgin English. Entitled “Pidgin Soup”, the poem took on a life of its own in the mouth of Odia like “palm oil on a dish of hot boiled yam”. “Pidgin Soup” was a wholly pidgin poem that sought to celebrate the language as an alternative to the “big grammar” of English language. Odia’s lively performance and the musical effect of his deep baritone voice left the crowd exhilarated at the end of his reading.
Igoni Barett took the floor next to read from his collection of short stories entitled From Caves of Rotten Teeth. His first reading was “A Loss” which tells the story of a young man who had lost his wallet and discovered the fact only after he was in a bus with a scary conductor. Then the poet and editor, Amatoritsero Ede, took the floor to read a second story from the collection, this one entitled “Letters”, which was a moving story of a mother, her child and a runaway father.
The final reading for the day was by Lindsay Barrett who, interestingly, is also the father of Igoni. He prefaced his reading with a long, moving story about his relationship with his writer son Igoni, whom he said he reconnected with only after about 17 years of contact. Lindsay Barrett was a veteran broadcaster in the sixties who had come to Nigeria from the Caribbean and decided to stay. He also told stories of his encounters with Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo and the famous writers of the time. In a tribute to his son, Lindsay Barrett confessed to having been very impressed so far with the progress of his son’s literary career. Lindsay Barrett then read “Rivers”, a poem about the NigerDelta (where he is now based), before finally reading his tribute to the late academic, Femi Fatoba, who was his friend.
Overall, it was a well-attended programme, which had in the audience Professor Dan Izevbaye of the University of Ibadan, the musician Beautiful Nubia, poet and editor Amatoritsero Ede from Canada, and publisher Ayodele Arigbabu, among many others. There were informal autograph sessions for the signature seekers, and there were books to buy, as well as the latest issue of Farafina magazine. The train of the reading writers now heads back to Lagos for another reading on Sunday, May 17th at The Palms, before moving to Warri and Benin. There was an informal after-event on Saturday night which brought together the teacher and author Sola Olorunyomi, poet Benson Eluma, Amatoritsero Ede and poet Remi Raji. Also present were Toni Kan and Eghosa Imasuen. At the Staff Club of the University of Ibadan, over soft music and refreshments, the day ended amidst discussions of literature, music and politics.
Report by Kola Tubosun
Culled from http://blog.farafinamagazine.com/?m=200905