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Owerri A City Of Groits. by cascarino(m): 3:05am On Dec 10, 2016
OWERRI: A City of Griots by
Chuks Oluigbo Posted by CHUKS OLUIGBO Though mostly known as
the city of enjoyment
because of its thriving
hospitality industry, Owerri
boasts of an equally
vibrant but unsung literary community. People visit Owerri for different
reasons. For the hardworking,
busy-busy folks caught in the
never-ending hustle to make
ends meet, the Imo State capital
is where they go to relax, unwind, and indulge themselves a
little. With its innumerable hotels,
night clubs, bars, eateries and
other recreation spots, the city
no doubt is the quintessential
city of enjoyment, a place of “ngwori” in local parlance. The
ubiquity of willing female
indulgees – most of them young
undergraduate students of some
of the institutions of higher
learning that dot the city – is the icing on the cake.
For business-minded people with
investible capital, the city’s
growing real estate industry is a
powerful attraction, though they
also occasionally stop by to indulge themselves and share in
the enjoyment galore that the
city has in store. Movie-makers
and musicians equally find the
city’s beautiful landscape
alluring. And there are those who return to Owerri
occasionally simply because it is
their home.
But there is an aspect of Owerri
that is little known or
celebrated. It is the fact that the city also harbours a vibrant
– and still growing – literary
community. For the few who
know this, Owerri is some sort of
sanctuary where they go to
revive their creative spirit via communion with the creatives
that inhabit that space.
That was what my recent trip to
Owerri did for me, simply by
bringing me face to face with
some key members of that creative community.
I met Nnenna Ihebom, a multiple
award-winning author who
writes prolifically in both Igbo
and English languages. Ihebom
has published in all three main genres of literature, although
she says her forte is prose.
Apart from her monolingual Igbo
dictionary titled Okowata (Oba
Mkpuruokwu Igbo) which she
presented to the reading public on March 31 this year, she has
published The Rejected Stones
(2007), Odogwu Be Anyi (winner,
ANA/Ken Nnamani Prize for Igbo
Writing 2007), Pendulum
(poetry), Open Secret, Rampaging Silence, Folly is a
Dance, Igirigi Ututu, Egwu a
Gwara Ogwa, Mkpanaka Igbo
Maka Umuakwukwo, Akamkpo
Chinedu, Omaricha Abu Umuaka,
and The Web (winner, ANA/ Chevron Prize 2008).
Her other works are The Lunar
Princess (runner-up, ANA Prize
for Children’s Literature 2011),
A Brand New Day, Sacrilege, The
Magic Mirror (winner, ANA Prize for Children’s Literature 2015),
Crown Unseen, The Candy Tree,
Shackles and Tackles (a collection
of short stories), and her
Patriots and Sinners was among
10 Nigerian novels recently published by the Association of
Nigerian Authors under the
Nigerian Writers Series.
I met Chioma Shedrack Enwerem,
author of As The Sun Rises
(2009), When Clouds Gather and When Morning Comes (both in
the making). A poet with deep-
seated passion whose deeply-
engaging but fearless verses are
constantly upsetting established
norms, her works have also been anthologised in reputable
journals.
An entry on her on the website
of the Directory of Nigerian
Female Authors (DINFA) says:
“Whether it is issues as personal as love relationship, sex, or as
general as the rain, Enwerem
frames these issues in peculiar
poetic language that
distinguishes her poetry as one
of the emerging new voices in frontiers of 21st century
Nigerian female poetry.”
“Writing poetry, to me, is like an
elixir,” Enwerem, who describes
herself as “a Nigerian female
writer whose major preoccupation is poetry”, tells
me in a chat. “It soothes my
soul.”
In recognition of her poetic
strides, ANA Imo, as part of the
2015 World Poetry Day celebration, honoured her as its
“writer-in-focus”, describing
her as “a fine poet”.
I met Chidozie Chukwubuike, a
former chairman of Association
of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Imo State chapter. He is a poet,
theatre artist, and author of
The Poet Wept and Other Poems,
The Day the Owl Died, On the
Brink of Doom, among others.
Chukwubuike firmly believes in the role of the poet as “town
crier” who has a sacred duty
to, in the words of Andrew
Motion, Poet Laureate of the
United Kingdom 1999-2009, “tell
the truth about humanity whatever those in authority
have to say”. As a testament to
this, the theme of the 2014 ANA-
Imo convention he organised –
which was partly aimed at
repositioning Imo as the nerve- centre of creative writing in
Nigeria – was ‘Contemporary
Nigerian Poetry: The Poet and
Speaking Truth to Power’.
“We want to hush contemporary
poets and stop them from falling into Charles Nnolim’s labelling of
them as fleshly. We do not want
our poetry to go the way of our
contemporary music that
doesn’t seem to have a soul.
Poetry must be forced back to remain that mask with which
that seemingly unapproachable
tyrant-king can be confronted,”
he said in an interview preceding
the convention, which coincided
with the 2014 World Literacy Day.
Though I didn’t get to meet
them, I was told of Uche Peter
Umez, award-winning author of
Dark through the Delta (2004),
Tears in Her Eyes (2005), Aridity of Feelings (2006), Sam and the
Wallet (2007), The Runaway Hero
(2011), The Boy Who Throws
Stones at Animals and Other
Stories (2011), Tim the Monkey
and Other Stories (2013), etc. Even though he has recently
proceeded to Canada for a
doctorate degree in Creative
Writing, Umez, a prominent name
in Nigerian literary circles who
has twice come close to winning the NLNG Prize for Literature,
has his roots firmly established in
Owerri.
I learnt about Patrick Amanze
Njoku, author of The Wrath of
War, a novel based on the Biafran War, who currently
chairs ANA Imo.
I learnt about Camillus Ukah,
national vice president of ANA.
Ukah, also a former chairman of
ANA Imo, is the author of Diary of Two Lovebirds, When the Wind
Blows, among other books.
I was told of Chukwuma Ibezute,
author of Goddess in the
Cathedral (2003), Dance of
Horror (2004), Stain on a White Coat (2004), Time Will Tell (2004),
Rake Rambling Lovers (2005),
Prison Memoirs of Gerald Williams
(2007), The King of Alandu
(2007), among others.
I heard of Charry Ada Onwu- Otuyelu, the first female director
of Imo State Council for Arts and
Culture. An active member of ANA
national, Onwu-Otuyelu’s works
include Ifeanyi and Obi, Our
Grannies’ Tales, Catastrophe, Triumph of Destiny, One Bad
Turn, Revenge of Uche, Adaobi,
among others. Her works were
also published in Anthology of
New Nigerian Writings edited by
Cyprian Ekwensi. I also learnt of names like
Blessing Osuagwu, Sylvester
Nwokedi, James Uwaleke, Ikenna
Ebuenyi, among several others.
And from within the academic
circles, I learnt of prominent literary scholars like Isidore Diala,
J.O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada, Chidi
Osuagwu, Gbenga Ajileye (a
former chairman of ANA Imo), ABC
Duruaku, Ukachi Wachuku, and a
host of others. And guess who else is in the fold
– Nkechi Okorocha, wife of the
state governor. She is a writer,
too, although I could not readily
get some of her titles. And I’m
told she is now a registered member of ANA.
Sadly, I narrowly missed an
incisive lecture on “Biafra,
Historical Insights and Quo
Vadis?” delivered by Gerald
Oluchi Ibe, author of Road To Biafra, at Mbari Literary
Society’s 5th commemoration of
the demise of the great Igbo
leader, Chukwuemeka
Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Ibe himself is
a powerful force in the Owerri literati.
Bearing eloquent testimony to
the presence of a thriving
writing community in Owerri is
the abundance of publishing
houses. There are Edu-Edy Publications, Alphabet Nigeria
Publishers, Cape Publishers, and
many more, while Evans, Africana
First, Lantern Books and some
other big names have outposts
in Owerri. More interesting is that some of the publishing
houses are owned and run by
authors. For instance, Camillus
Ukah owns Liu House of
Excellence, Chukwuma Ibezute
owns Cel-Bez Publishers, and Chidozie Chukwubuike owns
Loneranger Publications.
In the area of literary activities,
ANA Imo holds its meetings/
reading sessions once every
month, state convention annually, and publishes Ogele, an
anthology of creative writing. On
its part, Mbari Literary Society
(MLS), which was formed
between July and August 2008
by mostly upcoming writers in search of vent, has since its
formation held weekly reading/
critique sessions every Saturday,
first at the Mbari Cultural
Centre, and now at Alliance
Francaise. MLS, which prides itself as “an
independent society of like-
minded writers and creative
artists”, also occasionally invites
resource persons to deliver
lectures on key national issues, just like the recent one
delivered by Gerald Ibe, a
lecturer at Gregory University,
Uturu, Abia State.
Sometimes too it organises
literary contests among its members. For instance, in 2010
when Nigeria marked the golden
jubilee of its political
independence, the society
staged a mini poetry contest
around the theme of Nigeria at 50, which saw an overwhelming
literary output.
The society in 2010 also launched
an anthology of poems titled Aja
Mbari (Mbari Sacrifice), which
was described in a review as “not only a showpiece that
displays the colours and
contours, warring and workings
of young creative minds of this
generation; it is also an offering
at the shrine of creativity: a true sacrifice of words” at the
Mbari shrine.

Re: Owerri A City Of Groits. by Zadok407(m): 7:32pm On Dec 11, 2016
Insightful.

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