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Gomba, winner of Nigeria Prize for Literature 2023, delivers LABAF 25.0 keynote

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  • November 9, 2023
  • 7 min read
Gomba, winner of Nigeria Prize for Literature 2023, delivers LABAF 25.0 keynote

* Shasore, Odugbemi, Oribhabor up for celebration

* Publishers’ take on Nigerian books ecosystem: yesterday, today, tomorrow

By Editor

WHEN Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF 2023) opens on Monday, November 13 at Freedom Park, 1 Broad Street, Lagos, discussions in the various panel sessions will centre on the theme ‘The Reset: History and The Darkling Plain’. It’s a theme taken from one of the book titled On a Darkling Plain, by Nigeria’s patron saint of environmental activism, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was judicially murdered by the Nigerian state by Gen. Sani Abacha military junta, on November 10, 1995.

To speak on the theme as keynote for the festival colloquium is the latest winner of the Nigerian Prize for Literature 2023 (Grit) and Deputy Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Obari Gomba. His work has followed the pattern of Saro-Wiwa’s in campaigning for environmental justice and sustainability, especially in the despoiled and marginalised oil-rich Niger Delta region for which Saro-Wiwa died campaigning.

The colloquium will hold on Friday, November 17 at Kongi’s Harvest Art Gallery, Freedom Park. Gomba is an Honorary Fellow in Writing of the University of Iowa (USA), and winner of the Pan-African Writers Association‘s Prize for Poetry 2022 with The Lilt of the Rebel, among other numerous prizes he has won.

The session will be chaired by Emeritus Professor, poet and playwright, Femi Osofisan. Also flowing from the theme will be a significant question asked about Nigeria’s nationhood: ‘Was there ever a Glorious Moment in our Postcolonial History?’ It will be based on reading and conversations around Peter Enahoro’s Then Spoke The Thunder and Akin Mabogunje’s A Measure of Grace, with moderation from writer, journalist and Executive Editor, The News, Kunle Ajibade.

A day before the keynote and on Thursday, Publishers’ Forum, a collaboration CORA and the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters of Nigeria (NBRP), would have been held. It’s in honour of the CEO of Quramo Books and Convener of Quramo Festival of Words, Mrs. Gbemi Sashore, who turned 60 recently. The theme is ‘The Nigerian Books Ecosystem: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’. Shasore will deliver the opening remarks to declare the 4-part seminar open. The first panel will dwell on ‘Artificial intelligence: Thrills and Perils: A Publishing Industry Perspective, with co-founder of Narrative Landscape Press, Dr. Eghosa Imasuen, Nkem Osuigwe, Adachukwu Onwudiwe and Fred Chiagozie Nwonwu, as panel members and Tahirah Sagaya moderating it. The second panel will focus on ‘From Ife till Today: Nigeria’s Book Fairs, Festivals and the Reading Culture’, and has Dapo Adeniyi, Adegbola Adesina, Abiodun Omotubi and Olatoun Gabi-Williams, as panel members while Uzezi Ekere Adesite will moderate the session.

The third panel of the Publishers’ Forum is on ’Winning with Book Publishing and Marketing: An Insider’s Lens’ and focuses on running successfully, achieving goals, rising above limitations and tapping opportunities and advantages in the book trade. Panel members include co-founder of Rovingheights Bookstores, Dotun Eyinade, book marketer, Mrs. Awele Ilusanmi, publisher, Mrs. Yomi Ogunlari and writer, Mike Ekunno. Moderating the session will be book club expert, Mrs. Funmi Ilori. The fourth session is based on ‘The Guinness World Record and the Reading Culture in Nigeria’, and features record holder, John Obot and record attempt, Bayode Treasures Olawumi. The duo will be in conversation with the publisher and founder of Purple Shelves, Amara Chimeka.

Also on Day 4: Thursday, November 16 dubbed ‘Literacy Day’ will continue CORA Youth Creative Club at the GreenGarden and comprise of workshops, mentoring and free expressions by students and young adults begins. It’s produced by CORA and Events by Nature.

Arthouse Forum is a major part of LABAF and CORA activities, which will celebrate and honour the quintessential storyteller and content producer, Femi Odugbemi, who clocked the diamond age of 60 in May 2023. Through his well-applauded and travelled body of work, Odugbemi has shown how the film medium, especially the documentary format, could help to deepen the spread of literacy among the citizenry and help to increase human capital development in the course of nation-building.

Odugbemi has been a consistent advocate for African storytelling to be authentic in content and context, to dig deeper into the cultural environment from which they are produced, and in which they are first consumed before they become global products. His argument segued into the critical conviction that an artist or creative producer must be conscious of the cultural and environmental universe of his or her work to gain relevance and acceptability in the global market. His argument challenges the nature, texture and character of the SCRIPTING and NARRATIVE content, form, style and technique of the extant Nigerian movie system dubbed NOLLYWOOD.

Dr. Obari Gomba

The Odugbemi session is divided into three. There will be a panel discussion on challenges of SCRIPTING that is critically viewed as the existential problem of Nollywood. A panel comprising scriptwriters, directors, producers, critics and viewers will examine the issue of scripting from diverse angles. Some of Odugbemi’s selected films such as Oriki, Ibadan, And the Chain Was Not and Bariga Boys will be screened while an interview documentary on Odugbemi anchored by CORA Secretary, Mr. Toyin Akinosho will culminate the Odugbemi celebration.

A day before the keynote and on Thursday, Publisher’s Forum, in association with the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters of Nigeria (NBRP), would have been held. It’s in honour of the CEO of Quramo Books and Convener of Quramo Festival of Words, Mrs. Gbemi Sashore, who turned 60 recently. The theme is ‘The Nigerian Books Ecosystem: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’. Shasore will deliver the opening remarks to declare the 4-part seminar open. The first panel will dwell on ‘Artificial intelligence: Thrills and Perils: A Publishing Industry Perspective, with Co-founder of Narrative Landscape Press, Dr. Eghosa Imasuen, Nkem Osuigwe, Adachukwu Onwudiwe and Fred Chiagozie Nwonwu, as panel members with Tahirah Sagaya moderating it. The second panel will focus on ‘From Ife till Today: Nigeria’s Book Fairs, Festivals and the Reading Culture’, and has Dapo Adeniyi, Adegbola Adesina, Abiodun Omotubi and Olatoun Gabi-Williams, as panel members while Uzezi Ekere Adesite will moderate the session.

The third panel of the Publishers’ Forum is on ’Winning with Book Publishing and Marketing: An Insider’s Lens’ and focuses on running successfully, achieving goals, rising above limitations and tapping opportunities and advantages in the book trade. Panel members include Co-founder of Rovingheights Bookstores, Mr. Dotun Eyinade, book marketer, Mrs. Awele Ilusanmi, publisher, Mrs. Yomi Ogunlari and writer, Mr. Mike Ekunno. Moderating the session will be book club expert, Mrs. Funmi Ilori. The fourth session is based on ‘The Guinness World Record and the Reading Culture in Nigeria’, and features record holder, Mr. John Obot and record attempt, Mr. Bayode Treasures Olawumi. The duo will be in conversation with the publisher and founder of Purple Shelves, Amara Chimeka.

Also on Day 4: Thursday, November 16 dubbed ‘Literacy Day’ will continue CORA Youth Creative Club at the GreenGarden and comprise of workshops, mentoring and free expressions by students and young adults begins. It’s produced by CORA and Events by Nature.

Mr. Femi Odugbemi

Same day at the FoodCourt will witness ‘An Evening of Poetic Flights’, a written and performance poetry showpiece, dedicated to the memory of the preeminent poet, the late Prof. John Pepper Bekederemo-Clark, and it has as theme ‘Poetic Flights for the Merchant of Poetry’. It’s also a moment for CORA to celebrate and honour the contributions of the founder of Poets in Nigeria (PIN) Initiative and other projects, Sir Eriata Oribhabor, on his attainment of the diamond age. Fondly called ‘Merchant of Poetry’, Oribhabor has through passion, sheer commitment to a vision and personal investments, created a national community and movement of young poetry ‘warriors’ – thus helping to secure the future of the literary genre. To chair the session will be art connoisseur and PIN patron, OmoOba Yemisi Shyllon.

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