* Wilson, others celebrate Achebe’s rich cultural offerings, as Sampson calls for indigenization of names
By Samuel Udoma
THE need to tap into the rich reservoir of African cultural heritage for the enrichment of literary exertions has been espoused by readers and scholars at the Uyo Book Club. This among others was part of the submissions arrived at recently by discussants and other participants during the August Reading Session of the intellectual community held at the William Shakespeare Room, Watbridge Hotels & Suites, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Opening the floodgate on the Achebe discourse with a well-detailed review, the Lead Discussant and an eminent Professor of Communication Arts, Prof. Des Wilson, highlighted the influence of culture in all of Achebe’s works, praising particularly his rich and extensive use of Igbo proverbs and maxims. Wilson took time to speak on the character of the man, Achebe, his convictions, the simplicity and cultural depth of his works and his impact on African literature. He took time to review 15 of Achebe’s proverbs and their applications in daily life. He called on writers to follow Achebe’s footsteps by using their writing skills to promote their culture and traditional values to the world and stop mimicking western culture. Also speaking, Patron of the Uyo Book Club and a former commissioner in the state, Rt. Hon.(Dr.) Ekong Sampson brought into light the legacies of Chinua Achebe, the impact of his native African culture as reflected in his works and the near prophetic significance of some of his iconic characters including Okonkwo, Unoka, Ogbuefi Ezeudo, Obi Okonkwo, Clara, Ikemefuna, among others, saying that Achebe created defining characters who have remained timeless in lessons and recourse. Sampson equally borrowed from Achebe’s portrayal of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart to draw moral analogies on the human concept of public validation and the claims of ‘being thought weak or a weakling’ if one failed to exert considerable reaction to some of life’s numerous issues. The erudite former State Assembly Member for Mkpat Enin, who currently serves as Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee of the fast-approaching National Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria Conference, Uyo 2021, also spoke about the need for Africans to bear names from their culture.
He criticized the change of Ibibio names to English just to suit socio-religious validations, saying that our names define us as a people and an ethnic group. Sampson stated that the reason people change their Ibibio names was because of the myths and superstitions they have been inculcated, explaining further that names do not necessarily affect the lives of the people who bear them. Other speakers at the event, including filmmaker, Aniebiet Francis, commended Uyo Book Club for organizing the special session on Achebe. She said as a filmmaker, she was challenged by Achebe’s portrayal of Igbo culture to the world and pledged she would do more to showcase Akwa Ibom culture in her movies. She decried the lack of cultural depth in local Akwa Ibom movies as compared to Igbo movies owing to lack of depth in scriptwriting. She appealed to Akwa Ibom writers to put more cultural depth in their stories and stated her readiness to work with writers to showcase Akwa Ibom culture in movies. Earlier while setting the tone for the event, the Founder of Uyo Book Club, Dr. Udeme Nana, welcomed everyone to the Achebe Day and explained the essence of choosing these great writers for attention, assuring that the book club would continue to provide the needed canvas for social and intellectual discourse among the people. He observed that though Chinua Achebe may be physically dead, he was still alive through his books, emphasizing that “writers don’t die. Achebe’s books would remain through time, Nana,” said. The mass communication scholar said Achebe was an inspiration to several writers and created a literary fervent among his people. He made Igbos to be proud of their Igboness wherever they find themselves in the world. “This is the kind of awakening this book club wants to drive in this state,” he stated. The highpoint of the day was the presentation of a branded national book conference t-shirt and a matching cap to the guest reader, Prof. Des Wilson, by the Uyo 2021 LOC Chairman, Dr. Ekong Sampson.
PHOTO CAPTION: Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Ekong Sampson (left) presenting the t-shirt and face cap of Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria to Prof. Des Wilson at Uyo Book Club reading session yesterday… in Uyo