‘My art is for social redemption, the evangelism of a chronicler-folklorist’
By Godwin Okondo
Two poets will square up with an eager audience as ANA Delta hosts its first reading session on Sunday, January 29, 2023 in Ughelli. Dr. Ebi Yeibo and Anote Ajeluorou’s new works – White Mask and Libations for Africa – resonate with some of the most pertinent themes of the moment. Ughelli, Delta state, where it began for the iconic poet of the riverine lore, Prof. JP Clark, is the venue of this poetic offering, as writers in the state look to pour libations in celebration of the great man whose remains are a few kilometres away in his native Kiagbodo
FOR Ebi Yeibo (White Mask), “White Masks deals with hypocrisy at all levels and the different forms of its manifestation. It dramatizes the contradictions and other aberrative tendencies exhibited by human beings; the fact that man is complex of emotions and impulses and, therefore, so unpredictable. It beams light on the diverse social interactions that take place at the personal level and the disruptive impact or consequences, both physical and psychic, of these interactions on the larger society.
“Yeah, it’s a sort of homecoming and it is beautiful. As a writer whose first work was published as far back as 1997, I have encountered and interacted with fellow writers from the state, across generations at numerous times and at different fora, but this event is unique in the sense that it is a formal forum initiated by the state chapter of ANA to explore and interrogate one’s work. There’s no doubt that it would not only be fruitful and nourishing but would also inaugurate a ferment of creativity in the state, particularly among young writers. Further to that, perhaps the icing on the cake, so to speak, is the fact that it is a double-decker event, as it is also billed to honour the memory of the iconic JP Clark. As creatives from the state, we draw inspiration from the glorious heritage bequeathed to us by this pathfinder and eternal songster and any opportunity to honour his memory is most welcome.
“My work explores the human condition from the prism of personal experience and my vision of the world. In this sense, I project or privilege the dire fortunes or fate of the Niger Delta, as a part of general human failings. Memory is very vital in my poetry; it helps me to relate or contrast various societal strands or epochs. I also deploy native rhetorical resources a great deal, essentially to add local colour to the work and document and preserve them, but also to make a statement about the yardage of our cultural wealth. And, of course, my poetry essentializes the redemptive praxis since it is generally an intervention or quest for change and progress.”
ALSO for Anote Ajeluorou (Libations for Africa), “The ways and traditions and values that Africa once held dear, as we know them, are fast passing away and being replaced by alien ones that may not be better. How then do we document our heritage for future generations, so they know how we lived? And how does Africa reinvent herself in the face of globalisation onslaught to retain its soul and time-honoured virtues and still keep pace with modernity? What exactly are the beauties of Africa’s past? How has Africa’s children behaved towards her – betrayal or patriotism to Africa’s cultural ideals? Should Africans go back to those ancient values, for good or bad? What can we take from the past to guide us in the present and into the future?
“Libations for Africa is a poetic journey that dredges up the past, meditates on the present and charts paths to the future. What manner of libations should Africa’s children be pouring to their ancestors in the 21st century?
“My art is for social redemption. It’s the evangelism of a chronicler-folklorist. It was the sort of thing JP Clark did admirably so well in his poetry, where he put into poetry the experiences of the Nige Delta in fine, irresistible, luminous poetry. He was a gift to us, and this little is the much we can give him for now. I’m looking to see how this could translate into a grand festival of poetry in Clark’s honour. By now, his hometown Kiagbodo should be a pilgrimage of poetic sorts. This could just be the start of that noble, poetic process.”