Journalism in the service of society

When Literature meets Arts

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe  

THE beautiful atmosphere and ambiance of Eko Hotels and Suites on the serene Victoria Island and within the studios of Art Twenty-One was the venue on June 22, 2022, when two branches of Arts met and provided the chance for lovers of literature and visual arts to have a feast of words and photographs for their brains and eyes.

Within the beautiful atmosphere provided by the Art Twenty-One studios with the fantastic pictures of German photographer and artist Wolfgang Tillmans serving as the beautiful scenic background, two winners of the Nigeria Literature Prize endowed by the Nigeria Natural Liquefied Gas (NNLG), Abubakar Imam Ibrahim and Jude Idada, read to the audience from their winning novels.

Jude Idada, Anikulapo, Ibrahim

Ibrahim who in 2016 won the $100,000 prize with his novel Season of Crimson Blossom and Idada with his Children category win of the same prize in 2019 with his Boom Boom, both captivated the attentive audience with their readings. It was a night of fun and banters which meant to engender debates in the Nigeria literary and art space. One of Nigeria’s foremost editors and art communicators, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, anchored the event which was sponsored by one of the longest and most enduring art patrons of Nigeria, the Goethe Institut in conjunction with the NNLG. It was a night to remember.

Jahman had at a point ignited the discussion by pointing out that only Ibrahim, Idada and Tade Ipadeola who won the Poetry Prize in2013 (The Sahara Testament), were the only winners of the Literature Prize that are still writing today! He spoke the minds of many literary critics who have been feeling that the Prize perhaps needs some re-engineering to make it serve the literary community more than it presently does. However, as another person quipped, you don’t tell a man how to spend his hard-earned money!

For instance, this writer had at different times expressed the view that was canvassed by Jahman. Some writers who write with their eyes on winning awards have seen the prize as a cash cow needed to settle them for life and help them disappear from the literary scene if they win. Not necessarily to set them up to write more enduring books! However, it is the considered view of many that this needs to be looked into. As much as critics may not be able to dictate how they spend or invest their money, it is important to stress that the money given out today stands as the biggest on the continent and perhaps anywhere in the world for a single work of literature, it, therefore, needs to be examined.

Andy Odeh addressing the house

Mr. Andy Odeh, the NNLG General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, reiterated the fact that the company endowed the prize to promote literature and art in the country and help to revive the reading culture. This is not the only support given by the company as it also sponsors the Science Prize. It was the views of many that night that other companies in the country also need to look key into such laudable visions, especially since the art sector seems to be the worst hit by the dwindling economy.

Ibrahim and Idada read from their books and had some questions to answer from the audience. Of course, it goes without saying that the most important question on the lips of many was how the windfall had changed the writers’ lives. Both agreed that it did in many ways, especially in a country where poverty has become endemic and coupled with the fact that the prize is denominated in almighty dollars!

Ibrahim agreed that the prize made many see him as a ready Automated Teller Machine (ATM) with floods of requests from both known and unknown people who think he has “arrived” and should also spread the booty to them. Idada too had and continues to be flooded with such requests. However, both confessed that it has not in any way changed them as writers. In fact, it has in more ways than one made them determined to succeed in their chosen path.

Idada felt he is more determined to do so because his father was not happy that he chose the path of writing and abandoned his early decision to be a medical doctor. He thinks that today he is still a doctor but in a different manner because he uses his literature to serve as therapy for readers. This is more so because his winning entry Bom Boom deals with an issue that is very common not only in Nigeria but among Black people around the world; sickle cell. Set through the eyes of an eight-year-old he deals with the issue with such a convincing storyline that one is bound to find it enthralling.

Ibrahim’s winning entry has gone to win recognition and approval beyond the shores of Nigeria and has been translated into several languages with more underway. It is a story of love, politics, betrayal and realization and shattering of dreams set in the northern part of the country.

Nadine Siegert 1
Dr Siegert

The Director of Goethe Institut, Dr. Nadine Siegert appreciated the quality audience and the participatory nature. And as Ibrahim had said in 2016 when he won the award, “Literature is a reservoir of memories.” Many of the people who attended the reading went home with good memories of that great night at Victoria Island and hope such could be more frequent.

Jude Idada 2

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