Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Poesondra: Stylistic Innovation at JosANA

The last JosANA meeting on the 5th of April proved a memorable one.

Quite atypically, it started a behind schedule due to the lateness of our chairman and the little problem with our venue being locked. But of course, the informal workshop had already commenced in the corridor with the arrival of Mr. Nnamonu, the educationist, and Richard Ugbede Ali. In time, other members joined in and the Chairman arrived with his apologies.

The meeting proper began with Richard Ali’s report on the British Council sponsored Radiophonics program at Kano which he had attended with three other members of JosANA; Abubakar Adam, Redzie Jugo and Alpha ‘Meka. The house was very interested in hearing about the experience and asked questions regarding it. Questions were also put to Abubakar Adam and later to Redzie and Alpha when they arrived. Aunty B Tsevende, who had arrived with a crate of chilled soft drinks, asked about specifics of radio writing and discourse followed. Abubakar Adam replied that the trick was to keep the audience’s attention. Repeating the words of our facilitator, Mike Harris of the University of Sheffield, he said that when you’ve written a book, if the reader gets bored, he could close the book and maybe give you another chance later; with radio on the other hand, he simply reaches out and “OFF”, and that ends the whole thing. So, good radio writing must be like a drug, given in small doses, and spaced out with highly dramatic reversal points. Sound effects are also a very important aspect of radio writing.

Next was talk on the at hand Achebe Colloquium. The Chairman updated the house on how far the arrangements were going and generally, what the latest news was.

The activities held in honor of Prof. G. G. Darah’s 60th birthday anniversary had culminated the week before at Abraka and Mr. Dooga of the University of Jos, who attended, gave us a rundown of the whole event. He made everyone feel the heat of the intellection that had gone on there and yet, each person felt a bit sad that they had not been there in person to see the likes of Tanure Ojaide and other highly esteemed literary icons. Mr. Dooga showed us pictures taken at the event, which was well attended, and a clip of the “ovedje {sic}” dance. He also brought us up to speed on the intellectual pulse of the Niger Delta. It would seem that the same anger we up north feel for the Niger Delta intelligentsia who we see as having been railroaded by thugs like Ateke and Dokubo, is replicated with their own anger directed at particular northern academics. From the foregoing, there is the necessity for greater interaction between the north and the delta, especially amongst the academics; there are obvious differences, resource control et al, but they should not be insurmountable ones.

The Northern Writers Conference scheduled for Minna from the 4th to 6th of May was announced and all who wished to be delegates from JosANA were asked to get their names across to the Chairman.

Aunty B Tsevende would be touring the United States this week with a production of Queen Idia, which she has choreographed.

Richard Ugbede Ali read “Seesaw Selection”, the fruit of his one-week stay in Kano to the critical acclaim of the house which included Paul Ugbede, noted Jos based playwright.

But the high point of the meeting came with the rendition of piece by a new member, Ejiofor Okolo; he called his style “poesondra”, a fluid style incorporating the character of poetry, song and drama. Needless to say, it was an interesting performance, and a definitive experience. Ejiofor rendered his piece, really rendered it, with action, gesticulation and voice modulation. One was put to mind immediately of the griots of Mali and Senegal and our own Yoruba drummer boys from the 1970’s Lagos, with their little talking drums who seem to improvise their poetry as they moved along the streets. But then, you wonder, such deep poetry cannot have been improvised there and then, the complexity of meaning in them betrayed the true skill of a poet as gifted as any. We at JosANA have witnessed the birth of what may turn out to be a new thrust in Nigerian literature, which has been long dormant since Niyi Osundare swept up a storm with his highly lyrical “oral” poetry in the 80’s. If that movement acquires a stable form, its most visible representative would be Ejoifor Okolo, an Igbo griot and very importantly, a member of JosANA.

Following this, the meeting broke up once again into informal groups, some clustering around the Radiophonics people, others around Ejoifor and yet others around the chairman.

The next meeting is for Saturday 19th of April at the Nigerian Film Institue, Jos.