‘Ab­sence Of Clout Around Lit­er­a­ture Di­min­ishes Its Cause’

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - LITERATURE -

some re­searches be­fore writ­ing the play. In the end, one tries to re­flect that some of the things hap­pen­ing in th­ese camps are ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing in and around us ev­ery day!

Then I was in­tent on the dra­maturgy. A drama is just a mere piece of writ­ing when it is lax in terms of the dra­matur­gi­cal fix­tures. That is what makes the story ten­able for per­for­mance in the first place. I was sen­si­tive to the dra­matur­gi­cal de­tails as I built I also feel that the play is ca­pa­ble of con­nect­ing to any­one who reads it. Th­ese are qual­i­ties, which make unique.

Like I said ear­lier, the judges have set cri­te­ria and pre­rog­a­tives. They de­ter­mine their po­si­tion based on th­ese. Those who sent in en­tries are only con­cerned about the com­pe­ti­tion guide­lines. We do not de­ter­mine the lit­er­ary taste of the jury. How­ever, I am con­fi­dent that is a choice dra­matic piece for any lover of lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture. mo­ment. Over the years, they have in­creased the prize money three times or there­about. They have in­creased their pro­file and opened up the judg­ing sys­tem the more. They need the ef­forts and sup­port of other stake­hold­ers to keep im­prov­ing on the prize. Haa! The ex­pec­ta­tion can be likened to that of the evo­lu­tion of the child. From con­cep­tion you fin­ished off the first draft, which looks like a scan pic­ture of the baby. Then you pol­ish as the child grows in you. Then you are ex­pec­tant on the de­liv­ery day when you got the first printed copy from the pub­lisher. You look at it like you would a fresh born baby. Then you send the child to school like an en­try for the com­pe­ti­tion and hope that the child grad­u­ates with a first class! Al­ready you have re­ceived progress re­port that your child has been ranked among the best in the school but there would have to be a jury to de­ter­mine if the child would clinch the sole hon­ors badge in the school. You see, all th­ese phases are jour­neys with their dif­fer­ent anx­i­ety and ex­pec­ta­tions. It is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine which of the steps is most ar­du­ous.

which was also on the longlist of the 2014 edi­tion of The Nige­ria Prize for Lit­er­a­ture didn’t get the de­sired mar­ket. I work in the ed­u­ca­tional en­vi­ron­ment, but I have a guid­ing prin­ci­ple never to sell my books to my own stu­dents for cour­ses, which I am the tu­tor. And that ends the prospect of the book’s mar­ket­ing. I can’t be think­ing of writ­ing, and teach­ing and try­ing to grow my fam­ily and then choke it up with mar­ket­ing my books. I gave over 500 of out as com­pli­men­tary copies.

And that is how it goes. You will see young writ­ers lit­er­ally forc­ing their books on peo­ple to buy. Most times it is shame­ful but they don’t have an al­ter­na­tive to re­coup the money in­vested in the pub­li­ca­tion. There have been ar­gu­ments whether Nige­ri­ans read or not. They do read, of course! But they read sen­sa­tional sto­ries from the in­ter­net, not lit­er­a­ture. Even your clos­est friends just want a com­pli­men­tary copy of your book as me­mento. Ask them for feed­backs and they start to scratch their heads! That is a big prob­lem.

Those who read lit­er­ary works in Nige­ria are ad­her­ents of lit­er­a­ture and they are still very scanty. We need to find ways to tell our sto­ries. The de­base­ment of Lit­er­a­ture and His­tory as school sub­jects has con­trib­uted to this de­ba­cle. Maybe if we start by el­e­vat­ing some of th­ese sub­jects then we could di­rectly en­cour­age the read­ing cul­ture. Then peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions don’t put their money in lit­er­a­ture. And that is why I find what NLNG is do­ing fas­ci­nat­ing. Other or­gan­i­sa­tions would rather in­vest in mu­si­cal shows or re­al­ity TV shows. So there is no clout around the dis­ci­pline of lit­er­a­ture, which also di­min­ishes its cause.

Low pa­tron­age or poor read­ing cul­ture is as a re­sult of a lack of clout around the dis­ci­pline of lit­er­a­ture, so sug­gests theatre scholar, Dr. Soji Cole, who teaches dra­matic arts at the Uni­ver­sity of Ibadan. He is among the fi­nal three in the race for The Nige­ria Prize for Lit­er­a­ture 2018, with fo­cus on drama. In this in­ter­view with ANOTE AJELUOROU, Cole high­lights some of the chal­lenges fac­ing creative writ­ing in the coun­try.

Most cer­tainly there are. Most of them are very per­sonal to me and they are hu­man­i­tar­ian in na­ture. You know, some things you have dreamed of do­ing if you had the re­sources. I can’t state them in pub­lic be­cause they are projects, which have some eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions around them. Also, I had come across some set of bril­liant young stu­dent writ­ers in the past years that I have been teach­ing play­writ­ing as an Arts Fel­low at the Uni­ver­sity of Ibadan. Most of th­ese stu­dents do not have hope of pub­lish­ing their first se­ries of writ­ings. I have been col­lect­ing some of th­ese works and have been in con­stant touch with even those who have left the uni­ver­sity among th­ese stu­dents. I hope to have an in­ter­na­tional com­pen­dium of writ­ings for th­ese stu­dents. My first lit­er­ary work was pub­lished in an in­ter­na­tional com­pen­dium. I do hope that some of th­ese young, bril­liant writ­ers will get such op­por­tu­nity. Then I hope to help some of them pub­lish their works pri­vately, too.

Soji Cole

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