The Guardian (Nigeria)

Akure set to host Soyinka, Fa­gunwà, and Yorùbá artis­tic her­itage con­fer­ence

- By Gre­gory Austin Nwakunor Nigeria News · Arts · Nigeria · Do Kyung-soo · Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria · Africa · Ohio · Columbus · United States of America · California · DURHAM, N.C. · Wisconsin · Wole Soyinka · University of Ibadan · Lagos State · Lagos · Ohio State University

AR­RANGE­MENTS have reached con­clu­sive stages for the Wole Soyinka, D. O. Fa­gunwà in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence.

The con­fer­ence, or­gan­ised by Fa­gunwa Study Group (FSG), is partly spon­sored by the Ondo State gov­ern­ment.

The study group com­prises schol­ars and in­tel­lec­tu­als largely of Southwest ori­gin in Nige­ria, who are in uni­ver­si­ties lo­cated in the coun­try and out­side. The group or­gan­ises reg­u­lar schol­arly ac­tiv­i­ties such as, con­fer­ences, sem­i­nars and de­bates on Yoruba cul­tural, lit­er­ary, ed­u­ca­tional is­sues and mat­ters of in­ter­est to the promotion of Yoruba artis­tic her­itage, as well as Africans at large.

The first con­fer­ence, in 2013, was to com­mem­o­rate the 50th an­niver­sary of the pass­ing on of D.O. Fa­gunwa. At the end of that con­fer­ence, a book was pub­lished and launched in 2017 at the Univer­sity of Ibadan. Ac­cord­ing to Prof. Tunde Babawale, a mem­ber of the Fa­gunwa Study Group (FSG) and chair­man of the lo­cal or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, “the book, to date, re­mains the most au­thor­i­ta­tive work on D.O. Fa­gunwa.” Babawale, for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cen­tre for Black and African Arts and Civil­i­sa­tion (CBAAC) and now a mem­ber of the La­gos State In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (LASIEC), said the con­fer­ence has been sched­uled to hold from Au­gust 7 to 11 at the In­ter­na­tional Cul­ture and Events Cen­tre (The Dome), Akure, Ondo State.

The con­fer­ence theme is, “

and it will ex­am­ine both broad and spe­cific in­ter­sec­tions and el­e­ments of the theme. Babawale said broad spec­trum of the work of Wole Soyinka, win­ner of the 1986 No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture, is the pri­mary fo­cus of this edi­tion of the con­fer­ence.

Es­sen­tially, this in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence has been or­gan­ised to cel­e­brate the 85th birth­day of Prof. Wole Soyinka.

In Babawale’s words, “we felt this year that Soyinka is 85, there was need to cel­e­brate this icon of African lit­er­a­ture. And ev­ery thing that should be done to cel­e­brate him must be in the right di­rec­tion.”

He noted that Soyinka and Fágúnwà are two of the fore­most fig­ures in 20th-cen­tury Nige­rian and African lit­er­ary his­tory. The two writ­ers work in dif­fer­ent pri­mary lan­guages, but prom­i­nent fea­tures of their imag­i­na­tions, sourced deep in the Yorùbá artis­tic her­itage and then else­where, cross one an­other in many pro­foundly stim­u­lat­ing ways.

“Their works seem to in­ter­act at sev­eral points, even though they wrote in two dif­fer­ent lan­guages. They both drank from the same cul­tural well,” Babawale said. “We are par­tic­u­larly mo­ti­vated that these two lit­er­ary fig­ures have done a lot not just to pro­mote the Yoruba artis­tic her­itage but also Africa’s artis­tic her­itage. To a large ex­tent they have been able to raise a lot of is­sues about the pos­i­tive as­pects of our tra­di­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the or­gan­is­ers, pri­mary lan­guage or medium notwith­stand­ing, their works of­fer “for­ward-tilt­ing progress ( and up­ward es­ca­la­tion (ìdàg­bàsókè) as chief driv­ing forces of life and the artis­tic-nar­ra­tive con­tem­pla­tion of same.”

They noted, “the most sig­nif­i­cant questors in Fágúnwà’s ad­ven­tures are of­ten charged with the task of ob­tain­ing from their jour­neys new tem­plates for so­cial liv­ing, new ways of be­ing hu­man, and ever novel ways of at­tain­ing the com­mon good and com­ing to ever bet­ter ap­prox­i­ma­tions to it.

“Soyinka re­mains the pre­em­i­nent scholar, translator, and pop­u­lariser of Fágúnwà’s works. This is not just in terms of Soyinka’s pi­o­neer sta­tus in the enterprise but also in how in­flu­en­tial his in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Fágúnwà have been on sub­se­quent ef­forts. To­gether and in the con­text of the ex­pan­sive cul­tural and lit­er­ary tra­di­tions they draw from, their work al­lows us to crit­i­cally jux­ta­pose and in­ter­ac­tively ex­plore key el­e­ments of mod­ern African sen­si­bil­i­ties and con­scious­ness: oral­ity and lit­er­acy, com­mu­nity and the in­di­vid­ual, tra­di­tion and in­no­va­tion, sec­u­lar­ity and re­li­gion, free­dom and un­free­dom, ethics and aes­thet­ics, the mod­ern na­tion-state and its frag­ments, cul­ture and pol­i­tics, and an­tiq­uity and modernity.’

Also speak­ing, Kunle Ajibade, a mem­ber of the lo­cal or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, said, “we hope that this con­fer­ence would pro­vide us op­por­tu­ni­ties of ex­chang­ing ideas about some of the is­sues raised in the works of these em­i­nent lit­er­ary gi­ants.”

Speak­ers at the con­fer­ence are ex­pected to present orig­i­nal re­search on any as­pect of the work of Wole Soyinka, and/or in con­junc­tion with that of Fa­gunwa and other writ­ers. Ar­eas in­clude but are not lim­ited to:

The con­fer­ence is ex­pected to at­tract gov­er­nors from the Southwest, Prof. Soyinka, Prof. Bio­dun Jey­ifo, the chair­man of the board of FSG, Prof. Ropo Sekoni and other em­i­nent schol­ars and in­tel­lec­tu­als from the coun­try.

Two key­note speak­ers are ex­pected. They are Prof. Adeleke Adeeko, Depart­ment of African Amer­i­can and African Stud­ies, Ohio State Univer­sity, Colum­bus, United States of Amer­ica and Prof.morade­hun Aje­tu­mobi of Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia.

Prof. Te­ju­mola Olaniyan, the Louise Durham Mead pro­fes­sor of English, and African lan­guages, and lit­er­a­ture, at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin–madi­son, is con­vener of con­fer­ence.

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