The Guardian (Nigeria)

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

- By Gregory Austin Nwakunor

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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