White Mask, Libations for Africa adumbrate the rich cultural resonance of Niger Delta, Nigeria‘
By Godwin Okondo
The Caretaker Committee of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Delta state chapter, will host two poets from the state – Ebi Yeibo and Anote Ajeluorou at its first reading and conversation on Sunday, January 29, 2023, as part of repositioning the association for creative excellence. In this brief interaction, the caretaker chairman, Dr. Peter Omoko of Dennis Osadebey University, Asaba, is upbeat about the event, saying the works of the two poets – White Mask and Libations for Africa – are the right tonics needed to usher the state chapter into a new era of renewed creativity while also using the event to honour J.P. Clark, the late literary legend who hailed from the state
This is your first reading and conversation for 2023, possibly your first major assignment as transition committee chairman. What does this mean to you and your team?
IT means a lot not only to me, but to us, the Caretaker Committee for Association of Nigerian Authors, Delta chapter. One of the challenges we have in ANA Delta is that of holding a physical meeting. I believe this meeting will change that situation. Since the flyer was posted, we have received calls from writers from different parts of the state who are enthusiastic to attend. We are looking forward to a successful outing.
Why did you decide to bring two sons of the soil – Ebi Yeibo and Anote Ajeluoroy – home from outside the state in this first outing?
We want a unique engagement where young writers can interact with established ones. We need to cross-fertilise ideas with other writers, different from the ones they interact with on a daily basis. Besides, Anote Ajeluorou is a household name in the state. Many of us have encountered him as a journalist in The Guardian and as a writer. For Ebi Yeibo, he is a son of the soil. He is not only an award-winning poet with over eight poetry collections, but one of the most prolific poets of our generation. It is going to be an exciting encounter.
How well do the titles of the poetry collections Ajeluorou’s Libations for Africa and Yeibo’s White Mask resonate with the ethnic nationalities in Delta and the larger Niger Delta and the entire country?
Very much. Both titles adumbrate the rich cultural resonance of the Niger Delta and Nigeria, and people want to interrogate and explore their contents.
How much impact do you expect this outing to have on ANA Delta chapter?
Significant impact. In fact, with the kind of preparation we have made, we believe ANA Delta is ready to reclaim its spot in Nigeria’s field of letters.
Why the choice of Ughelli for the event and not, say a university campus or even the state capital, Asaba?
We wanted something new and unique for a start. Besides, our host, Prof. Sunny Awhefeada, who resides in Ughelli, is not only a writer, but a renowned critic who has constantly advocated a space for young writers to be heard. Again, Ughelli brings to us nostalgia of the past; a cradle that produced one of Nigeria’s foremost literary icons. Government College, Ughelli, was where Prof J.P. Clark started it all. Government College, Umuahia, and Government College, Ibadan, have, for too long, over-shadowed Ughelli in terms of literary output and prestige. So, bringing writers of Yeibo and Ajeluorou’s statures to Ughelli is to honour the town and reawaken the consciousness about its literary status that has almost been forgotten. And don’t forget that the remains of J.P. Clark lies buried a short distance away from Ughelli at Kiagbodo, his ancestral hometown. So, we are sure that the revered ‘Bard of Riverine Lore’ will be pleased with our modest efforts at bringing poetry to where he first sipped the wine of erudition that would later blossom at University College, Ibadan, and later resonate globally.
Who’s the next writer ANA Delta will host after Yeibo and Ajeluorou?
We have not made the choice yet. But like you know, Delta State is the home of creative writings in the country. We are looking at a situation where the next guest writer will be coming from outside the shores of Nigeria. Certainly, it is going to be a continuous outing.