Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ofeimun on yesterday's Chinweizu Forum

An evening of readings and performances honouring Chinweizu, co-author of Toward The Decolonisation of African Literature and other works - was held yesterday at the Muson Centre in Lagos.

Poet Odia Ofeimun writes in about the event, below.

Odia Ofeimun, photographed at home in Lagos, Sept 17, 2005

Dear Molara,

One of those events for which every Nigerian should want to be in Lagos on a weekend just ended at the Muson in Lagos. It was called The Chinweizu Forum - organized by Friends of Chinweizu in the Arts. Chinweizu was billed to and delivered a lecture on LUGARDISM AND THE PROSPECT OF AFRICAN POWER which ranged over the usual Chinweizu territory - but more concerned about the survival of Nigeria and Africa in a vein more hair-scraping than the usual Afrocentric stuff. Lugardism I am sure you can pre-figure without much trouble. And African Power you wont need over-defining if you are familiar with Marcus Garvey. But Chinweizu added something to the concept of race war at the heart of the usual Afrocentric stuff when he showed, yes, he showed how Nigeria has taken 45 years to arrive where it took Haiti more than 200 years to reach -that is a land of plenty, happy and disciplined people, reduced to a beggarly, confused, self-destructive state by slavery, colonization, imperialism and neo-colonialism. I hope you are not one of those Africans who think these concepts are old-fashioned in the globalized connundrum that the world is now supposed to be. Chinweizu, with a dash of hysterics, which i dont consider inappropriate, proves that they are concepts that describe where we still are.

But the lecture was not what i was looking forward to. It was Segun Adefila's and Crown Troupe of Africa's interpretation of Song of Lawino and Ocol based on Chinweizu's adaptation of Okot p'Bitek's two long poems for the stage. It was simply magical, mesmerizing. With two Ocols and two Lawinos on stage at the same time intermeshing in speech and movement and yet able to convey a composite image of the original characters, there was something to say for why some money-miss road Nigerian should strive for self-redemption by sponsoring the arts. Well, this one was made possible by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company. You know them. They made it possible last year to bring Ezenwa Ohaeto's body home from Cambridge. And they made me sentimental in their favour when they sent out the two winning poetry collections Okara's and Ohaeto's, as part of their Christmas hampers last year. I wish they or some serious sponsor would take on Segun and his Crown Troupe on a tour. Anywhere that play would be a hit. Not so much for what it says but how it is presented.

Antjie Krog, author of Country of My Skull, in conversation with Ofeimun, The Jazzhole, Lagos, 8 Sept, 2005

Well, if you heard that the Chinweizu forum was organized by those of us who wished to identify with him as he was recovering from a stroke, that is just part of the story. By the way, Uche Nwosu who was helping to organize the event had a stroke while he was at it. It added a dampener to the event in a way I cannot describe. Spooky. Thank Goodness, Uche is recovering fast. the whole picture added up to the point made by one of our novelists who texted me this morning to say we need 'paranoid perceptions' like Chinweizu's to keep all of us on our toes. Even at the risk of all of us being in trouble, it is good to give ourselves the opportunity to debate, to argue, about our literature our future, our country our continent. The point really is that Chinweizu's thesis is beyond Afrocentrism. It is good economics when you come to think of it. Those who fail to industrialize, those who fail to learn from the West or from wherever, the weapons with which our people have been conquered will not survive the travails of this century.

I did not mean to review the evening. But that's to tell you that you missed something. Next time be rich enough to get invited to watch a play in my city by the lagoon.



Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Quite interesting and smart.

You must have many travelers miles saved.

12:30 am, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

You have been tagged. See my blog. No need to thank me.

2:02 am, February 23, 2006  

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