The billing promised to be a thriller of an event and some of the heavyweights of the Abuja literati turned up at the Banquet Hall of Nanet Suites,venue of the May 25, 2013 Guest Writer Session of Abuja Writers Forum (AWF).
Christy Makut, guitarist and songwriter, had the unenviable task of setting the tone for the evening. The On-Air-Personality with the Abuja-based FM Station, Nigeria Info, strummed and sang her soul-lifting songs with a captivating dexterity. On hand too to fortify the musical interludes was Tokunbo Edward with his unique style of rendition which left the audience asking for more.
As is usual with the Guest Writer Session which is not just about reading, the medley also of presentations also included a mini-salon. Ndubuisi Ahanonu better known as Nduwhite, stepped up to exhibit contemporary Nigerian paintings reflecting artistic perspectives of current events in the country. According to Nduwhite, who is also Executive Director of the International Institute for Creative Development was represented, it is the responsibility of
artists to preserve the age they live in by capturing events in their works. His exhibitions included a depiction of the anti fuel subsidy removal protest rally of January 2012 and an impressive array of used soft drink cans he personally picked on streets to create an intriguing collage.
Winners of the April Creative Writing Challenge received their prizes. The winners were Azizat Mohammed, Oye Ololade and Sadan Kalid, who came first, second and third respectively in the fiction category.
There was a tie for the first position in poetry, held by Lolade Oye and Amina Aboje and the third prize was won by Didi Nwala. Azizat Mohammed was the only winner for the drama category. Most of the winners had recently completed the introductory phase of the AWF Creative Writing Workshop.
The writers took their turn to add gaiety to the delightful evening. First up was Umari Ayim, who is also a lawyer, fashion designer, gender rights activist and blogger, and she was making her second appearance at the Guest Writer Session. Last year she had read from her debut award-winning novel, Twilight at Terracota Indigo, but this time she read from her
maiden poetry collection, Inside My Head which recently won a Poetry prize. The enthralling poems she read reached a climax with a poem based on the little publicized mass suicide of igbo slaves.
Not surprisingly, during the Q and A session, she was asked about her interest in history.
The man with a deep interest in history and author of Road To Biafra, Gerald Oluchi Ibe, read from his new collection of short stories, After The Tears. His story about a randy state governor ended on a hilarious note that drew a warm applause from the audience.
ElNathan John took his turn with his short story, “Bayan Layi”, which had just been shortlisted for this year’s edition of the Caine Prize for African Writing, along with three other Nigerians and a Sierra-leonean.
The literary prize is named in memory of the late Sir Michael Caine, Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for almost 25 years. Not unexpected, the news of the nomination had triggered interest in the story and the organizers seemed to have deliberately saved it for last. In the official announcement of the shortlist, the Chair of judges, art historian and broadcaster, Gus Casely-Hayford had described the five stories as interrogating
“ aspects of things that we might feel we know of Africa – violence, religion, corruption, family, community – but these are subjects that are deconstructed and beautifully remade. These are challenging, arresting, provocative stories of a continent and its descendants captured at a time of burgeoning change.”
As John read his story, which he later revealed was inspired by a friendship he had cultivated with an almajiri years back in Zaria, the audience could not be but agree with Casely-Hayford’s assessment. Some members of the audience hoped John or any of the other three
Nigerians would the winner of the £10,000 prize to be announced at a celebratory dinner at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday 8 July.
The President of Abuja Writers Forum, Dr. Emman Usman Shehu in his closing remark congratulated El-Nathan and expressed optimism that the body, and indeed a new generation of Nigerian writers will soon dominate international literary awards. He pointed out that interventions by groups like the Abuja Writers Forum are beginning to bear fruits.
The literati at the event included Dr Musa Opanashi, Dr. Kazura Zakama, Mrs. Chineyere Obi-Obasi, Mike Ekunno, Prince Abiathar Zadok, Dike Chukwumerije, and Mr. Ibe , a onetime governorship aspirant in Imo state. The next edition of the Guest Writer Forum holds on June 29. Grareano Kori Adiga is an Abuja-based literary enthusiast.