Tuesday, April 08, 2014


year, the Lagos Black Heritage Festival takes a break from its current series –-
The Black in the Mediterranean Blue.  While the Festival policy of a thematic
selection for each edition is not abandoned, it moves from the geographic
outlook to the disciplinary  -- the
discipline for this year being: Music.

The LBHF 2014 events
hold from April 14th through 21st at the Freedom Park (Old Colonial
Prison), I Hospital Road, off Broad Street, Lagos.

Much is
happening in the musical field, but there is a domination of Eura-merican pop forms,
which near completely stifles the exploration of indigenous musical resources
both in direct performance for audiences, and in their application to other
disciplines –- most notably in theatre and cinema/video.  Regarding the latter, when one considers what
passes for incidental or ‘mood’ music in much of the output of the ever-expanding
African film industry, it becomes a classic case of a visual assault compounded
by aural aggravation! A reverse track may yet be brought about by exposing film
and video directors to possibilities from neglected musical modes within their
own cultural environment.

drama was founded on what was generally dubbed ‘folk opera’, a form that is
largely dying out. Additionally therefore, in an attempt to resuscitate this
unique performance genre, so highly developed in other societies –- see, for
instance, the heights to which it has been taken in countries like China -- LBHF
yields Front Stage this year to Music, its fortunes under technological
enhancements and the proliferation of foreign music. Music, we know, plays a
dominant role in social life.
Festival will use the event to also pay tribute also to pioneers –- such as Steve Rhodes –- whose struggling
orchestra and choral ensemble won laurels in famous international competitions
such as the Welsh Eisteddfod. It will provide a homecoming platform for
contemporary composers whose works have been enjoyed for decades by foreign
audiences but remain totally unknown in their own homeland. 

LBHF plans to open the eyes (and ears!) of aspiring musicians to the vastly
unexplored possibilities of the musical forms right in their own backyards, as
an option to the largely imitative trend currently pursued by a new generation
of musicians.  Innovative African music,
we propose, should not end with Afro-beat!

etc. etc.
always, the supporting cast to the main theme will be out in full form. There
will be at least two dramatic premieres, the ever-popular DO YOUR OWN THING, always a showcase of surprise talents and
unpredictable presentations. The WATER
constantly outdoes its previous outing, festooning the lagoon in a
blaze of pennants and choreographed motions, while the STREET CARNIVAL continues to complement its Calabar sister Carnival,
which rounds up each year, even as the Lagos version ushers in the next every
Easter Monday. Not to be missed of course is the Grand Opening itself with its Ancestral Parade through the streets of
Lagos. And to inject continuing relevance and ancestral readiness to be pressed
into contemporary service, the Ancestors have a surprise appearance for mortal
beings in this edition. 
ancestors to the living: the NIGHT OF
celebrates the lyric voices of the living, then further down to
the next generation which is represented in the CHILDREN’S CARNIVAL, while their viewpoint of the world they
inhabit finds expression in VISION OF
, a competitive exposition through brush and paint, poetry and
prose, that seeks out, and gives pride of attention to the often unheard
questions and aspirations of creative minors.
again, the state and city of Lagos roll out their mat of variegated colours and
textures to locals and visitors alike, saying – WELCOME!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Memory, history and identity | New Telegraph

Memory, history and identity | New Telegraph


Memory, history and identity

Screenings and Conversations at iREP Doc Fest 2014

Cinema, the unseen voice in Eva Knopf´s Majub´s Reise (Majub´s Journey) narrates, is an art that strives to make stars shine. Extras, the voice continues, are the dark night-sky background. Majub´s journey sets for itself the task of lighting up the dark oft he nightsky, to make a star of a bit player. This cinema essay tells the story of a Majub bin Adam Mohamed Hussein, aka Mohamed Husen, who lived and worked as an extra in the movie industry in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.
Majub was born in Dar es Salaam, a former German colony. He became a soldier for the Germans during World War I – when he was only nine years old. Eva´s film – interweaving meticulously researched facts and inferential evidence, traces Majub´s footprints, from his childhood in the colony to his life and death in Nazi Germany. After Germany lost the war, they failed to pay Majub for his military service. A decade or so later, Majub decided to travel to Germany to personally collect his outstanding money.
Majub became a popular extra and bit player in 1930s German cinema – whenever the films of the Nazi era called for a black character, it was usually Majub – where he was cast alongside the era´s stars like Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann or Zarah Leander. In this sense, this film seems an act of reburial. (That is to say, an act of proper burial.) Eva seems unconsciously to treat space as a film set, a film location. There is this in Eva´s direction of Majub´s Reise (Majub´s Journey) – her graduation documentary: the (almost inborn) awareness, the naturalness and heightened sensitivity of the film director – a sureness that says, I belong in the space.
There is also the courage to take on this difficult subject matter and treat it with a raw, questioning honesty. There is beauty in this film, tenderness and bitter poetry. The Q&A (really, it was a sort of debate) that followed the screening testify to this difficulty and bitter residue of colonial history, in this instance, the way alterity, the image of the Other is constructed. The way colonized peoples narrative is erased and subsumed within the narrative of the colonizer. The event was the iREPRESENT international Documentary Film Festival themed “Rhythms of Identity.“
“Everything is about representation. Images are important, they are political; they form the rhythm of our identity and are present in all the elements that define who we are.“ Africans, the festival brochure says, are always at a disadvantage in global definitions and is always defined by others, never by itself. “Who is telling the story of Africa and it´s realities and from what perspective?“
Antje Kruska´s film, Land in Sight follows the travails of the asylum seekers from Cameroun, Yemen and Iran. Antje´s film (which she co-directed with Judith Keil, her constant collaborator) reflects how an artist can take the usual, the everyday and make o fit something really unique.
Beyond the poetry of this film, is the feeling you get of heightened fiction – not at all in the sense of docudrama, but in the sense of a reality at once tragic and comic the mind takes flight. There´s subtlety to the narrative, an unobtrusive quality to the filmmaking as subject and filmmakers seem to blend, to lose awareness of each other´s presence. Against the backdrop of the festival´s theme, Eva and Antje are walking a tightrope and with the way altering.
Otherness is staged and performed in mainstream media it is testament to the filmmakers´artistic integrity and honesty that the films keeps their balance. I don´t mean that the films are objective. No, objectivity, all too often masquerades as the pretended impartiality of an artist afraid to reveal herself. What I mean is that the two films presents their narrative in ways that subverts the mainstream. Immigrants, in mainstream media, are usually framed in terms of riots and criminality.
Antje´s film presents immigrants in ways that seem to encourage the challenge the traditional way immigrants are framed and categorized. The surprise is that Eva studied cultural anthropology and teaches visual and media anthropology. Antje, among other subjects, studied sociology. Yet there is the absence of the sociological and anthropological approach usually evident in films dealing with African subjects.
There is a disturbing feel to Jide Akinleminu´s Portrait of A Lone Farmer. Perhaps the autobiography is what makes you think you´re watching someone perform surgery on himself, in public without anaesthesia. Afterwards, Jide mentioned a Yoruba proverb that says home is where you return to at the end of the farming day.
And yet, you get the feeling as you watch this film that the filmmaker portraits home as lost, a place where we belong, where we were happy as children; a place where ourspiritual roots are but to which we can never return.
It is this sense of loss, of longing, of a never-ending remembrance you feel in his film. There is an absence, an unbelonging heightened by the director´s voice – you hear the director, you feel him standing just beyond the edge of light, unable to locate himself, to place himself in his own story. Unlike Jide, Ushi, the dairymaid at the heart of Matti Bauer´s Still is firmly situated in her story – in the sense of home is where you make it.
Beautifully photographed in black and white, Bauer´s film – as Bauer himself says he intended – has a classical feel to it. I do think, however, that this effect derives not just from the non-use of colour. But, one must understand that there is not an absence of colour in this film.
The many gradation and hues imbues this film with a poetic tone. If at all there is melancholy to Still, it is not dark despair. It is the bittersweet memory of a moment you always recall with a tinge of sadness and joy, the way you recall the time of exhilaration you left home when you were younger to pursue happiness and liberty. Filmed over a period of ten years, Still is the story of Ushi who leaves her parents´ farm to work as an Alpine dairy maid, and in one long summer she thinks she´s found it. It is like a forgotten memory you hold onto that is sometimes triggered by an old photograph or post-card.
The many iconic shots seem to juxtapose humans against nature, evoking not just a sense of freedom, but also the struggle to tame nature, to make it serve human purposes, they evoke the wildness and untameable yearning for freedom in the human heart.
The four films were screened courtesy of two of iREPS partners: Goethe-Institut Lagos – the official German Cultural body, and AG DOK, guild of German documentary filmmakers. The screenings and conversations were finely-helmed by indefatigable Jahman Anikulapo, with support from Femi Odugbemi, Makin Soyinka, Theo Lawson and Toyin Fajj. What is evident, if not a gradual shifting away, is a broadening of horizon to include documentaries among Nigeria´s film audience.
This, of course, poses a challenge noticeable in films from Nigeria´s documentary-makers: an absence of knowledge on how to film a documentary; an absence of the distinction between documentary as a film form, and reportage as a news form. Filmmaking, like film criticism is necessarily comparative. Too many filmmakers are unaware (sometimes it seems to me like disinterest) of what has been done in the medium.
The discovery of, and fascination with film is – with inexperienced filmmakers – like the discovery of love. Before you, no one had discovered the taste of love. The danger – especially with dilettantes – is the tendency discovery has to become narcissistic. How, for instance, do you make a documentary on sport and be ignorant, say, of Leni Riefenstahl´s iconic Olympia?
If the strength of Bauer´s Still is its iconic narrative, I think Jide´s Farmer is its inartistic, understated visceral feel. The effect of Antje and Eva´s films are so similar (and yet so subtly different.) There is a restrained despair in Antje´s film, a despair achieved by its equallyrestrained humour. Eva´s film confronts the challenge: how do you trace the journey of a traveller whose footprints has been erased?
It becomes almost a supernatural feat that the filmmaker manages to reveal something of this person personal narrative, a glimpse of a soul. In retracing Majub´s journey film becomes an act of resistance against official history´s erasure of certain narratives; film becomes an act of collective remembrance, an act of public witnessing and erection of monument.
Cheeka is a Marxist critic, writer and filmmaker.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why IREP Film Festival


Founder of AFRINOLLY Short Film Competition, CHIKE MADUEGBUNA at iREP 2014


Actor, Theatre teacher at University of Lagos, TUNJI SOTIMINRIN, speaking on African Identity at iREP 2014


Actor, Film Producer, FRANCIS ONWOCHEI at iREP 2014


Political theorist, Dr. KAYODE ESUUOLA of University of Lagos at iREP 2014


Philosopher, Culture Activist, Prof. Sophie Oluwole at iREP2014


Arts manager, curator, Wunika Mukan at iREP Film Festival 2014

Monday, July 22, 2013

Jahman Anikulapo

Jahman Anikulapo

Nigeria has not invested enough in the arts – Jahman Anikulapo
Even his contemporaries regard Jahman Anikulapo as one of the best in a dying breed of journalists in Nigeria. A seasoned and very principled professional, especially in a climate where poor remuneration is an alibi to engage in unethical practices, Jahman is a beacon of light. When he clocked 50 in January – which coincided with his retirement as Editor of the Guardian On Sunday – many people saw it as a veritable opportunity to celebrate him. Actor, Activist, Arts Aficionado, Cultural Advocate and Journalist per excellence, Jahman is indeed a rare breed in a society grappling with many issues. In this exclusive interview with Sam Umukoro in Lagos, Nigeria; Jahman, for the first time, opens up like never before. He is not just an interviewer’s delight, but surely a reader’s delight as well. Enjoy!

Sam Umukoro Interview: When you clocked 50, it almost seemed as if everyone was falling over themselves to celebrate you with different events. Being publicity shy and avoiding any kind of unnecessary celebration that does not promote the arts, how did you feel? 

Jahman Anikulapo: It was really very humbling that you clock 50 and everybody seemed to be interested in celebrating you one way or the other. I have always avoided having any sort of celebration, but when it came, I had actually planned something else for my 50th birthday and one of them was that I would have left theGuardian Newspapers by then.
Also, I thought about escaping somewhere to an island. I also planned organising an arts event, where I was going to put all my books, music and experiences, then invite a few friends for drinks and everybody disappears into their works.
But, like they say in table tennis, I was short served, because we started the celebration like two weeks before my actual birthday, so there was no way I could have run away. It was very humbling, for everything that people claimed I had done for anybody, I think I was born to do them.
I don’t see it as taking any extra effort to work with and mentor people, always organize and put them in some kind of framework that helps our collective humanity. It was very special for people to come out during that time for my 50thbirthday. But as they say the voice of the people is the voice of God… I could just say that I felt really humbled, honoured, favored and I think there was the mighty hand of God in everything that happened.

Sam Umukoro Interview: You are also a very good actor and have been involved in stage productions. How then did you become a journalist?
Jahman Anikulapo: I studied theatre arts and excelled as an actor, but then I also did dramatic theory and literary criticisms. I featured in three television drama, as well as in Tade Ogidan’s series, one of which became the film,Hostages. I could have taken acting as a career but during the Ajo festival, where we performed all these plays and kept struggling, sleeping in mosquito infested areas just to produce these plays, people didn’t even believe in what we were doing at that time and nobody was really writing about what we were doing.
People like Toyin Akinosho, who later also became a journalist, was my contemporary, as we were both actors in the Ajo series of plays. So we thought we should also be writing about ourselves. We wrote and pasted on the walls or sent to newspaper houses and sometimes it got published. That was where journalism came in.
Before then, I used to write for the dramatic society and debating society in my secondary school. When I got to the university, I had the option of dramatic theory and literary criticisms and went for it. I was also fortunate to meet Dapo Adelugba, who is the best professor of dramatic theory and literary criticism. He urged us to write, and review a play or movie everyday. Over time, my writing was shaped by all these experiences, I think that’s why I ended up in journalism..
By the time I graduated, Ben Tomoloju, whom I had a very close relationship with and who used to work with the PUNCH, had moved to the Guardian. Ben was the very first person to start up an arts desk. He also trained and recruited people to report the arts, not because it was simply a job, but also for the love of it. And at that time, I was being paid to write for radio, in a production called ‘Literature and Society’. When I moved to the Guardian, he told me to harness my talents on the arts desk, and it was the only arts desk at the time, anyway. That was how I went into arts journalism in the Guardian.
Sam Umukoro Interview: Some journalists who have risen to the zenith of their profession usually make the transition to public relations. Why didn’t you?
Jahman Anikulapo: My entering into journalism was more like a spiritual move for me. I also thought that the artists were under reported and under-appreciated. One of the things I decided to do was find a way we, as journalists, could properly position the artists as people who were making major contributions to the society, just as well as the politicians, parliamentarians, bankers and so on. So I thought that, just as I learned from my masters, my intervention will probably help to position the artists. It’s a continuous struggle, I’m not sure we have realized their worth yet, but I know that someday this society will rise up and begin to understand and appreciate them. They are like visionaries and leaders of thought in the society.
I think one of the basic problems of Nigeria is that we are spiritually undernourished. I don’t mean spiritualism in terms of religion, but in terms of what nurtures our beings, what can drag people out of depression and lift them up to some levels of happiness and elevate humanity. This society cannot grow until they begin to accord creativity and artists their due.
Sam Umukoro Interview: From a renowned arts editor, you became the Sunday editor of one of the most powerful newspapers in Nigeria. Would you say you also made money as an editor; did you get these much talked about ‘brown envelopes’?
Jahman Anikulapo:: I will say that I am rich in terms of ideas and probably the sum total of what came out to be as a result of my determination. But if we talk in monetary terms, I’d say I’m lucky and maybe also because I come from a relatively stable background and didn’t really have to struggle for money. However, my own personal philosophy was not to be too attached to wealth. I once rejected a house my father gave me when I graduated from the university.
As for brown envelopes, there were temptations. I could see it happening around me, but I tried to insulate myself. I spent 10 years as an editor and made it a policy that I was not going to meet any serving political officer, but at the end of every year, they would bring gifts and all those kinds of things. Sometimes there was no way you could even reject them; and before you know it, other people working with you have appropriated it, even though it came in your name… I told myself that I just wanted to be a reporter and build a career, but I was being idealistic. Then if I didn’t leave that post, the Guardian will not have another arts editor. So I had to leave and became the Sunday Editor. Being an editor exposes to you to a lot, and you had to meet with politicians.
All the same, I think I was systematically lucky that I just kept myself glued to my desk and was busy with so many other things. I was also producing arts events, organising for CORA, my own organisation C.A.C, I had so many distractions. So when some people say every Sunday they meet in one former governor’s office, I never had to go there. I was always at the beer parlour where artistes will be performing, that was a positive distraction because I didn’t have any reason to be so connected to any politician.
You won’t believe that I never toured any state in Nigeria since I became an editor, until recently. It’s only now that I am out of the newsroom I am beginning to discover these places. I have gathered wealth in terms of the relationship I have built. People, including artistes, come to me and claim that I have touched them in some way, through my writings or works.
I have good friends who are not necessarily politicians, but whenever I tell them about a problem, they will help me solve it. Maybe if I had some stack of money stored up somewhere in the bank, I will probably misbehave, not be sitting here talking to you, marry wives, build houses and start running after tenants. Today, I don’t have to bother about that; rather I will run after people who took my books (laughing).

Sam Umukoro Interview: As a strong advocate of arts and culture, what do you think is wrong with Nigeria’s policy when it comes to culture? 
Jahman Anikulapo: I think if there is ever a most apt description of philistinism, it is Nigeria because other name of Nigeria is philistinism.  This is because many don’t understand or appreciate beauty and creativity.
People don’t appreciate the art; we are not ready to appreciate it. In fact, when we blame the government and people in authority for not appreciating the art, we also have to blame the Nigerian people. How much investments are Nigerians willing to put on the arts? If you were to ask people to pay N100 for an arts show, you will have issues. But most can afford to buy N800 worth of pepper soup and a bottle of beer for like N600. If you know that thing gives you joy, why won’t you want to invest in it? That is why I generalize by saying the other name for Nigeria is philistinism.
Also, the government does not appreciate the arts because the people who run the government are from us. These are the people who believe if you are not wearing big agbada, you are not a big man; it is a wrong philosophy when people believe that it is the physical appearance that defines the essence. We don’t deal with essence, but we deal with, let me to use the word, ‘physicality’. The people we voted into government do not appreciate beauty.
I cannot understand a country of this size, that continues to have issues with unity and nation building, and it does not occur to us that arts is the first thing that could be used. We don’t have a cultural policy in Nigeria, a policy that guides us to say ‘look if you are an artist, this is the way we expect you to behave, or that if you want to sponsor the arts, this is the way we think we can appreciate the arts. Corporate Nigeria can wake up and give N80 million to one person and say that they are our ambassador… bring  a reality TV star, pay her so much money to come to Nigeria, she appears for 20 minutes and then goes away. The money spent on that person is enough to even set up arts structures…
Like I tell people, I started my career writing on the birth of cultural policy 1987/88, up till now the cultural policy has not been realized. That’s why sometimes when I review my career; I say I am a failure because of that particular issue. The only thing that has been realised is having a ministry of culture and tourism, what about the other things, like having endowment funds?
We just lost Fatai Rolling Dollar, previously Sam Loco Efe, among others. An endowment fund, which is like a welfare scheme, would have helped these arts practitioners.
We are running a cultural industry without a cultural policy and having no endowment fund is like a country having no constitution. So why will you blame anybody who wakes up and will just bring anybody from anywhere and pay them so much money…? Because there’s no policy to regulate.
We are not saying, don’t bring the Beyoncé’s of this world, but if you bring Beyoncé for two million dollars, you must drop N200 million into the endowment fund’s account to be used to ensure that the artistes here continue to produce, but they will not do it.
Sam Umukoro Interview: Considering the artiste is so dependent on foreign or corporate sponsorship, how do you find the space for critical and alternative voices in the arts?
Jahman Anikulapo: In fact you just validated what I was saying. We cannot leave the corporate sponsorship of the arts in the hands of individual corporations, because if that happens, they will come back to dictate to you. But if there is a national policy which directs them to pay some amount into this endowment fund, say if you make a profit of N100 million, you must drop N1 million – like a state policy for protection, the state now becomes the interface between the artists and the corporate world. This is because the corporate world is shylock, they are like sharks.
The state protects you with that policy. That’s what happens in America. When Obama faced that problem during his first tenure, he told the republicans that they could touch any other thing, except the budgets for arts and education.
So the state actually exists to protect you, the policy should decide that artistes have to be protected so that they will be able to do their work and no one can tamper with them in the performance of their job because they do not have money.
The state should have an endowment fund for the arts, so that the space for alternative voices will always be there. England, through the British Council, give a lot of money to their artistes, but it does not stop them from talking, America and Australia will never stop their artistes, because they are critical voices. The state could come later to say, we don’t like what you are doing, but they will never muffle the voice, because the state allows you to do what you want to do.
Sam Umukoro Interview: Having left the Guardian, what is your plan in the next five years?
Jahman Anikulapo: When I was leaving the Guardian, I told myself that I really wanted to rest. That’s why I used the word ‘retirement’, and people were like, ‘how will you retire at the age of 50?’ But I really wanted to retire from the newsroom. I wanted to maintain my sanity because the newsroom that I had grown into, had changed; it was no longer the newsroom that encouraged the freedom of expression and thought. Capitalism had come in, the owners of the newspaper started asking why you were being critical of this and publishing this or that? That was not the newsroom I was used to. So I thought it was just better that I stayed out.
So when I said retirement, I meant in the sense that I wanted to rest from the newsroom and live my other life; organising programs, doing things around the arts, and having freedom to do other things. I’m still resting, but I do a lot of consultancy work for people, sampling the ground, and trying to decide the next phase of my life, because the only place I have ever worked is the Guardian. I worked there for 25 years. So I need to now sit down, review my 25 years and create another plan.
In all of my 25 years working in the Guardian, I never met the owner on a one-on-one basis.  I think it is remarkable, that I worked with someone who never said I should come and defend what I wrote. In fact whenever we spoke, it was more about production rather than, ‘what are you publishing?’ I was also lucky to work with a good managing director, who never tried controlling what I published. I know what happens in other newspaper organisations. That’s why I’m taking a total break from the newsroom because I don’t see any other newsroom that would adopt that kind of thing. They did not interfere in what we were doing,
But then, I saw that the new school journalism was changing, and the Guardiancannot insulate itself, it had to change because it was a new management, new consciousness and business environment. So things have to change and I didn’t want to be a stumbling block; it is just honorable to let other people who could accept these kind of things. I believed that it was better I just made a clean break from what I thought the new school was now representing.

Sam Umukoro Interview: Considering that you worked with the same organization for 25 years, as well as your history as a journalist and cultural advocate, what does loyalty mean to you?
Jahman Anikulapo: For me, loyalty for me is everything. I believe that the only reason we connect is because we have something to share; it may be as little as a speck of dust, but there was a reason for the connection. There are billions of people in the world, that’s why I feel pained when I am betrayed by people whom I believe that I was really connected to.
People believe I know everybody, but I have a very closed circle of friends and that loyalty means a lot to me. People have hurt me before, just like I may have hurt some people in some ways, but it was never deliberate. The only thing that I see there is just connectedness, I don’t go to church, although I talk about spirituality a lot, because I believe that beneath loyalty is spiritualism, that we are connected at the soul.
Back then, I saw the vision driving the Guardian then and thought that I could be part of it and create my own universe. And I was able to do that. When I deal with people, I look at the universe surrounding us and believe that I can make my connections within it. I am also a very reserved person and take a lot of time to reflect on things. I’m surrounded by my books and music, so when I come out and connect with people, I take it very seriously; loyalty is actually everything to me.  I don’t joke with itMy best friend, Toyin, will tell you that I defend that loyalty thing.

Sam Umukoro Interview: A female reader of the SUI website wanted me to ask this question. Hear her: she says women like you easily, that they flock around you’…
Jahman Anikulapo: Have you seen them? (Laughing)
Sam Umukoro Interview: So she is wondering why you are not married or have you been married before?
Jahman Anikulapo: I was… well, let me not say I was married, I attempted what they called marriage. I have had relationship that could be said to look like marriage, but there was the pressure of needs, our needs were very different. So I could see those needs and they needed to be settled. I think we quarreled over things that would have never have crossed my mind, like what kind of car and house we would have. If you see where I live, you will wonder whether I was ever an editor in Guardian but I am comfortable in my little environment, a place that is my sanctuary… I tell people many of our people go into corruption because of societal pressure.
Yes, I understand the pressures of having children and meeting their needs, I could have been in that picture… what if I had more than one son and a girl? What if I had three kids who had to go to secondary school at the same time, wont I be under pressure?
Will I live on my salary or have to sell the pages that I was editing? …So I understand why people do these things. I don’t have those pressures, only at a minor level, maybe that’s why I can continue to claim I am me. I try to maintain myself because I don’t have those pressures; marriage for me was supposed to be peaceful, maybe later in my life. I’m 50 now and don’t feel the need for it at the moment. It doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings, a girlfriend or whatever, but it doesn’t come at a cost to me.
I don’t think it is in my DNA to maintain a spousal relationship, because we could be in the home and I would just be in my own world and want my partner to be in hers, but she would want to cross into my world… I attempted it, it lasted two odd years and I thought then, ‘I’ve had enough’. So we called a family conference and resolved it. We have common interests in our son; just like with the mother of my daughter, we have the same common interest in our daughter.
Sam Umukoro Interview: After half a century of being a rebel swinging against the tide, how have you been able to maintain your sanity?
Jahman Anikulapo: I say it is a very easy thing to do; just stay insulated from the general madness, like the question about being an editor and making money, I knew the things that I could have done… That post is a very powerful post; all you need do is to put up something to harass them. I know people who are doing it, even publishers but I kept on telling myself that, ‘God, that is not where I want to be…’
It is in the DNA of this society to kill your dream. and many of the people who occupy this space that we call Nigeria, they were brought into your reckoning to kill you and your dream, you are not supposed to flower, the only thing you can do is to cut them off
I have a way of just drawing a circle and cut off everything else. Also, I am lucky that I also operate in the arts. I am around music and creativity. Like I once told someone, if I was probably a civil servant, doing 8am – 5pm, it would have been different and I may not have been engaged in any critical thinking, but more occupied with the thought of simply going to work and earning my salary. So I think my sanity has been well shaped and refined for me by my involvement in the arts. That solves the problem for me


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Vassiliou: ‘Don’t you dare' cut EU budget for culture | EurActiv


Published on EurActiv (http://www.euractiv.com)

Vassiliou: ‘Don’t you dare' cut EU budget for culture

Published: 22 January 2013 | Updated: 23 January 2013
Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner responsible for education and culture, has urged EU leaders not to cut the budget for culture. EurActiv Slovakia reports.


The European Capitals of Culture scheme was created by the EU in 1985 and has since become one of the most prestigious features on Europe's cultural calendar.
According to the European Commission, candidates must fulfil three main criteria: integrating a true European dimension, reinforcing cooperation among EU countries with public support, and highlighting the city's role in developing culture in Europe. 
Successful candidates must also devise a programme with a lasting impact that contributes to the long-term cultural, economic and social development of the city concerned.
“Don’t you dare reduce the budget for culture. Culture is particularly necessary in times of crisis,” Vassiliou said on 20 January in Košice, Slovakia, the European capital of culture for 2013.
Her appeal comes ahead of the EU leadership summit on 7-8 February, which is expected to lead to 
adoption of the EU budget for 2014-2020.
The proposed EU spending on culture, or so-called ‘Creative Europe’, is a modest €1.8 billion for the period 2014-2020. The financing comes under the Heading 3 of the EU budget "Security and citizenship". This category has been  one of the biggest victims of the changes made at the last budget summit on 22-23 November, which failed to reach an agreement.
The official launch of the European capital of culture 2013 included nearly 200 cultural events in 70 locations in the eastern Slovak city.
“The initiative is a clear illustration of the European Union’s commitment to cultural diversity, but it also shows how culture can unite people across borders in Europe. It demonstrates that the European Union is more than just a market, it reminds us that culture is the heart and soul of our shared European project,” said Vassiliou, who is responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
“The title of Capital of Culture is the single most significant cultural project in the Slovak history,” 
said Culture Minister Marek Maďarič.
City of culture, a boon for tourism and investments
The European Commission was represented by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, a Slovak national. Šefčovič said Košice should reap benefits from being the European Capital of Culture. He reminded that Košice has recently been promoted by appearing in the shortlist of 10 best tourist destination recommended by CNN for 2013.
Šefčovič recalled the case of the French city of Lille, European Capital of Culture for 2004, which succeeded to obtain a €8 return for every euro invested, in terms of increased revenues from tourism or new business opportunities.
“As the pride of the people of Košice of their city is well known, I believe this will be a year that they will remember well and I, coming from Bratislava, will hold my fingers crossed for them”, he said, alluding to the traditional "rivalry“ between the two Slovak biggest cities. 
The message from the opening ceremony was that Košice represents a natural crossroad between East and Wes and aims to revive the prominence the city had in the first half of the 20th century, with its multicultural touch and as a hometown of the famous writer Sandor Marai. The saying goes that “what Kafka represents for Prague, Marai does the same for Košice”.
Celebrations, however, were marked by criticism from the artistic community for the suspicious redistribution of money and overdue investment projects.
The heavily industrialized city is known for its steel industry and becomes the EU capital of culture at the time when one of the biggest employers in the country, the company ‘U.S. Steel Košice’ is contemplating selling the steel plant, which might have a major impact on the region. No final decision has been taken yet. 

Next Steps

  • 7-8 Feb.: Summit on the EU budget for 2014-2020

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Nation - Talent is important, but hard work is better - Helon Habila

The Nation - Talent is important, but hard work is better - Helon Habila

Talent is important, but hard work is better - Helon Habila

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
Helon Habila, winner of both Caine and commonwealth prizes in literature 2000 and 2003 respectively, has written three world acclaimed novels, namely, Waiting for An Angel, Measuring Time and Oil on water. In this interview with Edozie Udeze and Joe Agbro Jr. he talks about his writing career and how he has fared in the world of literature and more
TELL us a little about yourself and how you got to the level you are now?
My name is Helon Habila. I just came for the Fidelity Workshop which I’ve been teaching every June/July (Summer) for the past three years. It has been running for the past five years but I started three years ago. And this is the first time we’re doing it in Lagos. I really fought to have it brought to Lagos. Last year, we did it in Nsukka; the year before, we did it in Abuja. So, this is the first time it’s happening in Lagos. And I’m glad we did because Lagos is very inspiring. This is where I wrote my first novel, ‘Waiting for an Angel.’ This is where I got my first break as a writer. And I think even the participants really enjoyed it more because it’s more accessible to reporters, television, and publicity. So, it gave the whole thing a different kind of dimension. It made it more interesting. And it’s quite central. A lot of the participants didn’t have to travel like we had in Nsukka.
Let’s talk about literature. From what you have seen since you came back, what do you think is the responsibility of the writer in a situation like ours when you have so many socio-political issues?
First of all, I must say that I’m quite impressed with the output that I have seen. I have been here for just two weeks and I already have been given novels. I’ve seen Richard Ali’s novel. I’ve seen Eghosa Imasuen’s novel. So many novels are already out. So, there’s so much dynamism. Unfortunately, I haven’t read them yet. But I think the concern of a writer in our kind of economy, our kind of society, is always going to be the same for a long time to come. It’s going to be the same from what it was with people like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, to the second generation, to us. And I think there is an emerging fourth generation already. The issues are not going to be that much different. We’re always going to be struggling with the socio-political issues. We’re always going to be conscious of what’s happening all around us because before you can have a change in the template, in the whole paradigm, the whole system has to change. And it hasn’t happened. We still have the same lack of satisfaction with the youth – young people are finishing university without any hope of getting a good job that they deserve. They went to school, they studied, but they can’t get a job. These are things I think that will continue to haunt our literature. I’d say the duty of the writer, first of all, is to write a story the best way he can but what kind of story is he going to write? I don’t want to be prescriptive. I don’t think that writers should be prescribed on what to write, but from my own experience, saying this is what I see writers writing about. I think it’s going to take a long time, especially those who are based here because they’re engulfed by this pressure just like when I was writing my first novel.
You have been interacting with many writers outside these shores. You have read a lot, you are now an associate professor of creative writing. Do you think Nigerian writers are meeting the standard in terms of grammar and theme?
I think they are doing that. I think Nigerian writers are really doing quite well. Not only locally, but internationally. I don’t have to tell you. You’re a man of letters yourself. You’ve been following the reviews, the trends, and they’re not just writing; they’re winning prizes. And they’re getting good reviews in the best papers. There are writers who would write books and won’t get a single review. So, for a review to appear in The Guardian (UK) and The New York Times, you must know what it means. I think Nigerians are getting a lot of attention, not just because they’re Nigerians but because they are doing well; they’re good writers, and they’re winning the prizes. 
What do you think informs or shapes an author’s style?
So many things - his dedication, his reading, his background and his interest. But, mostly, literature is a kind of contemptuous thing.... Seventy percent of what you write is informed by what you read. So, there’s a lot of literature feeding off literature. But, then, I would mention the socio-political issues, especially in countries where things don’t work very well. There’s that existential dimensional to write. People just write about day-to-day struggle, about existence. That is what we see informing writers.
You made the transition from being a writer to now teaching writing. What does it take to do that? How has it been like for you?
I think the best thing that has happened to me is to teach creative writing. In a way, I think I’m learning because with writing, you are really learning all the time. I keep telling my students that I learn more from them than they learn from me. They think I’m joking, but it’s the truth. You don’t just read books now, but you read them to teach them. So, you have to analyse every line. You have to appreciate, discuss, and argue with the students about everything in the book. And you have to read everything that’s been written about the book before you can teach it. So, it really helps to make me see writing in a different way, not just as a writer but as a teacher of writing, and also the theme from the students’ perspectives as they grapple with it. And to work with students is quite inspirational. You see these students, they come and you try to tell them how important it is to write, to revise, to review, and to have a good work ethic. And you see these students come in, not very good first year, second year, you’re still with them. Then, by third year, you see the students blossom and really write. There’s something really inspiring about that. And it kind of confirms your own belief that anybody can be a writer if he really puts his mind to it. And it’s all about hard work. It’s just like any other profession. Talent is important, but hard work is really more important and you learn that and you remind yourself of that too
You mentioned how hard work is more important about being a writer. Now, what’s your view on when a writer puts in a lot of work and reviewers and critics tear it apart?
They are not God. I review myself. So, I know they all have their own angles from which they are approaching the book. So, I read the bad reviews and the good reviews and I try to take something from it unless the reviewer is a total idiot and you know their history and you don’t really see anything to learn from them. But, if I know a reviewer and I respect him and I’m seeing his works, I read his reviews very well just to learn something. But, let’s not forget that it’s not a measure of how good your book is. Even if it doesn’t win prizes, if it’s a good book, it will still come up one day. People like the author who wrote ‘Moby Dick’ died penniless, but look at his book, ‘Moby Dick’ now, it’s seen as a great American novel. It was so bad that his name was even misspelt on his tombstone. So, life is short but art is long. Art is going to be forever if it’s good. I take consolation in that. But, I think I’ve been lucky. Most of the reviews have been good to me. 
As a teacher of creative writing, what are the essentials of a good book?
A good book! Hmmm... There are so many things. You have to understand the character of writing, I think. You have to read a lot on the things that have been written on it – not just novels. You have to understand how characters work. We call the arts the humanities because they are about human beings. So, I always tell my students that the characters in a novel are the most important things. If you understand human beings, what it takes to make them happy, sad, I think you can write an interesting story. Make your characters convincing and everything else will follow. Capture their mannerisms and speeches, capture their complexities. You have to understand the language though and how to bring everything alive.
Let’s look at authors and how they live. In advanced countries, authors live off their works. I don’t know if that really happens now. But, down here, if you don’t combine writing with doing other things...
I must correct you on that. Not in even advanced countries do writers live on their work. They don’t. Well, it’s only like 4% of them that live on their works. But most writers that I know have 9 to 5 jobs. Most of them teach creative writing just like I do. Most of them are published authors teaching poetry at the university. They are some of them who write poetry who don’t even sell more than a thousand copies – the whole print run. But they’re writers, so they work at any kind of jobs they can just to sponsor their writing. At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s about the money. It’s not about the fame. It’s about just having that passion and believing that you have something to contribute and this is what God gave you to contribute and you do it very well. And if you’re really good, you’ll stand out.
How do you perceive publishing in Nigeria and trends like eBook publishing in the country?
I think it’s a big opportunity. You know I self-published ‘Waiting for an Angel’ as ‘Prison Stories’ here in Lagos before I won the Caine prize. You had to write it, read it, and edit it yourself. There’s nobody who will do it for you. There were no editors. There was nothing like e-publishing. We didn’t have that. Even having email accounts was a big thing in 1999 and 2000. But, people now can just send their stories to anywhere in the world. And they can communicate and exchange ideas with critics online on all sorts of forums. I tell younger writers to take advantage of this. We didn’t have half of this. You could even write to an author who will reply you. So, I think they (young Nigerian writers) are doing well. But, it’s not only in Nigeria, it’s all over Africa, but here in Nigeria, there’s this boom on e-publishing and I think it’s going to get bigger because we are a country of 167 million people. Imagine selling a 100, 000 copies of your book. That’s a bestseller anywhere in the world. The publishers can really think outside the box in terms of distribution. They can really do a lot. I’ve seen a new publisher, Parressia, there’s Cassava Republic, and of course there’s Farafina. There are others out there. I think they just need to work on distribution. You can’t just print book, you need to find a way of actually selling the books and that’s where the money is. And I think that’s the next thing they will do.
As a writer, what’s the toughest part of what you do?
The toughest part of what I do is to sit down and write... It’s what I do. I enjoy doing it, but it’s hard work. It’s really hard work. That’s why not many people are writers because it’s not easy to just sit down and block out everything and have that focus and write. At the first draft, you’re almost despairing but by the time you sit down and after the first sentence, second sentence, it’s gone. The rest of it is just gritty hard work - just like going to the farm.