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MEGA LITERARY FESTIVAL BERTHS IN PORT HARCOURT

By NBF News
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With thousands of participants in previous editions, the Garden City Literary Festival has become the most-talked about lit fest in Africa. Besides the number of participants, its varieties of unique programmes involving literary legends and emerging voices, from within and outside the country, have placed it on the world literary map.

With the arrival of guests on Tuesday, December 7, the international literary festival will get underway with its usual tradition of featuring trailblazers among the scribblers' tribe at the Hotel Presidential. Two Nobel laureates, Wole Soyinka and Le Clezio, have confirmed participation, alongside Caine Prize-winning author, Helon Habila; Commonwealth Prize winning author, Adaobi Nwaubani, and others.

With the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, already throwing his weight behind the lit fest, participants to this year's festival are guaranteed of a surfeit of thrills.

2010 Garden City Literary Festival will keep the festival's tradition of placing a special focus on children and encouraging them to read. In addition to a writing competition and Creative Arts Workshops, the organizers will be calling on well-known faces to fire up the children's interest in literature.

The idea is borne out of a tried and tested campaign run by the Rainbow Book Club, organizers of the Garden City Literary Festival. Its Leaders Read programme involves role models from different professions reading to youngsters and passing on their love of books to them. So far, dignitaries such as Wole Soyinka, Chief Emeka Anyaoku former Commonwealth Secretary General, Prof. Dora Akunyili, Minister for Information, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister for Petroleum Resources and Governors Amaechi and Fashola of Rivers and Lagos States respectively, have taken time out to inspire children in this way.

The concept has come to the Garden City Festival and, as part of the line-up of children's events two role models have been incorporated to be part of this unique scheme. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, and the MD of Mnet Africa; Biola Alabi, will be bringing popular tales to life as they read and interact with school children. It promises to be a major highlight for the youngsters. The organisers of GCLF 2010 are very excited about bringing these high-profile figures to the event. As with the Leaders Read programme, it is anticipated that seeing people they look up to having fun with books will make a big impression on the children.

Besides, an international literature conference on Nigerian Literature @ 50: Challenges and Prospects will also feature in the festival. In keeping with its vision to create a forum where great minds converge to deliberate on pertinent literary topics, organizers of the festival will hold a literature conference to be facilitated by the Rivers State chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), which will feature a cross-section of writers in different genres.

The conference, which will be one of the opening events of the festival, will take place on Wednesday December 8. Participants at the conference will examine how Nigerian writing has evolved in the post-colonial era; looking at the highs and lows of the last five decades, while also looking ahead to what the future has in store for the next generation of writers, publishers and indeed readers.

The focus of this one-day conference will be the vast and varied genres of Nigerian writing; from fiction to non-fiction, poetry to drama, children's literature to works written in local languages and literature that has sprung out of the Niger Delta region.

This conference is expected to be a synthesis of knowledge and ideas, and the audience will have the unique opportunity to debate on the issues raised by speakers in order to form a consensus on the way forward for Nigerian writing based on lessons learned from the challenges and triumphs outlined in the discussion.

Scholars who will present papers at the conference include the convener, Miesoinuma Minimah, who chairs the Rivers State branch of ANA; the paper panel chair, Dr. Wale Okediran, former National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA); Dr. Chima Anyadike of OAU (Fiction), Prof. Sam Ukala of Delta State University (Niger Delta Literature), Prof. Abdu Salleh of Bayero University (Poetry), Prof. Ahmed Yerimah of Kwara State University (Drama), Prof. Ibrahim Malumfashi of Uthman Danfodio University (Hausa Literature), Prof. G. G. Darrah of Delta State University (Pidgin Literature), Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo of the University of Lagos (Children's Literature), Prof. Innocent Nwadike of UNN (Igbo Literature) and Dr. Jare Ajayi, author and of the Association of Nigerian Authors Oyo Chapter (Yoruba Literature).

The rapporteurs include Prof. Martin Bestman, French Department, University of Port Harcourt; Dr. Dennis Ekpo, French Department, University of Port Harcourt, and Mr. Seiyifa Koroye, English Department, University of Port Harcourt.

Creating writing workshops, book fair, readings and interactive sessions with famous writers are some of the programmes lined up for the five-day festival. Last year, the iconic Nigerian playwright, JP Clark, and the Kenyan novelist, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, were among the literary heavyweights that thrilled the festival.

The Rainbow Book Club, organizers of the festival, is headed by Mrs. Koko Kalango, a bibliophile. The festival, which is the third in the series, is sponsored by the Rivers State government.