GOLDEN FEAST FOR J.P CLARK'S MUSE
Fifty years after foremost playwright and scholar, Professor J.P. Clark Bekederemo launched himself into creative writing, the writers' community under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) is rolling out the drums to celebrate him.
With the theme, 50 Years of the Writings of J.P. Clark: Casualties, Innovations and Perspectives, the writers' body is set to extol the man of letters through a golden jubilee anniversary of his writing career from July 22 through July 31.
As one of the literary triumvirate of Nigeria's post-independence era, which comprises Professors Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, the celebration, according to ANA Secretary General, Hyacinth Obunseh, was packaged to trace Clark's literary landmarks. Since 2006 when the immediate past ANA national executive led by Dr. Wale Okediran sired the initiative which made its debut with the commemoration of 20 Years of Wole Soyinka's Nobel Prize, the association had not relented in recognising landmark achievements of any of its own.
Two years later, it followed up with a bumper celebration of Chinua Achebe's classic, Things Fall Apart. Only last year, the Abubakar Imam colloquiuim was held in Kaduna, ostensibly for ethnic balancing, and to eulogise the legendary writer of the Hausa stock.
It was against this background that the new ANA national executive led by former Minister of State for Education, Dr. Jerry Agada is poised to sustain the tradition with a three-legged anniversary package for Clark's writings. The event will be flagged with an interface with the poet's ancestral home, Kiagbodo, on Friday July 23. The celebration shifts to Asaba, the Delta State capital the following day, where Clark's two new plays, The Hiss and The Smile, will be performed before dignitaries and lovers of drama at the Government House.
The anniversary will be wrapped up in Lagos with an exhibition of the celebrant's rare manuscripts; a colloquium billed for the University of Lagos on July 30, while the curtain falls on the week-long celebration with the last plenary session, on the following day as well as dinner and awards night later in the evening.
Meanwhile, erudite scholar, and Secretary General, Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), Prof Atukwei Okai, had been invited to present the keynote address at the colloquium to be chaired by Captain Elechi Amadi. Also expected to present papers at the event are: Professors G.G. Darah, Umello Ojinma, Femi Osofisan, and J.O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada. Others are Dr. Joe Ushie, Mu 'Azu Maiwada and Arnold Udoka.
Although bedevilled by paucity of funds, a recurring decimal in the association's operations, the golden jubilee of Clark's writings, according to ANA Secretary General is to eulogise one of its founding founders as well as provoke robust debates and interrogations into the works. His words 'the anniversary is geared towards tracing the writer from where he is believed to be coming from, interrogating his works, and works from his works, in order to determine where he is possibly heading.'
By the time the curtain falls on Clark's golden jubilee, the writer's body believes it would have availed itself of resource materials to bequeathe to the oncoming generations to accept, interrogate or discard. For an association which always go about cap in hands for financial aids, the forthcoming celebration according to the scribe, Obunseh, is not spared.
While he told Daily Sun the programme would go on as scheduled in spite of its financial encumbrance, he urged the governments of Delta and Bayelsa states, as stakeholders of Clark's voyages to come to the aid of the association. Obunseh said on funding: 'Well…we have received pockets of funding, but not in the neighbourhood of what we need to host an international colloquium in Lagos and a pre-colloquium in Kiagbodo and Asaba, Clark's ancestral home and Delta State capital.
'The Delta State Government has however contacted us while we're waiting to hear from the Ijaw nation state, Bayelsa. We hope and pray that both states will assist the project which has the potential of turning the global literary attention to Nigeria during the period.'