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GCLF : AMAECHI RELIVES LOVE FOR BOOKS, LITERATURE

By NBF News
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For the third time running, the Garden City Literary Festival in Port-Harcourt is set to celebrate literature in a unique way. The festival which opens between December 8 and 12 is set to score another first in the celebration of two Nobel laureates; the Nigerian-born Prof. Wole Soyinka and his French counterpart, J.M.G. Le Clezio .

The two great writers are expected to lead other writers in the yearly ritual which creates platform for men and women of letters to exhibit their works and appreciate others in the process. Organised by the Koko Kalango-led Rainbow Book Club, the literary feast this year is also dedicated to Nigeria, which has just marked its 50th independence anniversary.

No wonder the festival is tagged Nigeria @ 50; A jubilee of Writers, holding simultaneously at the University of Port-Harcourt and Presidential Hotel. It is equally expected to feature the Garden City Book Fair, Literature Conferences, writers' workshops, interactive sessions, and essay competition for children. There would also be a Drama Presentation as well as the Command Performance and an awards gala night.

On why the festival is being supported by the Rivers State Government, Governor Rotimi Amaechi said recently that it has been his dream to create a veritable platform for writers to interrogate societal issues and events through their works. Amaechi who incidentally is a graduate of Literature from the University of Port-Harcourt said he is naturally inclined to giving leverage to literature and the arts.

Explained the Governor 'The idea first came to me when I was the Speaker in the House of Assembly. I had thought of creating a literary environment that would encourage discourse on how human beings should live. Literature is about human beings, it is also about form and style. It is not just about what we say but about how we say it. So my dream was to create an avenue for critical arguments on creativity generally. There was also the need to create a forum for writers to express themselves.'

According to Amaechi, there is also a dearth of literary criticism nowadays. He recalled the days of brilliant critics such as Chidi Amuta who subjected literary works to objective criticism; which in turn helped to broaden the horizon of scholars and readers. The Governor noted that society can hardly grow without writers and critics, since great writers like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo, among others mirror society while critics interpret their works for better appreciation.

On the unhealthy relationship between writers and politicians, Amaechi observed that artists usually mirror society while politicians only see one side of it. As such, writers in their thoughtful and painstaking works see far ahead of politicians and other members of the society. He therefore hinted that his administration is interested in building a culture of absorption of ideas and knowledge which literature offers.

For Mrs Koko Kalango, the mission is to make the festival a continental affair, hence the change of logo to reflect the African experience. Also GCLF has since expanded in scope with a dream to engage more writers of different generations and children particularly. And just as the festival would assemble writers and publishers, it shall also continue in the tradition of building a community that loves and appreciate literature.

Kalango recalled her days as a student when her parents usually took her and her siblings to watch plays and other literary events. She therefore traced her love for creativity, adding that her vision through Rainbow Book Club and GCLF is to bring both young and established writers together, create a platform to expose them and inspire them to continue to be productive.

While explaining that children are a significant part of the GCLF, Kalango disclosed how she recently opened a community library for pupils in Ogoja area through the support of Major-General Anthony Ukpo (rtd). She noted that the library would also serve people in the community even as she hopes to get Nobel laureate J M G Le Clezio to commission it.