First Anambra Book and Creativity Festival: A Review

Eze Prof Chukwuemeka Ike
By Onuka Egbe

The First Anambra Book and Creativity Festival  held between the 21st and  24th  of  November 2012 in Awka. Organized by the Anambra Book and Creativity Network, a fledgling organization led by C. Krydz Ikwuemesi , polyvalent artist and lecturer at the University of  Nigeria whose organizational antecedents include the Pan-African Circle of Artists, the Art Republic, the Mmanwu Theatre in Enugu, the Igbo uli heritage preservation campaign, among other projects. 
Other members included Dr. Ikenna Onwuegbuna, also a lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Mr. Chike Ifedobi, an archeologist and broadcaster, and Mr. Lorenzo Menakaya, a musician and broadcaster. The organizing committee also had other committed people as Tracie Utoh-ezeajugli, a Professor of theatre and the Director of the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities ; Prof Cliff Nwanna,  HOD, Fine Arts at Unizik and Dr. Okechukwu  Nwafor,  artist and art historian. Also on the committee were Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent, a burgeoning writer and a student of English at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. 

Austin Faani Ikechukwu of Nollywood receives his award from the Chairman, Dr Obiogbolu

                                                     Krydz Ikwuemesi

                     Dr Ikenna Onwuegbuna, Prof Richard Okafor and Dr Sam Chukwu

                                  Bona Ezeudu (right) receives his award from the Chairman

November 21 was like a test for the relevance and success or otherwise of the book and creativity initiative, as there were no guests other than  Chief Alex Obiogbolu, chairman of the occasion, and Eze Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike, famous writer and one of the distinguished artists of the occasion, in the venue at the designated time of 10am. Though it was worrisome initially, guests turned up later and filled the auditorium to capacity and the event went well, against all odds.

 Eze Professor Chukwuemeka Ike, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, and Prof Chimalum Nwankwo electrified the occasion. After the introductory remarks by Prof. Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh and the opening remarks by the Dean, Faculty of Arts, who represented the UniZik Vice Chancellor, the chairman of the occasion took the audience through a beautiful speech in which he lamented the publishing and reading cultures in Nigeria and the effect of the situation on human, social and economic development. The same pathos could be discerned in the presentation by Prof. Ike, who is a distinguished writer and one who has championed the Nigerian Book Foundation in response to the neglected book-publishing- reading crisis in Nigeria.

                                                                  Dame Victoria Madukaife

The opening speeches were followed by a powerful presentation,“The challenge of enforcing the intellectual property rights of authors, poets, playwrights and artists through the courts: The need for a uniform protocol of enforcement for African States”  by  Barrister Chris Muo an expert on intellectual property. His presentation focused on the existing intellectual property rights laws that impact on the intellectual property rights of authors, poets, playwrights and artists, the institutional enforcement protocols, the challenges of actual enforcement, the need for a uniform protocol across Africa. It was virtually a continuation of his other talks at various art forums where he had drawn attention to ignorance of artists and cultural producers in Nigeria, with regard to the essence and realities of intellectual property laws.

          Prof Traci Utoh-Ezeajugh, Director, UniZik Centre for Excellence in Arts and Humanities
                                  Barr Chris Muo, Legal Adviser, Pan African Circle of Artists

The last presentation at the opening was by poet and writer Professor Chimalum  Nwankwo who came all the way from Abuja . He spoke on “Celebrating the Printed Word: Books as Germs of Knowledge and Development.” He outlined the role of the book in the preservation and propagation of knowledge and as one of the driving forces of genuine and sustainable development.

With closing remarks from the chairman, Dr. Obiogbolu, participants were chaperoned to the Centre for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities where books and some art and crafts were on display.  On stand were exhibition of books and art and crafts by the National Gallery of Art, National Council for Arts and Culture, Centre for Black African Art and Civilization, Evans Publishers, Heinemann Educational Publishers, the Pan African Circle of Artists, the Art Republic, Uli Arts and Crafts Foundation, the Smile of a Child Network, the Grail Centre, Awka, and many other groups as well as individual writers. 

It was a harvest of intellectual/knowledge production and creative enterprise. There was also a collection of works displayed at the nearby Jumac Hotels. Notable artists like Jerry Buhari, Bona Ezeudu, Okay Ikenegbu, Krydz Ikwuemesi, Cliff Nwanna, Chris Echeta, Angela Udeani and many others participated in the exhibition. Apart from these masters, other rising stars were represented in painting, textiles, photography, sculpture, fashion, and craft.
                                                 Dr Peter Ezeh and Prof Damian Opata

                                                               Prof Chimalum Nwankwo
Apart from the book, art and craft exhibition, there were lectures, workshops, poetry performances and folklore, music and resource persons with diverse experiences in the arts. Some of the major sessions and presentations included a roundtable on “Why the Nigerian Publishing/Reading Culture is in Crisis” where Dr Peter Ezeh and Prof Damian Opata were key speakers. Another presentation by Mrs. Victoria Madukaife, a veteran broadcaster, consisted in a celebration of our classicists focusing on Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Buchi Emecheta and Chukwuemeka Ike. In two separate sessions, Professor Chike Aniakor spoke on “Cultural Production/Reproduction in Contemporary Nigeria”, while C. Krydz Ikwuemesi spoke on “Art and Craft as Tools for Cross-generational Conversation: My Personal Dialogue with Two Cultures”. Although some of the artistes invited from the Nollywood industry failed to attend, there were discussions on how Nollywood could contribute to child education and socialization. The impact of art and craft in the creative economies of Africa was also discussed in light of the need to break the mono-causal oil-based economy in Nigeria. Many other sessions, both formal and informal, focused on socio-cultural issues within the bounds of the festival’s central theme.
                        L-R Dr Chidi Osuagwu, Prof T.U. Nwala, and C Krydz Ikwuemesi
                       Prof Ben Obumselu (right) receives award from Dr Obiogbolu

After the session on music education by Prof Richard Okafor and Dr. Sam Chukwu, HOD of Music Department at the University of Nigeria, the award giving ceremony began. Before the award ceremony proper, Prof. T.u Nwala, Dr. Chidi Osuagwu, and genocide scholar and critical writer Emma Okocha made special presentations. While Nwala and Osuagwu  dwelt generally on issues in Igbo civilization the creative enterprise, Okocha who has been researching and writing on the Igbo holocaust spoke on issues he had raised on the subject in his thought provoking book Blood on the Niger. His presentation also reflected Achebe’s recent book There Was a Country, with all the attendant criticisms and controversies.

Chaired by Dr. Alex Obiogbolu and  Justice Peter Umeadi, Chief Judge of Anambra, as Guest of Honour, the closing ceremony was a forum for a critical reflection on the poor publishing and reading culture in Anambra State and Nigeria. In his welcome remarks, C. Krydz Ikwuemesi , acting President of Anambra Book and Creativity Network, lamented government’s apathy as it concerns knowledge production and dissemination as well as the lackluster  attitude of politicians to intellectual and creative enterprises. He had a critical word for all: the government, publishers, reading public, and “bread-and-butter” politicians. Decrying what he called the scourge of “political arrogance and onslaught of pentecostalist nihilism”,   the artist reaffirmed that development is not only defined by physical infrastructure and in the decentralization of violence and corruption in the name of democracy, but should seriously incorporate sustainable human development on which all other forms of development can depend.

Chairman Obiogbolu and Guest of Honor Justice Umeadi and others at the award ceremony echoed the same concerns in various ways but also enjoined participants to strive for creativity and excellence as germs of sustainable development.  Everyone present marveled at the quality of the line up of activities at the event and generally praised the quality of the visual arts and crafts exhibited. They also pledged their support for future editions, as they expressed their faith in the book and creativity festival to contribute meaningfully to holistic development in Anambra State and Nigeria.
                                                Justice Peter Umeadi and Emma Okocha

The list of awardees was impressive and lengthy, covering various aspects of the creative enterprise and human Endeavour.  Categories and recipients included Anbukraft Patrons (Prof Ben Obumselu, Chief Dr Alex Obiogbolu), Patron of the Arts (Alhaji Abdulaziz Chivuzo Ude). For the Awards of Creative Excellence in Literature/Non-Fiction,  there were: Emma Okocha (Blood on the Niger), Prof Damian Opata (Ekwensu), Prof T.U. Nwala (Igbo Philosophy), Prof. C. Onukaogu, Prof Ben Obumselu, whie poetry went to Prof Chimalum Nwankwo and Ikeogu Oke.  Tracy Osokolo ( author of Red Pepper and English Tea) got the award for fiction and publisher Chief Agwuncha Arthur Nwankwo received the award for publishing. For Film (acting, play writing, directing, scriptwriting), recipients included Prof Emeka Nwabueze, Teco Benson MFR, Austin Faani Ikechukwu, Jim Iyke. In the Art, Art Administration, Craft, and Musicology categories of the Creative Excellence awards, awardees were Dr Chike Dike, Prof Chike Aniakor, Prof Jerry Buhari, Bona Ezeudu, Sculptor Okay Ikenegbu, Prof Cliff Nwanna, and Prof Richard Okafor. Also, Burgeoning Musician Chukwudi Udoye received an award for his upcoming album, while international journalist and anthropologist Peter Ezeh received the award for a Book in an Indigenous Language in recognition of his Filamenti na Ndi Otu Ya (Igbo translation of Moliere’s Les Malades Imaginaires). Awards for Excellence in Service to Humanity went to High Chief Dr. Senator Ben Ndi Obi (Special Adviser to the President on Inter-party Affairs), with the Life Time Achievement Award going to His Excellency Amb. Chief Arthur C.I. Mbanefo, Ezeh Prof Chukwuemeka Ike, and DameVictoria Madukaife.

All told, the first Anambra Book and Creativity Festival was a success given the resources available to the organizers. I am told that the highest financial support came from His Excellency Amb. Chief Arthur C.I. Mbanefo (Former Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations),  followed by donations from Nnamdi Azikiwe University and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former secretary General of the commonwealth. Further assistance was received from the Art Republic and some members of Anambra Book and Creativity Network. But there is need for improvement if the festival must have the desired impact. This will certainly require a huge outlay. Although funds for cultural projects in Nigeria are almost non-existence, the organizers can try. With what was done in the first edition, they seem to have the will, the spirit, and energy. But all that is not enough. For as Prof Ben Obumselu once said at the opening of an exhibition at the Russian Cultural Centre in 1996, the history of art is not written on the pages of history books but on bank ledgers.

Onuka Egbe is an artist and writer based in Enugu.