Change can come in the most unexpected ways. For Nigeria’s literary arts that change may have come through the Abuja Writers’ Forum April flag off of a creative writing school featuring a workshop spread over the four-weekends that covered the three genres of writing; fiction, poetry and drama, with intensive lecturing on the basic foundations and processes of good creative writing.
The workshop, which will be in three-phases per set (introductory, intermediate and advanced) is a preparatory class for a certificate course in creative writing that the literary group is set to run in partnership with the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), Abuja.
Across the world, Creative Writing has been recognized as a discipline of its own, to underscore the difference between the study of literature and the actual art of making it. Creative writing as a discipline teaches the intricacies of the process of writing, beginning from the moment of conception of a story to the actual publishing stage when it is brought out for public consumption.
It is a shame that Nigeria as a great literary arts nation is yet to embrace the discipline as it is not currently offered as a course of study by any institution in the country. This denies the Nigerian writer the benefit of acquiring the necessary modern knowledge and skills needed to write quality manuscripts that will meet publishers’ high standards. Consequently, Nigerian writers do not produce enough quality materials that will meet the reading demands of its reading population.
This is one of the challenges Nigeria faces alongside a reading culture that has fallen below acceptable levels for any modern society that places value on human dignity. For reading remains one of the greatest exercises through which a human being can make a self-discovery that adds true value to their life and opens their mind to the true essence of their existence. Through reading, man discovers himself and acquires the intellectual ability to define himself as a worthy variable in the equation of life. When this important aspect of culture is missing, a crisis of identity arises with a lack of capacity steer his life towards a productive path in life.
Indeed Nigeria’s literary industry has been confined to a dark tunnel by decades of neglect by successive governments. And this is rather unfortunate for a nation that produced the first black Nobel laureate, a Man Booker Prize winner, an Orange Prize Winner and dozens of continental and inter-continental literary prize champions. This is a country of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Helon Habila and Chimamanda Adichie, to mention but a few world-acclaimed literary giants. In this dark tunnel, the nation grapples with low quality books, lack of support for authors and a population that is increasingly apathetic to reading.
In an effort to halt the downward slide of the country towards a looming intellectual abyss occasioned by a failed literary industry, the Abuja Writers’ Forum was founded in 2005 to create a cell through which Nigeria’s fledging literary light can be kept alive. The forum has successfully sustained a weekly critique session through which members and literary enthusiasts gather to review one another’s work and refine it into publishable material.
The forum also hosts a Guest Writer Session on the last Saturday of every month, where a published writer is invited to come and read from their work and entertain questions from the audience in an interactive fashion. This purely independent effort of the forum does not enjoy any form of support either from the government or the private sector players in the nation’s economy and this highlights the reason why the literary arts have so fallen in Nigeria.
The lack of government initiative on reviving literature and its indifference to efforts championed by individuals remains a great impediment to the survival of the book culture in Nigeria. Even the much-hyped Bring back the Book initiative of President Goodluck Jonathan has so far unfortunately been a promise badly kept by the administration as one would have expected visible efforts to be made through the initiative, to revive the reading culture of the society and also encourage writers by supporting institutions that create the opportunities for them to practice their art. Yet the years have continued to tick away without any tangible results to show the willpower of the administration to keep to its promise to Nigerians in that regard.
It is worthy to note that the efforts of the Abuja Writers Forum under the leadership of Dr. Emman Usman Shehu, to launch a creative writing school, marks the dawn of great hope for Nigeria’s literary arts.
As the students of the workshop were presented with their certificates at a colourful graduation ceremony held at Nanet Suites, Abuja, which coincided with the monthly Guest Writer Session, the sky of Nigeria’s literary arts, on that last Saturday of April, sparkled with a flame that is set to illuminate industry and lay a formidable ground for its future development.
The guest writer for the night was Obari Gomba of the University Port Harcourt. The event featured musical performances by Zainab Sule and King Willi. Winners of the monthly AWF Writing challenge also collected their prizes.
Elvis Iyorngurum is a poet, writer and the Interim Secretary of the Abuja Writers Forum.
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