The popular belief that artistes, because of the timelessness of their oeuvres, are ‘immortals’ was cemented last Thursday when a barrage of commendations were poured on the late author of “Things Fall Apart,” Chinua Achebe, at the Golden Anniversary commemoration of his third novel, “Arrow of God.”
The commemoration was organised to hold simultaneously in eight Nigerian cities. However, that of Abuja, which was held at the NTA Arena, featured what the organisers termed “one of the most memorable children’s literary carnival of all time.”
The carnival featured drama sketches, quiz and dance dramas that centred around “Arrow of God.”
Speaking at the event, the chairman of the occasion, Prof. Chudi Uwazurike, a member of the House of Representatives, commended Achebe for “bringing the world to Africa through literature.” He also commended Achebe’s Foundation for initiating the commemoration, especially the inclusion of secondary school students.
According to him, “If we must improve the present moribund reading culture, recourse must be made to the grassroots, which is the primary and post-primary stages of education. Commemorating a book of one of the leading authors in the world in the presence of these kids would boost our dying reading culture and widen the way they view the world.”
Prof. Jerry Agada, a former national president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), also lent his voice to the clarion call, saying: “We must catch them young. If we catch them young, it will be in their blood. Catching them young is the main aspect of bringing back the book.”
However, in the quiz competition, School for the Gifted, Gwagwalada, won the first prize, while Regina Pacis, Abuja, a girls’ school, and Government Secondary School, Lugbe, were the first and second runners-ups respectively.
School for the Gifted, Gwagwalada, repeated its feat in the quiz competition by also coming first in drama, while Government Secondary School, Garki, and Regina Pacis, Abuja, emerged second and third respectively.
During a brief interlude, Chukwuemeka Obi-Obasi, Ikeogu Oke and other Abuja-based artistes thrilled the audience with their performances. While Obi- Obasi, a popular young performance poet, gave life to Isaac Ogezi’s “The Warrior’s Homecoming,” which is a tribute to Achebe. Oke read two poems from his children’s poetry collection, “Songs of Success.”
Perhaps one of the most spell-binding features of the carnival was the School for the Gifted’s dance drama about Oduche’s imprisonment of the royal python in the novel. The students dramatised how the python escaped from the box in which it was imprisoned to the thunderous applause of the audience.
For young post-primary school students, it was an ingenious theatrical stunt that would not fail to leave a lasting impression in the minds of the audience.
The carnival was brought to an end after the presentation of awards and certificates to the participants by Chief Ifeanyi Ileogbunam.
Lagos is the next stop of the commemoration. Professor Charles Larson, Emeritus Professor of Literature from Washington DC, will be the keynote speaker, the organisers said.
“Arrow of God” centres on Ezeulu, the chief priest of several Igbo villages in colonial Nigeria, who confronts colonial powers and Christian missionaries in the 1920s.
The phrase ‘arrow of God’ is drawn from an Igbo proverb in which a person, or sometimes an event, is said to represent the will of God. “Arrow of God” won the first ever Jock Campbell/New Statesman Prize for African writing.