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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Conversations with a poet and author

I have something interesting to share with you. I do look forward to doing so for a few more weeks with some of the most interesting minds I came across during our recent convention. I very rarely attend convention as there seemed to be more politics attached to the hosting than the event itself, but I felt this was different. It was going to be a gathering of creative minds and I looked forward to the event. Happily for me the author I had threatened to scalp for his less than admirable portrayal of womanhood did not attend. So I enjoyed myself and tried to ask a few questions around. It was like feeling my way around. The attendance was in the hundreds and there was some sort of mini book fair as publishers came to display the books of their authors.  In the package given to us was a collection of poetry and I came across a very interesting piece.Intrigued, I went looking for the poet and it turned she is a very beautiful young women. Okay I mean young in the understanding that she is much younger than me. You know age envies youth blah…blah.. Anyway I got into a conversation with her and I would like to share it.
Oluchi Igili
Please tell us a bit about yourself
1.   My name is Oluchi J. IGILI. I'm a female Nigerian author and a dramatist both by training and engagement. I'm currently a university teacher where my duties include instructing students both in the theory and practice of drama/theatre. I ventured, if you like, into writing because I find it as a veritable window of opportunity to express myself, my thoughts and my concerns about the world in which I live. In this regard, I share my thoughts through poetry, drama and prose fiction.

Nigerian authors seem to be very much in the background as far as international awereness is concerned, is that a true assessment?
2.   To say anything about one’s country except that which paints her in glowing colours would, ordinarily, be politically incorrect. But I think it is patriotic to admit that Nigerian authors are lagging behind in terms of awareness of what is going on on the international scene. To a very large extent, only Nigerian authors in the Diaspora have a good grasp of what obtains on the international front and in consequence, they enjoy a lot of international recognition. That is not to say that Nigerian authors living within the country cannot hold their own in terms of their creative prowess. What it simply means is that the writers in Diaspora are privileged to be to enjoy many opportunities not yet available to Nigerian authors living and writing in the country.

Your poem is striking as it suggests a deeper level of human experience. What genre of writing do you subscribe to?
3.   I engage in any form of creative writing (poetry, drama or prose) that enables me to give expression to my innermost concerns for my society. Another way to put it is to say that I subscribe to any literary genre that has a clearly discernible commitment to issues that affect humanity. Without any equivocation whatsoever, I belong to that school of thought that says, art, whether it is literary art or any other form of art, should be placed at the service of humanity. Art should not be an architectural masterpiece which lacks utilitarian value. Art for art’s sake? Not for me.
At the recently concluded convention of the association of Nigerian authors, there was a move to bring the female authors together, what do you think informed such a drive?
4.  Yes, I am aware of that move to bring Nigerian female authors together. Nigerian female writers are making the effort to come together under one umbrella or the other. One of such platforms is the Association of Nigerian Female Authors (ANFA) among others. The reason for this, I believe, is not far-fetched. The female Nigerian writer needs to be more visible and the best way to achieve this is to have a platform from which to seek both to be seen and heard. As much as I know that some of our male counterparts are sympathetic enough (I use that word deliberately), one can also understand that they are not too prepared to yield much space to the female writer. So, there is the need for Nigerian female writers to come together and create a strong visible image for themselves. If we fail to blow our trumpets, like they say, we should not expect any body to do that for us. And the time to do that is now.

As a published author, what has been your experience?
5.  There are a number of challenges which I believe are common to writers in my clime. There is the problem of a continuously dwindling reading culture which has been worsened in recent years by a barrage of technological devices that have made reading very unappealing. Whereas in the past people spent their leisure times on reading, technological devices have provided ready alternatives that are a lot less intellectually tasking. It does not take much intellectual muscle to sit down in front of a TV screen to watch a movie or soap.
Another issue which published authors have to grapple with here is piracy which has made writing to be a non lucrative enterprise.

Tell us about your published book and how we can get a copy
6.  My most recent literary out puts are a short story in Tales From the Sun and poems in One Poem, Fifty Seasons: A Collection of Poems in Honour of Sola Owonibi and they are available in leading bookshops. A collection of short stories is right now in the quarry.