“…new people who never believed they even possessed the gift of self expression become creative and this in turn activates other energies within the individual. I believe the creative process is the most energizing. And that is why it is so intimately related to the process of revolution within the society”
Wole Soyinka, 1975, in “In Person– Achebe, Awoonor, and Soyinka at the University of Washington.
“My weapon is literature”
Few days ago, after watching the classic movie, Dead Poet’s Society starring the late Robin Williams as John Keating, I came to a conclusion that Literature, and arts in general, has an overwhelming significance in the society and that every channel possible should be used to shape the society through its beauty, love and enduring allure, for the mere reason that, in Keating’s words, “…these are what we stay alive for.”
I chose to enter with the above for this reason: that for generations, the unique trajectory of the writer has enabled him to stand before the world as the ideal reflection of the society through creativity that incorporates plots and thematic elements derived therein. In a society where the channels of his expression are barred, he becomes skeptical and, very queerly, unapologetically tries to find newer and exiting ways to fight these limitations. Sometimes, this could prove to be dangerous. On Facebook, for instance, until recently, I’ve been receiving notifications from my very good friend, the artist Adeola Goloba about the state of affairs in the struggles of the much admired Nigerian accomplished sculptor and painter, Jelili Atiku, who was arrested by the police following a presentation he made in his native Ejigbo community where, on the aftermath of his arrest and detention by the police, his studio (containing valuable works of arts worth millions of Naira) was reportedly destroyed by members of the Oodua People’s Congress (O.P.C). Now, Atiku is a social-cum-conscious artist celebrated for his keenness with the idea of agitation and provocation against violence and self-colonization towards a purgation at the alter of self-realization. In tandem with the request of Goloba and other well-wishers, I happened to be among those who made an online petition to the Inspector-General of Police calling for Mr. Atiku’s immediate release from detention.
Now, I have never met Atiku or Adeola Goloba, either. Surprising? I don’t think so. There is not only a mutuality of friendship in every request one accepts today online on Facebook— I share about about four-hundred mutual friends with some writers— there are also altruistic intentions in these cyber-friendships, too. This is the reality with the social media writers today— a community of people that, ladened with the most witty, humorous, satirical, quasi-radical and riffed-narratives with undertones of both national and global events, are now fiercely waging a revolution in arts through the social media, notably Facebook. It was not any other person but the great Achebe that posited that “the world is like a mask dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.” And so, in the light of this, and against countervailing traditions of global suspicions, these writers, mostly young men and women, have made Facebook to gradually wear down singular narratives and cultural stereotypes by birthing a level playing field for global writers and lovers of arts in the community to interact with (and see) themselves as one, and still be able to recognize their unique diversities and specificities, individual and collective experiences. What is most surprising is that there is a certain profundity in the literature of this community that is analogous to that of traditional publishers.
And this brings attention to Nigerians! One would have to resurrect from death recently to think that Nigerians are not part of this community. They are, and their voices have the loudest sounds— after the Indians, perhaps! For years on this side of the world, indigenous publishing has suffered (and is still suffering) from inadequate funding which has made it a bizarre caricature of its robust and well-fed counterparts in other parts of the world, especially the West. It is only natural, then, to assume that the literary renaissance the country is currently witnessing may be partly as a result of hardworking publishing houses like Kraftgriot, Parrésia, Sevhage, Writehouse, and others, and partly also to Facebook. This is the social media that is gradually changing the face of Nigerian literature and revamping its diarrheal gatekeeping. This is the social media of easy publication, chapbooks, blogs, and, well, to some considerable extent, fame!
It must not be taking for granted that with the advent of the social media, chiefly Facebook, the reawakened, creative spirit of the young Nigerian today is before the world, awaiting its moment of glory. Throughout history, there has never been an effective way to tame the rebelliousness of this “spirit”— it has surmounted torture, prison, hunger and brutalities of military regimes, and now, it is surviving the fury of the dollar against the Naira — and in a bid to tell its own story, it has continue to search for the closest available medium of expression. This is the “spirit” that is casting away its somniferous state and putting on its intellectual anti-tanks to join the rest of the world to start a digital literary revolution, and, in the words of Achebe, that adorable canary of African literature, to “…threaten all champions of control,… frighten usurpers of the right-to-freedom of the human spirit.”
The present day Nigerian unsung genius who has no financial wherewithal to be published in the traditional way sees Facebook as his only channel to tell the world, “Hey, buddy, I know you don’t see my name on a book. But I tell you, I am a writer, too.” And so, as innocuous as it may seems, he spends ample time creating an almost “occultic” following by dishing out rich (and sadly, free?) pieces of poetry and prose on his wall. With a little touch of ego, he might even go as far as creating a page for himself and bear awe-inducing appellations such as “Poet So and So” etcetera. Furthermore, he may also join other literary pages and groups promoting both global and indigenous literature (simply google “Nigerian Facebook Writers” and you’ll be amazed by the sheer number of poetry-cum-fiction pages/groups controlled by Nigerians). In this way, our unsung genius has not only achieved the dream of expressing himself, but also interacts with both his kindred writers and following directly!
Strange as it may seems, our “young genius” is not alone in his struggle to self-expression. Here, he could encounter well-meaning published writers who are willing to help him sharpen his craft on variously available platforms on or connected to Facebook. Here, it becomes necessary to mention Kukogho Iruesiri Samson and his Authorpedia forum where young writers are nurtured. He may also encounter constructive criticisms from others of his kind who have been in the Facebook revolution for a very long time, and are ready to dare him to read as much as he can in his process of gestation. This is possible through a continuous intercommunication— exchanged of ideas that, except on rare occasions, do not intrude into the creative process of the “infant” writer. If truth be told, not a lesser number of writers have blossom this way. Once, for instance, I went through some of the finest writers I’ve met online, and discovered something interesting— their works of about two years ago, specifically 2014, are not are matured and appealing as they are today. The growth, as much we would love to attribute it to discipline in reading engaging literary works, may also be likened to an online social presence that demands well-written poems/fictions before guaranteeing the writer a considerable amount of following.
However, as it is with Medusa’s head— that the good and the bad may spring from the same source, and as Ernest Hemingway said, “All things truly wicked start from innocence,” Facebook could sometimes be a hotbed of controversies between writers angered by plagiarism, misunderstandings, and to the more implicit side-takings that are normal in a social media world.
Notwithstanding the above, there is a shift in paradigm today as Facebook has become a much-beloved platform beyond mere social soixante-neuf, adverts pages and a”den of evil enterprise” as parental love may bemoan. It has gone beyond these stereotypes to become the fastest accessible library of the finest contemporary poems and stories by unsung heroes of the arts yet to be celebrated by orthodox media of publication. It has also gone ahead to forge a certain enviable fraternity between its writers who are willing to see that each one of them reaches a point where his/her writing skills are sharpened and appreciated through constructive criticisms and by associative learning from reading fellow writers. For instance, check these conversations( rather, comments) lifted from the timeline of Ezeani Chukwudi , a really engaging Facebook writer, who posted that certain writers, based on the depth and beauty of their writing, make him feel addicted to Facebook:
Comment on Ezeani Nwokeoma Chukwudi’s post
I am with you on this brother. I often wonder why I am not gifted with a well chiseled pen when I perceive the aroma emanating from some Facebook folks intellectual kitchen. Some persons are simply pen gods. They unwittingly pour scorn on people like me who string up words like a drunk trying to walk a straight line.
Like5More · Friday at 9:13am
Ezeani Nwokeoma Chukwudi
LikeMore · Friday at 9:14am
Ezeani Nwokeoma Chukwudi
Now you just intimidated me with the whole culinary and kitchen metaphor. hahaha
Like1More · Friday at 9:15am
Michael Larri Ohiorhenuan
LikeMore · Friday at 9:17am
Don’t make me feel like i carry a handbag of intellectual makeup.
Jocoseriously, Charles Uzor has a way of making me feel like I am drinking from my first bottle of champagne whenever I read him.
His pen really bleeds.
Edited · Like1More · Friday at 9:20am
Ezeani Nwokeoma Chukwudi
Charles Uzor, Okoligwe Henry (Aka Henry Ibn Henry), Peter Adeosun Keyz, KIA, Hymar, Ishola Abdulwasiu, Basit Jamiu, Ife Olujuyigbe, Tj Benson, Emem Alexandra, Chuks Chuks, Okoro, Malizu, Okunola, Joe, Ogechukwu Sam, Caleb somto, Adam Bomb, Michael Snowfield Larry, Jesu. Jesu. Jesu, Jesu. If I continue, i won’t stop.
LikeMore · Friday at 9:30am
Michael Larri Ohiorhenuan
Thank God… Identical list
LikeMore · Friday at 9:31am
I have cross checked your list and I just realised that some peoples house rent on my list has long expired. I am recruiting new intellectual tenants right away.
Like1More · Friday at 9:34am
Michael Larri Ohiorhenuan
Steven, recruit ibeg…
LikeMore · Friday at 9:36am
Again, one of the forefront Facebook writers I’ve met personally, Hymar David, along with other equally promising writers of his kind, organized an open (the public votes are collated through the Facebook comment box) historical flash fiction (there are precedents to this) worth huge prizes that rivaled indigenous literary awards, with winners determined by both public and judges’ votes. I love to think that while the Flash is not aimed at digging out the best writer online in the persona of the winning writer, but rather as an avenue for others to try their strengths, what seems more interesting is the title of the flash, which, in its entirety, is the defining summation of the revolution on ground— THE BLACK-OUT!
At this juncture, it would be pertinent to pay respect to the riveting, enduring and creative spirit of beloved writers who bring freshness everyday to their stories, poems, and pictures… Jerry Chiemeke, Ehizogie Iyeoman, Romeo Ogun, Ife Ojuyiegbe, CeCe Ireneh, TJ Benson and Sybyl White (pictured below)Hauwa Shafii, Shade Mary-Ann, Kelvin Alaneme, Maureen Alikor-Berry, Andrew Labe, Sewe Leah, Emem Alexander, and several others.
These social media writers have taken the last words of Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney to his wife, Marie, “Nola timere“— Don’t be afraid— to heart and they and their colleagues are daring to become the components of the reality and beauty of the present narrative! They are the democracy that “that ancient restless and rebellious spirit” of the Nigerian child has been dreaming for ages! They are the challenge to the indigenous publishers— as it is with victory and it’s desire for more, the “hunger” of these young revolutionaries will not end today or tomorrow. Unless the indigenous media outfits recognize and harness their booming potentials, let the tragedy not occur that we may wake up one day and realize that the social media remain the last hope of the common man.