Tuesday, June 14, 2016 1:41 pm
As the four-day international Conference tagged, “Femi Osofisan, Post-Negritude Tradition and 50 Years of Literary Drama” organized to celebrate the 70th birthday anniversary of a theatre practitioner and culture scholar, Emeritus Professor Babafemi Adeyemi Osofisan commenced on Monday June 13 2016, scholars and Nigerians converged at the Conference Hall of Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, UI, to celebrate the prolific writer.
Among the participants including publishers were : Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, the institution’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka, and his Deputy in charge of Administration, Professor Emilolorun Ayelari, an international poet, Niyi Osundare, Professor Adenike Akinjobi, Professor Duro Adeleke, Professor Olabode Lucas, Professor Festus Agboola Adesanoye, Professor Albert Lekan Oyeleye, and Professor Ayo Kehinde.
Speakers lined up to shower encomium on the simple dressed celebrant who was accompanied by his wife, Professor Adenike Oyinlola Osofisan.
The conference, according to the conveners, is not only a commemoration but an avenue to celebrate the exemplary accomplishments of an astute teacher, mentor and a deeply committed humanist and defender of social and human rights.
“Femi Osofisan is dear to many people because of his multifarious engagements with humanity. A colossus of the Nigerian and African literary and artistic fields, Osofisan belongs in that rare of artists and intellectuals who bridge the world of earlier writers such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, John Pepper Clarke-Bekederemo, Flora Nwapa and Christopher Okigbo, and the biosphere of the young writers. His plays are among the most performed in Nigeria, and on the continent. His criticisms are among the most cited; and his contributions are among the most sought after in the development of our nation”, the conveners added.
In his welcome address, the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Professor Adebola Ekanola who described Osofisan as an intellectual colossus, icon of theatre, international artiste, poet, author, novelist, editor, newspapers columnist, and man of immense status said that the celebrant is an epitome of success.
In the same vein, UI VC who described Osofisan as an eminent, dutiful, diligent, distinguished, cerebral and globally celebrated Emeritus Professor, disclosed that Osofisan began his academic sojourns as a student in then then Department of Modern European Languages, now the Department of European Studies of the premier university. He noted that ever since, Osofisan has made his mark as a renowned writer, critic, translator, poet-who writes under the name Okinba Launko, a serial award winning dramatist and playwright, an actor, director, novelist, biographer, essayist and columnist.
“He is on the overall recognized as a multi-talented creative artist and scholar. His relevance and significance to this generation is in the outstanding values his work embodies including but not limited to the following: a revolutionary posture, aesthetic commitment, experimentation, reinvention of socio-cultural values and political significance, all of which the organizers of this conference have attempted to sum up in the theme. Professor Osofisan is, both figuratively and literally, an ambassador of this great institution. He has held teaching positions or research fellowships from Japan to Sri Lanka, Ghana to Lesotho, China to Canada, parts of U.K to France and indeed almost all over the world! He is indeed an iconic citizen of the world. Osofisan, therefore, is: our ambassador of peace and reconciliation, in Nigeria, in Africa and beyond”, Olayinka stated.
Professor Banjo, who was the celebrant’s teacher from secondary school claimed, “Nobody has known Femi Osofisan longer than I. I have that advantage over the wife. I have encountered Osofisan since Government College, Ibadan and followed his career from that point to this point. His interest in drama came about because he has a principal that is passionate about drama. Government College has produced geniuses in many fields. Osofisan uses English well. He is a remarkable English Language user. I wondered why Osofisan studied French in UI instead of English which I would have ordinarily wanted him to study. But I know that there was a very beautiful French teacher in Government College then. I don’t know if she had influenced Femi more than I to make Femi to study French”.
In the abstract of his keynote address of 96 pages, Professor Patrick Ebewo of Shwane University of Technology, Pretoria opined that apart from Wole Soyinka, it is doubtful if any other contemporary African writer can favourably compete with Femi Osofisan in the realm of dramaturgy adding, without any sensationalism, it could be concluded that Osofisan is the Bertolt Brecht (social critic) of Africa.
He said, “Osofisan is a radical postcolonial writer, internationally recognised and acclaimed as playwright, poet and scholar, and “is widely held as the leading writer in Africa of the generation immediately following that of Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe.” He has published more than 50 plays, 4 collections of poetry, 3 novellas and 2 children’s books and has served as popular columnist in some Nigerian newspapers. He has also produced scholarly essays on literature, drama and culture. In his revolutionary rhetoric, Osofisan acts as the mouthpiece of the downtrodden in society and a committed author who employs literature as a force for freedom. A fighter against colonialism and neo-colonialism in all their configurations, he champions a course against corruption, oppression and forms of indignity against human rights and the perpetrators of its abuses.
He added, “His political ideology finds expression in most of his stage plays which have screamed against human beings inhumanity towards fellow beings. He reacts always against art for art’s sake. In his opinion, “art, all art, was by its very essence socio-telic, that its coming to being was dependent on, and determined by the surrounding social and political environment.” In his resolve, art should feature always as an instrument of transformation of the society. Unlike Soyinka, but like Ngugi, he is a Marxist who believes that art works should influence and prompt the masses (“the ordinary breed”), not the conventional protagonists to revolt against oppressive forces of convention”.
Other programmes of the day were three parallel sessions of discussion treating different sides to Osofisan including: “Osofisan The Intertextual Dramatist” under which these topics were treated: “I am an Incorrigible Plagiarist: Femi Osofisan’s Notions of Intertextuality”, “Osofisan, Master Storyteller and the Convergence of Epic and Storytelling Theatres”, “Tales Retold in Select Femi Osofisan’s Plays”, “The Drama and Theatre of Femi Osofisan: A Spatial Reading of Midnight Hotel and Midnight Blackout”.
“Theatre Management in Nigeria under which “Our Art is Dying: Management of the National Arts Theatre by Osofisan,” “Funding for the Arts: A Critique of the Bank of Industry Arts Fund and Conditionalities”, and “Post-Negritude Tales of Power” treating, “Cultural and Linguistic Identities in Postcolonial Discourse: A Neo-Negritude Approach”, “Exploring the Communicative Essence of Osofisan’s Three Daughters”, and “Literature, Corruption and the Artist: A close Reading of Femi Osofisan’s Who’s Afraid of Solarin?”,
The event also featured book discussion, readings by writers and the introduction of Ibadan Literary Society and book festival.
Slated for Tuesday June 14 were: “Dance and Music in the Drama of Osofisan” under which “Off the Tam-Tam Beat: Dance of Revolutionary Aesthetics in Osofisan’s Works”, and “Make mine a double”: Femi Osofisan and the Project of Adaptation” will be treated. “Dance and Music in the Theatre of Osofisan”, under which “Dramaturgy and Aesthetics of Dance and Music in Yungba-Yungba and the Dance Contest and Aringindin and the Night Watchmen”, “The Social and Aesthetic Functions of Music and Dance in Select Plays of Femi Osofisan”, and “Dance and Music in Femi Osofisan’s Esu and the Vagabond Minstrels” will be dealt with. “Gender and Ethnicity” has: “Theatre and Representation: A Critical Understanding of Gender from an Intercultural Perspective”, “Theatre Ethnicity and the Anglophone-Anglophone Dichotomy in Cameroon”, and “Women, Identity and Social Revolution in Femi Osofisan’s Selected Plays”.
Also to be treated is “Design and Scenography” under which, “Test, Textuality and Spatial Orientation in Selected Osofisan’s Plays”, “Scenography in Femi Osofisan’s Adaptation of Fagunwa’s Ogboju Ode”, “Challenges of Designing Music of Femi Osofisan’s Works of Drama: Experiences of Abibigromma Theatre in the Production of Midnight Hotel and Such is Life (Midnight Blackout) and “Scenic Purity versus Theoretical Pluralism in Osofisan’s Adapted Plays”.
The performance of Women of Owu would round off the day.
Osofisan, born on June 16, 1946 in Ogun State to Philip Osofisan and Phebean Olufunke, both teachers, had his primary school between 1952-58 and secondary school education at Government College, Ibadan between 1959-1963 where he obtained his West African School Certificate and won 1st M. Aluko prize for literature. In 1965, he got involved in four year old Mbari Club, and begin professional poetry writing with Christopher Okigbo. He won 1st Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS) Independence Prize with the essay “Five Years Ago”.
His post secondary school education started in 1966 when he entered UI to read French, and between 1976 and 68, he attended Universite de Dakar, Senegal for the year abroad French Language programme and associated with the Daniel Serrano Theatre.
In 1968, he obtained Diplome D’etudes Supetieures, Dakar and later became the President of the UI Dramatic Society and obtained BA (Hons) French in UI, and in 1974, he bagged PhD. He was appointed as Assistant Lecturer in UI in 1973 where he rose to the position of professorship. Osofisan, a man of numerous awards, is a member of many associations and has travelled far and wide.