PAWA CELEBRATES 50 YEARS OF WRITING OF J. P. CLARK
The Secretary-General of the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), Prof. Atukwei Okai, has described Prof. J.P. Clark-Bekederemo, a Nigerian Writer, as a non-conformist in his poetry who has “demonstrated a total commitment to contributing to the struggle to affect the minds of men”. The Secretary-General, also described Prof. J.P. Clark as a “writer whose literary career is a creational marathon whose origin was tap-rooted in the spirit and times of the foundation layers of Nigerian literature”.
Prof. Okai made the observations recently at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, when he delivered the keynote address during the International Conference on 50 Years of Writing of J.P. Clark Bekederemo: “Casualties, Innovations and Perspectives”, organized by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). Speaking on the theme, ‘Historical chameleonisation and the anti-palanquinity consciousness; Human beings as casualties of the womb and writers as murderers of the gods – the creational marathon of J.P. Clark, the Secretary-General observed that, the greatest branding rights that providence had granted Nigeria were “actually not her oil, but rather writers and artistes like Chinua Achebe, J.P. Clark, Wole Soyinka, Gabriel Okara, Cyprian Ekwensi, the sculptor Ben Enwonwu, the composer Fela Sawande and Elechi Amadi, among others”.
Although J.P. Clarks is not on the same political level as Prof Wole Soyinka, the Secretary-General described him as someone who in terms of being among his people “is engaged in joining them to identify and address the challenges of the day”.
Prof. Okai, underscoring the importance of the occasion, noted that it was significant to “tell a man what we think of him before he could decide that he had had enough of his world. This international conference therefore is a most public statement of our admiration of his noble commitment to his work and to us; by this ver4y gesture, we have done honour to ourselves”.
Recalling the early writing days of J.P. Clark, Prof. Okai stated that “Clark’s formative years were those of post-World War II. When Clark, a second year student, emerged upon the literary scene, he virtually declared himself with a bang” “From his very first works, we see that Clark set out to distill into the psyche of his people the spirit of anti-palanquinity”, added the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General further described J.P. Clark as a man who has a most disarming sense of humour, and is a very sensitive man. Being in quit possession of such qualities, he finds within himself the capacity for understanding the pain and suffering of others when he encounters them. This is a man who can laugh at himself – a trait that makes it possible to enter into the lives of others”.
Books authored by Prof. J.P. Clark includes: POEMS (1961), a group of forty lyrics that treat heterogeneous themes, A Reed in the Tide (1965), Occasional poems that focuses on Clark’s indigenous African background and his travel experience in America and other places; casualties: Poems 1966-68 (1970), which illustrate the horrendous events of the Nigeria-Biafra war; a decade of Tongues (1981), a collection of seventy-four poems, state of the union (1981), which highlights his apprehension concerning the socio-political events in Nigeria as a developing nation; Mandela and other poems (1988), which deals with the perennial problem of aging and death.
Born to ljaw parents, J.P. Clark, the first African writer appointed to a chair of English, received his early education at the Native Administration School and the prestigious Government College in Ughelli, and had his BA degree in English at the University of Ibadan where he edited various magazines, including The Beacon and The Horn.
Upon graduation from Ibadan in 1960, he worked as an information officer in the Ministry of Information, in the old Western Region of Nigeria, as features editor of the Daily Express, and as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. He served for several years as a professor of English at the University of Lagos, a position from which he retired in 1980. In 1982, along with his wife Ebun Odutola (a professor and former director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos), he founded the Pec Repertory Theatre in Lagos.
A widely travelled man, J.P. Clark has, since his retirement, held visiting professorial appointments at several institutions of higher learning, including Yale and Wesleyan University in the United States.
The colloquium was chaired by Captain Elechi Amadi which saw literary stalwarts like Professors G.G. Darah, Umello Ojinma, Prof Femi Osofisan, J. O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada, Dr. Joe Ushie, Mu Azu Maiwada and Arnold Udoka deliver papers.
The spectator Page: 7 October 30, 2010