Nigeria is set to join other literary families across the world to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Chinua Achebe’s literature classic, Arrow of God. The novel was first published in 1964. It is Achebe’s third novel after Things Fall Apart, adjudged as the most widely read book in modern African literature and No Longer at Ease. Owing to the similarities in settings and themes, the three novels are fondly referred to as The African Trilogy. As one of the most widely read African Literature in the past five decades, the book has earned its place in world literary spotlight and would be celebrated globally in 2014 through a series of activities lined up.
Last Wednesday in Lagos, the Organising Committee for the Nigerian end of the International Celebration of Arrow of God@50 disclosed that an International Colloquium with the theme, ‘Arrow of God@50: Literature, Leadership and National Unity’ would be held in five cities in Nigeria from April 23 to May 3, 2014. These cities include Lagos, Ibadan, Awka, Sokoto and Otuoke.
The sub-themes of the proposed paper presentations hinge on the thematic preoccupation of the novel. Simply put, Arrow of God is a post-colonial literary piece that explores the themes of leadership, African world view, culture conflict amongst others. The novel has been described by readers and critics as ‘the most intricate and most accomplished of Achebe’s novels. The central character of the work, Ezeulu is the Chief Priest of several villages in South Eastern Nigeria who confronts adversaries to his office, colonial powers and Christian Missionaries in the 1920s.
Other sub-themes for the paper presentations include, Literature and the Quest for National Unity, Sexualities and Subjectivities, Managing Changes and Transitions in a Pluralized Society, Traditionalism versus Modernism, amongst others. The papers will later be edited and published into a book on Leadership, Democracy and National Unity.
In the spirit of this global celebration which will take place in 70 countries, there will be literary competitions for students which will drive forward the reading culture in the country. Children’s carnival, writing competitions, Stage Presentations of ‘Arrow of God’ are part of the activities designed to make the celebrations memorable.
The Chairman, National Organizing Committee of Arrow of God@50, Dr. Wale Okediran, explained that the nationwide literary competition with draw participants from selected secondary school students. He said that copies of Arrow of God will be given to the students to read for one month before the day of the literary competition. Students’ knowledge of the work will be tested through quiz and reading comprehension exercises.
“Collaborations will be done with the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) at the national level and through its local branches where the events are billed to hold bas well as tertiary institutions such as University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, University of Abuja, Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokotp, Nnamdi Azikwe University Awka as well as the Federal University Otuoke, Bayelsa”, he declared.
Interestingly, Arrow of God has been adapted in stage plays by some Nigerian playwrights and these adaptations will be performed as part of activities marking the international celebration of the novel. In Lagos, an adaptation by Isaac Ogezi, Ezeulu will be performed on April 21. In Ibadan, Kalu Uka’s adaptation of the novel, Harvest of Ants will be performed on April 23 while Emeka Nwabueze’s adaptation, When The Arrow Rebounds will be performed on April 30 in Awka.
The global celebration will begin in January 2014 with a conference at The Maharaja Sayajirao University in India. The conference will focus on all Achebe’s works but with a focus on Arrow of God at other conferences scheduled to hold later in the year. In February, literary enthusiasts in United States of America will hold their colloquium at Washington DC. Their Asian counterparts will hold multiple events in March while Russians will add colour to the celebrations in April. Throughout the year, there will be a series of co-ordinated celebrations in countries across the Europe, Central and Latin America and South Africa.
Dr Okediran remarked that the hometown of the author, Ogidi will be soon become a tourist attraction for literary fans. He noted that such honour was accorded to the memory of many phenomenal writers including William Shakespeare. He said a source at the Chinua Achebe Foundation revealed that plans are underway in collecting some the personal items of the late author for sightseeing. Achebe’s personal typewriter, reading chair and table and other possessions that will engrave the author’s life in the heart of his admirers are to be preserved. A member of the National Organising Committee, Professor Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo described Achebe as a ‘literary icon’ who ‘inspite of his challenges remained focused’.
Achebe is a Nigerian novelist, poet, critic and professor whose novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influences, culture clash and post colonial discourse. He had also published short stories, children’s books, collections of essays. Until his death in March 21, 2013, he was a Professor at Brown University in the United States.