We Need To Celebrate Arts In Nigeria ~Gomba

Award-winning Poet and Creative Writing Lecturer in the Department of English Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Dr. Obari Gomba, has stressed the need to celebrate the arts in Nigeria as a way of building a robust creative economy as is the case in other climes.
Gomba has just returned from the 2016 International Writing Programme of the University of Iowa in the United States of America, where he participated in the famous Iowa City Book Festival and sat on the Panel on Writing and Politics. He regretted that Nigerians do not accord the arts the respect they so richly deserve, adding that Americans not only have respect for the arts, but they also celebrate literature. 
 “In Nigeria, the arts are still like the exclusive preserve of a few mad people who are usually dismissed as day dreamers. For instance, a kidnapper is accorded more respect than the poet in this country. The developed countries pay serious attention to the arts as an important aspect of their national identity; but Nigeria has not looked at the arts beyond what a few creative individuals have done on their own. 
Take the popular Nigerian movie industry for instance, it was developed without any deliberate effort or input from the government, which is currently attempting to exploit it for political purposes. In the final analysis, it is the arts that tell our story. For instance, Iowa is the UNESCO City of Literature with all the end benefits that accrues to that city from such a cultural designation. We need to learn from the developed countries about what they are doing to preserve their cultural identity,” Gomba lamented. 
“Our obsession for the pursuit of science and technology should not be at the expense of the arts, as they both derive from the capacity of man to imagine and recreate his world. Everything in life begins from our capacity to imagine and reason logically. For any society to develop in a globalised world, the arts and science must work together in a symbiotic relationship without preferential treatment being accorded to any of them,” he recommended.
Gomba, who won the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Poetry Prize 2016, disclosed that the award would be celebrated in the University of Iowa. He  revealed that part of his engagement at IWP, included readings at Shambaugh House, UIowa, Dubuque Museum of Art in Dubuque  City, Oaknell Retirement Centre, Iowa City, and teachings at Kirkwood Community College, West High College  and University of Iowa, where he taught International Literature, and toured Manhatthan, Broadway in New York, the State Department, Library of Congress, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials in Washington DC, including trips to Seattle and Chicago, amongst other places of interest.  
 “We have not sufficiently promoted literary excellence in this country and there are many Nigerians who do not yet know the writers in the University of Port Harcourt. We need to institutionalise regular monthly reading sessions around each author to popularise their works. The biggest advert a university can have is the quality of its products. UniPort has many renowned writers associated to it. Before his demise, Elechi Amadi was a Writer-in-Residence here alongside Gabriel Okara and Ifeanyi Aniebo. There is no reason why the Master’s in Fine Arts in Creative Writing programme has not still taken off here. We have the classrooms and qualified hands to handle the programme,” he observed.
On how his participation in the IWP would benefit his creative endeavours, Dr. Gomba said: “My responsibility to the University is to teach and carry out research. I take my job as a teacher seriously and I will continue to be as committed as I have always been. I will continue to raise a generation of writers and researchers. The first African to win the Etisalat Prize for Flash Fiction, Uche Okonkwo, was my student. I hope deploy my experience in Iowa to enrich my teaching and research,” he disclosed, adding that research and creative writing would give students the skillsets that would enable them excel in the expansive creative industry.        


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