By Chinelo Chikelu
… EU Spends N1bn To Support Publication, Access To Northern Literature
Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai has said Kaduna Books and Arts Festival (KABAFEST) will remain an annual for the duration of his administration. The governor who made the pledge at the opening ceremony of the festival’s maiden edition, which congregated northern Nigerian, Nigerian, and international writers in Kaduna, said KABAFEST is a part of his administration’s creative arts programme to celebrate the creative potential of the people, as well as support the arts.
“Kaduna State has always been the center of literature in Northern Nigeria. The very first books published in Hausa, were published in Zaria by Northern Nigeria Publishing Company (NNPC), and Gaskiya Corporation. Kaduna city has clocked one hundred years old. We hope to celebrate the city’s centenary towards the end of the year.”
Fashioned after the Ake Books and Arts Festival, KABAFEST aims to promote writers and creatives in northern Nigeria, in addition to address the modern challenges of northern Nigeria literature and education.
While Appreciating supporters of the event such as the Gusau Institute, Marine Platforms, and the Book Buzz Foundation, governor El-rufai said that the state takes pride in its nomination as a beneficiary of the EU’s co-funded Right to Write initiative, a two-year programme that will sponsor 20 northern Nigerian writers, from writing to publication, in addition to ensuring access to the writers works via the distribution of 140,000 copies of their works across five states in the north; Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno and Adamawa State.
EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Michel Arrion affirmed that the aim of the N1bn project is to educate the people that ‘Boko Is Not Haram’, in order words, ‘Books Are Not Harmful’, rather “they are powerful tools for the transmission of values and ideas. Everybody should not only have the right to write, but also the right to read.”
Arrion says 7,000 copies each of the selected writers works will be published. However, he noted that since majority of the writings will be in English language, some of the works will be translated to Hausa language and made available in downloadable print and audio format, on the project’s website, for the masses.
Incorporating a gender outlook, Arrion said the project aims at 40 percent female intake, but, “if we 10 or 12 women writers, that’s okay.” Publication and translation of the works will be undertaken by Nigerians.
In addition, Chief Financial Officer of Marine Platform, Baji Nyam, reemphasized its support of the Kaduna government’s effort to revive reading culture amongst the people. “The power of literature must never be underestimated. Where conflict or ethnicity my separate us, literature brings us together and reminds us of our common humanity.”
Meantime, Life Achievement Award honoree, Labo Yari, whose book was the first work of a northern Nigerian writer published in English language, said the award from the Kaduna State government is an appreciation of his contribution to northern literature.
Yari says he hopes to see government cultural departments support northern writers in the publication of their works, especially in a climate where publishers demand of payment before publishing, discourages writers.
A four-day event, KABAFEST, will feature booklogues, film screenings, poetry performances, and panel discussions aimed at promoting northern creatives, and literacy in the region.