2023 CORA-NPL Book Party: A Celebration of Literary Brilliance and Cultural Fusion (by Ipadeola Ayanwunmi Israel)
The 2023 CORA-NPL Book Party was a convergence of literary brilliance, held on Sunday, August 6, 2023 at the prestigious Shell Hall of the MUSON Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. The event celebrated the eleven exceptional playwrights who were longlisted for the 2023 Nigeria Prize for Literature (NPL), Africa’s most prestigious literary prize.
Hosted by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), the party was a tribute to the eleven exceptional playwrights chosen from an astounding 143 submissions for the 2023 Nigeria Prize for Literature (NPL). The NPL has firmly established itself as a beacon of literary distinction in Africa, gracing the winner with a remarkable $100,000 prize. Since its inception in 2004, the Nigeria Prize for Literature has been generously sponsored by the Nigerian LNG Limited.
The CORA-NPL Book Party was a fitting tribute to these talented writers. The event featured readings from the longlisted plays, as well as panel discussions and interviews with the playwrights. The audience was treated to a feast of ideas and creativity, as the playwrights shared their insights into their work and the African literary landscape.
However, this event transcended the conventional norms of reading. A team of skilled dramatists, under the adept guidance of the accomplished actors Francis Onwuchie and Ropo Ewenla, breathed life into the plays through captivating excerpts. While an enactment of the excerpts would have been enthralling, the sheer skill of these readings artfully transported the audience into the intricate tapestries woven by these playwrights.
A mesmerizing zenith of the evening was reached when the playwrights themselves graced the stage — each a virtuoso, conducting symphonies of words that resonated deeply with the assembled audience. The room was illuminated not only by the physical lighting but also by the collective brilliance of these literary luminaries, their presence akin to a constellation of stars guiding us through uncharted territories of thought and emotion.
These eleven playwrights shone resplendently, leading us through the literary constellations with their brilliance. They took us on a journey into realms of contemplation, ignited by their boundless imagination and eloquent words.
The selected plays are diverse arrays of narratives that captivate, provoke thought, and provide insightful reflections on the human experience. With themes ranging from tradition to political intrigue, mental health to societal transformation, these plays offer readers a glimpse into the depth and complexity of the human condition.
Below are the synopses of the 11 plays in the long list:
1. Dance of the Sacred Feet by Ade Adeniji
“A fascinating play well structured. A play about upholding the sanctity of cultural tradition and yet making space to accommodate change and diversity for peace and progress.”
Ade Adeniji captures the intricate balance between tradition and change. The narrative delves into the interplay between cultural heritage, power, and unity. Adeniji’s exploration of these themes unfolds against the backdrop of a ruler’s demise, showcasing the challenges of upholding customs in a rapidly evolving world.
2. The Brigadiers of the Mad Tribe by Abuchi Modilim
“It is a discourse on the politics of the marriage between Science and Voodoo.”
In this thought-provoking discourse, playwright Abuchi Modilim delves into the intricate dynamics between Science and Voodoo. The narrative revolves around the audacious challenge put forth by the Phoenix Black Science Organisation, offering a substantial reward to African witches and wizards for creating the revolutionary Brain Cloud Facility. As a group of ordinary teachers assembles a team of mystical practitioners known as the Brigadiers Order, the story takes a dramatic turn when their efforts earn them a spot on the prize shortlist. The play delves into the profound exploration of human character amidst pivotal moments, touching on themes of greed, chaos, and Africa’s technological struggles.
3. Gidan juju by Victor S. Dugga
“It is about Kingship and Succession. It revolutionizes tradition and invited post-modernity.”
Victor S. Dugga presents a transformative tale of Kingship and Succession in “Gidan juju.” The narrative centres on the repatriation of a deposed king’s remains, igniting a chain of events that challenge tradition and embrace post-modernity. As the lone traditionalist’s passing coincides with the repatriation, the kingdom faces the challenge of preserving its cultural heritage through modern means. Dugga skilfully navigates the complexities of societal adaptation in the wake of historical dislocation.
4. Grit by Obari Gomba
“A deeper insight into the destructive impact of soul-less politics which brings out the best in man.”
Obari Gomba’s “Grit” uncovers the destructive impact of soulless politics, magnifying the human spirit’s resilience amid adversity. The story unfolds in the fictional community of Sonofa, where a riot sets the stage for an exploration of social engagement, family tensions, and political intrigue. As two brothers find themselves at odds in the midst of a power struggle, Gomba weaves a narrative that exposes the forces that manipulate their conflict. “Grit” is a reflection on violence, societal unrest, and the fragile nature of society itself.
5. Homecoming by Cheta Igbokwe
“It gives a profound insight into the tragic experiences and the psychological life of the people. It is philosophical and gravely entertaining.”
Cheta Igbokwe’s “Homecoming” offers profound insights into the human psyche and tragic experiences. The narrative revolves around Nwakibe and Adannaya Echeruo, a couple desperately seeking their missing son, Nebeolisa. Through their journey, intertwined with the endeavours of a writer named Johnson, Igbokwe delves into themes of love, discovery, and the transient nature of existence. “Homecoming” invites readers to ponder life’s fleeting moments and the elusive nature of what is truly valuable.
6. The Boat People by Christopher Anyokwu
“A socio-culturally relevant subject matter rich in techniques. An out-of-the-box crafting of the experiences referred to as ‘Japa’.”
Christopher Anyokwu’s “The Boat People” shines a spotlight on the global phenomenon of mass migration, emphasizing its socio-cultural relevance. The narrative explores the perilous journey of individuals seeking refuge in Western Europe and North America, traversing the treacherous terrains of Africa’s peripheries. Anyokwu addresses the urgency for people-centric policies in African nations, urging governments to attend to the needs of their citizens and alleviate the harrowing conditions that lead to migration.
7. The Ojuelegba Crossroads by Abideen Abolaji Ojonu
“The play takes us into a town hall to discuss us in an engaging manner. It is presented as a metaphor of a society in dire need of purging.”
In “The Ojuelegba Crossroads,” Abideen Abolaji Ojonu provides a metaphorical glimpse into societal transformation. The play’s focus is a town hall gathering, serving as a microcosm of a society in dire need of reform. Ojonu aptly captures the struggle between embracing foreign influences and preserving ancestral customs. This exploration of cultural identity and societal purging is particularly pertinent in an era of rapid globalization.
8. The Spellbinder by Bode Sowande
“It’s a psychological play about cleansing of our general mental instability. It has forgiveness at the root of the resolution of mental instability.”
Bode Sowande’s “The Spellbinder” delves into psychological complexities, interweaving themes of love, forgiveness, and mental instability. The narrative follows the lives of friends whose youthful passions result in lasting mental health challenges. Sowande’s portrayal of emotional entanglements and the power of love to heal underscores the human capacity for growth and redemption.
9. When the Big Masquerade Dance Naked by Olubunmi Familoni
“The play has an insightful and social realistic subject matter representing the dimension of systemic corruption and criminal alliance in traditional and contemporary political space.”
Olubunmi Familoni’s “When the Big Masquerade Dance Naked” is a satirical examination of systemic corruption and political alliances. The fictional town of Ilekoro becomes a canvas for Familoni to depict the oppression of the masses by political and traditional leaders. The play serves as a call to action, urging individuals to rise against darkness and uphold truth in the pursuit of a more humane society.
10. Where is Patient Zero by Olatunbosun Taofeek
“A topical play full of drama and humour. It is an engagement on international politics of disease and economy.”
Olatunbosun Taofeek’s “Where is Patient Zero” tackles international politics, disease, and economy in a dynamic narrative. The play delves into the initial carrier of the COVID-19 virus, unraveling a web of intrigue involving rogue scientists and a lethal network. Taofeek’s exploration of global health crises and their implications on society serves as a compelling engagement with current events.
11. Yamtarawala — The Warrior King by Henry Akubuiro
“A historical play rendered full of tale, drama, and ritual.”
Henry Akubuiro’s historical drama, “Yamtarawala — The Warrior King,” transports readers to the 16th-century Kanem-Bornu Empire. The story follows Yamta of Ngazargamu, whose quest for power leads to conquest and conflict. Akubuiro masterfully portrays themes of ambition, family dynamics, and the intricate dance between tradition and progress.