Monday, April 9, 2018 3:29 pm
Scholars, friends, newsmen and students converged on the evening of Sunday 8 April, 2018 at the Quadrangle, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, UI, to celebrate an iconic-scholar and poet, Professor Harry Garuba, who clocked 60. The programme titled, “Shadows, Dreams and the Eruptions of Poetry”, was organized by The Ibadan Poetry Foundation, IBPF. The event which was streamed live for the international audience, especially the celebrant, had three sets of poetry reading sessions, comprising free style poems, poems by renown poets and poems written by the celebrant.
Among Harry’s poems read were: In the House of Tongue, by Professor Niyi Okunoye, Ordinary Thing by Tade Ipadeola, and Professor of Doors by Dr Sola Olorunyomi. Professor Femi Osofisan, a playwright, read late Professor Akinwumi Isola’s work, Grammar of Easter at the occasion saying, “This week is very important to us. We are burying Akinwumi Isola and I crave your indulgence to read the work of Akinwumi Isola as we celebrate Harry Garuba.
Also, Odia Ofeimun read Death of a Poem and Don’t let a failed nation defeat you. Some of the other poems read were: Don’t preach to me by Dr Charles Akinsete, One call, Many Answers by Ndubuisi Martins, Animal by Servio Gbadamosi, Merchant of Death by Olaniyi Waheed, Another Father by Akin Tella, As I write my first full stop by Tomide Oloruntobi and My Distant Teacher @ 60 by Kufre Egharevba.
Speaking earlier, the convener, Professor Remi Raji-Oyelade, a poet and literary icon whose PhD thesis was supervised by the celebrant, described the evening as a great one noting that it was special as it gave participants the opportunity to take their minds of Nigeria’s issues and problems and focus on what could save souls – poetry. According to him, the evening would afford upcoming poets the opportunity to be heard and listened to.
Also speaking on “Harry as a student”, Professor Daniel Sunday Izevbaye , who supervised Harry’s PhD thesis said, “Talent is the key word. Harry is charismatic. Poetry came naturally to Harry just like intellectual activities. Harry was surrounded by gifted teachers. Just as a saint will blow and shine in the midst of sinners, Harry can blow and shine anywhere as a poet. University of Ibadan has too much talents and geniuses and that is why the university can afford to donate scholars to universities in South Africa like Harry, to United Kingdom and United States of America. Unfortunately, Nigeria does not allow talents to blossom. Nigeria does not encourage talents, otherwise, we will not be producing a cluster of talented people going out. Today, I came here to see new talents reciting and performing poetry. These talents I did not know and they also will be celebrated in the next 60 years”.
Ofeimun described the celebrant as “such a loveable fellow”, who has a very sound knowledge of books. He added, “Harry went to school and can discuss anything”.
Harry Oludare Garuba, born of Etsako parents, burst on to the literary scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was born in 1958 in Akure, capital of Ondo State in Southwestern Nigeria. At 17, Garuba gained admission to the Department of English at UI where he graduated with a BA honours and later with a Master’s degree. He obtained his PhD in 1988. As an undergraduate, he wrote a one-act play, Pantomime for Saint Apartheid’s Day which was published in the Festac Anthology of Nigerian New Writing (1977). Afterward, he composed a work of scholarship, Mask and Meaning in Black Drama: Africa and the Diaspora. From 1981- 1995, he taught at UI and left to become a founding member of the editorial board of The Post Express, a defunct Lagos-Nigeria based national Newspaper. He migrated to South Africa in 1998, where he got an appointment to teach English at the University of Zululand. In 2001, he moved to the University of Cape Town teaching English, and rose to associate professor in 2005.
His first volume of poetry, Shadow and Dream and Other Poems, was published by New Horn Press, Ibadan and was runner-up for the First All Africa Christopher Okigbo Prize endowed by Wole Soyinka, after his Nobel. Garuba edited Voices from the Fringe (1988), an anthology of contemporary Nigerian poetry commissioned by the Association of Nigerian Authors. His poetry has appeared in, among others, an anthology The Fate of Vultures: New Poetry of Africa (1989) as well as literary reviews and chapbooks like the ANA Review, Positive Review, Opon Ifa, Idoto, the English Academy Review, the Savannah Review and Wasafiri as well as on electronic literary forums like African Writing Online and Maple Tree Literary Supplement.
Garuba teaches at the Centre for African Studies with a joint appointment in the English Department at the University of Cape Town. From 2009-2011, he was the director of the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa. In the recent past, he was a Mandela Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, a Mellon Fellow at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre at the University of Texas at Austin, and has recently been a Visiting Research Fellow at Emory University among others. His research interest covers African Literature, Postcolonial Theory and Criticism, African Modernities and Intellectuals/Intellectual Traditions of African Nationalist Writing.