Interview Questions for Servio
Gbadamosi, #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival Guest
1. Servio, thanks for agreeing to this. You
have initiated important literary spaces for Nigerian writers and young writers
on the continent like WriteHouse Collective and Sankofa Initiative, offering
publishing opportunities, alongside the monthly Artmosphere, that hosts writers.
What are some of the major changes your spaces have created?
Notably the discovery of new
talents.It is encouraging to see what league of brilliance and significance
such spaces could inspire. We are facilitating knowledge exchange, mentorship,
networking and development between established writers, artists and emerging
cultural practitioners. We are leading the revival of a vibrant reading culture
and the promotion of creative expressions in literature and the arts amongst
Nigeria’s teeming youth.
And we are not doing these all by
ourselves. There are well-meaning individuals and organisations who believe in
and continue to support our work. There are also countless individuals and
organisations besides ours involved in a plethora of activities promoting
literature, arts and culture round the country. But regardless of all we have
collectively achieved, there is still so much more to do. I’m saying there is
so much rut to clear, so much to be cultivated, watered and harvested. The key
is carving a portion of this seemingly impossible rock for ourselves as
individuals and organisations and staying true to it in the face of challenges,
opposition, abundance or lack.
I have a personal conviction that
I’m called to help raise a generation of writers and cultural practitioners who
would lead the rebirth and positively impact the future and development of our
land. That is my motivation. It is much more than a labour of love, or a love
of labour. I’m out on a journey. Now, there are those who build with us and
there are those who strive to tear us down. But these are obstacles we’ll face
and surmount time and again.
2. In November 2015, your poetry collection,
A Tributary in Servitude, won the Association of Nigerian Author’s Prize for
Poetry. Has there been any shift in your attitude towards poetry since you won?
No, not at all. I consider it a
great honour for my book to have been deemed worthy of the prize. It is an
encouragement for me to further commit to my art. But I’m interested in human
stories, in human suffering, in the good and evil we are capable of, in time,
in the beauty and ugliness our world provides and how literature and arts sits
at the intersection interrogating… and I intend to continue exploring these as
I’m inspired and led.
3. The main theme of the #Babishai2016 Poetry
Festival is Abundance: Poetry from Contemporary Africa, how does that speak to
Truly, there is an abundance of
poetry on the continent and there will continue to be in decades to come. But
how much of these is good quality poetry? In fact, what is good quality poetry?
Are we not confusing quantity with quality? Are we focusing on and emphasising
what poetry was and has been at the expense of what it can be? What are the
contemporary trends in poetry across the world and how do these impact our
writing? How does our own writing impact the world? There are hundreds and
thousands of poets writing today but how many of us will be here or remembered
in decades to come? How many have and will be forced to abandon writing and the
pursuit of mastery in the quest for survival?
I look forward to interesting
conversations on these and many more at the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival. We
need to continue building formidable platforms, institutions and networks that
will ensure poetry, literature and arts in general thrives in our clime. And we
must start by improving the quality and dignity of human life.
4. When you think of poetry in Uganda, what
images come to your mind?
While I must admit that there’s
been a gap in my reading of poetry from Uganda, I’m particularly fond of the
works of Okotp’Bitek and Taban Lo Liyong. Some friends introduced me to Nick
Makoha’s poetry in 2015 and I’m loving it.
5. During the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival,
we will hold a children’s poetry session under the sub-theme of Children’s
poetry and its accessibility. How important do you think it is for African
children to have poetry created for them?
I think it is essential that
reading and writing is introduced to children early. There is a saying amongst
the Yorubas that roughly translates “a tradition or religion not taught to the
youths will gradually vanish”. So you see, the earlier we begin, the better and
in both formal and informal learning settings. It will open up their minds,
give them a richer understanding of the world and how it works and help them
discover their place in it. But, it is not merely enough to have poetry created
for them. We also have to be supportive in creating an environment conducive
for them to create their own poetry, their own stories and share same with the
world. That way, the question of accessibility will be more than answered.
6. Any parting words? What diet would you
recommend for poets?
Be omnivorous. Read any and every
thing so long you are convinced it’s good for you. Life is a journey and so is
poetry. We have to keep on learning and unlearning as we go along. Patience and
tenacity are virtues I hold dear. Sometimes we will win, sometimes we will
learn. But the fear of failure should never deter us from daring to live and
pen our conviction.
Servio Gbadamosi is a seasoned Culture and Development practitioner based in Ibadan, Nigeria. Through the Sankofa Initiative for Culture and Development, he works with emerging writers, artists and culture practitioners across the country providing multiple development and promotional platforms. In April, 2012, he cofounded, WriteHouse Collective, a fast-growing independent publishing and book distribution firm that houses some of the finest writers emerging in Nigeria today.
For festival details, contact the following:-
Tel: +256 751 703226