Here's Helon Habila, Fidelity Bank MD Reginald Ikejiani and writer/columnist Okey Ndibe at Friday's launch of Dreams at Dawn, the anthology of works by participants in the Fidelity International Writing Workshop.
I had thought the Fidelity MD's penchant for hogging the limelight, especially in terms of photo-ops - which must impose a lot of unnecessary formality and 'Nigerian' protocol on literary workshop business whenever he's around - would be the biggest huddle... At the last real BookJam (as run by Igoni Barrett) in Lagos last year, Ikejiani sat on the high table in front with the featured writers who were reading at the event (Habila, Madeleine Thien, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Unoma Azuah). It was odd to say the least, especially as he wasn't part of the proceedings and never said a word in the discussions back and forth. There was plenty of space on the other side of the room. Habila, Thien and Dangarembga had come from the Fidelity workshop, true, but the Bookjam was not a Fidelity event, yet their banner was displayed prominently there. Then writers were ushered to one side at some inopportune moment or other to pose for pictures with the bank MD. No such shenanigans when the Farafina Trust people came to the Bookjam weeks before. Different approaches, I guess.
Some might argue that, well, the Fidelity MD likes to smile for pictures, what's the harm? However, an eyewitness report from the just concluded 2011 workshop held in Nsukka, suggests there may be organisational shortcomings with the Fidelity workshop too. Here goes.
"I'm in Lagos again, after a week in Enugu for the Fidelity Bank International Creative Writing Workshop at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. It was a mixed bag--the good parts being the instructors, in the persons of Helon Habila, Diana Evans, and Jamal Mahjoub. The bad part, which threatened to undermine the instructors' efforts, was Fidelity Bank itself. They were inept. Disorganized. Laughable. And I seriously questioned their ability to execute any manner of things, including meals and photocopying."
Wow. Read the rest of the post here.
It must be said though, that the publication of an anthology is a good move on Fidelity and Helon Habila's part. Let's hope they iron out the rest of the teething problems. When it comes to writing workshops in Nigeria, we need several thriving initiatives, not just one or two.
Photo: James Eze