Niyi Osundare

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Niyi Osundare is a prolific Nigerian poet, dramatist and literary critic. A champion of free speech, his art and criticism is associated with activism. His work is taught in Nigerian schools and recipient to many Nigerian and International prizes

Family and education[edit]

He gained degrees at the University of Ibadan (BA), the University of Leeds (MA) and York University, Canada (PhD, 1979). Previously professor (from 1989) and Head of English (1993–97) at the University of Ibadan, he became professor of English at the University of New Orleans in 1997. Osundare has a wife, Kemi, and three children, two girls and a son who still lives in Nigeria. His deaf daughter is the reason Niyi settled in the United States. She could not go to school in Nigeria so they found a school in the U.S. for her, and moved so as to be closer to her. He has been used in many schools as an example of a poet.[1]

Career[edit]

He has always been a vehement champion of the right to free speech and is a strong believer in the power of words, saying, "to utter is to alter". Osundare is renowned for his commitment to socially relevant art and artistic activism and has written several open letters to the former President of Nigeria (Olusegun Obasanjo), whom Osundare has often publicly criticised.[2][3]

Osundare believes that there is no choice for an African poet but to be political:[4]

"You cannot keep quiet about the situation in the kind of countries we find ourselves in, in Africa. When you wake up and there is no running water, when you have a massive power outage for days and nights, no food on the table, no hospital for the sick, no peace of mind; when the image of the ruler you see everywhere is that of a dictator with a gun in his hand; and, on the international level, when you live in a world in which your continent is consigned to the margin, a world in which the colour of your skin is a constant disadvantage, everywhere you go – then there is no other way than to write about this, in an attempt to change the situation for the better."

Under the rule of the dictator General Sani Abacha (1993–98), Osundare regularly contributed poems to a Nigerian national newspaper (now part of the collection Songs of the Season) that criticised the regime and commented upon the lives of people in Nigeria. As a result, he was frequently visited by security agents and asked to explain his poems and to whom they referred:

"By that time I realized that the Nigerian security apparatus had become quite 'sophisticated', quite 'literate' indeed!"

"A couple of my students at the University of Ibadan had become informers; a few even came to my classes wired. And when I was reading abroad, someone trailed me from city to city. At home, my letters were frequently intercepted."

In 1997, he accepted a teaching and research post at the University of New Orleans. In 2005 Osundare was caught in Hurricane Katrina, and he and his wife were stuck in their attic for 26 hours. Their neighbour, who at the time was driving by in his boat, heard their shouts for help. They were rescued and bounced around from rescue shelters until they ended up in Rindge, New Hampshire, where Osundare could get a teaching job as a professor at Franklin Pierce College and things settled down.[5]

Honors and recognition[edit]

Osundare is a holder of numerous awards for his poetry, as well as the Fonlon/Nichols award for "excellence in literary creativity combined with significant contributions to Human Rights in Africa".[6]

His 60th birthday literary fete took place at venues in Ikere-Ekiti, Ibadan and Lagos state of Nigeria in March 2007.[7]

His poem "Not My Business" is compulsory study in the AQA A syllabus for General Certificate of Secondary Education English Language.

In 2011, an Associate Professor of English at The University of Lagos, Christopher Anyokwu, wrote an article on Niyi Osundare's Poetry and the Yoruba World View, where he analysed the use of Indigenous Yoruba concepts found in Niyi Osundare's texts. The associate professor, went further to assume that Osundare unified in his work the concepts and traditions of Yoruba culture and Marxist ideology.[8]

In December 2014, Osundare was awarded the Nigerian National Merit Award for academic excellence.[9]

Literary prizes and awards[edit]

  • First Prize, Western State of Nigeria Poetry Competition (1968)[10]
  • 1981 Major Book Prize and Letter of Commendation, BBC Poetry Competition (1981)[11]
  • Honorable Mention, Noma Award for Publishing in Africa (1986)[12]
  • Honorable Mention, Noma Award for Publishing in Africa (1989)[13]
  • Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Poetry Prize (1986) [14]
  • Joint-Winner, Overall Commonwealth Poetry Prize (1986)[15]
  • Kwanza Award (1991)[16]
  • Noma Award for Publishing in Africa (the first Anglophone African poet to receive the award) (1991)[17]
  • Cadbury/ANA Poetry Prize (Nigeria’s highest poetry prize). Also won the maiden edition in 1989 (1994)[18]
  • Fonlon/Nichols Prize for "Excellence in Literary Creativity Combined with Significant Contributions to Human Rights in Africa"; African Literature Association (ALA)’s most distinguished award) (1998)[19]
  • The Spectrum Books Award to The Eye of the Earth as “One of Nigeria’s Best 25 Books in the Last 25 Years” (2004)[20]
  • The Tchicaya U Tam'si Prize for African Poetry (regarded as Africa's highest poetry prize) (2008)[21][22]
  • Nigerian National Order of Merit Award (Nigeria's highest award for academic excellence) (2014)[23][24]

Publications[edit]

Documentary[edit]

In 2016, Osundare, along with his lifelong friend, the Sierra Leonean poet Syl Cheney-Coker, was the subject of a documentary called The Poets, by director Chivas DeVinck. [27] The film follows Osundare and Cheney-Coker on a road-trip through Sierra Leone and Nigeria as they discuss their friendship and how their life experiences have shaped their art.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "PROF NIYI OSUNDARE – UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Nigeriaworld Feature Article - Letter to President Obasanjo". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  3. ^ "Dear President Obasanjo: Another Letter". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  4. ^ "NIYI OSUNDARE 'Our society has lost its sense of shame'". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  5. ^ "How I survived Hurricane Katrina - Niyi Osundare". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Niyi Osundare, Ph.D. | The University of New Orleans". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Announcing". Niyi Osundare at 60 Literary Fete. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  8. ^ Anyokwu, C. C. (2011-03-01). "Osundare's Poetry and the Yoruba Worldview". CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture. 13 (1): 2–9. doi:10.7771/1481-4374.1707. ISSN 1481-4374.
  9. ^ "Merit award won't silence me as critic, says Osundare". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-12-28.
  10. ^ "Osundare, Niyi 1947– | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  11. ^ Nigeria, Media (2018-06-05). "Biography Of Niyi Osundare". Media Nigeria. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  12. ^ Nigeria, Media (2018-06-05). "Biography Of Niyi Osundare". Media Nigeria. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  13. ^ "African Books Collective: Moonsongs". www.africanbookscollective.com. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  14. ^ "Niyi Osundare Biography - (1947– )". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  15. ^ "Nigerian National Merit Award". www.meritaward.ng. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  16. ^ "About Niyi Osundare". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Osundare, Niyi". The University of New Orleans. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  18. ^ "Authors". AfricanWriter.com. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  19. ^ "1998: Niyi Osundare | African Literature Association". Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  20. ^ "Niyi Osundare". niyiosundarepoetryfestival.org. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  21. ^ "Niyi Osundare – "Evening of Poetry with Niyi Osundare and Friends"". UGA Calendar of Events. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  22. ^ "Niyi Osundare Wins the Tchicaya U'Tamsi Award for African Poetry". Imhotep: The Collective African Blog. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  23. ^ "Jonathan Honours Niyi Osundare". Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  24. ^ siteadmin (2014-12-17). "US University, Media Celebrate Prof. Osundare's Selection For Nigeria Top Academic Award". Sahara Reporters. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  25. ^ "African Writing Online; Niyi Osundare;". www.african-writing.com. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  26. ^ Murua, James (2017-04-06). "Throwback Thursday: The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa". James Murua's Literature Blog. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  27. ^ The Poets Documentary at Icarus Films.

External links[edit]