Activities signaling the reign of Port Harcourt, Rivers State as the United Nations (UN) World Book Capital 2014 — scheduled to hold between Tuesday 22nd April 2014 and Saturday 26th April 2014 — have commenced.
The weeklong opening ceremony would feature a keynote address to be delivered by Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka on its second day, which also doubles as the main event day comprising the UN World Book and the Copyright Day, when the 2013 capital, Bangkok, India would officially hand over to Port Harcourt.
According to the organisers of the opening ceremonies, the first day would feature an exhibition to run concurrently with the ceremonies till Thursday 24th April.
Dignitaries expected at the three-day exhibition include representatives of embassies and foreign missions in Nigeria, local and international book festivals, literary awards bodies, as well as key partners and stakeholders in the book chain industry. Tagged It’s a Small World After all, the exhibition promises to showcase literature and literary efforts from around the world for visitors to deepen their global perspectives.
Executive Programme Director of Culture Advocates Caucus (CAC), Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo said the ceremony will also feature the Hay Festival, tagged “Africa 39”, which is the selection and celebration of 39 writers under the age of 40 from Africa, South of the Sahara, who have the potential to define the literature of an area or language.
Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainana spearheaded the hunt for about 100 names from the screening of the over 200 entries from Africa and the Diaspora, while the panel of Elechi Amadi, Margaret Busby and Tess Onwueme selected the final 39. The 39 writers would be commissioned to write for an anthology to be published by Bloomsbury with foreword by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and editing by Ellah Allfree.
As part of the 2014 world book capital, 12 carefully selected books ― one for each month ― will be the subject of discussions on partner electronic and print platforms, while a play would be staged throughout the year based on each one.
The six books selected for now are Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe (April), The Great Ponds by Elechi Amadi (May), This Child Shall be Great by Ellen Shirleaf Johnson (June), Ake by Wole Soyinka (July), Tomorrow Died Yesterday by Chimeka Garricks (August) and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie (September).
Also, to have an all inclusive festival, 300 teachers from public and private primary and secondary schools around Port Harcourt are attending training sessions to equip them to run Reading Tree ― a graded reading scheme that requires participants (Senior Secondary School students) to read a book a week ― and book clubs throughout the WBC year.
Activities of the WBC 2014 are being taken to other parts of Nigeria through the Walking Book events (in collaboration with Unity Schools), which began in February. The Walking book involves writing on the sights and sounds of a particular region by children who live there.
Students from the Junior Secondary School section of each of the participating schools would work with their teachers to write about their states, and their stories collated, published and presented at the annual Port Harcourt Book Festival in October.
The national Walking Book began its journey from Port Harcourt and its environs in the South-South, moving on to the South West. It is ongoing in the North West, from where it is scheduled to move to the North East and the North Central on its return journey to Port Harcourt at the end of March.