By A.D. McKenzie

KINGSTON (IDN | SWAN) – Dance has long been a potent force among the arts in Jamaica, with pioneering companies such as Rex Nettleford’s National Dance Theatre Company holding a mirror up to society and promoting Caribbean culture.

Now students are taking the genre to a whole new level with powerful, socially relevant performances.

The island’s top high school, Campion College, is one of the institutions leading the way. Now in its seventh season, the school’s Dance Society performed to packed audiences in Kingston in July with its “Roots” production, which addressed issues such as violence against women and the challenges young people face in building confidence and self-esteem.

- Photo: 2021

Nobel Laureate Soyinka’s ‘Searing Political Satire’ Of Nigeria Today

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — The first Black African laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature has a precious gift for his place of birth. It’s a new book, his first novel in 50 years, scheduled to land on the 60th anniversary of Nigerian independence.

“I wanted this to be my present to the nation,” the 87-year-old Wole Soyinka told a reporter in a recent interview. “To the people who live here: both the governed and those who govern, the exploiters and the exploited.”

“Events around me just reached a kind of crisis point,” he continued. “Society really became insupportable in terms of what one could absorb on a daily basis.”

Known for poetry, novels, memoirs and essays, it was Soyinka’s plays that brought him to the world stage and the enemies list of government. He spent 22 months behind bars in the late 1960s for his efforts to broker peace during the Nigerian civil war.

Then again, two decades later during the era of strongman Gen. Sani Abacha, his activism led him into exile when the environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged.

“Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” is the unlikely name given to this first novel in nearly half a century. “It combines elements of a murder mystery, a searing political satire and an “Alice in Wonderland”-like modern allegory of power and deceit, writes the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s a high-jinks state-of-the-nation novel that follows a religious leader, a politician, a media baron and a group of university friends as they scheme their way through a version of present-day Nigeria.”

“That title came about when I read somewhere a few years ago that Nigerians were among the top 10 happiest people in the world,” he recalled to Chibundu Onuzo, a writer for the UK Guardian. “And I looked at that statement and thought: “What? Is this the same Nigeria we’re talking about?” So the title is meant to be ironic. It’s certainly not a truthful description of what I encounter on a daily basis or what you see when you pick up the newspapers.”

The fire of an activist still burns in Soyinka although in a modified way as he looks to next generation to pick up the pen and sword.

And his dreams were nearly realized last October when young people risked all to protest the violent Special Anti-Robbery Squad (known as SARS). “I was so delighted and relieved that the young generation, whom I’ve always insulted as being lazy and waiting for salvation, got its act together and took on those SARS brutes.

“At last, it’s happening,” I said, “and then what happened? The thugs took over. The villains took over. The underworld got in on the act. Prisoners were let loose. It was very depressing.”

A new crop of African writers lifts his hopes. “The prize did instigate literary emulation—not imitation manifested in bolder, self-assured writing among the younger African generation,” he observed. “There is a marvelous crop of young writers, particularly young female writers, who really have become a pride to the continent.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 01 October 2021]

Photo. 1986 Nobel Prize winner in Literature Wole Soyinka during a lecture at Stockholm Public Library on October 4, 2018. CC BY-SA 4.0

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