Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere.
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This interview was conducted by Efemena Agadama for Little London Observationist. Efemena is a poet and playwright, originally from Nigeria, who is working on his first novel. He normally contributes articles to his Amnesty International blog.
Professor Femi Osofisan
Oh! See how the stage drums are welcoming Professor Femi Osofisan. He is a renowned playwright, poet and novelist with the pen name “Okinba Launko,” who has won the Folon-Nichols Award, ANA prize(s) for literature and poetry, regional Commonwealth poetry award, City of Pennsylvania Bell Award for Artistic Performance and several other awards and appointments spanning several continents. He has published over 50 literary works, and has also been part of the revered literary story of London.
LLO: What interests you most in or about London?
FO: I am generally excited about big cities, about the environment they offer for creativity, experimentation, and adventure—as well as for their opposite, death, destruction and atrophy. You are constantly challenged, as an artist in a big city, by this threat of death and/or rejuvenation. London to me is like that.
LLO: You have published over fifty respected plays. How does your inspiration come?
FO: From politics, that is, from history as daily experienced. The aim is to make the present and the future better for all of us.
LLO: Tell us some of the countries where you have performed your plays.
FO: The UK, Germany, the USA, Sri Lanka, Australia, Canada, plus different African countries.
Taken while Professor Osofisan was directing JP Clark’s OZIDI at the Arts Theatre at the University of Ibadan.
LLO: Over the years, Nigerian and African writers have identified with London. Do you find London as an interesting environment for Nigerian and African writers?
FO: It should be, given the large population of African and African Caribbean people in London. The city also has a long history of creative activism in the arts.
LLO: Do you find that literature from a different culture, such as English or Greek, tends to influence the themes and styles in the work of African writers?
FO: Yes of course, just as the reverse is also true. The best works anywhere always transcend their geographical and temporal frontiers, to speak to humanity all over the world and in all ages. Artists drink from all sources. That is how all cultures thrive, from the cross-pollination with other cultures.
LLO: What advantages can theatre professionals derive by performing their plays and organizing literary activities in London?
FO: The usual advantages: well-mounted productions with skilled directors and actors; a good publicity; plus a fairly good pay.
LLO: Which London library interests you most?
FO: I have been using the same library for years—and this is the SOAS library, by Russell Square. Its collections on my area of interest are simply breath-taking!
LLO: What is your advice to inspire the new voices in African literature living in London to succeed as writers?
FO: The same as I give to all aspiring writers everywhere, whether African or not—namely, that the best way to write is by writing, and reading. Read as much as you can; and never stop writing.
LLO: Do you have upcoming events being planned for London to keep our readers timely informed?
FO: Not in the immediate coming months, I am afraid. But I shall probably be delivering this year’s Pinter Lectures at Goldsmiths in October.
LLO: And kindly tell us how to purchase your literary works (poems, plays and novels).
FO: Most of them are published and sold in Nigeria, and can be purchased from The Booksellers bookstore run by Mosuro in Ibadan. They have a website, I believe. But in the UK, the best contact for my works is the African Books Collective, in Oxford.
Thanks Professor Osofisan and Efemena!
If you are interested in reading more about Professor Osofisan, visit his website: http://femiosofisan.org/default.aspx
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