Day Ajeluorou poured libation for Africa

Day Ajeluorou poured libation for Africa

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Culture journalist and poet AnoteAjeluorou read from his poetry collection, ‘Libations for Africa’, in Ozoro, Delta State, and used the occasion to advocate for preserving the continent’s cultural heritage.

BERKLEY’S Lounge, Ozoro, Delta State, hosted a poetry reading themed ‘Libations for Africa: A Poetic Return to the Soil’ on Friday, May 24.

The event featured readings by culture journalist and writer AnoteAjeluorou from his poetry collection, ‘Libations for Africa’. Beyond the rhythmic cadence of poetry, the reading also highlighted the dire state of local libraries, igniting a passionate appeal for their revitalisation and stocking.

Beginning with why he published the collection of poems, Ajeluorou said it is “to enable us to look at our journey as Africans — where we are coming from, where we are now, and where we are headed. There are lots of things peculiar to us. But how do we preserve them? Despite embracing modernity, the book documents some things that are part of us as a people. We don’t keep records, and we have lost a lot of information about our past, and our children will be the worst for it. So how do we preserve Africa’s rich cultural heritage steeped in excellent religious rites for future generations?

“We have masquerades, masks and many works of art. Africans built the Pyramids of Egypt and the Sphinx, so what are we, the children, doing today? What lasting monuments are we building?  Africa’s leaders of the past created great things, but what are we creating today? Let us be like our ancestors, who did great things. Look at what they created that the world looks at with wonder. But look at us, their great-great-grandchildren. What have we built or created that is worthy of the name?”

Expounding on the first poem, ‘And the Night Fell Silent,’ he read, the culture journalist said, “In those days, you could count the number of houses in Ozoro that had television sets because there weren’t many. Our source of entertainment was storytelling in the evening. We would form a circle around our grandparents, and they would tell us different stories. Still, it’s different now; no one tells stories and folklore anymore. We lost out on one of Africa’s beautiful moments where we tell stories to children, an event some of us benefitted from.”

The poet also read ‘Libations’, explaining, “Libations are prayers that Africans offer to higher beings, Oghene for protection, good health, etc. Just like many other cultures, I try to reflect on the past. Africans made wonderful things, such as kingdoms and empires. They could not have made all these wonderful things without the sense of leadership. Foreigners came in and enslaved many, and then colonisation took over, and everything we do now reflects what is alien to us as a people. But we can take solace in reflecting. Storybooks are timeless, and there are smartphones now, but the starting point is always the books. I pay fond tribute to an Isoko son who is now an ancestor, SMO Aka, a pioneer writer of Isoko extraction. He paved the way for some of us.”

Responding to a comment from a guest, Anthony Esime, who commended the poet for bringing the event to his hometown, Ozoro, and asked him for a lasting impression he wanted the audience to take away from the reading, he said his job is to point people in the right direction.

“As a writer, my duty is not to prescribe but to point you in directions where solutions to communal problems could be found. It’s not my duty to give answers; that’s not my calling. I give headaches instead that would prompt you to find answers. Everyone in this room has solutions to Nigeria’s problems. How, then, do we apply them to solve the issues?

“We should be like our ancestors, who were geniuses; they built empires – Oyo, Benin, Mali, Songhai, Zulu, etc; these were empires our ancestors built long before we heard of European civilisations. Our ancestors made great masks or artefacts that the world still admires today because of their artistic genius, with many stolen by foreigners, which we want to be brought back.”

The culture journalist also decried the poor state of public libraries, recalling his experiences at the defunct Bendel State and later Delta State Library Board, Oleh, and Ozoro Branches, which were very well stocked but later collapsed due to poor maintenance and negligence.

He charged the newly elected Ozoro Progress Union’s President-General, Berkley Asiafa, and the event host to use his office to fast-track rebuilding the Delta State Library Board, Ozoro Branch, for young people’s use.

On his part, Asiafa promised to collaborate with all partners in the educational ecosystem in the state to rebuild and revitalise the Ozoro Branch of the state library.

Commendably, Ajeluorou, who donated copies of his books to Alaka Grammar School and Notre Dame College, assured that the reading was the first of several in the state.

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