OMOSEYE BOLAJI LECTURE, BIRTHDAY, AND ALL THAT. By Ishmael Mzwandile Soqaga
Dateline: Friday, 14/08/2015. I pick up my newspaper, Free State News; and I am very delighted to read a news item titled “Lecture on a literary icon to be held”. Written by Tebogo Madalane, it is as follows:
“The annual Omoseye Bolaji Literary Lecture would be delivered this year by Mr Pule Lechesa, well known author and literary critic. The lecture will be delivered this weekend on August 15 in Ladybrand, eastern Free State.
The Omoseye Bolaji Literary Lecture was inaugurated in 2013 by Mbali Press (Publishers) to honour Mr Omoseye Bolaji, a Nigerian-born writer who contributed phenomenally to Free State Black Literature, helping to put it on the world map.
George Rampai of Mbali Press says: "This year's Lecture will be delivered by Mr Pule Lechesa on Aug 15, coinciding with Mr Bolaji's birthday as usual. Lechesa's pedigree is impeccable, an internationally recognised literary critic, who additionally has published two acclaimed full length books on Bolaji and his literary work,"
Rampai also disclosed that the title of the Lecture would be: "Throbbing FS grassroots writing - a test-case for South Africa, and the rest of the continent". Rampai added: "The literary world knows that it can as usual expect top-notch literary erudition and allusions from Mr Lechesa in respect of his latest lecture. No doubt the Lecture would be worthy of Omoseye Bolaji himself,".
Omoseye Bolaji has become an iconic figure in Free State and South African literature. He published well over 20 books in the country, with many thousands of copies of his books stocked in libraries across the FS and beyond. His major works include Impossible Love, The Ghostly Adversary, People of the Townships; and the creation of the Tebogo Mystery series of books.
Additionally, Omoseye Bolaji, whilst based in South Africa (FS) unearthed, inspired and mentored a large number of talented writers who are now making waves in the international literary world.
They include Hector Kunene, Teboho Masakala, Ishmael Mzwandile Soqaga; and ironically, Pule Lechesa himself who delivers the annual Lecture this weekend.”
And I thought: “Just as I was planning to write an essay on Mr Bolaji, too, marking his birthday!”...
Hereunder is my own Birthday Tribute to Mr Omoseye Bolaji ... I entitle it “Unremitting man of letters” By Ishmael Mzwandile Soqaga
Categorically, Africa and the world need to be proud by the tremendous contribution that Omoseye Bolaji had made in literature. In the meantime-when literary fraternity is paying colossal tributes in respect of his birthday; the man who selflessly sacrifices a lot and his entire life for literature. From his infancy to his adult life, specifically I will indispensably like to join countless people who fantastically wish him a blissful happy birthday. Essentially, I will first and foremost wish to focus on some of his formidable latest literary works and to other notable writers who wrote books and studies about him.
BOLAJI IN HIS POMP by Pule Lechesa is an excellent work; a fine and gripping book ever produced by African writer. Apart from many essays, studies, critiques and reviews written over the years about Bolaji, this book bring together exhilarating details about the men himself Omoseye Bolaji. It imperatively deals with gargantuan aspects of his literary work and other extraordinary things the protagonist enjoy in life.
Very importantly Bolaji was significantly inspired firstly by his late great father, who was an honest utmost journalist and the prodigious writer too. His father, S Labanji Bolaji, instilled an abiding love for literacy and literature in him from infancy. Like I said erstwhile the book “Bolaji in his pomp” covers almost his pivotal role he played in literature. Impressively, he had been honoured in Free State South Africa by his sterling work in the world of letters. Essentially he had been conferred with the prestigious award in the year 2006 for “Extraordinary contributions to South African fiction.” This award was courtesy of creative writers club from the Eastern Free State. Apart from a certificate, Bolaji was presented with a cheque of one thousand rand by courtesy of the defunct Phoenix Press. Again, the (Bleomskywerskring) writers club in Heidedal in Mangaung presented him with an award for his “Outstanding contribution to Free State and African Literature.” (2009) He was given a trophy and a certificate for producing “excellent thrilling fiction on a consistent basis”. Remarkably, he was also bestowed with the Chancellor’s medal by the University of Free State (UFS) for his impressive contribution to literacy and literature.
In fact as he received these scintillating awards for his avalanche contribution in literature, prodigious speeches were also delivered for him and he also voices his remarkable thanks. The author of this book “Pule Lechesa” was given the platform to say a word or two on behalf of the club, and he pointed out that no praise was enough for Bolaji, considering his fantastic contribution to Free State Black writing, in the Free State especially. “We know that Bolaji is a versatile writer who has written over 20 impressive books of fiction, poetry, literary essays, drama etc; but tonight we are honouring him for his prodigious output in writing quality fiction.”
The secretary of the club (Bloemskrywerskring) in Heidedal, Marika Du Plessis said: ‘The great thing about Mr OmoseyeBolaji is that his books have a lot of appeal because of local colour’. The Free State department of Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation set a laudable trend when they bestowed him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Thanks to the self-less and cerebral Director of Library service, Mme Jacomien Schimper.
The protagonist on being bestowed with the chancellor’s medal by the University of Free State, he said in his acceptance speech: “On an occasion like this, inevitably words fail one; one becomes nonplussed and overwhelmed with transcendental feeling of gratitude, humility and fulfillment.
Honoured in Nigeria
A year later (2008) Bolaji was honoured with the highest accolade from his own society back at home – Ibadan. He was conferred with a Chieftaincy title by the Olubadan, that is the king of Ibadan. The Special Assistant to the Nigerian President, Umaru Yar’Adua on Public Communications Mr Bolaji Adebiyi had agreed to review the two books that were slated for presentation: The Subtle Transgressor and People of the Township.
To add fillip to the occasion, there was a drama presentation of Bolaji’s play, The Subtle Transgressor directed by Dr Tunde Awosanmi of Department of Dramatic Ars, University of Ibadan.
The author of Bolaji in his pomp, Mr Pule Lechesa needs to be profoundly applauded with the great work he has done, to produce such outstanding book based on the literary life of Omoseye Bolaji. He dramatically touches superb issues that are very magnificent for the world to know, especially for those who have followed Omoseye Bolaji literary works. I could strongly say this is the must read because of its superlative revelation which of course I think most of the people will enthusiastically hanker to read so that they can know more about the author of countless books Mr Omoseye Bolaji.
Although some deem it unfashionable to over praise the book or the author, but albeit critics and literary pundits could probably consent that Pule Lechesa had done a very excellent work that deserved literary recognition. He completely brings simply-closer the work of Omoseye Bolaji in a very congenial and fantastic way. For instance; he explicitly showed how the celebrated Bolaji Mystery series was influenced by Christie Agatha. Moreover, he extraordinary stated the essential part of Bolaji on his work, literary criticisms, his poems and his short stories.
In the chapter “ Living a dream against all odds” Pule Lechesa goes further by saying “At the grassroots level in the Free State, countless people now openly embrace the culture of reading and appreciating literature, largely thanks to Bolaji. The protagonist has inspired the likes of Lebohang Thaisi, Job Mzamo, Magic Khotseng, Kgang Abel Motheane, Charmaine Kolwane, Hector Kunene, Mzwandile Soqaga and many more.
The book is embellished with exquisite details about Bolaji's life of literature, the man and his works. Well-constructed and brilliant in this wise. Poems dedicated to Bolaji by Pule Lechesa, introduction by the world revered wordsmith Dr Mongane Wally Serote, fabulous interview with OmoseyeBolaji. One will reckon that is almost three years the protagonist left South Africa and in the Bolaji and his pomp by Pule Lechesa there are some fascinating chapters like The Critical Reception, Bolaji’s love for music, food and football and Bolaji and Children and so on, consequentially one will definitely enjoy the book with great euphoria.
It Couldn’t Matter Less (2013) by Omoseye Bolaji
Of course, this is one of the latest books produced by Omoseye Bolaji one of the prolific African writer. By reading the book which obviously contains many different short written materials, one could easily assume that the book is one of the short stories written by Omoseye Bolaji. However, the most respected critic and essayist Raphael Mokoena willingly provides a conspicuous explanation concerning the book itself.
“How many times has one read (Bolaji’s) superb column over and over again? Bolaji’s penchant for creative licence in depicting a scene with unbelievable speed and amusement make so many of his columns to look like short stories – the mark of a great writer indeed. How can I forget the piece on the white women who killed and ate her man?..."
From what I understand from above, the book “It Couldn’t Matter Less” contains the columns of Omoseye Bolaji which are explicitly enchanting and apparently glaring on the internet. In fact the columns themselves encompass many sundry subjects. Others are animated and others to be honest are gruesome. Actually, I could easily imagine how people who are familiar with Omoseye Bolaji’s books could anticipate some hilarious fiction from this book, especially when Omoseye Bolaji books are mentioned. Enthusiastically, you may find people being eager to read about fictional books of the protagonist. A fact that is inevitable. However, Omoseye Bolaji has been brilliant with mastering many genre of literature. It is not a surprise to those who are au fait with his phenomenal writing, because in recognising Bolaji's dramatic prowess’s in producing different genre of literature actually they are not nonplussed.
In the “Unsung Literary Catalysts, the protagonist presents his column eloquently and in the way that one will absolutely comprehend his sufficient wealth of knowledge when it comes to literature broadly. Unfortunately, for some writers who write about African literature will treacherously misrepresent facts about African literature. In most cases, apoplectic African literary pundits will narrowly base their writing in a stereotype way. They will be quick in attacking whites generally as merciless and relentless racist. A blinkered Africanist will necessary avoid elucidating a true reflection about the evolution of African literature. African fundamentalist-literary guru will mistakenly think whites in particular only wreak havoc to African art and culture. They will simply write as if early catalysts and pioneer of African literature emerged on their own. As an avid- pan Africanist myself I am aware that there were/are few whites who were sympathetic and none-conformist with evil concept of racism which was compelled on them by the racist, colonial bigots who were in power by then. Nevertheless, for the fact that Africa is a big continent and too many atrocities had been committed by white colonial authorities throughout the continent, this matter of African literature is actually a subject of on-going debate.
Here is the man Omoseye Bolaji himself gives prominent details about the unsung literary catalysts who have been selflessly impressive over the years in African continent. “Two outstanding examples of whites who did wonders for African creative writing were David Cook and Ulli Beier. Both of them were from European background but fell in love with Eastern and Western Africa respectively, providing a fillip for Black writing dating from the 60s! Prof Cook was a mentor for a number of now world class African writers who hailed from east Africa, including the illustrious Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
The exploits of Ulli Beier were even more astonishing. From his West African base decades ago he not only nurtured, encouraged and edited the works of many of African’s initial key black writers – he actually published their early works in book form. Unbelievably, authors he put on their feet (and published) including Nobel award winner (for literature) Wole Soyinka, J.P Clark (dramatist and poet), Kofi Awoonor (poet, essayist, and novelist), and Gambia’s literary great, Lenrie Peters. Beier also published books written by South African greats like Es’kia Mphahlele, Denis Brutus and Alex La Guma. Furthermore, Omoseye Bolaji demonstrated his impressive broad knowledge by mentioning the likes of Ben Mtobwa, emerged from East Africa (Tanzania-born), Vonani Bila from South Africa Limpopo.
Specifically, as I mentioned beforehand that Bolaji in is his book, he focuses on various subjects which are overall hundred pages. The illustrious writer acknowledges his love for sports like football and rugby. It can be completely surprising to see a Nigerian born Omoseye Bolaji having a keen passion for rugby. Since the sport in his home country Nigeria is hardly recognised except for Nigerians who lived in other countries where rugby is popular.
Absolutely, one will of course understand that in one of his famous books “Mystery Series” Tebogo and the Haka was really inspired by the sport rugby. In the column “Basking in Global Rugby Fiesta!” he openly revealed that “I was however prodded, or reminded, by a member of South Africans as the Rugby fever hit their country, that I had contributed in a bizarre way to even more black people here loving Rugby. This, I have been reminded, was because of my work of fiction, Tebogo and the Haka (2008), which has been a hit here. How many times have I been asked why I was inspired to write the book? It is simple: the traditional New Zealand (Maori) performance of the Haka, has always fascinated me. The All Blacks (the New Zealand team) always perform the Haka before they play anybody, and it can be a breathtaking (initially, rather frightening) performance.”
Omoseye Bolaji inasmuch in his country Nigeria was-is a sports mind-blowing aficionado. It is very awesome to see him adapt so easily-follow what can be a "strange" sport like Rugby which is not actually followed in Nigeria. Another impressive point about Omoseye Bolaji is that he is not coy to ventilate his substantial analysis about sports and other phenomenal subjects which are intriguing. It should be noted with great interest and conspicuous sober mind that while Bolaji recognises the ambience of sports in South Africa as he was based in South Africa at that time. Amazingly he often avoided to mainly concentrate on South African sports as if the country is an “Island”. In fact no man is an Island!
In “The Throughs of Sports” a reader will find the thrilling details at how African countries which are apparently perceived as giants of football in Africa failed to qualify for (a previous edition of) African Cup of Nations. For example, when South African national team Bafana Bafana thought they qualified after a goalless draw with Sierra Leon, with Egypt doing them a favour by spanking their main rivals, Niger Republic 3-0.
It was a devastating blow, but for many others, they still felt that the springboks, the national rugby team, would put a smile on their faces in the Republic World Cup quarter finals. The first half against Australia saw South Africa trailing, but some ten minutes before the game ended, the Springboks were leading, surely the semi-final was beckoning.
Yet again, it was not to be. A back-breaking drop-goal from Australia ensured it was the Wallabies, Australians, that made it to the final. Another tragedy for South African sports.
In addition, a combination of Niger and Sierra Leon ensured that South Africa missed out on the next Nations Cup finals. Guinea somehow turned the tables on Nigeria right there in Abuja. What disappointment and poignant melancholy for two supreme football loving nations. Egypt and Cameroon did not qualified too.
Another column which Omoseye Bolaji reminisces the world about concerning football, is one the great African football legend who dolefully demised untimely Adieu, Rashidi Yekini!!! Bolaji writes: "It is an unpalatable bolt from the blue for most of us to learn that “gangling” Rashidi Yekini is no more, the mercurial striker who regularly prodded millions into frenzied celebrations with his plethora of goals for his earnest, yet theatrical goal celebration at the World Cup Finals in 1994. The pertinent photo is actually reproduced in one of my books, Eagles at USA 94. On a personal note again, I had the pleasure of publishing a long feature article on Yekini in the glossy, international magazine, World Soccer in 1994. Since the magazine is distributed in almost every country in the world, at the time, excerpts from my articles were being used, quoted everywhere in many countries. The World Cup made Yekini world famous."
Again the transcendent ability of Omoseye Bolaji makes him an exceptional formidable writer who is able to display his sedulous winsome erudition. He has brilliantly illustrated in the column “Slivers of Hobhouse and Slessor.” During colonialism and partitioning of Africa white Europeans were all over the continent. Categorically! As I pointed earlier in this article that “some writers who writes about Africa made disputable errors by portraying all whites as unscrupulous, however the blatant truth is that there were whites who were splendid for African continent. Staggering, while he was in Hobhouse he was faces with questions that he was willing to answer.
Bolaji is asked:“We understand a few years ago you visited another small town, Ladybrand, and you were inspired to write your brilliant work of fiction, ‘Tebogo and the Haka’ which is based on Ladybrand. Will your visit here inspire you to write a mystery story based on the Hobhouse? “Yet another... “Do you know why this town is called Hobhouse? Bolaji writes: "Emily Hobhouse, the British lady who had selflessly campaign to improve the horrific lot of Boer women and children, during the Boer war in South Africa over a hundred years ago. Hobshouse had written and campaigned so lucidly and graphically in favour of the hapless victims, and somewhat precipitated changes. She had remained celebrated hero in South Africa, especially with the Afrikaans (Boer/white) people. I said few words about Emily Hobhouse to them, expressed how much I admired her integrity, humaneness, empathy and resilience. Then I added “Actually that’s one of the main reasons I came here. Hobhouse is some sort of vicarious kindred spirit to me as a Nigerian. She always reminds me of Mary Slessor,”
“Mary Slessor?” they queried. Apparently, nobody knew her here. The irony of world history! A personality might be celebrated in one area, but virtually unknown elsewhere. Like Hobhouse, Slessor was a British lady who travelled to Nigeria over hundred years ago, campaigned against killing of twins among the Efik. She is generally regarded as “an angel of mercy” (like Hobhouse) because she precipitated many positive things. So I told them about Mary Slessor and her deeds in Nigeria over a hundred years ago. I did not forget to tell them that one of her major legacy was being a major catalyst behind the establishment of the Hope Waddell Training Institute in Nigeria, a magnificent institution which at its peak was the best in West Africa..."
Definitely, this is the one of the books which Omoseye Bolaji wrote with profound dexterity. Although I am familiar with his sublime columns since its inception on the internet, but till today the columns remains stunning and I relished them perpetually in the book form “It Couldn’t Matter Less.” Considering its breathtaking columns which include great comments by Tiisetso Thiba, Paul Lothane, Aryan Kaganof. In particular, in giving stupendous information about one of the unsung literary catalysts in the Free State like Jacomien Schimper (a highly respected Director at Provincial Library Service) who has over the years put Free State Black writing on the map.Alrina Le Roux, an experienced Principal Librarian for the FS Provincial Library Service, a lady who is regarded as proficient repository of international and African literature, a skillful sympathetic editor, who has always encourage sundry wordsmiths.
The well-known Free State literary critics and essayist, Raphael Mokoena says: “It is about time I acknowledged my great debt to this wonderful lady (Alrina Le Roux). Many years ago in the Free State, I got to know about her regular profiles of authentic African writers... I went into the major libraries, to the Reference section etc and read all the articles she had published over the decades! I made photocopies of them and learn a lot in the process. Alrina is a prodigious reader and her many profiles (in Free State Library Journal) of the likes of Dambudzo Marechere, JM Coetzee, Sol Plaatjie, Es’kia Mphahlele, Achebe etc, have belong to the top drawer.”
In conclusion, it will actually take long if I can focus in the two books throughout; these two books which are magnum opus are giving intriguing details about Chief Omoseye Bolaji. Omoseye Bolaji books since I read them, they have been comprehensively spectacular. As an ardent sports lover, he wrote passionately about sports. It has been a profound interesting glee for me to go through these two books in honour for Omoseye Bolaji especially when the world is celebrating his birthday with great delectation. Overall, it will be unjust to not mention how Bolaji furnishes his magnificent opinion about “The Effervescence of the Nobel Award” in his book and Pule Lechesa book.
Literature, I believe is Bolaji's favourite subject and this is delighting because there are only few black African writers who are willing to share their astronomical wealth of knowledge with the world-as Omoseye Bolaji does. Also not forgetting how he affectionately commended and admire the scintillating adroit of a Nigerian football legend Segun Odegbami in his column “The Efficacy of YouTube and many more. I’ve been having joyful privileged to watch together with Omoseye Bolaji the yesteryears of Sir Segun Odegbami in ND’s internet cafe. It was very interesting to see how deft Sir Segun Odegbami was during his heyday as football superstar. Many fascinating books, tributes and studies have been written about Mr Bolaji and one of his favourite is Petro Schonfold Nhlapho consummate study about A Study of Omoseye Bolaji's Series of Books Based on Private Sleuth, Tebogo Mokoena (Tebogo on the Prowl). Happy wonderful birthday Onigegewura!!!