Had Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa been alive today, he probably would have been 110 years; and maybe too frail to remember what fired his imagination as a writer. But today, 50 years after he passed on in circumstances that are befuddling –another sign of greatness– a class of world-renowned scholars would be aggregating next week at Adegbemile Cultural Centre, Akure, Ondo State, to take a closer look at this man who initiated the art of writing fiction in Yoruba language.
These men and women would be dedicating two days of their time to celebrate Fagunwa in a manner that would henceforth make the rest of us take a second and closer look at what stuff he was made off. The choice of the 50th year to do this may not be unconnected with the fact that ‘50 is golden’ and at this stage, so much is expected to have been achieved from his legacies, which is obvious judging from the number of works and literary giants he has inspired.
In all these, there is a big question: Why should we honour Fagunwa? The reasons incidentally are littered everywhere on our literary space, which is why the whole arrangement being put in place to make this conference a huge success is getting a lot of commendations.
Being one of the pioneering writers in an African indigenous language could have come to only an extraordinary mind at that time –1938– when his first book Ògbójú Ode Nínú Igbó Irúnmalè, was published. To have initiated this under the tightening influence of colonialism then is a reflection that Fagunwa was passionate about African culture and found the need to document it in his noble way.
Another confirmation that he was a confident of his beliefs was the fact that he took part at that time in a literary contest coming out tops; not only in Nigeria but in West Africa; which also goes to confirm how brilliant he was as a literary artiste.
What, however, makes celebrating this man most reasonable at this point in our history, when values are being relegated, are the beliefs and ideals he promoted. While dwelling on fables, Fagunwa created characters out of animals which were interlocked in plots that often get the message of morality across to his readers. From his works, it would be right to define Fagunwa as a pioneer, historian, moralist and most of all an environmentalist, having created form out of animals in an age when no one was thinking of biodiversity.
On account of his far-reaching legacy and more, Friday Flavour is dedicating a four-page pull-out in this edition to this rare breed of a man who deserves all the literary attention he would be getting next week at the colloquium in his honour. The exclusion of his vital works in our educational curriculum, as is evident today in our schools, is however disheartening.
Friday Flavour has lined up articles, comments and features by some of the scholars, film makers, author and personalities who have been influenced/inspired by the works of this writer. From Tola Badejo, the professor who identified Fagunwa as a zoologist, to Kole Omotoso, Bayo Awala, Tunde Kelani and Sola Olorunyomi, this package presents incisive accounts that will make every literary- minded Nigerian proud that a D.O. Fagunwa once lived or ‘is still living’. For details of these, see pages 23, 24, 33 and 34.
Source: National Mirror Newspaper
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