By DAVID DIAI
Thursday, July 30, the Delta Literary Forum (DLF), a new literary association, which aims at opening literary space, enhancing the advancement of literacy and the literary culture and giving literature and the literati a visible place in the state, held its first guest on the International Writers Series. The award winning writer, Nduka Otiono, was the first to be hosted Held at the Lander Brothers Anchorage, Asaba, the evening started with readings from members of DLF including Beatrice Ozowa and Delta State Director of Culture, Mr. Akpobesah. But things really started swinging when two Commissioners, Oma Djebah of Information and Richard Mofe-Damijo of Culture and Tourism, arrived together. In his commentary titled Literature and Tourism Development in Delta State: Writers as Cultural Ambassadors, Mofe-Damijo noted that writers and indeed members of the literary arts have always been recognised as important cultural ambassadors especially given their symbolic recognition and roles as the personifications and embodiments of their ethnic and cultural ethos. In his comments, the Permanent secretary, Cabinet office, Sir Emma Okafor, advocated for a paradigm shift from the elitist and seeming intellectual complexion of such literary events to also accommodate village square and market place sessions as a way of involving not only the very traditional songs and narrative forms but indeed accommodating the less literate and grassroots folks in the enjoyment of literature. DRESSED in traditional ox-blood ‘print up and down’ caftan, patterned with gold embroidery circles, Otiono took the microphone and in his now legendary baritone voice, regaled the audience with fond recollections of the exciting days he had shared with Djebah and Mofe-Damijo in several newsrooms including the now rested Classique Magazine all of which prompted him to read his first poem of the evening, I know a place; a piece from his first collection, Voices in the Rainbow dedicated to RMD after reading one of his articles of the same title in the then popular column Ad-Lib of the Classique Magazine. Otiono later inherited the Ad-Lib column from RMD, when the latter moved on to start Mister Magazine. Commenting on the literary evening, Otiono described it as the beginning of a more vibrant literary forum in Delta State. He said that though he had earlier been hosted in Abuja and Lagos, this event was more important to him because he was being hosted at home by his colleagues and his own folks of the literary community, thus laying to rest the maxim that a prophet is never at home. Otiono expressed delight that with the duo of Djebah and Mofe-Damijo in government, the metaphoric gap of “We and Them” had been bridged. The second session commenced with readings by Mofe-Damijo and David Diai from the collection Love in a time of Nightmares, before Nduka Otiono then returned for the concluding session of his reading with poems from the same collections. His final poem, Dirty was taken form Camoflage the Anthology of contemporary Nigerian writing.