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Nigeria’s Port Harcourt is World Book Capital City for 2014

Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka

(GIN) — A coalition of reading groups represented by the United Nation’s cultural agency UNESCO have picked Port Harcourt of Nigeria as the World Book Capital City for its efforts to “bring back the book” to the forefront of national discourse.

Credit for the award was shared by the Rainbow Book Club (RBC) and other clubs promoting the culture of reading for entertainment and information among senior secondary and senior primary school students.

“The image of groups of people huddled around, discussing books, does not come readily to mind when one thinks of Africa,” Nigerian online newsletter The Neighborhood observed. “The fight to change that has been ongoing through the efforts of organizations like the Rainbow Book Club.”

Among the books selected by the RBC for secondary school students are Chimeka Garricks’ “Tomorrow Died Yesterday” and Kaine Agary’s “Yellow-Yellow.” Selected books for the primary schools are Fatima Pam’s “The Young Adventurers,” Chinua Achebe and John Iroaganachi’s “How the Leopard Got His Claws” and Dan Fulani’s “Dead Men’s Bones.”

The United States’ participation in UNESCO was cut back in 2011 after a vote by UNESCO members making Palestine a full member. Dues payments from the United States were withheld, leaving a $144 million hole in the budget. A vote to strip the United States of voting rights will be heard this year.

Meanwhile, artists, authors and poets celebrated the designation at a gathering last week in Trenton, N.J.  Renowned author Wole Soyinka, among the guests, thanked Port Harcourt for the honor they brought “not only to the nation, but to the African continent.”

Author and poet Ogaga Ifowodo, skeptical at first, later expressed hope that the government of Rivers State would make Port Harcourt worthy of its status as the world book capital.

“I sincerely hope that neither politics nor lack of resources (that ubiquitous reason for many a failed dream in our land) nor — the ancestors forbid — a weakened will would turn to ashes in our mouths this symbolic victory of culture over anarchy,” he said.

The nomination does not carry any financial prize, only a symbolic acknowledgement of the best program dedicated to books and reading.


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