Conditions of Production for Writing, Publishing and Studying Literature in Africa: The Nigerian Situation

By Diala, Isidore | African Research & Documentation, April 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Conditions of Production for Writing, Publishing and Studying Literature in Africa: The Nigerian Situation


Diala, Isidore, African Research & Documentation


Text of contribution to a panel discussion on "Conditions of Production for Writing and Publishing in Africa" at a postgraduate seminar, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, 1 February 2006, revised for a SCOLMA seminar with the present title at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, 21March, 2006.

Quite apart from claims made for Cyprian Ekwensi as the first Nigerian to publish a full-length novel in "modern English" (that is his 1954 novel, People of The City), it is generally accepted that Amos Tutuola's The Palm-wine Drinkard was the first novel in any variety of English to be published by a Nigerian. That novel was incidentally published in 1952 by Faber and Faber in the UK. Perhaps this has not after all turned out to be a good omen for publishing in Nigeria. And it seems to me that the history of the production of that text and the implications of that history are pivotal, as they clearly illustrate the centrality of the production and circulation of literary works and scholarly materials in the very concept of postcolonial literatures.

Incidentally, in the same decade that The Palm-wine Drinkard was published, Nigeria had experienced what, from this distance, could be regarded as an early boom in its publishing industry. In the eastern town of Onitsha, what some commentators have justifiably referred to as a literary revolution had taken place: the phenomenal generation and production of a popular form of literature later to be characterised as Onitsha Market Literature. In his pioneering work on this literature, Emmanuel Obiechina (Onitsha Market Literature 1972), and Ernest Emenyonu, following several years after (The Rise of the lgbo Novel 1978), highlight the factors that made Onitsha the setting of the extraordinary generation and production of such an enormous corpus of literature: its strategic location on the left bank of the River Niger, as the base of the earliest European missionary and commercial activities in eastern Nigeria, and thus later as the educational and commercial centre of Eastern Nigeria and the influence of lgbo pioneer politicians. Obiechina observes that by the late 1950s several hundreds of titles (among them Cyprian Ekwensi's 1947 works, When Love Whispers and Ikolo the Wrestler and Other lgbo Tales) had been published by firms based in Onitsha. In every sense, this was a remarkable event with the real potential and promise of a vibrant flourishing publishing culture that was hardly fulfilled.

Noting that publishing is one of the most unregulated and undercapitalized industries in Nigeria today, the Nigerian novelist, Chukwuemeka Ike, traces its collapse after what seemed an auspicious beginning to the economic downturn experienced by the country in the 1980s. Ike underscores the dominant roles of such foreign publishing companies as Oxford University Press, Longman, Macmillan, Heinemann, Evans; he observes that given the 1978 Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree which provided that at least 60% equity participation in book publishing must be by Nigerian nationals, these had reduced foreign equity participation to 40% or less and that some of them indeed took new names, Oxford University Press for example becoming University Press PIc. Through the efforts of these companies and several other capable, fully indigenous publishing companies, some Nigerian writing is read in print and the work of major Nigerian writers published abroad is reissued in the country, even if it often takes years. (It took Heinemann Nigeria a decade to offer Isidore Opkewho's novel, Tides, to the Nigerian audience). But on the whole the larger proportion of current writing in Nigeria is produced by much smaller under- capitalised companies desperately deprived of modern efficient infrastructure and adequately trained staff just as they are of funds, as well as studies of reading habits that could guide their production and circulation of texts. "Assessment of manuscripts" is thus restricted to the narrow evaluation of the cost of production, a substantial part of which the author is usually expected to pay in advance. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Conditions of Production for Writing, Publishing and Studying Literature in Africa: The Nigerian Situation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.