• Professor Soyinka, my great pillar- Femi Coker
By Ayodele Efunla
On Saturday, 24 August, an artist, Femi Coker, presented to Professor Wole Soyinka an 85 feet long anthology of his poems and quotes to commemorate his 85th birthday. The event took place in Badagry. Femi Coker is an innovator, mixed media artist, and culture advocate. He resides in Badagry.
That day, Soyinka cautioned Nigerians not to believe everything they read on social media but rather take such online publications “with a pinch of salt.”
In his words: “Be very, very careful what you believe even when you read such materials in social media or sometimes in newspapers because in this country, we have a most fertile multiplier effect. When somebody hears something, he puts it on the Internet, it spreads and industry begins as people start commenting on things which never existed.
“Positive, negative or neutral, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that somebody’s identity has been stolen and some contemptible cowards are responsible for stealing that individual’s identity. Putting words in his or her mouth and thereby generating totally non-existent irrelevant contestations. So, when you read things on social media, take it with a pinch of salt, decide whether it makes sense because the person who posted it might have a private agenda,” Soyinka said.
“Sometimes on social media, you’ll even see trending quotes supposedly from me, with my name, my photograph, with statements which represents what those people want to say but lacked the courage to say it.
“Never turn your back on an opportunity or chance to reading a work or product of somebody’s mind; that way you enter the minds of others, you dispute with them, examine ideas, expand your horizons and make the entire universe a better place.
“It is important to send strong message to this government and to the security services to stop trying to muzzle people when they come together to exchange ideas.
“You’re reducing them as human beings and you’re also reducing yourselves as human beings, because it means you’re afraid to listen. One of the beauties of existence is the ability to express concern which we cannot compromise. Creativity takes place in an atmosphere of absolute freedom. The reduction of the rights of expression of any one of us is an infringement and assault on the rights of all of us.
Soyinka thanked Femi Coker Art Gallery in Badagry for organising the event “which honoured my birthday and in fact my existence”.
Femi Coker, innovator, mixed media artist and culture advocate, is the owner of Femi Art Warehouse. He spoke to Ayodele Efunla
People are happy that Professor Soyinka visited Badagry today. How do you feel too?
Primarily, It’s a presentation of the World’s Longest Anthology to him, measuring 85 feet long. To commemorate his 85th Birthday Anniversary. Alongside a showcase of monumental works of art, such as the World’s Tallest Drum, World’s Longest Cap, World’s Largest Map…as a tribute to his exceptional accomplishments. A public exhibition and a private viewing.
What inspired you to do the work?
His legacy, inspired the compilation of the poems..I’m a student of Literature and a poet myself.
When you first thought of the idea, were you afraid that Professor Soyinka might not be interested?
It was a very unique idea and when I informed him about it, he was excited. Given that it would contain 85 milestone pictures in his life.
How did you feel when he honoured your invitation?
I had first invited him to my studio, four years ago. He then made a promise to visit. But because of his very busy schedule, we had to keep rescheduling the arrangement. However, I had made a commemorative lifesize dashiki in his honor, when he clocked 80. So, the anthology is a tribute to his exceptional accomplishments and the ideals he represents on his recent birthday.
How did you meet Professor Soyinka?
I first met him at the MUSON Centre, Lagos in 2001 at an event, organized by Engineer Titi Omo Ettu, to honor Gbenga Sesan, an IT Ambassador. Since then, I have kept in touch with the Professor, seeing him as a mentor \ role model. He has been a great pillar, creating great opportunities and platforms for me, for my creative expressions and giving me access to him. The entire community is agog by the visit of the Prof. and it’s truly gratifying experience.
Culled from The News