CORA unveils cultural haven with inauguration of Library & Resource Centre at Freedom Park

In a dazzling event that marked the commencement of CORA’s 2024 culture season, the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) inaugurated the CORA Library & Resource Centre at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, on Sunday, January 14, 2024. The much-anticipated cultural haven, situated within CORAVille at Freedom Park, aims to be a symbol of education, enlightenment and empowerment.

The special guest of honour for the occasion was none other than the distinguished playwright and Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, underscoring the significance of the event. The library, set to cater to the public with a special emphasis on students and youths, is envisioned as a crucial contributor to nation-building and human capital development.

Renowned for his literary contributions, Professor Soyinka’s presence added an air of prestige to the event, symbolising a commitment to the advancement of literature and cultural awareness in Nigeria. The CORA Library & Resource Centre is poised to be more than just a repository of books; it is positioned to host a variety of literary activities, including the flagship CORA BOOKTrek and literacy campaigns.

According to a statement by Toyin Akinosho, the Secretary-General of CORA, the Library & Resource Centre will serve as a hub for workshops and seminars on writing, reading, speechmaking and other literacy-enhancing engagements. It seeks to foster direct interactions between authors and readers, further solidifying its role as a dynamic cultural space.

The project has received substantial support from organisations such as Freedom Park, Chief Kayode Aderinokun (Chair CORA Trustee), CORA Board members, subscribers, volunteers and the Hawthornden Foundation. 

Notably, the initiative thrives on the generosity of authors, publishers, bookstores and the wider public, reflecting a collective effort to nurture cultural growth.

Akinosho further laid bare the roots of this ambitious project during the event, reflecting on the inception of the Lagos Book and Art Festival in 1999, Akinosho highlighted the organisation’s commitment to fostering a highly literate population in the nascent years of Nigeria’s return to democracy. Rejecting the conventional book fair and literary festival formats, CORA envisioned a continuous engagement with the contents of books, leading to the idea of city libraries.

“We had always recognised that a once-in-a-year event will not tackle the entrenched challenges of literacy in Nigeria,” Akinosho said.

Originally conceptualised as 12 city libraries across the country’s geopolitical zones, the plan, he revealed, was later streamlined to six city libraries in Lagos. Akinosho emphasised the year-round nature of the Book Trek programme, an extension service engaging authors in multiple nodes of Lagos. He advocated for book readings as a lifestyle, akin to attending concerts or art exhibitions.

Expressing gratitude to Professor Wole Soyinka for accepting the role of special guest of honour, Akinosho declared 2024 as The Soyinka Year, with every programme designed to honour the literary giant. 

“On July 13 this year, Professor Soyinka will be 90 and the Chair of CORA Board of Trustees has signed on the designation of 2024 as The Soyinka Year.

“So every programme in the year has the designation: The Year of Soyinka.

“We thank you Prof, for being who you are; we thank you for the persistence, the insistence, the moral courage,” Akinosho stated.

The opening event featured readings and conversations around Soyinka’s  Selected Poems: 1965-2022, a collection of 70 old and new poems written-some published, others not-in the course of the last 58 years, marking the beginning of a year brimming with literary activities.

As CORA continues its mission to deepen literary appreciation and audience engagement, the CORA Library & Resource Centre stands as a testament to the organisation’s enduring commitment to promoting literacy, culture and the arts in Nigeria.

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