Five Jordan, a new arts for social development collective, was formally launched on the 31st of January 2020 at an event that drew the Nigerian capital city’s diplomatic, cultural, military and political elite. The event, tagged An Evening in Jos, is the first of the collective’s City Series. The city of Jos is located 4,000 feet above sea level in central Nigeria and is the capital of Plateau State. An Evening in Jos had Nigerian writer Richard Ali and his debut novel, City of Memories, which is set in Jos, in the spotlight. The members of the collective are Alison Ojany, Richard Ali and Rafeeat Aliyu.
Guests started arriving at 6:45 p.m. and the evening kicked off at 7 p.m. Poet and fiction writer, Alison Ojany, welcomed the audience and introduced the collective, asking guests to expect an evening of human encounters through the arts, part of “a series of salons inspired by the countless private conversations shared about the many spaces and places of Nigeria, their histories, stories, peculiarities often lost to the passing visitor, stranger, temporary immigrant. . .”
Film maker, Rafeeat Aliyu, then read out a brilliant City Brief. Jos CIty, atop the Jos Plateau, came to prominence as a place of refuge from the cavalry of the 18th century Fodio jihad. The discovery of tin deposits, and the arrival of prospectors and miners, established it as a major commercial centre and cosmopolis. She situated the internecine crisis that has affected the city since the return to democracy in 1999, while highlighting the cultural contributions of the city to the Nigerian fabric, mentioning artists including Tar Uko, the rappers Ice Prince and MI, gospel singer Jeremiah Gyang, and the novelist Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. Footballers Mikel Obi and Ahmed Musa, as well as actors Sani Sadiq, Abbas Sadiq and Nafisat Abdullahi, are Jostified.
Rafeeat yielded the stage to OAP and Abuja Literary Festival coordinator, Buchi Onyegbule, who was the MC. Buchi set the tone by bringing up Abuja musical artiste, Tonton Raymond, who performed a spoken word piece, Mama Put, on the complexity of urban spaces where beauty and scum are side by side.
Special guest, Richard Ali, came up next. He spoke briefly about Jos as a cosmopolis and his growing up there, describing his 2012 novel as an attempt to find a penultimate moment, in memory, in history, before catastrophe or katakata, arrived his hometown. The novel centers on Faruk Ibrahim and his girlfriend Rahila Pam against the backdrop of their parent’s intense political rivalry and religious differences. Richard read from the first and fifth chapters of the book. A lively Q & A session followed. Bash Amuneni, one of Abuja’s biggest performance poets, entertained all with his nostalgic piece, I Have Come Back Home.
A special feature was introduced. Kenyan novelist, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, was in the audience, in Abuja on a break between international engagements. Yvonne won the Caine Prize for African Literature in 2003 and her stunning debut novel, Dust, remains one of Africa’s top literary fictions. It was shortlisted for the Folio Prize in 2015 and won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature the same year. She has topped this with a 2019 novel, The Dragonfly Sea, which has seen massive sales in hardback. She stated that Lola Shoneyin’s Ouida Books will be releasing the novel in Nigeria. Yvonne talked about the subtle intimacy of human relationships in her work as well as how cities, like Nairobi and Pate, feature as backdrop and minefield, much like Richard Ali’s Jos.
In attendance were the heads of the United Nations Development Programme, DFID and UNAids; the First Lady of Kaduna State, Barrister Asiya Ahmed El-Rufai; former Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Interior, General Saleh Bala, amongst thirty guests. The evening ended with closing remarks by Alison Ojany.
When asked about what next to expect from Five Jordan, member and science fiction writer, Rafeeat Aliyu, whose 2019 film, Beyond Tolerance, deals with traditional religious practices, said, “The Cities project is just a start. In the coming months, Five Jordan will use multidisciplinary events, film, photography, visual arts and graphic novels to completely change the perceptions of the world about Africa and of Africans about Africa. We are here to shake tables, break boundaries and be the day after tomorrow.”