LAGOS

INDIGENOUS PUBLISHERS are springing up all over Nigeria. Notable among them are the university presses of Ibadan and Ife which publish scholarly books and journals. Others are Nwamife Publishers, Onigbonoje Press and Book Industries, the Fourth Dimension Publishers and the African University Press. As far as I know, there are only two Nigerian presses that are funded by governments. These are the Northern Nigerian Publishing Company, that publishes books in Hausa, and the Ethiope Publishing Corporation, established in 1970 by the Midwest (now Bendel) State. All these publishers have one common goal: the cultural and political emancipation of Nigerians through the printed word.

The problems confronting these publishers are many: inadequate capital, lack of trained manpower, ineffective distribution, and poor performance by printers, etc. For these reasons, Nigerian publishers are having a rough time in their competition with British publishers who have continued to dominate the market here. Nevertheless, our publishers are getting stronger and more influential as the years roll by. They are tackling their financial problems with vigor and optimism. Instead of allowing themselves to be bought over by foreign publishers, some of them have developed other businesses from which they fund their publishing companies. A good example is the Fourth Dimension Publishers founded by Arthur Nwankwo.

The Fourth Dimension Publishing Company is part of a national network of engineering and construction operations directed by Nwankwo, under the group name of Jo Arts. The publishing company will continue to be funded by Jo Arts until it becomes self-sustaining.

The most troublesome problem facing all publishers in Nigeria is, perhaps, a lack of good printers. Our printers are mostly ill-equipped and lack artistic interest. It is difficult to find a Nigerian printer who is excited by the possibility, of printing a high quality book. Since printers can make a great deal of money printing wedding and obituary notices, receipt books, almanacs, etc., they find book or journal printing -- with its careful designing, proofing, alignments -- laborious and tedious.

The few good printers are usually overstretched. Caxton, for instance, a joint British/Nigerian venture, prints for most of the publishers who bother to print in Nigeria. Consequently, it cannot print the work it accepts as quickly as the owners would wish. Since 1978, Chuka Printing Company, in Enugu, has been printing Okike, the magazine I edit. They are the best purely Nigerian, privately owned printing company I have so far come across.

There are very few literary periodicals in Nigeria. Magazines do spring up here and there; but in most cases, they die off almost immediatley. Black Orpheus, a once famous publication of the Mbari Writers and Artists Club in Ibadan, now publishes infrequently. The Benin Review published just once several years ago and died. Oduma, a remarkable publication of the Rivers State Arts Council, which was founded in 1973, is about two years behind schedule. There are other journals springing up spasmodically here and there.

Three new journals that seem to have a great deal of potential are: Positive Review: Review: A Review of Society and Culture in Black Africa, Nsukka Studies in African Literature (NSAL), and New Culture. The Positive Review, published at Ife University by a group of academics, has, in the two issues I have seen, demonstrated solidity and clarity of thought. NSAL's production has been consistently of high scholarly quality. The New Culture, which deals with all areas of art, intends to come out 11 times a year. So far, I have seen five issues, each an improvement on the previous one. Demas Nwoko, its publisher and printer, is a famous painter, sculptor, theatrical designer and architect. The journal is about as versatile.

Okike: An African Journal of New Writing continues to be a springboard for new writers since 1971 when I founded it. It has now published 16 issues and will continue to publish regularly, I hope, with the support of our patrons, contributors and subscribers. Right now we publish ahead of schedule.

Although there is very little communication between Nigerian writers, we hear or read about one another. Gabriel Okara, one of Africa's leading poets who has been writing for more than 30 years, has just won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize with his first collection of poems, The Fisherman's Invocation (Heinemann, 1978). I sincerely rejoice with Mr. Okara whom I regard very highly as a craftsman.

With his latest work, The Ozidi Saga, collected and translated from the Ijo, the poet J. P. Clark has made a major contribution of African literature and scholarship. The Ozidi Saga was published by the Ibadan University Press and Oxford University Press in 1977.

My fifth novel is slowly, but surely, on the way. I am, of course, engaged in other serious projects such as literature for children. I am teaching literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Anambra State and completing a nonfiction book about Nigeria. With colleagues I am planning what I intend to call The Okike Centre here at the University of Nigeria, so that our indigenous and modern artists can have a suitable environment in which to meet their audience.