About 40 of our participants have come from the rest of Africa
The Ebedi Residency, a writers resort established nine years ago by the medical doctor, politician and writer, Wale Okediran, remains a trail-blazer in the field of arts residencies in these parts as The Difference Newspaper found out when it reached out to its founder for a status report.
A former General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, Okediran had set up the residency to assist other writers in finding space to work while also providing mentorship opportunities for young people in his home community. Excerpts:
How long precisely has the Ebedi Residency been running and would you say you are satisfied with the journey so far?
The Residency was declared open by Prof Femi Osofisan and the King of Iseyin, the Aseyin Oba AbdulGaniyu Ologunebi on August 31 2010.
My satisfaction has stemmed from the impressive response the Residency has garnered from the presence of about 120 Residents from 10 different countries. Also that these Residents have also gone ahead to mentor more than 600 secondary school students in Iseyin and environs since their sojourn in the Residency.
Are you satisfied with the number of finished works from the project? Are there some things you would want to do to improve on this score?
Many of the residents such as Elnathan John, Salamatu Sule, Yewande Omotoso, Ayobami Adebayo, Kofi Sackey (Ghana) Igoni Barrett, Barbara Oketta (Uganda) Doreen Baingana (Uganda) Nkateko Masinga (South Africa) and Richard Ali among others were able to produce outstanding works which have gone on to win local and international literary awards during their time in Ebedi.
The only improvement is to see more of the works produced at the Residency to win more laurels to the glory of the writers and the Residency.
Running a resort like Ebedi surely involves some fairly sizeable costs. Our information is that you have largely borne this cost outlay personally. Is this still the case? Are we to expect other donor inputs soon?
Unfortunately, it is still the case. All our efforts in the last few years to attract support from Corporate Organisations and Philanthropists have not yielded the desired effect. Nevertheless, we are still appealing to donors to assist the project.
Have you had situations like say difficult attitudes from participants or even logistical challenges, that have taxed you in the course of running this project this far?
Most of the Residents have performed wonderfully well. Apart from a few Writers who did not fully understood the workings of a Residency and therefore could not fully utilise the facilities provided, we have not had any problems with the Residents.
In addition, the mentoring aspect of the project which regularly promotes interaction between the Residents and the community has made the writers to be very popular in Iseyin town so much so that many of the Residents are always eager to repeat their visit to the Residency.
Our main challenge remains finance. Apart from the weekly allowances for the writers, the monthly salaries for the workers as well as utility bills can sometimes be challenging when expected personal funds are late in coming in.
How many non-Nigerian participants have you had in the course of this project? Any plans to increase their quota?
Out of the 120 Residents that have participated so far in the Residency Program, about 40 have come from outside Nigeria.
Yes. We are always eager to have more non-Nigerians in the Residency. The challenge is the difficulty in getting them air tickets for their trips to Nigeria. We currently have a working relationship with a Belgium-based Organisation; Africa Moves Arts (AMA) to provide flight tickets for prospective writers. AMA has very strict requirements which some of the writers find difficult to meet and so, there have been occasional delays in having enough foreign based writers in the residency. All the same, we are eager to increase both the number of both Nigerian and Non-Nigerian Residents that come to the Residency once we have enough funds to do so.
Is funding of the scheme tax-deductible at the moment? Should it be? Would this help in attracting support and grants?
Donations to charity and non-profit organisations are by law, tax deductible. Unfortunately, some Corporate Organisations and Philanthropists are not usually aware of this. This is why we usually draw the attention of prospective donors to this very important advantage.
Dr Wale Okediran, Founder, Ebedi Residency, Iseyin, Nigeria