A “party” within a book: 19 scholars honour Carleton’s Professor Nduka Otiono
By Ijeoma Ukazu*

Prof Nduka Otiono was in exuberant mood at the book launch Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

In the heart of Ottawa, within the esteemed halls of Carleton University, Nduka Otiono is not merely a colleague, but a beacon of inspiration. His literary contributions have transcended borders; his words weave a tapestry of cultural understanding that has enriched us all. 
Recently, 19 scholars and literary enthusiasts from across the globe have praised the literary body of works of Professor Nduka Otiono, who is the Director and Associate Professor, Institute of African Studies, and an affiliate faculty member, Department of English, School of Journalism and Communication, at Ottawa’s Carleton University.

The essays by the 19 scholars titled “Critical Perspectives on Nduka Otiono” offer a comprehensive examination of the works of the Nigerian-Canadian writer, academic, and journalist for his contribution to African cultural studies, postcolonial literature, and media practice. The book, which was unveiled in April to commemorate his 60th birthday, included blurbs from renowned academics, writers, and media icons, praising his work for its scholarship on “Street Stories,” fiction, and poetry that imagine postcolonial futures, as well as a memoir-poetics that creates experimental accounts of migration flows and the experience of displacement.

Otiono explained that “Street Stories” is a scholarly examination of a genre of oral narratives in Nigeria. These stories, often dismissed as rumours, gossip, and myths, are powerful tools of political resistance and cultural expression. This publication, with its interdisciplinary approach and impactful essays, is considered an outstanding contribution to the oeuvre of one of the most important Nigerian-Canadian intellectuals. Dr. Pauline Rankin, Provost and Vice President Academic at Carleton University, expressed this view during her opening remarks at the book launch.

Professor Nduka Otiono in conversation with Dr. Pauline Rankin, Provost and Vice President, Academic, Carleton University.

Rankin eulogizes Otiono’s creativity, productivity, and academic accomplishments over the past years as a source of pride for the academic community at Carleton, while looking forward to more of his academic exploits in the literary space. “The book’s unveiling marked a historic day,” said Dr. Anne Bowker, the Interim Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Carleton University. During the unveiling, Bowker approached the podium with the grace that befits her to reveal the book. She pulled back the veil, revealing each book bound in a rich finish with a cover design of Otiono’s face reflected the intellectual nature of the content.

The applause that followed the book’s unveiling was not just for Otiono or the books, but also for the future they represented. This was a future where the arts and social sciences would continue to evolve and profoundly impact the world, said Bowker. She said he has a distinguished record of interdisciplinary research that spans cultural studies, oral performance and literature in Africa, postcolonial studies, media and communication studies, globalization, and popular culture.

The book reviewer, Dr. Isaac Asume Osuoka, Coordinator of Social Action International, described the book “Critical Perspectives on Nduka Otiono” as providing a deep dive into Otiono’s extensive work and contextualizing his intellectual, political, academic, and rich cultural values. Osuaka adds that Otiono’s passion for the “Street Stories,” the narratives that emerged from the daily interactions and experiences of the common people, led him to believe that these stories held the key to understanding the postcolonial condition, the ongoing struggle of a nation finding its identity amidst the remnants of colonial rule.

According to Otiono, students, scholars, literary critics, writers, and general readers interested in postcolonial literature, performance studies, cultural studies, critical theory, literary history, media studies, and popular culture should find the book intriguing. He adds that renowned scholars, such as Chris Dunton, a retired Professor of Literature in English and former Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities at the National University of Lesotho, Roma, edited the book. Dunton is known for his scholarly work on Nigerian drama and literature, including authoring the seminal study titled “Make Man Talk True: Nigerian Drama in English since the 1970s” and “Nigerian Theatre in English: A Critical Bibliography.”

Mathias Iroro Orhero is a doctoral researcher at McGill University, as well as the Teaching Faculty at Concordia University. He is also an editor known for his work on “Critical Perspectives on Nduka Otiono” and Ndubuisi Mathias Aniemeka.

Ndubuisi Martins Aniemeka is a candidate in the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures, at Charles University, Prague. As an emerging scholar in Anglophone Literature with a bias for poetry and poetics, medical humanities, literary theory and criticism, autobiographical studies, and creative writing, Aniemeka’s articles and reviews have appeared in referred journals and literary magazines. His doctoral thesis revolves around the Signifying Chameleon, the theory he is developing for Anglophone poetry. Ndubuisi Martins (pen name) has published two collections of poems –One Call, Many Answers (2017) and Answers through the Bramble (2021), which was longlisted for the 2022 Pan African Writers Association Poetry Prize (English Category).

The release of “Critical Perspectives on Nduka Otiono” marks a milestone in the study of African literature and its diaspora, assuring his place in Nigerian and Canadian letters.

Ijeoma Ukazu

* Ijeoma Ukazu is a Master of Journalism student at Carleton University, Ottawa.