Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Book Launch on International Human Rights Day "I am a Man of Peace: Writings Inspired by the Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection"


On Thursday 10th December, the book “I am a Man of Peace: Writings inspired by the Maynooth University KenSaro-Wiwa Collection” will be launched by Dr Gemma Irvine, Vice President of Equality and Diversity at Maynooth University. The event, in Zoom, is free and booking is essential 
Clickhere to book.

This collection of essays and poems  marks the 25th anniversary of the execution of Nigerian activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight colleagues (the Ogoni 9). The 21 essays and 42 poems included  are inspired by his ideals and activism.

In his essay, the first in this volume, Dr Owens Wiwa recounts how his older brother awakened and nurtured his awareness of the tremendous damage being wrought by Royal Dutch Shell to their homeland, in collaboration with the then Nigerian military dictatorship.  

Noo Saro-Wiwa shares her story of growing up in England with strong links to family in Nigeria, and the trauma of hearing of her father’s execution while at University.

Sister Majella McCarron (OLA), who donated the death row correspondence of Saro-Wiwa to Maynooth University  provides two personal essays. The first is a reflection on the events that shaped her work with Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria and her subsequent efforts to save the lives of the Ogoni 9. The second recounts her work on the Shell to Sea and other campaigns in Ireland.

The environmental destruction that Shell has caused in the Niger Delta is addressed by Mark Dummett, Head of Business, Security and Human Rights at Amnesty International. Daniel Leader, a barrister and partner at Leigh Day’s international law department, known for leading a number of ground-breaking human rights cases, including a series of cases against Shell on behalf of Nigerian communities, explores the issue of legal redress. Siobhán Curran, Advocacy and Policy Advisor on Human Rights and Democratic Space with Trócaire, shares their experience of working with marginalised groups in Central America.

 Nigerian architect, environmental activist, author and poet Nnimmo Bassey’s wide ranging essay draws on this report and Saro-Wiwa’s writings in discussing Saro-Wiwa as activist, writer and creator of the Ogoni Bill of Rights. Anthropologist Dr Abayomi Ogunsanya explores the Niger Delta cultural landscape in his essay, while Dr Samuel Udogbo’s essay draws on his MU doctoral research which examines Ogonis resistance in Nigeria.  Firoze Manji examines the commonalities between Amilcar Cabral, the Guinea-Bissau revolutionary, and Ken Saro-Wiwa, focusing on the centrality of culture in the search for freedom.

Dr Laurence Cox discusses what we can learn from how the Ogoni, a small rural group, remote from the centres of power, were able to effectively resist Shell.

The final essays, while inspired by Saro-Wiwa’s quest for equality and justice, reflect on aspects of an increasingly diverse Irish society. Veronica Akinborewa, Dr Camilla Fitzsimons and Philomena Obasi to explore relationships that exist amidst the intersections of race, gender and institutional positions. The three have designed and delivered workshops, with MU Department of Adult and CommunityEducation, on culture, interculturalism and racism. One such workshop is the topic of the essay on diversity training for library staff at MU by Helen Fallon, Laura Connaughton and Edel Cosgrave. Maynooth University’s commitment to inclusion is also articulated in Dr Cliodhna Murphy’s essay on the University of Sanctuary.

The second section of the book contains poems by both established and new poets, including contributions from schoolchildren in their senior cycle, who have visited the University and viewed the collection. The poems are preceded with a contextual essay by Irish poet and creative writing teacher Jessica Traynor. While the workshops grew from human rights violations in Nigeria, they sought to inspire people to write about their own life experiences. The concluding essay is by David Rinehart from MU Library, who has worked with migrant aid and solidarity organisations for many years. He reflects on the poems in the collections for both their intrinsic beauty and as a tool for looking both inward and outward in order to better understand different ways of being and the effect of our actions as a global community on the people we share this planet with.  

Writing to Sister Majella McCarron on 1 December 1993, Saro-Wiwa urged her

Keep putting your thoughts on paper. Who knows how we can use them in future. The Ogoni story will have to be told.

I hope this rich and diverse collection of essays and poems goes some way to fulfilling his wishes, and strengthens in us - writers, poets and readers - the resolve to tell the stories of marginalised  and oppressed communities everywhere. Our voices can help create a world where justice and equality are the cornerstone of our societies

Helen Fallon

Deputy University Librarian


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