‘Poetry is no longer for old people, boring sadists, or broken professors’ – Shola Phebian | PIN Literary Interviews

Semilore Kilaso engages Moderator of Eko Children Literary Festival, Shola Adekunle Oguntoyinbo Phebian on a conversation dominated by PIN, literature, art and children.


Shola Adekunle Oguntoyinbo Phebian is a fashionista, poet, and creativity coach with a screaming flair for developmental engagements. Passionate about children, she has pioneered poetry for kids at the grassroots in Lagos Education District 6, and Learning enhancement in Lagos State among others. Although career-oriented, she is an active socialite, past time reader, and a passionate artiste, who is all out to get the groove on, though ever ready to work on great innovative ideas.


 

  1. It’s a great pleasure having to talk with you Aunty Shola Adekunle Oguntoyinbo Phebian. Your name rings a bell in the PIN family. Can you please tell us more about yourself?

I am a performance poet, a restless creative with a screaming flair for positive prints on the sand of time. I love the stage and its spices!

I had my basic education in Lagos, a degree in English/Literary Studies from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago – Iwoye, Ogun State, another one in Communications/PR from University of Education, Winneba-Ghana. I have certificates in creative writing – Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria Training School, screenwriting, fashion arts and recycling arts. As a continuous learner, I also connect with theatre on the streets, through The Footprints of Arts Ambassador and other connections reeling with loads of artistic discoveries.

  1. Can you remember the first time you volunteered for PIN? How has it been volunteering your time and services to Poets in Nigeria?

I encountered PIN in 2017 and it has been a rewarding link. It was during preparations for one of my poetry theatre productions for Lagos Theatre Festival Fringe, working with Arch Angel also a member of Poets In Nigeria. He suggested that I should meet with Sir Eriata, and boom! Everything took a beautiful turn, I got sponsorship support, the best of creative team mates to work with on the stage production. Members of PIN decorated the show with audience gripping performances, from Arch Angel, The Solutionist and The Farmer’s Daughter. Since then, we have worked on several other projects with thrilling experiences. So, I can say that volunteering with PIN has gotten me more than POETRY, I have a clan of supportive team mates – a beautiful family.

  1. Can you vividly recall when PIN was founded? What about PIN’s philosophy of poetry for service and how far has it been embraced by poets in Nigeria and the diaspora?

I am not a founding member, but to Google, mine will help here! PIN was founded in October, 2015. Talking about the philosophy of PIN as a platform for building a strong network of new generation poets and connecting them for greatness, so much has been accomplished in this regard, that poets in their throngs can testify to this. Obviously, poets “globally” are really supporting PIN’s growing waves of demand in poetry writing, reading and performances in their own way. For some of the initiatives of PIN, there are selected judges, moderators and lovers of arts within and outside the country who are connected with the working guidelines for better results. Poetourism 2020 is still fresh in every participant’s memory, how we were hosted to a dish of cultural heritage and more by OYASAF and Niger Delta Hall of Fame. Both poets and non-poets are embracing the fantastic philosophy of PIN, which creates opportunities and refreshing moments for poets.

  1. I hear of the PIN family. Tell us about this family and what makes it lovable?

The leadership! Permit me here to quote, Ronald Reagan: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things, he is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Yes, that’s the kind of leader we have in this family, a father who pushes you to discover some new YOU, and follows up on your progress. Sometimes you feel some heat from that push, but you keep on for the force behind it. It is always worth it – that’s the thick. The lovable part of it is the countless sacrifices he makes – show at your events inspite of challenges, visits you even in the most hinter parts anyone can imagine, connects with your family members and more. On the overall, welfare and its cost is key in this family, we all are trying to share of this act, and so there is always provisions for checking on members whenever there is a need with delegations.

  1. You are Lead Rep. PIN Isheri-Igando Connect Centre. Give us a brief on the centre’s activities and future plans.

PIN Isheri was officially unveiled in April 2018, with a view to connecting with the community through poetry. Fortunately, we had a few persons who were committed to this vision. Unfortunately, we lost one of them to the cold hands of death on the 1st of June, 2020. Mrs. Adelakun was a vibrant woman, ever ready to key into all the activities of the centre, infact, she was fast becoming a performance poet, even as an elderly woman, which is one of the things we set out to achieve. Other members include Goodness Okeh, Oguntoyinbo Modupeola, our children poets and honorary members – Awodiya Funke, Solutionist Clementina, McNaevets, etc.

Considering our environment, we engage the children more in bi-monthly reading, holiday arts around poetry featuring readers theater, biography poster projects, dance and POETRY. We try to create interesting activities and a colorful environment that will appear to the senses of the children as we get them acquainted with poetry.

We hope to build a stronger center that caters more for children through poetry.

  1. Sometimes ago, a Poetry Corner was established by PIN at your connect centre. Tell us about the centre and how much you think it is being used in achieving the purpose for which it was set up.

The venue is a plus! Thanks to our host at Oaks Garden Cultural Center, a spot frequently visited by people. We invite them to read poetry while they attend to other affairs, though the collections are not to be taken outside the premises, thereby introducing poetry to poets and non-poets. Also, we run the pick – a poem per event with the children and our guests, where everyone is encouraged to read out loud, read along from any chosen text from the poetry corner. Another is to show the poem in parts, where we write out extracts that are interesting or funny from the poetry corner and then read to the audience, and the most interesting extracts get a prize. We also encourage the people on the facility to direct visitors to the PIN corner often, even in our absence.

  1. What is the niche you hope to create for PIN Isheri-Igando connect centre?

Children Centre! Our events are not complete without featuring the children. We want to work on building a better platform for children, even though adults can have their share of the lots in poetry.

  1. Apart from being the Lead Rep of a connect centre, you moderate Eko Children Literary Festival (ECLF) with support of a team of PIN members. Why ECLF? Who constitutes your team?

Our Center is reputed for children participation at most of PIN’s events. So, we decided to create an event that will extensively make great impacts on both our member kids and other kids, with the goal of reaching out to more children. We want to help them discover their unique strengths through the arts carved around poetry games, in an environment that allows for fun learning through the world of more in storytelling, arts and painting, improvisation theater, interactive hands on, discovery exercises and more. Eko Children LitFest is our contribution to building up positive and constructive young minds, empowered smarties, as we steer them off vices, depressive moods and other negative influences.

As the curator, I cannot do it all alone. Thankfully, I have a superb team – my ever supportive festival coordinator/Contest anchor Awodiya Funke, Solutionist Clementina – Poetry coordinator, Toyin Majiyagbe – Costume/face painting, Goodness Okeh – Prompter/Festival set coordinator, Oguntoyinbo Modupeola – Front of house coordinator, Ismaila Adeshina – Theatre coordinator, Edopaiye Endurance – Dance coordinator, among others.

  1. You recently organized a programme in celebration of Day of The African Child on Facebook. Tell us about your passion for children. How was the program?

The celebration of the Day of the African child 2020 was a success. All thanks to God and the team.

Years back, I was part of Aunty Shola Alamutu’s (Green Queen) event in commemorating the event. I discovered a new way of telling the Africa child, “I love you” and “You are more…” It has always been on my mind. Alas! 2020 came with its lockdown series and I felt it was an opportunity for us to lift the mood of African children off the current situation and the global challenge, as we gave out instant prizes. We were able to handle segments of the event through remote transmission via Facebook and we got heartwarming feedbacks from our viewers, in fact, within 24hours we had over 5000 reach. Amazing!

My passion for children is a priceless gift from my parents. To them every child deserves special attention, I got a treasured childhood and wished to also hand it down to every child I come in contact with.

  1. You are the curator; House of Pheobe. When was the initiative founded? How far has it impacted your immediate community?

House of Phoebe Arts is my dream come true, I hail my ever supportive family, can’t thank my mum enough, friends and everyone who cheered me on, never tired of my cravings to always put a smile on the faces of many smarties. “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations” is my working quote. It was a tough take off, I started with my community, with a whole lot of people who cared less about the power of literacy, where the children think education is punishment in disguise. You beg both parents and their children to get creatively empowered like you begging for alms, they think you want to make money off the kids, some mentees end up as victims of teenage pregnancy, child marriage and more. It is that bad, you train a group of children and when you think you are building up pioneers of your projection, suddenly, you lose them to one of the above. You keep starting all over. Frustrating!

Interestingly, the difficulties on the road are getting me to beautiful paths. So much has been accomplished in changing the narratives, blessings all the way as more parents are now better promoters, the children are getting to see beyond their environment and they are determined to stretch out for better exposures. Today, House of Phoebe is a unique brand with a number of creatively schooled children from different background, rich, average and grassroots community, uniquely, they all blend in without discrimination. That is the power of art.

  1. How has it been mentoring children to embrace Literature and Art?

For me, I have my fair share of the good, and fair sides to bringing both together to inspire the children. I started with no idea on how to make literature an appealing item, or arts spice for impacts, all I had was my passion for children and concern for their lifelong activities. In all, this has led me to getting better by the day, I have to strive at making research on how to sustain the attention of children because of their nature. I get better equipped through, discoveries from some literary courses, get innovative and versatile through my mentoring sessions, poetry and theatre. I have gathered so much materials that sometimes, all I want to do is connect with the children as I share new thoughts on literature and arts.

  1. As a member of PIN Central Network, I know you are also part of the Festival Poetry Calabar. Have you ever attended the festival? From your point of following her activities, what would you be suggesting to the Local Organising Committee?

I have not attended Festival Poetry Calabar but with the updates and all we see, the LOC is doing so well. All I can say is, they should keep on working as a team. Event planning is one huge load, but sharing with other people makes it bearable.

  1. No doubt, you are one committed to giving back to society via impacting in children. How do you manage your daily routine vis a vis home chores?

Not so easy but thankfully, I have a very supportive hubby. I am so blessed! While I try to strike a balance, there are times I have to beg off some chores to meet up with rehearsals, events and other engagements. At such times, I fall back on my support system, there is always this shoulder I can lean on. Then, it all seems so smooth but much more has gone into getting results.

  1. As a Poet with academic background in Theatre, can you take us through how both correlate?

As a performance poet, I see theatrical elements in poetry, both are shades of arts. Moreover, the global village is beginning to see the aesthetics of this combination. Even in spoken word where you are not allowed the luxury of props and other theatrical materials, body language and gestures are filling up creatively. Poetry could be seen as the content, and theater the container, holding up the modern expressions of captivating lines and stanzas. We do not forget that each has a standard structure and rules. Still, art is an outlet that allows us to flow beautifully.

  1. Poetry appreciation is fast gaining grounds in our country. What in your opinion is the place of poetry as a genre of literature in Nigeria? What future? What opportunities for Poets?

The future of poetry is radiant! In fact, corporate organisations, and others are beginning to feature poetry in their main events. In recent times, more banks are getting Nigerian poets to create adverts for them, N.T.A. repeatedly plays Dike Chukumerije’s performance every day, to mention a few. Poets are getting into the limelight, poetry is no longer for old people, boring sadists, or broken professors. There is a beautiful twist to modern poetry.

It is good to know that there are unlimited opportunities for poets and all literary minds in Nigeria. 

  1. As a literary organisation, do you think PIN is living up to her aims and objectives?

A resounding YES!

  1. PIN prides herself as a vanguard of Poetry Renaissance in our country. What can you say about this? 

It is for this reason that Poets in Nigeria has a whole lot of initiatives, all carved to suit different needs of poets considering their strength and chosen medium. PIN is all out to get the best of impact through poetry, spreading the nets of participation via creative signatures in Tongues of Poetry, Gallery of Poems, Photo Poetry, Food Poetry, Poetourism, PIN Chapbook, Spoken Call, just to mention a few. It gets better and bigger every time.

  1. How long have you been in PIN? What is poetry to you? What message do you have for poets generally? 

I have been a member of PIN, for over three years.

Personally, I see poetry as the poet’s voice in lines and stanzas spread on page, or projected on stage, laced with emotional and environmental spices!

To poets, think for a moment! Then you will appreciate the best of gifts in your possession, you have got the rare power of imagination, use it right, make a print on life.

  1. All about PIN can’t be exhausted in a Talk session. Let me attempt a conclusion by requesting that you please, round off this interview your own way. Say something, please.

Glad to be here. The best we can give is our inspiring strength passed on to the generations next. I am so privileged to have discovered my passion, in turn, I pay dues through creative signatures…

  1. Read/recite a poem of yours. Or present an except of any.

Pangs!

The much we got, in thoughts,

claims for lots, self priding slot,

from the era of Eden!

 

The much we boot,

Against our cool garden,

To real hurts, In our aging den!

So, we feign the reign,

“Dont panic”,

Even in our pangs.

Who fools who?

 

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