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The Death-Row Correspondence of Ken Saro-Wiwa: Creating a Book and Audio Archive from a Unique Library Collection


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The Death-Row Correspondence of Ken Saro-Wiwa: Creating a Book and Audio Archive from a Unique Library Collection

  1. 1. The Death-Row Correspondence of Ken Saro-Wiwa: Creating a Book and Audio Archive from a Unique Library Collection Helen Fallon, Deputy Librarian, NUI Maynooth
  2. 2. Background • November 2011 – Donation of 28 letters and 27 poems written by Ken Saro-Wiwa to the Library at NUI Maynooth • November 2013 – Publication of “Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa” edited by Íde Corley, Helen Fallon & Laurence Cox – Launch of “Ken Saro-Wiwa Audio Archive” produced by NUI Maynooth Library and Kairos Communications
  3. 3. Ken Saro-Wiwa • leading Nigerian and African writer novelist, playwright, nonfiction writer, children’s books and television writer • Businessman • Major figure in Nigerian politics; his support for the autonomy of the Ogoni people led to his removal from office in 1973
  4. 4. Founder of MOSOP Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) highlighted the issue of environmental survival in the face of massive oil and gas extraction in the Niger Delta and the associated oil leaks, gas flaring and other environmental crises threatening livelihoods
  5. 5. The Recipient of the Letters – Sister Majella McCarron (OLA)
  6. 6. Nigeria
  7. 7. Sister Majella McCarron • Born Derrylin Fermanagh • Joined Our Lady of Apostles (OLA) Congregation • Science Degree (UCC) • Nigeria – 1964 • Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) • 1990 Met Ken Saro-Wiwa
  8. 8. MOSOP • Sister Majella (OLA) & Fr. Tommy Hayden (SPMS) – Leadership Training • Discussions in Lagos office • 1993 January - MOSOP mobilised 300,000 Ogoni people (60% of the total population) in a peaceful march
  9. 9. Detention • MOSOP challenged those who benefitted from the oil: the oil and gas multinationals and the Nigerian military government • Ogoni occupied by the Nigerian military; destruction of villages; an estimated 750 people killed and 30,000 left homeless • Saro-Wiwa and held for a month and a day
  10. 10. Destruction of Ogoni settlement, Port Harcourt
  11. 11. Ogoni Fishermen from Kaa fishing village survey broken canoes .
  12. 12. Destruction at Kaa Market
  13. 13. 1994 May – Saro-Wiwa re-arrested, together with eight other activists, on trumped-up charges of involvement in the deaths of four Ogoni chiefs despite the fact that police had refused him entry to Ogoniland on the day of the killings
  14. 14. Military Detention May 1994 - November 1995 • 28 Letters • 27 Poems • Smuggled out of detention in breadbaskets
  15. 15. Sister Majella • • • • • • 1994 Returned to Ireland Campaign to save lives of the Ogoni Nine Ogoni Solidarity Ireland Trócaire Nobel Prize Nomination 1995 10th November – Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others executed
  16. 16. Sister Majella • • • • Mary Immaculate College Garvaghy Road Conflict Shell to Sea Campaign Fracking in Leitrim
  17. 17. Shell Settlement 2009, June -Shell settled out of court for over $15 million with relatives of the “Ogoni Nine”
  18. 18. 1995-2011 • Sister Majella kept the letters, poems and artefacts in her personal possession • Met NUI Maynooth student – MA on Societies in Transition • Link with Library • 2011 November handover to mark anniversary of execution •
  19. 19. Letters • • • • • • • • Mostly handwritten Detention conditions Family MOSOP – leadership etc. Sr. Majella’s work His writing Awards The Trial
  20. 20. Book Concept • Three main presentations – Helen Fallon (Library), Dr. Íde Corley (English), Dr. Laurence Cox (Sociology) • • • • Massive international media coverage Idea of bringing letters to a wider audience Team of three set out to edit letters 2 years from handover to publication
  21. 21. The Ken Saro-Wiwa Archive • • • • 28 letters 27 poems Artefacts – cap, flag, badge, T-shirt Ephemera – flyers, pamphlets etc
  22. 22. Copyright • Copyright of letters lies with the letter writer or if deceased with the estate • Letter as artefact • Ken Wiwa Junior • Sister Majella/Dr Owens Wiwa • Copyright of poems • Permissions
  23. 23. Finding a Publisher • • • • • • • • Book Proposal Major Publishers Daraja/CODESRIA headquarters in Senegal Not-for-profit Distribution Rights in Africa Links (Action Aid India) Good Relationship with Owner Trócaire Grant
  24. 24. Legal Issues • • • • • • Risk People who are still living Shell Legal advice Contact with publisher Costs
  25. 25. The Letters • Reading Text • Typing text • Annotating letters to give context and meaning • Meetings • What to leave out
  26. 26. 13/7/94 Dear Sr., I got your letter, and many thanks. I don’t remember what I wrote to you, I think I wrote in a very great hurry and so was not able to express myself clearly, maybe. Of course, I know that you are all with me in spirit and am very encouraged thereby. Nor did I imagine that you were doing nothing. But I have no access to newspapers or radio, and I was in chains—which was quite depressing. The chains now sit on my table, a reminder that they can go on at any time. My condition is not very bad. I have an air-conditioned room to myself, and the electricity has only failed once. I can write and only yesterday succeeded in smuggling my computer into this place. I can cook (though I cannot cook) for myself and from time to time, I can smuggle out letters. The only thing is that family members, lawyers and doctor are not allowed to see me. The military doctor came just once and wrote a recommendation that I be sent to the University Teaching Hospital. The Military Administrator [Lt.-Col. Duada Musa Komo] has ignored the recommendation which makes me believe that he wants me dead. I’ve also seen the scurrilous things he’s said about me in Quality magazine. It’s annoying! In my first month here, I had only the Bible for reading. I decided to read it from cover to cover. I was very disturbed by the violence in the book of Joshua. The soldier who owned the Bible has taken it away. I had gotten to the lamentations of Jeremiah. Of course, the Bible is a great book. I’ve since had access to other books and my mind is wellnourished. With the computer now here, I think I’ll be quite busy. My worry, as ever, is the Ogoni people. With all MOSOP people out of the way, the protection which we offered the people is gone.
  27. 27. 20/10/93 Dear Sr. Majella, Thanks for your note. I’m really quite happy to have EC [European Commission] help pass through the Catholic Church. You’ve all been so supportive and MOSOP will be right glad to have such friends or supervisors. Please do not have any doubts whatsoever on that score. We are so swamped with responsibilities that having some of it off our necks is sheer relief. I’ll tell UNPO [Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization] about the Brussels connection. They will be able to drum up support from other European countries. 4.30 on Sunday is okay - more so as my last rally is at Bori at about that time. I’m in Lagos until Friday morning. If there is anything to discuss with me, ring on [telephone number provided]. The other tel. no. is dead. Regards, Ken.
  28. 28. The Poems • • • • • • 27 Poems Most had been published Copyright lies with estate Poem for Sr Majella McCarron Permission granted Poem written by Sister Majella included
  29. 29. Contents • Annotated letters • Poems • Contextual essays – Archives, oil, literature • Foreword • Archival classification • Bibliography & Resources list • Bursary
  30. 30. The Ken Saro-Wiwa Audio Archive • Making the recordings – 14 to date • • • • • • Copyright Corresponding with the family Role of University Disclaimer Relationships Sensitivities
  31. 31. Home for the Audio Archive • Editing and organising • Size • Options – – – – Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) University repository HEAnet iTunes • SoundCloud
  32. 32. Soundcloud • • • • • • • • Audio hosting solution and social media network Annual subscription Unlimited space for audio files Album covers Keywords/tagging Link from website via “Electronic Resources” Google search Statistics
  33. 33. Statistics 3 February 2014 • Total of 454 plays – – – – – – – – – – Ireland 387 United Kingdom 16 United States 26 Nigeria 12 Netherlands 3 Germany 3 Senegal 3 Norway 2 Brazil 1 India 1
  34. 34. Getting the message out • • • • • • Journal Articles Magazine/Newspaper Articles Online Publications/Newswires etc. Radio Social Media Presentations
  35. 35. Book and Audio-Archive Details • Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa, edited by Íde Corley, Helen Fallon & Laurence Cox. Senegal: Daraja/CODESRIA, 2013. isbn 9782869785571 • Ken Saro-Wiwa Audio Archive Click on disclaimer

Editor's Notes

  • 28 letters to Sr. Majella McCarron and 27 poemsClear and direct, these letters and poems are the last expression of a voice the regime was determined to silence Smuggled out in breadbaskets
  • 2009 – Shell Out of Court Settlement with relatives for US $15 million
  • Soundcloud is both an audio hosting solution and social media network that allows musicians to distribute their audio content to the world. There are options for sharing music and audio messages publicly - embedding them in social networks, blogs, and websites or privately with friends. Hence it is widely used by bloggers for a hosting solution to their podcasts. SoundCloud distributes music using widgets and apps. Users can simple place the widget on their own websites or blogs and then SoundCloud API will automatically do the rest. One of the enjoyable features of Soundcloud is that it depicts audio tracks graphically as waveforms and allows users to comment on specific parts of the track (also known as timed comments). Other standard features include reposts, sets, followers, and downloads.