Blustery, peevish, touchy, erratic… .yet I’ve additionally heard him called ẹja àrọ̀, that fish which consistently whips back to its turbid profundities –, etc and on. All these may hold in parts obviously, there is that contributory side of JP Clark that is shut to many: an uncertain blend of a profound graceful reasonableness with an extraordinary political discontent, disappointments from a country that continually scams itself. Such partner disquiet will in general show itself in internal choppiness that gets revenge on fairly confounded heads, even without obvious incitement. The individuals who wish to dig further into, or contest this, ought to just help themselves to remember his part in the adventure of the principal military overthrow in Nigeria, his personal relationship with Christopher Okigbo – one of our pioneer ‘artistic group of four’ who died on the war front – continually accentuated by scattered verses of a habitual witness. JP never surrendered – mind the arrangement of sonnets he distributed in The Guardian during his last years!
It showed itself in numerous manners – trifling to significant, immediate and backhanded. For example, JP would not let me rest until I appeared for one of our snacks in an Amotekun coat. Really at that time would he acknowledge that we were “not kidding” in Ogun State and were not simply “talkers” with respect to the most recent danger to Nigerian presence, the unchecked, pillaging herders, about which he seethed ceaselessly. Not failing to remember his starting the visit to the military – Chinua Achebe and myself close behind – in a destined exertion to spare the lives of Mamman Vatsa and other denounced overthrow plotters. Or then again his fanatical quest for the suggestions of the Nobel appearance to the Delta during the episode of threats by MEND and different aggressors… .scarcely any know about this seething responsibility of the artist as resident.
I needed to move all that – this isn’t proposed as a grave piece, of which there has been in excess of a befitting storm. My turn is close to home, suggestive, and I realize JP would savor the concise oar through memory rivers. The direction of my relationship with our griot of Ozidi, initiating in the sixties, is the thing that sparkles most iridescently in the brain, touching off lights along the weird byways of conclusion in human bursts. That cycle shut on recovered bubbly accents on which it had started sixty years sooner, an unconstrained patching of adamant dispositions, presently bound with self-joke, agreeable in self-satisfaction, warm, communing, factious, absolutely without misrepresentation or covers. It even formed into a casual ‘Cafes’ Club’ of three, with Sesan Dipeolu, the ex Librarian of Ife college as the third leg of the ‘pepper-soup carriage’. Dipeolu was the first to go AWOL. From that point we put a glass for him at the table, and a vacant seat. Once in a while we allowed the odd youngster to join – for the most part when either expected to execute more than one winged animal with one stone. Subsequent to spreading our support round different eateries thusly – from Victoria Island to Ikeja – JP by one way or another controlled us to acknowledge his The Boat Club as lasting setting, consequently introducing himself undisputed host, since the club loathed installment by non-individuals. The feeling of The Boat Club was obviously generally suitable, and we turned out to be essential for the perceived furnishings.
Unbeknownst to each of the three, this would assume a critical function in the coming tide of Covid-19 pandemic – by which time, Dipeolu had withdrawn, leaving simply the pair. During lockdowns, the Spirit of the Sixties re-championed itself. The Boat Club was under conclusion yet its café was open for the typical conveyance and takeaway administrations. There was no requirement for any conversation – it took close to a gesture of comprehension and the spring period of dissident youth was resuscitated. JP was secured down Lagos, coaxing out his last beautiful estate, I in Abeokuta, suffering tortures from another work – writing fiction. For a little while, there was no contact be that as it may, at last, the call came through. My solitary interferences during those months, I now manfully ‘fess up’, appeared as a periodic drive to Lagos, the streets euphorically vacant. (I am a grouped, persistent ‘fundamental administrations’ exclusion – on the off chance that anybody attempts to consider me a crook – proceed to check where it is important!) And along these lines, our meeting continued. I showed up, obediently covered – with my shoulder pack of chosen wines. We gathered our takeaway packs, at that point – sneaked through a side way to the overhang higher up. The huge space more than coordinated conventions of ‘social separating’. There, calmed by the vacancy of that quiet, yet clamoring space, we devoured our barbecued fish and calamari, seared sweet potato with lukewarm pepper sauce, in absolute quietness, swallowed our brew and wine, touched by quiet and the liberal, tidal pond breeze, unpolluted by oil exhaust, while we discussed and tackled all the issues of the world. Did the skeleton staff recognize our quality? I won’t bargain the honest. Regardless, how is it possible that they would neglect to relate to the delinquency of two geriatrics, acknowledge that specific ‘bowing of rules’ occasionally makes the standard average, even interesting. This, all things considered, was their club artist, moved from the Delta streams of the Ijaw to their own Five-Cowrie Creek of the Lagos estuary.
From various perspectives the temperament was suggestive of the sixties, far less rumbustious truly, however regardless a repeat of that stage when we were consistent props and last withdrawing supporters of the unrecorded music night clubs of Ibadan and Lagos. Toward the finish of every night meeting, JP, to whom anything mechanical was hostile area at any rate, was normally in no condition to drive. Indeed, even without trying to hide, JP had a propensity for endeavoring to jump across expansive drains or explore streets where none existed. Thus, I would frequently get him in his loft at Oke Bola, at that point drive him home a short time later. Such was his connection to that vehicle notwithstanding, maybe the sole Kharman Ghia – a now dead model – in the entirety of Nigeria, that he would demand I leave my beat-up Land Rover in his place while we attacked the night in that German games vehicle. I had no protest – it was an extraordinary vehicle to drive – quick quickening and a left-hand drive while the country was all the while working the British traffic code of driving on the correct roadside. That plan worked until , not a long way from my own chalet nearby, the games vehicle chose to act simply like its proprietor and endeavor to scale a palm tree – I particularly review that it was after late practices of Song of a Goat at Mbari – I probably napped off in the driver’s seat.
It took a long time to get that spirited vehicle back on its wheels in any case, during that break, I turned into JP’s driver night and day in my Land Rover. That came about in much closer connection, obviously this had its own troubles. When his Karman was again functional, I left him to do his own destruction, which he did with zeal, sozzled or calm. I butchered a few goats in front of an audience during exhibitions explicitly to pacify the devils that seemed to make JP – even external his Karman Ghia – so famously inclined to mishaps. Nothing worked. At last, I accept he just abandoned any type of driving inside and out and drew in a driver. JP was essentially not implied for a time more mechanical than the period of the kayak with detachable engine!
At the point when I started to coordinate his plays – Song of a Goat was moment shot obviously – JP gave them over to me totally. He would not meddle in the coordinating. He would come into practices, watch, some of the time remarking on how words became movement in front of an audience. He delighted in sitting in, failing to offer even one recommendation that I review – ‘it’s your cerebral pain’ he would shrug, ‘I don’t have a clue how you do it’ – and off he went to have a ball with companions at the closest bar. JP’s interest with theater drove him – definitely – to establish PEC Repertory Theater at Onikan, with an active association with the executives and inventive creation – on a supported level that I didn’t accomplish with my own 1960 MASKS or ORISUN Theater. Psyche you, what the artistes and different teammates suffered under his routine was most likely another story, yet at that point, he likewise had Ebun, his better half, as full sidekick. I unequivocally presume that it was the confided in equation of ‘strategic shift’ – Good Cop, Bad Cop’. Ebun will most likely open up on this all the more legitimately. What makes a difference is that is worked, endured years, introduced the membership custom, appreciated an independent achievement. JP was noticeably vexed when the property was obtained by the Lagos government and destroyed for an arising multi-reason complex. No, he didn’t contradict advancement, JP basically felt – and in solid, unforgiving language – that PEC ought to have been left standing, coordinated into whatever happened to that noteworthy site. I completely sympathized with him!
We made arrangements – twice – to restore one of his plays during the versions of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. Such exertion imploded from the standard calculated issues and obviously – financial plan. Notwithstanding, one of the strong results of the Heritage arrangement would come from the unique release labeled – The Black in the Mediterranean Blue where the verse area agreed to the subject of Migration. Italy was the primary landfall on the ‘Blue Mediterranean’ shores, and a volume rose up out of a coordinated effort among Italian and Nigerian artists, a bi-lingual item. JP was my first port of call, and I will end this demonstration of liberal memory with his commitment to that volume.
Presently, that sonnet! I figure all the previous disclosures would stay deficient on the off chance that I didn’t remark on its commitment. It demonstrated a back-and-forth! A minor scene, yet I thought that it was off-kilter, by and by, since this was my venture. I was the Chief Editor of the treasury, so I eliminated it. JP end up being at his generally difficult. He had conveyed it manually written –