Welcome to Adeyipo Village
“You said you will
be here by 10am but you are just coming when I’m almost set to return
to Ibadan,” founder of the African Heritage Research Library and
Cultural Centre (AHRLC), Bayo Adebowale says in mock anger as the
‘okada’ (motorcycle) brings me into the complex in Adeyipo, a village
in Lagelu Local Government Area of Oyo State. I had underestimated the
time it would take to reach the village, some 18 kilometres from
Ibadan. It is nearly midday.
Occupying about 10
acres of land, AHRLC is a charming resort in rural Adeyipo. It was
originally conceived as an Africana library for researchers but has
since incorporated culture and heritage into its mandate.
Sowing the seed
Mighty oaks from
little acorns grow. This holds true for the centre, conceived in 1987
in reaction to a disparaging article on Africa and Africans in a
foreign magazine. “The writer was saying all sorts of things about the
capability of the average African and I was tickled. I said these
people must be proved wrong, they must be convinced that not all of us
run after what to eat and drink. So, I hit on the idea of floating a
library or an international magazine. I toyed with the two ideas but I
finally picked floating an Africana library to begin to project Africa
in its true colours to the outside world,” Adebowale explains as we set
out on a tour of the centre.
The former deputy
rector of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, started collecting books on all
disciplines around March 1988 at the College of Education, Ila Orangun,
Osun State where he was then teaching. He started with about 500 books
he used at college and in the university before the centre blossomed.
He recalls, “We kept on expanding and contacting the world, intimating
them with the idea that we want to float an Africana library. Some of
them rallied round us while some discouraged us. In six months, the
collection had grown to about 10,000, 12,000 and 15,000. By the time we
left Ila Orangun, the collection had grown beyond 25,000.” Since its
movement to Adeyipo in 1993, AHRLC’s collection has grown to over
100,000 volumes on all disciplines.
Though Adeyipo is
his birth place, it is not what made Adebowale site the centre there.
“We had a limitation of finance. To purchase acres of land that will
take all this will cost a fortune. When you realise we are just an NGO
with no subvention from anybody, you will realise that a library like
this should be located where land would be donated. The people of
Adeyipo were ready to donate land to us to establish the centre; the
serenity of the countryside is another factor.”
There is an
improvement at Adeyipo since I last visited three years ago. The
landscaping is better and there is an ongoing electrification project
Adebowale is excited about, because of what it portends for the centre.
He is also happy with the various sections — Ayan Agalu African
Talking Drum Museum, Research Library, Music of Africa Auditorium,
African Orchard, guest chalets, Labalaba Flower Garden and Community
Services Building— that comprise the centre.
Of all the
sections, only the writers’ enclave named in honour of Nobel Laureate,
Wole Soyinka is still under construction. The author of ‘The Virgin’
however has lofty dreams for the enclave. “What we will be doing in the
enclave is to give African writers some sort of residency programme
which will enable them do serious writing on all aspects of
literature.” A library that will stock the works of Nobel Laureates and
others will be part of the eight-room bungalow.
There are some
elderly people under the shade of the mango and almond trees in the
African Orchard as we approach. “The community people relax, drink
palm-wine, play, sing, dance and settle quarrels under the trees,”
Adebowale offers as we greet them. Behind the orchard is the Labalaba
Flower Garden, introduced to further enhance the aesthetics of the
Home for bibliophiles
library is a haven for bibliophiles; books and journals on different
disciplines line the shelves. Long essays, PhD theses, and masters’
dissertation from Nigerian universities are also available as are
autobiographies by Muhammed Ali, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere,
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Thomas Sankara and Nnamdi
Azikiwe, amongst others. “All together, we have over 100,000 volumes of
books in the library,” Adebowale reiterates.
The serial section
is no less riveting. There are old editions of ‘Spear’, ‘Drum’,
‘Flamingo’, ‘Prime People’, ‘TSM’, ‘Lady Love’, ‘Newswatch’ and
‘African Guardian’. There are also copies of ‘Ebony’, ‘New Yorker’,
‘Broad Street Journal’ and a strong collection of ‘Tell’. “Tell
Magazine gives us free subscription every week as a token to the
development of this library, they send bound copies of six months at
times,” Adebowale explains.
Home of music
The Music of Africa
Auditorium, named after highlife maestro, Victor Olaiya, contains long
and short playing records of yesteryears. A turntable sits on a shelf
while works of African musicians on the continent and in the Diaspora
are still being collected. “We are proposing to get a gramophone
player,” Adebowale informs as he shows me works by Dauda Epo Akara,
Odolaye Aremu, Tatalo Alamu, Ogundare Foyanmu and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Also represented are Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Nat King Cole and
James Brown. Magazines and newspapers on African music are part of the
mix. “They are there for a purpose. Students from colleges of music
come here to do research; polytechnic music department students come,
they spend days researching because they have abundant materials for
writing their long essays and term papers,” he offers.
There are also
works of late great musicians including Adeolu Akinsanya, Ayinde
Bakare, Orlando Owoh, Rex Jim Lawson, ET Mensah and Tunde Nightingale.
I sight two albums by Danny Wilson, works of Orlando Julius – he sent a
collection of his works to the centre recently – and Tunji Oyelana.
Adebowale says Oyelana was surprised to see his ‘Unlimited Liability
Company’, a collaboration between the musician and Wole Soyinka, at the
centre. Albums of Fuji musicians including Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and
Kollington Ayinla line a shelf in the auditorium. Almost all genres of
Yoruba music are in the hall; there are albums of the late I.K Dairo,
Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, Dele Abiodun, Suberu Oni, Kayode Fashola
and Prince Adekunle. There is also a sprinkling of apala and sakara
music of Yusuf Olatunji, S. Aka and Haruna Isola.
A collection of
different musical instruments including talking drums, agidigbo
(African thumb piano), and agogo – are neatly arranged in the Ayan
Agalu African Talking Drum Museum.
The founder admits
that preserving the structures and collections has been an issue. “We
fumigate to control termites from time to time but it’s an ongoing
battle. Termites did havoc when we had not started fumigating but now
that we have started, they are going.”
The distance of the
centre from Ibadan, the Director, Centre for Foundation Education,
Bells University, Ota, notes, does not stop people from coming. “We are
not left alone at all. This place is a beehive of activities at regular
intervals. Researchers come and spend weeks here. Even the community
people come to do research work.”
He also has no
worries over security. “There is a club of hunters around us, they keep
vigil in the night all over the villages and especially our centre.
There has never been an incident of pilfering or robbery since we
started. The people see the projects as theirs. They are always
protecting it, watching over it day and night.”
The author of
‘Village Harvest’ has no fears about the future of the centre after his
demise. “We have a board of advisors comprising eminent personalities
from all over the world running this centre. In case of any
eventuality, board members will be ready to take over. We are trying to
establish a Friend of the Library Club; we will include people from
different communities around the world who are already showing interest
in what we are doing and are willing to continue after we have gone.
Incidentally, the children are also showing interest, they want to
continue with the work the parents are doing.”
A tree does not
make a forest. AHRLC has benefitted from people’s generosity over the
years. Individuals, companies and institutions have lent helping hands
in the area of books acquisition and physical development.
“Institutions all over Europe, America, Asia, Pacific and the
Caribbean, donate books to this library. We also enter into exchange
programme with libraries all over the world,” Adebowale reveals. Other
benefactors of the centre include Mobil Unlimited, the American
Embassy, the late philanthropist, Nathaniel Olabiyi Idowu, the lawyer
Afe Babalola and banks. Though the Oyo State Governor, Adebayo
Alao-Akala promised in 2007 to rehabilitate the six kilometre road from
Olorunda to Adeyipo and sink a borehole, AHRLC is still waiting.
“They couldn’t get the palm wine I promised but our pounded yam is
waiting. Let’s eat before we return to Ibadan,” Adebowale says as we
end the tour. I oblige.