By Yinka Olatunbosun
One of Nigeria’s post-independence literary giants and journalists, Prof John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo popularly known as JP Clark is dead.
The late poet and playwright died earlier Tuesday at the age of 85.
His death was disclosed in an official statement jointly signed by Prof C.C Clark and Mr Ilaye Clark on behalf of the family.
The Emeritus Professor of Literature who hailed from Kiagbodo Town, Delta State is famous for many poetry collections and plays including “Song of A Goat.” Clark completed his secondary school education at the Government College, Ughelli before proceeding to the University of Ibadan to study English Language. He was a member of the Mbari Club, a hub for intellectuals and socially-committed writers such as Prof Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, Chinua Achebe and a host of others.
After his graduation at the University of Ibadan in 1960, he worked as an information officer in the Ministry of Information, in the old Western Region of Nigeria, as features editor of the Daily Express. Much later he became a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan and served for several years as a Professor of English at the University of Lagos, retiring in 1980. While at the University of Lagos, he was co-editor of the literary magazine Black Orpheus, a Nigerian-based literary journal founded in 1957 by German expatriate editor, scholar and founder of Mbari Club, Ulli Beier. The magazine was essentially created to rouse artistic consciousness for Anglo-phone and Franco-phone writers.
As a post-colonial writer, Clark’s works were steeped in themes of violence and protest, institutional corruption, European colonialism and other forms of inhumanity. Clark wove these themes around indigenous African imagery and as well as Western literary tradition.
His poetry works include Casualties: Poems 1966–68 , A Decade of Tongues, State of the Union (1981), Mandela and Other Poems (1988). His plays include the sequels to Song of a Goat namely The Masquerade (1964) and The Raft (1964) which constitute a trilogy. Others are Ozidi (1966) and The Boat (1981).