Atelewo Cultural Initiative, a Yorùbá socio-cultural organisation, has held a first-of-its-kind virtual auction on Twitter for a novel written in Yorùbá in the late 1950s.
The group launched the auction campaign on Monday for a copy of the book “Agbàlọ́wọ́ọméèrìí Baálẹ̀ Jòntolo,” a Yorùbá classic written by the late Joseph Folahan Odunjo in 1958 and published by Longman.
Bidders began to name their prices at exactly 8:50 p.m. on Monday with the earliest bidder placing an order for the book for $1.
In all, the landmark book auction witnessed 11 bids, 9 participants and over 18,000 impressions on Twitter after it was concluded by 11.59 p.m. on Tuesday.
Ọlánrewájú OmíkúnléỌlá, a Nigerian based in Essex, London, (who tweeted under the handle @lanreee) won the auction with a bid of $55.
Co-founders of the organisation, Rasaq Malik and Ọ̀rẹ́dọlá Ibrahim, told this newspaper that the auction was launched as an experiment to gauge people’s interest in Yorùbá literature and general cultural heritage.
“This is no doubt the first ever Yorùbá book auction on Twitter and we are very happy that the auction succeeded,” Mr Ọ̀rẹ́dọlá said. “For us, it is really not about the money, but the fact that we can still see people who know the value of Yorùbá literature and are ready to put their money where their mouth is.”
“Agbàlọ́wọ́ọméèrìí Baálẹ̀ Jòntolo” by J.F Ọdúnjọ is a Yorùbá literature classic by all standard and the book teaches important lessons public corruption,” he added.
The co-founder further added that since ÀTẸ́LẸWỌ́ was founded in 2017, the group has set a goal to promote the Yorùbá language and culture, especially through literature.
“One of our founding objectives is to rekindle people’s interest in Yorùbá literature by organising readings, making Yorùbá literature available for purchase and publishing new voices in the Yorùbá language. And this is why we collect and preserve old Yorùbá books while also making these books available to people to buy for educational and entertainment purposes,” he said.
“Unfortunately, aside from the fact that many of us don’t care about the promotion of the Yoruba culture and language, there is also a greater concern as regards the waning presence of quality Yorùbá literature materials by newer authors.”
On his part, Mr Malik said the focus on literature was targeted at preserving literature materials by renowned authors which are getting out of print.
“Many have been burnt or being burnt by publishers with the excuse that no one is buying them. It is really a shame that the books you see on the shelf are mostly the ones being recommended for students,” Mr Malik said. “This is why we started our online Yorùbá literary blog at www.atelewo.org to encourage more young people into writing in their indigenous language.
“This is why we are starting an ebook platform dedicated to Yorùbá literature scheduled for launch later this month, this is why we launched the ATELEWO Prize for Yorùbá Literature late last year, and this is why we started Ògbóntarigì (currently being supported by the Goethe Institut) to celebrate and showcase old veteran Yorùbá authors amongst other programmes and activities.”
The virtual auction, which coincided with the 4th year anniversary of the organisation, had among others Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún, a Nigerian cultural activist and the founder of Yorubanames.com, and Dèjí Akọ́mọláfẹ́, a global evangelist and program manager at VMware, in participation.