Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation
The Foundation base location is Old Port Harcourt Town, in the building where the late father of Ken Wiwa, author and poet Ken Saro-Wiwa, wrote his oratory wisdom on life in the region. From here, the family ran the publishing enterprise, Saros International Publishers, which had a printing press at Saros Plaza, Aba Road to produce different publications for distribution. Saro-Wiwa's own first and fullest novel - Sozaboy - was an oraculor decompartmentalisation reflecting on decades of martial rule spanning republics and transcending generations:
"Ken Saro-Wiwa's first novel describes the fortunes of a young, naive recruit, Sozaboy, in a civil war. He escapes death, miraculously on occasion, and returns to his sacked village at the end of the war only to know that having been given up for dead, he is seen as a spectre come to add his despoliation to the ravages of cholera then decimating the populance. He also learns of the death of his mother and wife, the quest after whom provide part of the motif and structure of the narrative. Rejected by his village, he leaves on voluntary exile, bemoaning the horrors of war and realizing the futility of soldiering and war. The most significant point about the novel is the language of its narration, a language which is an artistic realization of the eponymous hero's dislocated consciousness and his new vision of himself."
- Professor Theo Vincent, University of Lagos
He shifted the paradigm of literature with his approach to syntax, which mirrored his approach to peaceful discussion on making society a more inclusive place.
"Sozaboy's language is what I call 'rotten English', a mixture of Nigerian pidgin English, broken English and occasional flashes of good, even idiomatic English. This language is disordered and disorderly. Born of a mediocre education and severely limited opportunties, it borrows words, patterns and images freely from the mother-tongue and finds expression in a very limited English vocabulary. To its speakers, it has the advantage of having no rules and no syntax. It thrives on lawlessness, and is part of the dislocated and discordant society in which Sozaboy must live, move and have not his being."
- Ken Saro-Wiwa, 1985
Like so many socio-cultural visionaries ahead of their time, Saro-Wiwa's ideas and writing caused controversy. His narrative was the counter-opposite of the state narrative peddled by the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. On this basis, the state conspired to end the movement by ending the life of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni men.
As the eldest son and heir apparent, Ken Jr. inherited his father's legacy. Self-admittedly he struggled to come to terms with, as he described it, "living in the shadow of a saint". Simultaneously the challenges of the wave of militancy that ravaged the city from 2004-2009 hampered the progress that could be made. The Centre was able to function intermittently as the finest cyber cafe in downtown Port Harcourt (incidentally, many of the current crop of innovative locals learnt how to use computers and were exposed to the possibilities here), but the Foundation could not provide the safety that attracting productive activity requires.
Over the past few years, Ken Jr returned to his ambition of a peaceful and productive Port Harcourt and committed fully to making the Centre at Aggrey Road a thriving space for the work to continue. Following Ken's untimely end, the family remains committed to launching the third iteration of the philosophy of creative development of the current and future economy.
We believe that through bridging the digital divide the Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation can support people in the Niger Delta to develop solutions to the social, political and economic challenges they face.
The digital revolution has the transformative potential to make society more prosperous, efficient and inclusive. It offers opportunities that were previously out of the reach of the poor and disadvantaged, such as access to information and social services.
Through housing and incubating innovation we aim to illustrate that intelligence, creativity, innovation and motivation are the most abundant natural resources in the Niger Delta.
What we do
With its entrepreneurial culture and spirit, the young people of the Niger Delta already have the outlook to meet the challenge. We believe we can harness this spirit by creating safe spaces to house, enable, facilitate, encourage and incubate the next generation of digital entrepreneurs, digital activists and social innovators in the region. All the funds of the Foundation go into maintaining the innovation hub so that it is in a fit state to house start-up companies. In addition to free office space and facilities, we support the resident companies to hold regular workshops, training sessions and hackathons - which are free for people to register and attend - so that the skills they are developing in the space can be shared with the wider tech community in Port Harcourt.