EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY (11 ‘FUNtastic’ Things to do in Badagry)

The folks at @TravelNextdoor have announced the next excursion to the historic town of Badagr; it comes up on Saturday 9th August 2014. To book a seat on the tour bus, or to get more details on the excursion, email travelnextdoor@yahoo.com or call 0807 0999 670.

@TravelNextDoor have been taking tourists–Nigerians and foreighners–on regular excursions to the town famous for its history of slave trading since 2010 and they have built quite a reputation for that over the last few years. We thought to share some highlights of what it means to be part of that 12 hours (8am-8pm) spent outdoors, enjoying the very best of #nature, #culture and #history that Nigeria has to offer.

NB: click on the photos to view a larger version of the photos

1. Take a boat cruise on the Badagry lagoon

1. Take a boat cruise on the Badagry lagoon

2. Take a splash in the ocean waters

2. Take a splash in the ocean waters

3. Relax (or read) at the beachside

3. Relax (or read) at the beachside

4. Take a leisurely stroll on the beach sands

4. Take a leisurely stroll on the beach sands

5. Network--make new friends

5. Network–make new friends

6. Preserve the memories--take lots of photos

6. Preserve the memories–take lots of photos

7. Taste the local delicacies

7. Taste the local delicacies

8. Enjoy the best of nature

8. Enjoy the best of nature

9. Visit Heritage sites (palaces, museums, etc)

9. Visit Heritage sites (palaces, museums, etc)

10. Learn something new about Nigeria and its rich history

10. Learn something new about Nigeria and its rich history

11. Take a second cruise on the lagoon

11. Take a second cruise on the lagoon

 
PS: Picture credits: Oluwakemi Ojo, Dr Raphael James, Adededi Olalekan (@stylomedia), @TravelNextDoor

The Preacher-Man Died (Review of Wole Soyinka’s ‘Camwood on the Leaves’)

"Camwood on the Leaves"--the set

“Camwood on the Leaves”–the set

"Camwood on the Leaves"--The Cast

“Camwood on the Leaves”–The Cast

 

Camwood on the Leaves, a radio play by Prof. Wole Soyinka adapted for the stage by Kenneth Uphopho‘s Performing Arts Workshop & Studios to mark the playwright’s 80th birthday, has a slim cast of six but it packs a punch—there is no dull moment, from the first scene to the last. In fact, Camwood is one of the few plays I have seen where the audience is so fully absorbed in the unfolding drama that they are keen to see what happens next.

Here’s the story: Ishola, the 16-year-old son of a hunter-turned-preacher, has got Morounke, the 15-year-old-daughter of a wealthy and influential chief in the community, pregnant. Both families are shocked and upset by the news and the young man is the butt of every form of attack conceivable, verbal and physical. He is the outcast in a society that thinks little of what children think or feel, or what they choose to do with their lives without their parents’ consent, especially when they yield to “immoral temptations”.

For one, the Reverend couldn’t stand the fact that his oldest son has chosen to join the masquerade society and roam the street “with pagans” in the day and when they offer “bestial sacrifices” in the dead of night, when he should be more active in church and attend Sunday school dutifully—like children his age are expected to do.

“Ishola has brought nothing but shame and disgrace to this family,” the father says to his wife, Moji, during one of his many fits of anger. In one scene,, in between kicks and punches, he looks Ishola in the face and tells him: “You are a child of sorrow, you are completely lost. You have sold your heart to the devil.”

Morounke’s parents were unrelenting in their own attacks on the Reverend’s household, invading his home at will and threatening fire and brimstone while he meditated in the church.

“He has led my daughter astray,” Ngozi, Morounke’s mother, wails.

“No one bears any love for him in this town,” a visibly angry Chief Olumorin declares, justify his decision to send touts after Ishola, who has by then fled from home to seek refuge in a hideaway in the forest.

Mother and Child--Ishola and Moji

Mother and Child–Ishola and Moji

Embittered--Morounke and parents, Chief and Mrs Olumonrin

Embittered–Morounke and parents, Chief and Mrs Olumonrin

In the turmoil both families have been thrown into, it is Moji who stands as the voice of defiance and reason. She is a mother’s mother through and through, a mother every child wants on their side when the world is against them. Ishola is cursed throughout this play but he soon develops a thick skin to the countless abuses that comes his way; and not strangely, Moji is the one who wears the grief on her sleeve. She sheds all the tears that should come from Ishola’s eyes. When Reverend loses his cool, which happens often, it is Moji who tries to calm him down; when the Olumorins rant and rave, it is Moji who stands up to them, sometimes appealing to their sense of understanding—to no avail.

“My son does not deserve curses—only correction,” she cries at one point.

“We must rescue him. We can’t drive him out in shame,” she says at another.

 

Adolescent Lovers--Morounke and Ishola

Adolescent Lovers–Morounke and Ishola

Fathers at War--Reverend and Chief Olumonrin

Fathers at War–Reverend and Chief Olumonrin

Though Ishola impregnates Morounke and turns his back on Christianity to embrace traditional worship,  his own way of asserting coming of age, Moji sees her son’s actions as an innocent slip, a failing anyone is prone to, though she never fails to talk sense to the heady boy when she gets an opportunity. “If you could model yourself on him (Reverend), others will follow your footsteps,” she tells him in the sitting room one day when the Reverend is away.

Ishola, now past caring what becomes of his parents, is unrepentant. He has joined the Masquerades’ ‘choir’ and there is no going back. “Why don’t you raise your hand and kill me? Why break me in pieces?” a crestfallen Moji is heard saying.

While both families are at each other’s neck over the unexpected pregnancy, the young lovers couldn’t care less if the heat consumed their parents; now cohabiting in their own little nest in the forest, they both hold fast to their mutual affection. And evidently content in their own little universe, they go snail hunting at dusk, chattering happily and content just hearing each other’s voice.

Throughout the play, the actors take us from one peak experience to another—right to the very end. As often happens when humans are deaf to reason, the worst happens. When all has been said and (un)done, what series of dialogues and fighting couldn’t settle a bullet did. Reviewed by Pelu Awofeso (@PeluAwofeso)

The Stallion--Moji

The Stallion–Moji

Wole Soyinka (at 80): The Colourful, Outstanding Moments in Abeokuta

It all began with the 80 kids (finalists of the #WS80 National Essay Competition) dressed in the bright colours of their respective ethnic groups, all seated inside the June 12 Cultural Centre in Kuto, Abeokuta. A moment later, singer Edaoto Agbeniyi’s walked in decked in a rich green ankara print buba-and-sokoto (and a very black guitar case hanging on his back); then there was that unforgetable flash of a smile from #WS80 producer, Lilian Amah-Aluko shortly afterwards.

It seemed like someone opened the floodgates of the rainbow as every single activity of the Nobel laureate’s birthday celebration onwards shifted into higher gear, including the palmwine reception and the trip to the awe-inspiring open-air amphitheater inside the ‘Ijegba’ Forest, where the play “Dance of the Forests” was to be performed.

Here are a selection of our most outstanding moments from Abeokuta as the world celebrated an African Icon. By Pelu Awofeso

 

Nigerian kids dressed in local traditional costumes

Nigerian kids dressed in local traditional costumes

Celebrant and Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka inspects the set of "Dance of the Forests"

Celebrant and Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka inspects the set of “Dance of the Forests”

A guest at the #WS80 event is all smiles just before the palmwine-laden reception

A guest at the #WS80 event is all smiles just before the palmwine-laden reception

Journalist and spoken word poet Akeem Lasisi performs a love medley titled 'Udeme' to a rousing applause

Journalist and spoken word poet Akeem Lasisi performs a love medley titled ‘Udeme’ to a rousing applause

Jamaican dub-poetry grand-master Mutabaruka is looking all regal with actress and #WS80 producer Lilian Amah-Aluko

Jamaican dub-poetry grand-master Mutabaruka is looking all regal with actress and #WS80 producer Lilian Amah-Aluko

Ogun State Commissioner for Culture & Tourism, Mrs Yewande Amusan, pours Yeni Kuti (Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's first daughter, a serving of palmwine

Ogun State Commissioner for Culture & Tourism, Mrs Yewande Amusan, pours Yeni Kuti (Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s first daughter, a serving of palmwine

PR maestro Steve Babaeko and professional photographer wife, Yetunde at the palmwine reception for #WS80

PR maestro Steve Babaeko and professional photographer wife, Yetunde at the palmwine reception for #WS80

For as long as anyone will remember #WS80 celebrations in Abeokuta, there will always be reference made to the spooky evening trek through the 'Ijegba' forest and the haunting yet pleasant 80 old women at the 'gates'

For as long as anyone will remember #WS80 celebrations in Abeokuta, there will always be reference made to the spooky evening trek through the ‘Ijegba’ forest and the haunting yet pleasant 80 old women (all dressed in white wrappers and headgear) at the ‘gates’

old women at the gates

old women at the gates

folklore musician, Edaoto Agbeniyi

folklore musician, Edaoto Agbeniyi

 

Wole Soyinka (at 80): An Evening of Spoken Word Performances

KONGI’S NIGHT OF POETRY: On the evening of the day (July 13) Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka turned 80, a stellar cast of young spoken word poets/ artistes from Nigeria (and from the US and Jamaica) took the stage in Abeokuta to voice their thoughts, feelings and emotions to an appreciative audience. These are some of the performers who stole our hearts–and those of many in the audience.Subjects included a broad spectrum of human emotions: #faith #religion #chibok #sex #corruption #love #justice

#racism #prostitution#God #determination.

Needless to say that we had enough lyrical imagery to last us a lifetime. “This has been a great night, an electrifying night,” says Professor Niyi Osundare (Uni. of New Orleans), who is a leading figure in poetry circles globally. By Pelu Awofeso

Edaoto Agbeniyi performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Edaoto Agbeniyi performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Efe Paul Azino performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Efe Paul Azino performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Jumoke Verissimo performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Jumoke Verissimo performing in Abeokuta for WS80

AJ Dagga Tolla performing in Abeokuta for WS80

AJ Dagga Tolla performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Akeem Lasisi performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Akeem Lasisi performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Titilope Sonuga performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Titilope Sonuga performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Dolapo performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Dolapo performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Iquo DianaAbasi Eke performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Iquo DianaAbasi Eke performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Jamaican born Mutabaruka performing in Abeokuta for WS80

Jamaican born Mutabaruka performing in Abeokuta for WS80

A performer in Abeokuta for WS80

A performer in Abeokuta for WS80

 

 

Wole Soyinka: Artistic Impressions

 

Soyinka Acrylic on canvas

Soyinka Acrylic on canvas

Soyinka (Chalk and Charcoal)

Soyinka (Chalk and Charcoal)

Soyinka (Melting Pot)

Soyinka (Melting Pot)

Soyinka (Seed Collage)

Soyinka (Seed Collage)

The days’ long celebration of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka’s 80th birthday has kicked of in Nigeria (and around the world) at the University of Lagos with an International Conference. Themed “The Soyinka Impulse: Art, Humanity, Transitions and Performance”, Harvard Professor Biodun Jeyifo gave the keynote speech while renowned Soyinka scholar and literary “stalker” Professor James Gibbs talked at length about the staggering oeuvres–with special emphasis on his less well known radio plays dating back half a century ago–of the man also affectionately called “Kongi”.

The day ended with a special spoken word performance by Jamaican born Mutabaruka, American Jayvon Johnson and a host of their Nigerian counterparts, including Sage Hassan, Efe Paul Azino, Dagga Tola and Titilope Sonuga. Subjects treated were as diverse an they they were awesomely rendered: racism, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, a ‘black ‘Adam and his ‘White’ Eve; bleaching, poverty, leadership, justice, fashion, rape, money, politics, infidelity, child marriage, music and–yes, you guessed right–love.

On the sidelines of the Wole Soyinka  celebrations, taking place in both Lagos and Abeokuta, the celebrant’s ancestral home, is a month-long exhibition in his honour. It’s hosted at the J.P Clarke Centre, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos. It is a room full of images of Wole Soyinka as created by various artistes using various media–from Acrylic to Clay to Pencil.

Report by Pelu Awofeso (@PeluAwofeso)

Wole Soyinka: The Man, the Myth and the Melodrama

By Pelu Awofeso (@PeluAwofeso)

 

Soyinka (and future Soyinkas)

Soyinka (and future Soyinkas)

 

 

Deifying Soyinka

In January [2004] admirers of Wole Soyinka in Nigeria got together to talk, perform short sketches and clink calabashes to mark his birthday. But the dramatist, poet and teacher won’t turn seventy until July 13. What could the point be in the advance gathering? “It’s not really trying to do anything unusual,” explains Femi Osofisan, 58, Professor of Drama and Chief Executive of the National Theatre, “It’s just that all over the world different events were being arranged to mark the man’s birthday. And my fear was if we waited till July it will then look like we got the idea from Europe or things like that.”

In that get-together Pedro Obaseki, a third-generation director, sees something: “The deification process has just begun,” he says. There has been at least a gathering like that here and there almost every month since then: The Dance Guild of Nigeria, the G15 (a group of writers, painters and photographers), the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) and the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) have separately held sessions and lectures to praise Soyinka’s literary gifts and influences.

But the celebrant has not been present at any of these shows. Earlier this year Soyinka explained on a State-owned television that as much as he would love to be back in Nigeria for good and go everywhere he is invited, he presently cannot. According to him, he’s committed himself to mostly overseas projects—lectures among them, and nearly all fixed well in advance— that could keep him regularly outbound and airborne for many months to come.

“In a sense he has returned,” says Osofisan. “I mean he is here quite often. I don’t personally believe it can be better than that. He is an itinerant spirit—he loves traveling.” What was never made public however is the fact that Soyinka discouraged any form of merriment in his name. “He said that he is very much grieved by the present state of the country and doesn’t feel this is a good moment to celebrate,” a close associate said.

This explains why in May Soyinka was, along with other notable Nigerian activists, (like the lawyers Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana and Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti) in the front row of a civil protest in Lagos demanding, among other things, that the federal government convene a Sovereign National Conference. He was visibly the only 70-year-old, intellectual or otherwise, in the country to participate in such a ‘struggle’. The police, alerted and armed, dispersed the march with tear gases and the prominent protesters were ‘whisked to an unknown destination’ and let go ‘an hour later’.

That bit of ‘breaking news’—first on the television and on the cover pages the next morning—shocked some of his younger friends. The question: why does the septuagenarian put himself at such risk? Individuals of his generation have certainly tended to ‘take things easy’, preferring to just cuddle their grandchildren and play draughts on the corridors.  “I am against any government which permits, under the guise of an emergency, the persecution of innocent men,” he states in his evocative prison memoirs “The Man Died”.

 

Soyinka chatting with a younger generation of writers (at LABAF 2013)

Soyinka chatting with a younger generation of writers (at LABAF 2013)

Global Citizen

By March—just as Osofisan and Co. had imagined—the international tributes got underway. In April the University of Leeds, where Soyinka graduated with an honours degree in drama in 1957, announced a Professorial Chair in Drama and Theatre Studies in his name.

Plans are underway in all corners of the globe to stage a couple of his plays. Six or more books will be published in the spirit of the toasts in July: a biography, another collection of the author’s essays, and an autobiography amongst these. “The Durable Bard”—a collection of submissions by writers and theatre persons on and about the Laureate and his writings— is to be published by the group G15. Details of the rest remain imprecise. There’s also to be a dedicated website from the committee coordinating activities for the D-day.

So is all of this one jollity too many? For a man who has been a darling of the local media for four decades and has also impressed millions worldwide it never is; on another level, though, it could be. Within the past year alone a couple of Soyinka’s other venerated writer-contemporaries who turned seventy—J.P. (lately Bekederemo) Clarke, Elechi Amadi, to mention two of them—were honored but not so profusely. Could the unique treatment Soyinka has enjoyed be in the Laureateship, which no other Nigerian writer has been awarded? Could the reason be in his forthright commentaries? Both?

“Whether or not he was offered the Nobel Laureate is secondary,” Professor Dapo Adelugba of the Faculty of Arts in University of Ibadan says, “because in fact whatever he has achieved is worth the Nobel Laureate times a hundred. Let’s not forget that he was a world authority before the prize.

“I would rather put it to the personality of the person we are celebrating. Soyinka has always been very active with the communities that make up Nigeria and maybe has a wider sphere of influence, and those who are trying to celebrate his seventieth birthday in their own ways are doing it almost spontaneously. People just do it because, I think, they believe they want to identify with such a sociable and social man.

“Whatever we are doing cannot be said to be excessive or extraordinary. You can put it again to the fact that he is a committed writer. He is engaged at several levels—at the level of his caring for the ordinary man. Soyinka is willing to fight injustice to the last; in that sense, he is not only a writer but also an active social man. I think it is this commitment to the best human values that marks Soyinka out.”

 

Big Masquerade: Wole Soyinka

Big Masquerade: Wole Soyinka

Built by the book

 In many ways Wole the boy is Wole the old boy: inquisitive, go getting, verbal combatant and independent.  His second autobiography “Ake” presents him as a smart and very observant kid in 1930/40s Egba locale of Ake. Son to a headmaster and trader mom, he grew up in a parsonage with a family that wholeheartedly welcomed and housed all shades of visitors—including youngsters—nearly all of whom made impressions on him. He was drawn to books and the classroom when he was barely three, and regularly to the privacy of a rock and a guava tree near home.

At the Government College Ibadan, where his literary and theatrical talents found early expression, he had the reputation of ‘a good storyteller’; his classmates liked him, too. He wrote regularly for the school and his House’ magazines and sketched occasional drama pieces for the school’s Saturday Evening entertainment. Of Soyinka’s earliest writings Adelugba says, “There was an obvious mastery of the craft which improved with the years.”  At Leeds Soyinka became well known with the short stories he wrote—“A Tale of Two Cities” and “Madam Etienne’s Establishment”. And his volume of plays, according to Adelugba, “is highly respectable; each work is almost like a landmark in world dramatic literature”.

Yet not a few have described the ‘texture’ of most of Soyinka’s writings as ‘difficult’, especially the recent generation of students who have, sadly, to cope with an extremely flawed syllabus. “It’s not that he’s particularly difficult, but that his readers are perhaps less knowledgeable than they should be,” suggests Adelugba, who as president of the university’s Dramatic Society in the 1960s, directed Soyinka’s “Trials of Brother Jero” (virgin script).

“I think one has to bear in mind that Professor Soyinka went to school at a time when reading was a joy for the privileged students at the good secondary schools. He read virtually every scrap in the school library and he started early to develop in his literary taste and knowledge, so he had a command of English that you can compare to the command of English by the native speaker. He is one of the accomplished users of the language and therefore words that will come naturally to him might need a lot of dictionary work by present-generation pupils.”

Master of his craft

Granted plays like “The Road”, “A Dance of the Forest” and “Madmen and Specialists” are not that easy to figure out, “Death and the King’s Horseman”, “The Lion and the Jewel”, “Trials of Brother Jero”, “The Swamp Dwellers”, “Before the Blackout” and “The Strong Breed” are classed as ‘simple enough’. But how easy can they be realized on the stage? “Soyinka is an intensely dramatic poet in the sense that when you read the plays you don’t get their full meaning until they are staged,” offers Osofisan, who has himself written some 50 plays. “You really have to read him as if you were seeing the action on stage. Where they are difficult, put them on stage and most of the difficulties disappear.”

Some descriptions in “Ake” are simple and hilarious, however: “That same night, when the whole house was asleep and Wild Christian [his mother] was shaking the roof with her snores, I tip-toed into the pantry, filled my mouth with powdered milk. In another second I was back on the mat. In the dark, I let the powder melt, dissolve slowly and slide down the back of my throat in small doses. In the morning I felt no pain whatsoever from the pounding of the previous evening.”

“The Man Died” accounted for the two years plus Soyinka was locked away in solitary confinement— first in Lagos and later up north in Kaduna— In 1967 (weeks after the Nigerian civil war started), aged 33. Here the ‘English specialist’ acts the sleuth: “The cells as I came past them seemed peopled by corpses, propped against the walls.” Then, dispirited inmates he sized up “grew accustomed to sleeping where they sat, in a foetus crouch”.

In between the lines, it comes clear that Soyinka has an uncommon wit to outsmart his jailors’ intelligence, foil subterfuge and, once, a possible elimination. At a point in the revelation in “Ake” he writes: “I watched, I waited and schemed…A prisoner knows at once just who will aid him and who will not.” Little wonder then that he could pick out a dependable network of ‘spies’ and couriers to help him reach the world beyond the bars. Part poetic, part rumination and analysis, the descriptions of inmates’ torture are achingly vivid. His efforts to stay sane are grueling reading.

Most of Soyinka’s verses also carry the ‘difficult’ emblem. “Idanre” and “Ogun Abibiman” are prime examples. And one critique claims that his poetry “leaps into the unknown, the unfathomable, and the mystical”.  Amazing then that lots of other readers have been inspired to pen masterpieces by the same body of work, remarkable examples being Ben Okri (1991 Booker Prize Winner) and Niyi Osundare (a past winner of both the NOMA Award and the Commonwealth Poetry competition), a Professor of English and lecturer at the University of Ibadan. Both are Nigerians.

 

Wole Soyinka & I (at LABAF 2013). Photo by Taiwo Olusola Johnson

Wole Soyinka & I (at LABAF 2013). Photo by Taiwo Olusola Johnson

Like Soyinka, like Shakespeare

Osundare was the one to tell an international audience a few years back that “Soyinka is to African Literature what Nelson Mandela is to African politics”. He delivered the main lecture at the Committee for Relevant Art’s programme last June, and his brief was to contrast the septuagenarian’s writings with those of the present tribe of writers.

“Soyinka is a lucky man,” he says minutes into the two-hour talk. “Timing was on his side.  He inherited a virgin country that was just making the transition from a predominantly oral culture to a literate culture, and more importantly he inherited the right talents—an unending panoply of acolytes.”

Which was just as well.

So far, everything worth the event has been done to keep July 13 2004 in the minds of many for many years to come. But will Wole Soyinka’s literary and other remarkable legacies be on people’s lips four centuries from now—like William Shakespeare’s to whom he has repeatedly been compared (in Initials—WS—and in accomplishment)? Will posterity of that age see the writer’s birthplace and the landmarks he traversed in his lifetime? What will become of the Grier and Field Houses of the old GCI? The Tedder Hall and Soyinka’s office at the University of Ibadan? His manuscripts? The family House and street named after him at Isara, his ancestral home? That cell in Kaduna? The Samarkand Tree and Arena at the National Theatre? His home in Abeokuta? Culture and literary tourists would love to know.

Says Osofisan: “I think something will have to be worked out.”

 

PS: Article first published in Africa Today (July 2004)

“Flakes are not for Black Men” (a review of ‘Eko Dialogue’)

By Pelu Awofeso (@PeluAwofeso)

Eko Dialogue—a novella written by Joy Isi Bewaji in 2008 and adapted for the stage by Crown Troupe of Africa in 2014—is so enjoyable I have seen it two out of two times it has been performed. It is a Lagos story that trumps all other Lagos stories, a fast-paced telling (and showing) of the peculiar lifestyle and social dynamics that are a daily reality in Nigeria’s commercial and artistic capital.

When I first see the play, I walk into the venue (Forks & Fingers, Ikeja) at the point near the beginning when the actors are rehashing an encounter in a Danfo or Molue: a passenger is demanding for his change and the conductor doesn’t have it; both men blow hot and cold and before too long the situation turns violent, leaving the passenger, decently dressed and obviously headed to an office, roughened up and cursing angrily. It is a scene most Lagosians can relate with and the audience laughed.

The play then follows up with one familiar scenario after the other, depicting the stories of stressed up residents who wake up at 4am, “stumble into semi-darkness and leap into anarchy like everyone else” on the way to work; of smart street traders skilled at sweet talking customers for a good bargain; of unemployed youths desperate to fill any job opening, even if it’s the lowly position of a clerk; of carefree motorcyclists driving wildly and a good measure of gossip.

The Lagos of Eko Dialogue is a Lagos of lavish parties thrown by the ‘big’ boys and girls who have hit it big; a Lagos of trendy residents who stretch their earning and rack up debts in the thousands of Naira on designer dresses just to look “up-to-the-minute”; and a Lagos of stressed up couples who vent at the slightest opportunity.

One of the most evocative scenes of the play shows the strain that living in a busy city like Lagos can bring on residents and how the typical nuclear family struggles to keep up with the day-to-day challenges.

“I woke up with a sore back,” one wife cries, describing her daily routine and lamenting about having “a thousand things to do before dawn”.

Soon we hear a man reminiscing a time in the past when things were a lot rosier with his bride. “I remember she was once beautiful—she was like an expensive fur wrapped around the body in winter,” he says of his wife and ruing the sad effects of child bearing. “Marriage kills the body of a woman and the wits of a man.”

Yet another Lagos husband has a different kind of pain to share: his wife serves him cereals for breakfast more than she does other meals he considers breakfast-worthy. “Flakes are not for black men—or any man for that matter,” he groans.

And then there is the frustration of another irritated wife: “Are we going to be able to revive our boring sex life? Get down low, be a man!”

In-between scenes, Eko Dialogue is laced with music and dance carried through with raw, riveting singing. Some of that singing and dancing plays out in a church scene, where a pastor cajoles his captive audience to give their offering, because, according to him, “special seeds stands for special promotion, blessings, and recognition form God”. With the sweet talking come sweet sounding prophecies and a long spell of speaking in tongues.

In a Q & A Session that follows the play’s first outing, Joy Isi Bewaji says the stories which make up Eko Dialogue were inspired by some actual situations, some of them she saw while on her daily commute some years back and while stuck in Lagos traffic. “They are things we all see all the time,” she says.

After the second showing ( at Freedom Park), which was timed to coincide with Crown Troupe’s 18th anniversary, the play’s director Joy Okrah tells me it took her two weeks to adapt the novella for the stage. “I studied the dialogue in the book and we thought it best to give them more life,” she says. “We let two or three people present the dialogues visually.”

One particular instance of that approach is realized in the part of the novella where the author talks about a long “wedding list”, which among other things includes: one live pigeon, an Elephant trunk, scoop of sand from the bank of River Mississippi, a Hummer Jeep, N5,000 worth of airtime and a N20 bride price.

“Everyone knows that people from the Eastern part of Nigeria are known for their exceptionally expensive bride price,” Okrah says. “We decided to create an introduction ceremony between an Ibo bride and a Yoruba groom and incorporate the wedding list in the novella in the scene.”

The scene itself presents one of the most unforgettable lines of the play. After the groom and his shell-shocked family depart on account of the “outrageous” list, the heartbroken bride is seen weeping. Unmoved, the father has a word of encouragement for his 36-year-old daughter: “With good luck you will get a good husband.”

Crown Troupe of Africa was founded by contemporary dancer Segun Adefila in 1996 and specializes in total theatre. One of the few existing drama groups in Nigeria, the group is in high demand at various literary, diplomatic and government functions within and outside Nigeria.

To see Eko Dialogue is to see Lagos in all its chaos and absurdities as well as its energy and charm. It is part comedy and part social commentary, and what I find even more dramatically appealing is that eight out of ten Lagosians are likely to see themselves in any of the many characters in the play.

The Engagement that never was (Scene from 'Eko Dialogue')

The Engagement that never was (Scene from ‘Eko Dialogue’)

Another scene from 'Eko Dialogue'

Another scene from ‘Eko Dialogue’

Segun Adefila watches 'Eko Dialogue' as performed by his Crown Troupe of Africa @ Freedom Park, Lagos

Segun Adefila watches ‘Eko Dialogue’ as performed by his Crown Troupe of Africa @ Freedom Park, Lagos

The early morning bus ride (scene from 'Eko Dialogue')--pix courtesy Taiwo Olusola Johnson

The early morning bus ride (scene from ‘Eko Dialogue’)–pix courtesy Taiwo Olusola Johnson

Vitiligo Fashion: Vogo Designs relaunches in Lagos

Recently (on June 14 to be specific), team waka-about covered the re-launch of a Nigerian-owned fashion label called Vogo Designs. Vogo Designs specialises in casual dresses and bags cut and sewn from local Nigerian fabrics and is the brain child of Ogo Maduewesi, founder of the not-for-profit organisation VITSAF (Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation) and a prominent voice the the global campaign for the rights of vitiligo sufferers.

The re-launch of Vogo Designs was one element of a two-in-one event: June 14 happens to be Maduewesi’s birthday, so it was a day of dancing for the celebrant who, as expected, showed up dressed in one of her designs.

An even more remarkable activity was that the the new collections were modelled exclusively by individuals who have vitiligo in various degrees and the star of the evening was Ghanaian born Enam Heikeens. When they eventually got on the runway, the guests were ecstatic and the mood in the room brightened up several notches.

Below is a selection of images from the day’s modelling sessions. Story by Pelu Awofeso

 

 

Vogo Design's Ogo Maduewesi

Vogo Design’s Ogo Maduewesi

Ogo Maduewesi and the models for Vogo Designs

Ogo Maduewesi and the models for Vogo Designs

Ogo Maduewesi, Vitiligo Models and the Runway

Ogo Maduewesi, Vitiligo Models and the Runway

A collection of the dresses from Vogo Designs

A collection of the dresses from Vogo Designs

Handbag by Vogo Designs

Handbag by Vogo Designs

 

Image

Femi Kuti Turns 52

Femi Kuti Turns 52

Femi Kuti, son of the late Afrobeat creator, Fela Kuti, turns 52 today, June 16. Waka-about was at the New Afrika Shrine in Ikeja (Lagos) on the eve of his birthday to watch the multiple grammy award nominee perform at his weekly “Sunday Jump”. It was, as usual an evening of ‘yabis’, singing, dancing and gyrating. Plus the usual Shrine regulars.

Happy birthday, Femi. We look forward to seeing you thrill the crowd at “Felabration” in October.

Photo Story: On the road with Team “Invisible Borders”

Here are a selection of photos taken by members of the Invisible Borders.

 

Beautiful Obstacle | en route Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | Emeka Oker Dreams _ Douala, Cameroon _ Lilian Novo Isioro _ IB 2012#8FCE Emmanuel, Emeka and Jide. Ekok Road - Cameroun by Mario Macilau,

The Invisible Borders Trans-African Road Trip is a
project which annual ly assembles up to 10 African
artists – photographers, wri ters, filmmakers and art
historians – from different countries in Africa to
embark on a road trip across the African continent with
aims to animate the discourse around borders and
Trans-African exchange.

During the road trip artists explore and participate in
photographic events, festivals and exhibitions while
engaging on a dai ly basis with the environment and the
people encountered. The emphasis is primari ly on the
col lective journey of the participating artists who,
during their momentary stops in major cities, create
works, which are reflections of those encounters and
exchanges.

In 2014, the Invisible Borders Trans-African
Photographers Organisat ion wi l l embark on the 5th
edition of their Road Trip Project. This trip wi l l be
the col lective’s f irst trans-continental road trip and
wil l be from Lagos (Nigeria) to Sarajevo (Bosnia and
Herzegovina) .

The road trip wi l l assemble artists from diverse parts
of the African continent whose previous works are
wel l rooted in the real ity of the African continent. It
wil l be made up of photographers, writers, video
artists, art historians and performance artists. There
wil l be 14 participants and crew at every point in
t ime. The journey wi l l last for 151 days, from 2nd of
June – 31s t of October 2014. They wi l l make stops
lasting 2 to 7 days.

The road trip project is an attempt to draw a
tangible l ine of connect ion across chosen geographic
locations in order to transcend the limi tations
proposed by the existing demarcating l ines. The
purpose of this trip is to emphasize the irresistibil ity
of human movement as a phenomenon and raise
pertinent questions.

Following Priest | Minkok, Cameroun | Ray Daniels Okeugo | IB 20 Fore...1, Jos-Plateau, Nigeria, Ray Daniels Okeugo, IB 2011

For more on the road trip, you may log on to: http://www.invisible-borders.com/blog

 

Such a City _ Yaounde, Cameroon _ Lilian Novo Isioro _ IB 2012#9094