The National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) went all out as it put together a show in celebration of Africa’s first Nobel Winning Playwright, Wole Soyinka, at 77. The event tagged ‘WS77: Drama, Dance, Music, Comedy and More’ took place at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos on Friday July 15.
WS77 was one of several events put together by various arms of the arts community for Soyinka who turned 77 in July. The show was supported by multimedia company Zmirage, and was well attended as theatre practitioners and affiliates of the arts community, among others, turned out to celebrate the life and achievements of the professor and activist.
Among those in attendance were: Teju Kareem, MD of Zmirage; art patron Rasheed Gbadamosi; award-winning dancer Peter Badejo; actress Lara Akinsola and actor Dele Osawe, who both starred in the hit 80s TV series ‘The Village Headmaster’; and Shina Elegbede, Director, Lagos State Council of Arts and Culture.
Others included: producer and actress Lillian Aluko, Sola Awojobi of Fuji House of Commotion fame, Isioma Williams, Chair of the Lagos State Chapter of the Dance Guild of Nigeria (EkoGOND) and actors Yemi Solade, Hakeem Rahman and Tunde Alabo. Indigenous Music Association of Nigeria and Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) were represented at the event.
Performing and Theatre Companies including EkoGOND, Equity Theatre Arts Musicians (ETAM), Corporate Melodies Band, Ijodee Dance Group and solo act Muri Amulegboja, braved the malfunctioning instruments at the Cinema Hall 1 of the National Theatre to deliver brilliant performances.
Man and market
Chair of NANTAP Lagos, Mufu Onifade, gave the welcome address on behalf of the Association’s National President, Greg Odutayo. “We are celebrating Soyinka who is 77 years old. Professor Wole Soyinka is like a market with many roads reaching to him. You can reach him through poetry, drama, activism and even politics,” he said revealing also that the event was the first in a series intended to honour veterans of Nigerian theatre and television.
“Some of the projects that NANTAP has initiated is to take a cursory look at our veterans. They are our heroes,” said Onifade. He added that the idea is to look at theatre practitioners of 70 years and above; and the next in line is playwright Fred Agbeyegbe who incidentally wrote the play ‘Budiso’ from which an excerpt was performed at the show.
“We will also have Baba Sala in September and in February we will have Oba Gbenga Sonuga,” Onifade stated. WS77 was anchored by performing artist and film critic Shaibu Husseini, who enlivened the occasion with his repertoire of jokes.
Funkadelic Agidigbo Band and five-piece group ETAM, rendered cultural songs in Yoruba and English. IJODEE was next and Liadi thrilled the audience as his limber body dramatised to the guitar-playing of musician, Edaoto.
Fred Agbeyegbe’s ‘Budiso’ which left the audience hankering for more, was performed by members of NANTAP. The play is a satire, albeit a humorous one in which the lives of the citizenry is controlled by arbitrary and ridiculous decrees made by a ruler.
The energetic dance performance given by EkoGOND was thought-provoking and also very satirical as well as that by the Crown Troupe of Africa. Whether intentional or not, a lot of the renditions echo similar themes and seem to reinforce issues relating to the nation; issues of national interest that are dear to Soyinka’s heart and which his activism has constantly fought.
One of the highlights of the show was the presentation of a birthday card by an indigenous cum Hip-Hop duo, the Ipaye Twins. The card was specially designed by them and although they had never met the Nobel laureate in person, they acknowledged his impact in theatre and politics.
The card was received on behalf of Soyinka by the MD of Zmirage, who praised the performers for their renditions and pledged his continuing support for the arts.