Wednesday, 20 March 2013

14th Tale, A revisit of Ellams’ past

-->By Omiko Awa

ACCORDING to Vanessa Williams Singer, a former United States of America beauty queen, “everybody wishes they can erase their mistakes. But that is not how life works.” For Inua Ellams those mistakes of the past, though multifarious, can be hilarious told for people to learn from them.
   This spoken word artist did just that when during the British Council organised Lagos Theatre Festival, which was held recently, he presented The 14th Tale.
 Embracing the finesse of language Ellams tells the story of a young Black boy growing up in three cultures across the globe.
   Opening with a man sitting on a single hard-backed chair, shirt and trouser stain with blood, he anxiously awaits someone, probably the receptionist, to tell him the true health condition of his father, whom he brought to the hospital.
  As he waits, sometime barking orders at the people and sometimes also taking instructions or apologising for his unruly behaviour, one expects to hear another horrific tale of a young Black man humiliated in London, but instead Ellams provides a complex tale of his family life, friendship, hate and love.
 The tale, a sequence of autobiographical sketches, takes him from the dusty roads in Nigeria to a London classroom, then to the streets of Dublin, racing back at intervals to a moment where he sits jumpily in a hospital reception, waiting to hear from the receptionist or any medics about his father.
   Ellams narrative is fleshed out by his agile shimmying across the stage, arousing fellow feeling and evoking mood. Recalling he is heritage in rhythmic poetry Ellams says, I come from a long line of troublemakers, of ash skinned Africans, born with clenched fist and a natural thirst for battle.” He reveals how his grandfather and father were infamous in their village for their troublesome tricks.
CLEARLY intent on upholding his birthright, he causes trouble wherever he goes and invariably gets caught.
  Though Ellams only makes a glance references to racism, emigration and displacement, these themes, however, form the backdrop to a narrative that focuses on his rebellion as a child and teenager with an irrepressible disruptiveness inherited from his father and grandfather.
     Regardless of how evoking and poignant the narrative seems, some of the pranks such as provoking the wrath of a ‘hurricane nun’ in Bible class, coating the bedclothes of a boarding school enemy with toothpaste are laughable, while the likes of urinating against the school wall setting thumb tracks on the way of his secondary school senior that bullied him or playing basketball with mates on the rooftop in Dublin seem relatively tame.
  On the whole, despite their geographical locations, the men of Ellams family have a common denominator — mischief.
   Produced by Fuel Theatre Company, but written and directed by Inua Ellams (himself), the monologue reveals a strong ties between Ellams and his father; a relationship that would have further given the audience a better understanding of him (Ellams’ father) and the tale had he been exposed.
  There is also a need for the tense moments to take us past the genuinely charming story teller and unveils the person telling his family story in a tee shirt and trouser stained with blood.
   With the lighting appropriately projecting the different locations and creating nostalgic feelings, Fela’s music at the background further brings to life that wistfulness to the listener, conjuring the restive traits common among the men in Ellams’ lineage.
   Also of note, is the venue, Casa Chianti Restaurant, which is too small and poorly ventilated to accommodate large number of people.  Aside from this, the stage is low with clustered chairs that make the audience to stretch their necks to catch a better view of the performance; besides it would have been a better space for musical performance.
   On the whole The 14th Tale showcases a story of a man grounded in his past, proud of his heritage and mixed cultural upbringing.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Dikko Chronicles in White Space


CARVINGS, furniture, fashion and other genres of the art met recently at the White Space, Raymond Njoku Street, Ikoyi, as Zebra Living opened its doors to the public for Dikko Chronicles and Mara Home exhibition.
   Ugoma Adegoke and Sandra Obiago
  The show, which attracted guests from different fields, saw the outfit’s retrospective capsule collection of classic vintage dresses in iconic bold African wax prints as well as colourful vintage laces and retro painterly textures.
  Aside from clothes, there was the installation of Mara home collections, which was mostly made of furniture and d├ęcor items.
  Marc -Andre Schmachtel and a guest
   Speaking at the show, Ugoma Adegoke, creative director, Zebra Living, said for half a decade she has recycled fabrics and notions from her fashion projects to create rustic, collectible accent furniture pieces that attract the following of art-loving, design-conscious and functional decorators and buyers.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

For motherland… South African tourism lures Nigeria



POOL Club, Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos, was last week filled up by operators of travel agencies, hotel and hospitality businesses. They were around to welcome members of the South African Tourism Board, who were in the country to introduce the various destinations in South Africa to Nigerians.
   The event, which served as avenue for stakeholders in the hospitality and travel and tour business to network, saw the tourism board officials show some of the clips on television to guests.
   The tourism team also attracted staff of the South African Consulate General, Lagos, led by Ambassador Mokgethi Sam Monaisa.
    Inviting Nigerians to the South African Republic for business and holidays, Monaisa said, “South Africa and Nigeria are the two giants in the African continent and it is befitting to bring the people together for business and to promote the general good of the continent.
   Apart from dining and wining, the event bereft the long speeches usually experienced at such gatherings, was spiced with generous doses of old and new skool music.     

The bridge… A dance of national unity

  By Omiko Awa

AS part of activities to mark Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary, National Troupe of Nigeria presented The Bridge, a musical dance drama recently at the National Theatre, Lagos.
  Written and choreographed by Arnold Udoka, The Bridge has peace and unity as theme.
  It opened with dances that cut across the major ethnic groups in the country, including Igala. The play centres on a bank manager, who, apart from unifying the various ethnic groups in the town where he was posted to serve, also helps to solve the different problems militating against the growth and development of the town, Tanfo, a town at the verge of collapse.
  When the industrious banker, the lead character, is promoted to the position of a manger, his people are full of praises for him and organises an elaborate party to celebrate the new position; but the joy soon wanes when they discover that their son is not only transferred to Tanfo, but will head the bank as manger as well. Not satisfied with their son going to the town, the banker’s kinsmen and community leaders of thought plead with him to turn down the offer on the grounds that there is high level of insecurity, civil strife, corruption, rancour and power struggle among the people of Tanfo. But he would not listen; not even his pregnant wife’s entreaties could make him change his mind.
  Dedicated to his duty, the young branch manger sets out for Tanfo. Just as his people feared, he meets Tanfo in anarchy and civil strife, which result in bloodletting. Worried about the situation, he resolves to settle the people’s differences thereby bringing a new order that ensures everybody is given equal opportunity to operate. While working under the new order, peace returns to the town and the inhabitants start to have a level ground to invest and move freely and the once dreaded community begins to experience some growth and development.
  Using Tanfo as a metaphor for Nigeria as a developing nation, the 45-man dance drama, through colorful costumes and dances that are both traditional and modern bring to the fore the positive and negative forces that usually contend for attention for the emergence of true nationhood and mutual coexistence of the various tribes. The dance drama showcases how negative elements such as ethnicity, civil strife and distrust usually draw a nation backwards. The Bridge highlights the importance of peace and unity as essential ingredients of nation building.
  In encapsulating the overall message of the play, Udoka said, “It is when we build bridges across boundaries, across gender, ethnicities, religions and states that we would have the understanding of people and the situation of things at the other side of the divide. What is happening is that within religions, politics and gender, there is so much strife, which is totally unnecessary.”
  First staged in July this year at the 7th edition of African First Ladies’ Peace Summit held in Abuja, Udoka said, he was inspired by the unity of the nation to write the play.
  “I was inspired by the need for the unity of the country to write the play, because I know the various federating states are capable of building bridges to link one another. Though some people are busy destroying what others have built or are building by causing confusion, strife or inter-tribal wars in the country, but with mutual understanding and justice, we will overcome them.
  “If men and women understand themselves there will be no strife between them or male cheating or making laws that do not favour women. If we really understand the essence of building bridges, then we need to know that we have to build bridges of peace, love and unity across religions, political divide, states and ethnic groups to bring about social and economic justice that would enable the various communities in the country to develop and Nigeria as a country will be the better for it.”
  While commenting on the role of the bank manger of Tanfo, Udoka said, “People should learn to grow up because there is no god-fatherism in self-actualisation; as a bank manger, the young man was able to manage everything, include human emotions and crises to succeed. He is a metaphor for leadership and the type of leader expected in Nigeria”.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

… Just an Evening with Coca-Cola


THE main hall of Habour Point, Victoria Island, Lagos, was last week filled to its capacity with guests, including students, who stormed the facility for Coca-Cola’s latest continental campaign titled, A Billion Reasons to Believe in Africa.
   The global campaign, which sees happiness in everyday occurrences in the society, seeks to celebrate and highlight the positive sides of Africa.
   Anchored by the witty comedienne, Helen Paul and Isaac Moses of Goge Africa, the event, besides showcasing diverse African culture and reawakening the ‘I believe in Africa spirit’ in the Nigerian youths, had generous doses of poetry, music and dance.
   The Kukere crooner, Iyanya; Mr. Incredible, MI; and the sensational Omawumi displayed their musical prowess while young poets SageBlack, Elizabeth Ole and Nonnie painted the good pictures of Africa in their spoken words.
    Other side attraction was a fashion show by Touch of Magic, an award-winning fashion house that works with African fabrics.
    Highlight of the fun-filled evening was the signing of the ‘Believe Wall’, which allowed guests to state their reasons for believing in Africa.
 According to Olufemi Ashipa, the Brand Manager, Coca-Cola, “the youths of Africa have the manpower, the intellect and resources to change the world. Nigeria is already taking the world by the storm with great feats being accomplished in the areas of technology, fashion, business, music, literature and others.”
   Consumers not at the event can also participate in the campaign by sharing their reasons and personal stories of optimism, passion and belief in Africa on the Coca-Cola Nigeria Facebook page or Twitter @CocaCola NG

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Children strut the red for Soyinka @78


THE ambience of Musical Society of Nigerian (MUSON) centre was last week brightened up by pupils, parents and the 78 Senior Secondary School students selected from across the country and in the Diaspora to participate in the 2012 edition of the WS/78 International Cultural Exchange (ICE) project essay competition. The topic of the essay was The Mind Of A Patriot dedicated to the 78th birthday celebration of Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate.
  Apart from essay writing, the young ones strutted the red carpet in beautiful traditional attires of the various tribes that make up the federation.
 The fun-filled event also saw the pupils sing and speak different dialects, put up traditional dances, short plays and recite some of Soyinka poems and even imitate his mannerism. Drawing loud ovation was a boy, who dressed like the Nobel laureate, himself.   
Gospel singer, Benita Okojie
   Around to provide music was the gospel singer, Benita Okojie, who sang her gospel songs alongside old skool music that kept the pupils and adults, too, on the dance floor for hours.
 The event climaxed with the staging of Sam Art Williams's famous play, Home, directed by US-based Nigerian Professor of Theatre, Segun Ojewuyi. It featured a mixed cast of actors from US, Britain and Nigeria.
 The children were hosted the following day by Prof Soyinka at his Abeokuta, Ogun State home in continuation of the birthday celebrations.