Friday, 28 October 2011

Castle In The Air… theatre against ethnic bigotry

By Omiko Awa
THE nation’s ethnic and religious crises were recently brought to the fore in a theatric performance by Beeta Universal Arts Foundation (BUAF) at Terra Kulture, Ikoyi, Lagos.
   Titled Castle In The Air, written by Barclays Ayakoroma and directed by Israel Ebo, the production centres on the hypocrisy of the tribes that make up the geographical entity called Nigeria.
   With each tribe pretending to love the other, the play through different comic acts depicts how self-centeredness, greed, tribalism and other ills have continued to tear the nation apart.
   Set in Benin, Edo State, where Alhaji and Hajia, the parents of Aminu, live and have been doing business for more than three decades and as well, brought up Aminu, their only son to marriageable age, the play shows how personal interests of Alhaji, which could be likened to our leaders — political, religious and tribal — would have hindered the son from living a happy life and be free to express himself.  
  Within the periods of their stay in Benin, Alhaji, a Moslem and an indigene of Kano State, has established himself as a businessman and made friends among the people, one of who is Chief Emokpare, an Izon and a Christian. This also goes for other members of his family.
  Alhaji’s friendship with Chief was, however, put to test when his fortunes took a nosedive, making him to look for a lifeline. Finding one in his brother-in-law, Alhaji Usman, a Kano-based businessman, he rejoices. The joy did not last, as the condition for the bailout states that Aminu, a sassy young man, must marry and within a year brings forth a baby boy. This sounds impossible, but with the N100 million at stake, Alhaji and Hajia change their minds and decide to look for a wife for their only son.
    Identifying that they are Moslems, the couple ponders on getting a wife from their state of origin. Though Hajia suggests, picking a Moslem among the Benin people since they have lived in their midst for several decades, the husband insists on Kano, stating that he is Hausa and a Moslem, and as such his son must marry form his state.
   Unlike Alhaji, Chief was happy that his niece, Stella, whose education he is responsible for, has finished her studies in England and is coming home to stay. He arranges that Stella marry one of the commissioners in the state, so that he could recoup some of the money spent on her. The arrangement was done, even, to the approval of Stella, who accepted not for love, but to satisfy her uncle’s selfishness.
   Bringing Stella to rejoice with his friend, Alhaji, for the arrangement, Chief meets Alhaji’s family deliberating on how to get a wife for their son.
   Unknown to the two friends, Stella and Aminu have been lovers. To show he is of age, Aminu proposed marriage to Stella and she agrees. Realising this, hell was set loose with both guardian and parents swearing never to allow them marry on the grounds of tribe and religion. 
  Considering the bailout fund, Alhaji and Chief shift their stands and list out conditions for the marriage to go on. The conditions are not only difficult, but a hurdle to wane the love that exists between Aminu and Stella.
  As fate would have it, Alhaji Usman passes on without fulfilling his promise and bailing out Alhaji, his in-law, from his financial crisis. This leaves the two friends in a limbo, having built castles in the air, while the young lovers go ahead to formalise their relationship, overlooking their religious and tribal differences.
   Speaking on the play, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, the chief operating officer of BUAF said, her organisation hopes to emphasise on the unity of the country and showcases how our leaders through greed and self-centeredness have projected those elements divide the nation instead of working for its unity.
  She informed that BUAF aims at rejuvenating the theatre, celebrating our unsung playwrights and presenting the nation’s history through storytelling.
  Assuring theatre lovers of more captivating plays, she said the group would this month organise an open-air theatre at Abuja. Tagged Cakes and Theatre, the show would serve as a platform for people to showcase diverse talents — dance, music, poems and others.
Cakes and Theatre would serve as a launch pad to my future performance in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It is a one-night event and open for all; in fact, it will be different from the expected stage performances because the stage would be thrown open for anyone that has something to present to do so. It is going to be like a freedom hall event, where different people come to air their views.”
  “There would be no special play, but there will be a lot of cakes and drinks to savour. It will create opportunity for practitioners, stakeholders and theatre lovers to mingle and chart a path for the entertainment industry in the country,” she said. 
  Commending her sponsors, Bikiya informed that the venue for Castle In the Air was given to her group for free by Terra Kulture and called on other stakeholders to emulate this, to make the stage active again.
Bikiya Graham-Douglas
 “The greatest challenge facing the theatre is fund and the only way to overcome this, is when corporate organisations and private individuals partner with various theatre groups for stage production,” she noted.
   Not deterred by this problem, she said, “with the boom and appreciation for local entertainment such as music, film and literature, we are encouraged that we can succeed in our cause to bring back the theatre to the fore-front of the nation’s entertainment. We are optimistic that with the continued supports of corporate bodies and private individuals the theatre will flourish again.”

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