By Omiko Awa
OBSERVING the changes in the society, especially, as it affects Nigerian communities, Olufemi Tade, a cultural aficionado and the Artistic Director of Royal Star Entertainment Production (ROSEP), an organisation that aims at revitalising, preserving and projecting African cultural heritage through dance, music, drama and general theatrical acts, has chosen to take the bull by its horns and checkmate the infringement of foreign cultures on the various Nigerian culture. Recently, he organised a seminar to commemorate the World Culture Day (WCD) and a week later, staged a play, The Incorruptible Judge to celebrate the Nigerian child, instill moral, justice and uprightness aside from marking the Nigerian Children’s Day (NCD).
Femi, who would stop at nothing to support the African culture and its importance to our various communities says, “for the past three years my cultural outfit Royal Star Entertainment Production (ROSEP) has used May 21 declared by United Nations Education and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as culture day to bring artistes, traditional chiefs and culture devotees to lecture and discussion on how to promote and sustain African culture, so that, the youths will not be carried away by the enculturation of foreign life style.”
The culture advocate this year adopted a different system to the yearly seminars and talks by encouraging speakers to use Yoruba and English languages to present their papers. Speaking on the theme Harmonization of Art and Culture In Modern Nigerian Society, Mrs. Bridget Yerima, the Deputy Director of Lagos Zonal Office of National Institute for Culture Orientation (NICO), who gave the key note address led other speakers, which include Mrs. Bankole Williams, the general manager of La Campaigne Tropicana; Mr. Segun Oseni, publisher, The Genesis Magazine; Mr. Shedrack Golen of Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC); and Otunba Gani Adams, president /founder Olokun Festival, who sent a representative, to do justice to the topic.
Was it not tough managing the two languages? “No, it wasn’t. In fact, it was planned in a way to our objective and make people to freely use our local languages in public gatherings. This will not only make us to learn, understand and speak, but would also encourage its passage to the next generation and as such sustain usability. Besides, the speakers had translators for those that could not understand Yoruba language and during the interactive session the ideas raised by various speakers were also translated for better comprehension.”
Not depending on the success of the seminar, Tade concerned about the moral decadence of the youth celebrated the Nigerian child with a play, The Incorruptible Judge written by Olu Olagoke. He says, “we have been celebrating the Children’s Day in the past with a drama presentation. In 2004, we had Oluronbi while Moremi was in 2006, but this year we decided on The Incorruptible Judge, one of the recommended texts for the Senior Secondary School (SSS) students. We decided to stage it as way of making them to internalise the storyline and imbibe in the underling moral lessons.” He adds, “it has been observed that most students spend more time with the TV, Video and other screen shows than on their books, which is even becoming a general practice among the adults. So, since it’s an old play, which most people may have come across, I presented it, as a reminder of the past for the adults and as a revision lesson for students writing their School Certificate Exams.”
TADE has to modify the cast and setting of the play, introducing comedy, dance and other theatrics to make it entertaining without loosing the key message of the author. He informs, “firstly, the play was chosen for its relevance to our time. Secondly, we modified the cast and settings to reflect our contemporary society. We added elements such as comedy, romance and dance to it without losing the original message. In fact, the judge to some extent used some Yoruba words, though part of the original words, but translated to Yoruba language; as the grammar was on the high side. We also added music, dance and Pidgin English in some of the scenes.”
With these additions, it’s sure you have changed the play. “ No, the author and publishers were among the audience. In fact, they were pleased with the modifications; Olu Olagoke specifically said he made the play simple for any group to adopt. Before doing that, I had earlier told him of my intentions, which he consented to, saying the play is for the open theatre. As you must have known, when it was written, there were only two of such theatres in the country — Ife and Ibadan. There was no proscenium theatre like the National Theatre, so for one to make it suit the audience it has to be modified.”
Impressed by the message and cast, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is working out modalities with culture activist to restage the play.
“I hope to stage it again on the International Youth Day (IYD). The first show was specially made for youths in SSS 11 and 111, we were specific at first, but when we discovered that some schools could not hold their programme because of the rain, we allowed their children in, even making it a-two show event. But, with the one coming up on the International Youth Day (IYD), there will be no limitations, as it would be opened to all categories of youths, adults inclusive.” He continues, “I also hope to take the play across the country to enlighten people about their rights, crime and how to stay away from criminal activities. We are going to localise the play to fit into the tradition of the people of any of the zones we get to; in terms of costume, language and other elements of drama.”
Tide, whose contributions as a drummer in his church (Redeemed Christian Church of God) choir led to the church adopting traditional attires for the choir on special events such as the Holy Ghost Congress, says, he localised the play, adding traditional costume, local language and proverbs as way of passing on our culture to the next generation. He stresses, “as I pointed out in my speech, if nothing serious is done to save some of the elements of our culture in few decades from now, they will all die off, because foreign cultures are fast encroaching into our culture; imagine only few people could play the ayo olopon, our traditional game and even understand our local proverbs.”
“IT’S in line of preserving the African culture that, my outfit organises the yearly cultural show to project our culture aside from the intellectual discussions on how to move it forward. It’s indeed disheartening to know that some Nigerians hate wearing our traditional attires and don’t believe in our culture; which is part of the cultural imperialism we are talking about and, if allowed to continue will get to a level our children may not even know how to dress in our traditional attires or speak our local languages,” he quips.
For supporting and encouraging his organisation in the fight against cultural imperialism ROSEP honoured some individuals that have contributed to the growth and development of culture in the country. Among such personalities are Aduni, the president of Orisha Congress and others that have been championing the cause of African culture as well as Evans brothers Ltd, the publishers of the play, The Incorruptible Judge, and the author, D. Olu Olagoke.