Thursday, 3 November 2011

My Roots, promoting culture through reality show

 By Omiko Awa
Ayodeji Akinpelu

THE 1998 Thelma Best Kid Actor Award winner and one of the 12 Nollywood Ambassadors in 2009, Ayodeji Akinpelu, is not resting on his oars; in fact, he is using the company, African Root Productions limited, he co-founded to organise My Roots, a TV reality show that would project African culture to the outside world and as well teach young people African values.
   Explaining the workability of the show, the culture crusader says, “our vision is to project African culture through My Roots, a TV reality show that showcases our heritage. It’s about taking young people to the remote part of the country where the King (chief judge), Queen and the Chiefs as judges would test their knowledge of the preoccupation, dance, wresting, pot balancing, language, attire and other aspects of our culture. We want to bring that on TV, as a way of teaching love and moral in the country, because we believe it’s the ignorance of whom we are that is making our youths to be involve vices such as cultism, Cybercrimes and other heinous crimes within and abroad. We hope to correct these antisocial behaviours through drama, poetry, proverbs and didactic story that will project African virtues.” He continues, “though, we are still at the level of putting finishing touches, the project is expect to take off between June-July.”
     Based on the aim of the project, some popular personalities conversant with our diverse culture would be selected as judges, “we will be working with either Pete Edochie or Olu Jacobs as the King (judge) while other personalities will be picked from different segment of the entertainment industry, the media inclusive. There will be 20 contestants going into the house for 30 days. They would have the Kings, Queens and Chiefs as well as the viewers to judge them.”
     Would it be limited to a location? “No, though we are still looking for locations, we hope to pitch our tent at Akwa Ibom, Enugu and Mowo in Badagry. We want to choose a less developed place, so that, at the end, part of the prize money would be used for a-community-based project.”
   The Nollywood Ambassador hopes to start from the Southern part of the country and gradually move to the North. “The north will be part of the project in time to come; we have the six geo-political regions in mind, but we have to start from somewhere. We have planned it in such a way that for a particular Season, a King will come from the geo-political zone the Season is taking place and through this, we hope to showcase the diverse culture of the various ethnic groups that make up the country, in terms of location and used of resource persons as judges. And for every location chosen we are going to incorporate their lifestyles, pre-colonial occupation, history and culture to our content, which cuts across manifold areas of life.”
    Akinpelu believes that young people’s involvement in Cybercrime is a retaliation of various inhuman treatment meted at their ancestors and the theft of the nation’s artifact during periods of colonialism.
 “If you ask young people like me their reasons of being involved in Cybercrime, they will tell you it’s their own way of getting back at the Europeans for taking the best of what Africa had to work in their plantations as slaves and the exploitation of their resources, including looting of artifact; it’s an aggression inside, but we are trying to remind them that Africans are honorable people that hold to high esteem their family names. Before taking any action, an African would reflect on the consequences on their compound and family. We are not known for doing things that pull down the family name, we want to do things that project us in a good light. Cybercrime or the advance fee fraud is unAfrican and a taboo to our culture.”
   “ However, the focus of what we are getting at is Africa, because if you watch any TV reality or entertainment show, you will discover that Africa is fast disappearing from the TV screen, as most of them project the glitz and glamour of the city, but with this show we hope to bring back our culture to the conscientiousness of the people. As the saying goes, ‘to move forward, you must know where you are coming from.’ We hope to revisit our culture, highlight the positive ones and discard the bad ones; in fact there is no culture without the bad ones, but the people have to choose which to follow.
    The Oyo State-native and a Theatre Arts graduate of Lagos State University, Ojo, says audience participation will be needed at the last two stages, “we have four stages in the show, the first two shows is for the Kings and Queens to drill contestants while the last two will enable audience to participate, make comments and vote. We have opened YouTube, email and Facebook for people to comment on our website, so that we can improve on areas they are not comfortable with. We shall also air it on African Independent Television (AIT) and HiTV.”
   With this taking place in the South, would it not be slated by the time they get to the Northern part of the country? The youth culture crusader notes,” by Season three, we would be in the Northern part of the country. We will surely touch every part of the country.”
   Though, designed to make young people to imbibe in the virtues of African culture, the project is limited to people within the age range of 18-30, while those above the range are expected to serve as behind the scene judges through their votes and comments.
    And the judges? “ We have chosen Olu Jacobs and Pete Edochie because they are both cultural advocates. Pete Edochie, right now, is a traditional chief in Enugu, where he resides among his people, which makes him most appropriate to handle the job. Besides, he is promeninate on TV and holds the culture of his people to high esteem. For Olu Jacobs, he is also prominent on TV and has good sense of judgment of cultural matters. The list is not ending with the two as we are hoping to bring in Ambassador Olusegun Olushola.”
   Aside from being an actor, Akinpelu is also a poet and has showcased his talents in various shows. He hopes to mentor contestants with his poetry. He says, “in every stage of the four stages, we will teach them the basis of composing live poetry and how to say it the African way; it’s going to be done like a poetry speech before the Queen and Kings as judges.
    Would any particular language be adopted for the show? “No, but from the third stage, all aspects of the show will go indigenous. At this stage, contestants would dress in their ethnic attire and speak their local languages. Five roommates from different parts of the country will be put together, with each conversing to fellow roommates in his or her own language through the night and expects responses in their own local languages, too. Here, English language as a medium of communication is not allowed. Five different local languages will be at play and participants will be judged according to their mastery of their local language and response to others.”
  The show planned to run for 41 days including 10-day regional auditions and selections process; 30-day village appearance; and one-day award ceremony; is divided into four stages of six episodes each.
  In Stage one, contestants will learn about the history and accomplishments of Africa before and after the coming of Europeans; Stage two, talks about the varied Nigerian and African culture; Stage three, the clan, here contestants from different part of the ethnic groups will stay in a common room and converse in their individual local languages; and Stage four, the quest for freedom, is mainly for voting and the emergence of a winner.  
   And aside from going home with a car and cash prize, winner will embark on a community project or carter for a less privileged child from the community that the last stage of the show took place.

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