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For layabouts, arts could be much more than fun—Segun Adefila

Segun Adefila is the Creative Director of Lagos based theater interventionist group, Crown Troupe of Nigeria. The group comprising mainly of young and  unemployed graduate artists, have through their very positive activities defined a new performance streak that passes unnoticed in the dense Lagos competitive culture and performance environmentAlso, interesting about this group is the commitment and gratifying spirit with which members go about their activities. It is in the recognition of this effort that ArtSalon sought the views of its creative director, dread lock wearing and dark skinned Segun Adefila to tell us more about the group. He spoke to arts editor, McPhilips Nwachukwu. Excerpt:

Segun Adefila and the troupe
Segun Adefila and the troupe

Who is Segun Adefila?
I was born in Lagos by an Ondo (town) mother and Kwara (Omu Aran) father. I had my elementary education in Lagos, Kwara and Lagos in that order. I then went on to secondary schools in Kogi, Kwara and Lagos States. I studied Creative Arts at the University of Lagos and I am working towards becoming a performance artist. I run a dance theatre group, Crown Troupe, based in Lagos.

Crown Troupe was given birth in 1996. What  informed the formation of the troupe?

Crown Troupe started as a group of persons who shared a passion for the arts of music, dance and drama. We were all in search of something we found in abundance in the arts. We were contended to sit from morning till night singing or dancing or experimenting with diverse art forms. For layabouts that we were, that formative period of our life was a serious testing ground.

To what extent , would you say you have achieved your defining visions?
Well we, (personal opinion though)didn’t really have any defining vision because we just wanted to find our feet, hone our skills and catch our fun. We were at these, when it dawned on us that art could be much more than that. Right now, considering all odds, I think we have been able to remain in the path. We are not close to where we want to be, but we are sure footed even as we are aware if our controllable and uncontrollable limitations.

Would  you tell us  about some of the things ,you have accomplished as a  troupe since inception?

We have managed to create new and topical works which have been presented at various events. Since 2006, we have managed to deliver a monthly  theatre feast, both on the Island (TerraKulture, Tiamiyu Savage, Studio 868 and Bishop Aboyade Cole both in Victoria Island) and in the Mainland at National Theatre. Right now, we have a studio in Bariga, which we hope to develop into a functional Community Resource Centre.
Do you see Nigeria as a performance stage?
Nigeria for me, is half and half of what I think is good and bad for the arts. Nigeria is a fertile ground for creativity. The topography of her culture, people and contemporary view of life along with their challenges have the potential of producing a robust artistic outburst. On the other hand, Nigeria also places a limitation on this creative outburst as a result of man-made inadequacies. Nigeria writes boldly, her script, so that every artist who is so inclined may sculpt, sing, dance or rewrite these stories. As a Nigerian artist, the spirit of  Nigeria that I see is a resilient one. Though, the Nigerian stage is not the smoothest one, it is a dynamic one. This explains partly why Crown Troupe didn’t find it difficult to get a direction for our artivities. Our society writes our script for us.  What we aim to do is to find a suitable way of linking our audience with our society. This we hope, would make us embark on a voyage of self-examination.

There are two sides to what you do: aesthetic functionality and social commitment.In which of these areas would you say your group has done well?
For us, social commitment is given ample consideration of course, with by no means less regard for aesthetic functionality . I wouldn’t know what our audience think about this. For us, we try to look for that chord that binds every society to her art and culture. There exists a traditionally communal responsibility of the griots, bards, dancers, musicians, sculptors, painters, writers etc to their society. The masquerade for instance, though more inclined towards a purely religious purpose, also entertains while it conveys its religious cadence. So, we try to find a balance between the two.

Taking a stock of most of your theatrical engagement, one would want to say that you do more of social intervention with little regards to…?

( cuts in ) No…the dynamic nature of theatre has made it’s practice and theory a diverse one. What we have simply done is to find a way of synchronizing these various intentions in ways and manners that will best help us in our expressions. The language of theatre could be vernacular or vehicular. The absurdists, realists, naturalists, expressionists have all found unique ways of saying what they want to say. There is a theatre of cruelty that aims at removing the veneer of pretense from the face of the society. The playwright, Samuel Beckett tries in his dramaturgy  to reveal the illogicality of experience, the German playwright, Bertolt Bretchts in his own epic theatric proposed alienation, while Luigi Pirandellos concluded in his own dramatic assessment that all realities are illusions and that things may not be what they appear to be. For Jerzy Grotowskis, theatre should be devoid of embellishments.  And here at home, our own afrobeat mastereo, late Fela Anikulupo Kuti played socially relevant music. So, for us in the troupe, the content and form of a work of art take paramount importance in our heart.

Okay, at what point does social intervention stop for art to take over?

Simply put, the restructuring of issues to be treated is done with the sole aim of making the arrangement pleasant to the senses.

Is Crown Troupe ideologically driven to some political convictions?

None whatsoever.

If you say no,  how else would one define the revolutionary aesthetics that color most of your productions?

There is a commitment to the traditional role of art. A  beautifully carved walking stick for instance, will look good on a wall and at the same time aid walking even if for the mere purpose of swagger. Now, coming from a traditional masquerade background, the masquerade is not just regarded as a masked being whose purpose is simply to entertain, the masquerade is oftentimes seen as a visiting ancestor. We just sit and watch what’s going on around us and try to dissect it to the best of our ability.


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