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Stage & Screen: Artists and the Nation

By Lari Williams
The Nigerian artist has established his stand very firmly in the nation and happy to know that the industry is acknowledged by the government of the day but why is the government not showing enough interest in the affairs of the industry?

Till date the Nigerian artist is still doing and representing his nation with stress and shame. Service is the best anyone can give to his nation and the Nigerian artist gives and has made this nation proud in all out forms; literature, music, dance, sculpture, painting, why then is the artist not encouraged by the government to grow and live a decent life enough to encourage the younger and the future generations into the industry.

Whatever happened to the idea of endowment fund for the artist?

Several regimes have mentioned the idea in passing, artists have anticipated the benefiting and hope for expanding and improving the productivities, all in vain, because nothing has been done in concrete terms.

The young talents of the nation are beginning to twist and divert into other vocation and in fact applying to the devil workshop for employment.

What is the government doing about it? The performing arts has suffered the worst torture since independence and since FESTAC indeed one might say that FESTAC was the artist bonanza but for how long?

FESTAC was a saucepan stew bubbled for a few months and simmered down into a dug hill. How do we revive the arts in Nigeria?

Entertainment has become so very sophisticated that it requires gadgets and appliances of various quantities to meet the standard and class of competitive representation. The Nigerian artist has to have much equipment to remain relevant in the reckoning.

How does he do so when such necessary tools can only be brought into the country through smuggling or paying exhobitant duties, thereby making the things expensive and beyond the reach of the struggling artist? The profession have died or given up practice because of poverty and lack of encouragement.

What is there to attract interest and hope for the future artist?

The artist has no retirement age, no gratuity, and no family love because he has no money to support one. The only way to revive art is to support the practitioners if only by raising funds through the governments’ powerful axe. Make the multinationals companies, banks, telephone companies contribute compulsorily to the Artist Endowment Funds to save the Arts and Entertainment Industry.

The performing arts especially have no future because it lacks growth. The training of artists has been surrendered to the universities who have no performance as long as they have notes that tell them how it is done.

In fact any qualified practitioner who volunteers to serve in the capacity of instructor is rated very low and not given any comfort to carry out the job. If theatre art professors are picked from long service as teachers or by the number of serious attendant, and paper written,what encouragement do we give the trained practitioner? Classroom professors cannot promote the performing arts; we need actors to train actors.

Actors are not trained in Universities they get their training from Drama Schools, or Acting Schools, where the subjects include speech, psychology and physical training. Like the Greeks say “a sound mind in a sound body”.

With the high and sophisticated demand of the consumer today, the practitioner has to be sound and well prepared to give high class service. Entertainment is not slap stick or force anymore. Even children’s drama today demand a lot of thought and good psychological preparedness to meet the questioning mind of young and logical reasoning of the old.

Apart from financial support, the Arts need restructuring to survive. Indeed, the Arts like the military demand a lot of discipline to work and work well. As it is now, we have an all comer’s affairs where there is nothing like auditions and casting anymore.

The so called trained actors have only been made to read the notes that the professors dictated to them from books they read, but nothing practical. Most of the students don’t bother to do anything practical; most of the notes are on the history of some old time theatre and the story of some past and irrelevant theory.

What is the relevance of the history of Elizabethan theatre with the training of today actor for today’s entertainment in an environment with such diverse and colourful culture and style?


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