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The leadership of a kingdom reveals the social climate of the kingdom. We can tell the direction of the wind now that we have seen the trees dance. This is a dance for the survival of Art and the blossoming of Nigeria’s Entertainment industry.

Fela on broadway

As we rejoice today, we must remember our pioneers in the struggle through their various artistic calling, Sixty three years ago Hubert Ogunde resigned his job as policeman and took his family ‘on the road’ to entertain the people. So also Duro Ladipo Ogunmola, followed later by artists like Sonny Oti, Inyang Henshaw, entertaining for peanuts. They were armed with the degrading and dehumanizing “Beggars Licence” which the colonial masters designed to allow entertainers operate as “jokers and clowns” and be tolerated to pick up crumbs from celebration venues and from celebrities.

Painters like Theresa Luck, Abayomi Barber, sculptors like Ben Enwonwu, musicians like Ambrose Campbell, Araba, Bobby Benson, Willies paine, Fela Sowande, Actors like Orlando Martins, Jumoke Debayo, Yemi Ajibade all set out in their various artistic callings to help art survive in Nigeria and to survive by their talents. They slept rough, and earned peanuts , yet they ploughed on to entertain humanity. Why take such pains, one may ask? Like George Bernard Shaw said, “without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable”. So we stand up, invite our world, with the world and thank them, as we remember them, and as we create space for them in the nation’s “Hall of fame” yet to be built. Training grounds (institutions) may be named after them. We shall commission the sculptors to build their statues for the Hall of fame, and those of our heroes in city squares and public court yards, round abouts etc.

Yes, thank you Mr. President, for the huge amount of money, yes congratulations comrades for surviving to have it, but, ‘we have to build the industry’, to grow beyond our sophistication and to last beyond our time. The foundation must be solidly laid and broadly based, to build for the global market. Our ‘Wood’, Camwood must level up with England’s ‘Pinewoods’ and America’s ‘Hollywood’ not just christening the woods, but by spicing our expertise with quality.

Commercial theatre in the western world has existed since the 16th century. First entertainment city, built since the 1920s has produced great films like India’s “flying carpet, Paying Guest etc. America’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, “England’s King” and I, “Sound of Music” etc. from Charlie chaplain” to “Bud Abbot and costello” in the days of the silent movies . So we need to catch up and level up and to do so effectively, we must gird our loins and review our knowledge of the trade, before applying the tricks of the trade. The practitioners of today must be put to work with time, space and comfort in conducive conditions for creativity.

As the ministry sets up the industry, proven artists must be commissioned and cushioned for such expert presentations in the three forms of visual arts, for instance. “Painting, which is art to look at, Sculpture, the art you can walk around and architecture, the art you can walk through. Facilities must be provided for the performing Art. They need large enough auditorium and a number of performance halls, and training grounds and gymnasium. If it must be the universities then the authorities must keep the ‘product promotions’, weddings and christenings, annual general meetings far from students training auditorium. They need such spaces for practice. For the training of ‘Actors’, separate schools or institutions must be set up to train actors for professional practices as it is done in Europe, America, Italy etc. Theatre Arts Department is choked with media works and academics. They need to produce enough vibrant and articulate actors to build our own Theatre apex, like America has ‘Broadway’ and England has the ‘West end’. We can make Tinapa our high point of Theatre showing.


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