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Soyinka Carnivalisque in Lagos

By Japhet Alakam, CELEBRATION

After successful hosting of the London leg of the the second edition of the inter cultural exchange tagged ,WS7728086 organised by Zmirage as part of the celebrations of the 77th birthday of the renowned playwright, author and Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka that culminated in the performance of Dance of Liberation at Theater Tabernacle in Nottingham, Nigeria’s leg and final stage of the event kicked off in Lagos week end with a lot of activities.

Pix shows; Student Cultural group from various schools in Nigeria walk throgh the red carpet during the Project WS77 28086, International Cultural Exchange Programme organised by Zmirage to mark Professor Wole Soyinka 77th birthday, held at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos. Photos Bunmi Azeez.

The event started with an Essay competition with the theme, I Love MY Country, which took place at the the Muson center, where 77 school pupils drawn from across the the thirty six States of the Federation including Abuja and 3 Nigerian children living in Diaspora participated. The children also, earlier in the day engaged themselves in another activity tagged, Do your own thing at the Freedom Park, Lagos.

The day’s business ended with an Advocacy Night at the Muson Center Onikan, Lagos and as usual it was well attended by many art lovers especially followers of Kongi’s literary and imaginative ourve.

Another group of students Cultural group from various schools in Nigeria, walk through the red carpet during the event.

It was indeed a wonderful night as the audience were treated to great performances in drama, songs, poetic renditions of some Soyinka poems, choreography and intellectual feast by seasoned actors/actresses and scholars.

The evening event kicked off with a red carpet walk pass of the 77 children who, gorgeously dressed in different Nigerian ethnic dressings walked on the carpet singing famous Soyinka’s song, I love my country with one person representing one ethnic group intermittently jumping out to greet the audience in one local language like Igbo Kwenu, Urhobo Wadoo.

A scene from the play Dance of Liberation, performed during the Project WS77 28086, to mark Prof. Wole Soyinka, 77th Birthday Anniversary, held at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

It was indeed a very good way to inculcate the love of one’s neighbour and love for the fatherland which is one of the philosophy which the personality of the Noble Laureate Wole Soyinka stood for.

After that the moderator, Patrick Doyle dressed in a typical Yoruba attire came out and told the audience that the celebrant, Prof Soyinka loves fine women and fine wine and for that reason, introduced a fine woman, Lilian Amah- Aluko, the producer of the show.

Mrs Amah welcomed all to the 2nd edition of the inter cultural exchange which kicked off on the 13th of July being the actiual birthday date of Soyinka. She also went on to highlight some of the activities of the project and pointed out that unlike last year where they toured 7 states in Nigeria , that the event this year will take place only in Lagos and Ogun states.

According to her, the aim of the programme is to change the perception of people especially youths towards developing love among themselves and the country.

“In the world today, there are wars all over the place, terrorism is on the increase and so, we want to use art and culture as a means to bridging the global diplomacy. We want to re orientate our children and make them love and accept their country. We know that we can change Nigeria.” She said.

After that one of the peoples whom Soyinka wrote a poem about, and a poet himself ,Odia Ofeimun mounted the stage and for the few minutes that was allotted to him told the audience how best to celebrate the birthday of a dramatist.

First, he read one of his poems, Civilian on Soldier. Referring to Soyinka’s Ogun. He told the audience about how best to live in this world. According to him “all of us must learn to respect what belongs to others. Learn how to respect other people’s position even when you disagree with them.”

He later went on to read two other poems first, Dream at work and a pidgin poem by Soyinka titled, Pidgin stew to the delight of the audience. After the celebrated pidgin poem, there was a call to adopt the Pidgin English as the Lingua Franca but, he was quick to dismiss that as he pointed out that Pidgin is not a rigid word that can travel without loosing its meaning. Pidgin to him originated from a culture in Nigeria and should not be extended beyond that.

After that, it was the turn of Sir Peter Badejo Choreography group which came with a piece titled, Our culture our pride. The performance featured a dance choreography that showcased the dance of the different ethnic groups in the country.

They also put up a dramatic performance tagged, Ricee and Etike Revo Wetin which was directed by Tunde Awosanmi. In the drama which caught the attention of the audience , the group demonstrated how Nigerian past leaders and politicians loot the country’s treasure with Ghana must go bags, the way they eat fat at the expense of the masses, the different promises that are not fulfilled, the docile attitude of the masses among other short falls of governance.

With a well groomed cast,they were able to replicate in different scenes those things that happen in secret which the politicians thought were not open to public knowledge.

Dr Charles Aluede, an Ethnomusicolgist from Ambrose Ali University , Ekpoma also presented a paper on Traditional Music. According to him that brand of music which was once known all over the continent is now on the verge of extinction.

In the course of his presentation,he enumerated the different functions of traditional music that made it the order of the day in the days of old and asked why the genre is now on the verge of extinction.

The night also featured special performance by the Crown Troupe which presented a birthday song and plays for the Noble Laureate. Veteran musician, Tunji Oyelana in his characteristics manner, also took to the stage and did what he knew best. He rendered two songs; I love my country , composed by Soyinka and When Lagos breathe. And the audience as usual joined him.

Finally, the audience were bid bye with the performance of Dance of liberation an excerpts from Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest which was directed by Ayo Oluwasanmi and choreographed by Sir Peter Badejo.


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