By JAPHET ALAKAM
ONE of the problems militating the development of African states is the inability of the leaders to learn from history, no thanks to the declining fortune of history as a study subject in many secondary schools in some countries and especially, Nigeria.
The issue has become so worrisome in Nigeria that stakeholders have sent a bill to the national assembly to make the study of history compulsory in secondary schools. Though some supported the move, sadly, other individuals have vowed to kill the bill.
But somebody who is already ahead of the bill is Odia Ofeimun. The activist poet and scholar who has been in the vanguard of using every available medium to send his message across to the public came up with his latest dance drama titled, Itoya, A Dance for Africa. The play which was first performed in April at the Agip Recital Hall of the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos last week made its reappearance at the same venue.
The colourful performance which had the spectacle, electrifying dance steps and the philosophical lacing that characterises Ofeimun’s dance dramas is part of The Hornbill Circle of six dramas that is on a nation-wide campaign to give stage drama the gravity and respect due to it.
Directed by Felix Okolo, Ofeimun’s favourite theatre director, with a well beautified set that shows the map of Africa with different flags of the countries in the continent provided the cast the ambiance to flow and well designed costumes to match.
The audience saw the all round artistic display by Nisi George and Jolomi Okoturo as they take them on a voyage to a time when the continent made contact with the white visitors that would reorder its trajectory.
Together, with the vigorous youthful dancers, the casts dramatised what constitutes enough of the lived experience of issues that interweave the realities between the different African countries which includes the peace of the earlier times and the present-day confusions which form part of the present day discussion: The search for equity and justice in Africa.
In a country where many do not know much about the past and as Socrates, the great philosopher aptly puts it, “an unexamined life is not what living.” For Nigeria, or indeed, Africa to be the country and continent of pride, there is the need for her to recognize where she is coming from, the story of the suffering and pain and blood that has become her hallmark.
So Ofeimun’s new dance drama provides the audience an opportunity to know the story of Africa from the trans Saharan slave trade to the African Union. The historical dance drama meaning “I can’t tell all the suffering I have been through”, was indeed a reflection of the name as it recaptures some of the events that made the history of Africa especially her sufferings in the hands of the colonial masters.
The story does not end there. It also tells the audience about African leaders, who condemned the apartheid policy in South Africa only to practise it in their various countries.
The director brought some of the issues onto the stage, offering those present an opportunity to learn from Africa’s history; and urging them to take their destinies into their hands.
Apart from the grand story line of the drama, the beauty of it all is the great entertainment which it provided. It was really fun for the few that watched the drama as it afforded them the opportunity of having a feel of what Africa went through and why she is where she is today.