By Japhet Alakam
WHEN friends, colleagues, culture activists and promoters gathered at the Kongi’s Harvest Gallery , Freedom Park, Lagos last week for the 50th birthday celebration of Jahman Anikulapo, one thing that was uppermost in the minds of many was the personality of the man involved.
Mr. Anikulapo, a theater arts graduate from the University of Ibadan was an actor, activist, art promoter, writer who used the past 25 years of his life in the media to champion the development of art in Nigeria.
It was that quality that brought the crème de la creme of the art and culture community to the venue to honour the man who devoted his talent and money to the celebration of art and culture. The well attended event witnessed the presence of Prince Yemisi Shyllon, Odia Ofeimun, Tunde Kelani, Prof. Fola Soyinka, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo, Yewande Amusu, Ifeanyi Mbanefo, Greg Odutayo, Wole Oguntokun, Peter Badejo, Teju Kareem and a host of others.
The event which coincided with the celebrant’s retirement from a very enviable and long, stellar career at the Guardian newspaper group as the Sunday Editor was part of a month-long programme of events to celebrate the cultural agent, tagged Arthouse Forum for Jahman Anikulapo at 50 with the theme: 3D-Jahman: The Three Dimensions of a cultural change agent- Artist, Activist and Art Journalism, put together by the Committee of the Friends of Jahman @50.
The event featured a panel conversation about how the Interplay between art advocacy, art jurnalism and art Practice have shaped the evolution of cultural propagation in the last 25 years as well as songs, theatre skits and performances.
And as it turned out to be, the array of tributes and discussions about Jahman and his contributions by many who know him or worked with him brought out some of the salient contributions of the gifted artist. For instance, in his tribute, one of the men he mentored in the job, Layiwola Adeniji in a special way gave the audience an account of how Sargent Musa (Jahman) gave him job at Guardian when he left his base in the north as a teacher.
According to Layiwola, Jahman taught many good art editors/writers that are doing well on the job today like Shola Balogun, Steve Ayorinde and many others, and changed the face of art reporting,even as he co founded the Committee For Relevant Art, (CORA) etc.
“His commitment to arts is unparalled. As an art advocate, he turned the art pages to political tools to fight the ills in the country. He really influenced journalism in a special way and did his job excellently. At 50, he has been very consistent, always good at all times, he is worth celebrating”He said.
After that the panel of discussants, made up of Yomi Layinka, founding member of CORA, who moderated, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, former general manager of National theatre, Dr Bibi Bakare of Cassava Republic and Akeem Lasisi, poet and art editor of The Punch newspapers took over.
Contributing on how art journalist has affected the work of a publisher, Dr Bakare pointed out that the works of art writers/critiques are required for the development of the publishing, but pointed out that they have to do their works very well, criticise the works very well and not just praise the writers or actors.
According to her “Nigeria is a challenging environment for anyone trying to produce art and for that it is a credit that we have art pages today”. She however enjoined the art writers to engage the works critically, and bring out what the book or play is all about.
On how art journalist affected the practice of theatre in Nigeria, Yerima who described Jahman as a bridge said, “the greatest contribution of Jahman was in becoming the bridge that brought the players together at the national theatre”.
According to him, Jahman fought for the need to set up a culture policy that will better the lot of the artists and make them have something to fall back to. He as a writer came up with his ideas and was quick to realize the enormity of the job ahead that he has to educate, conscientize to move the profession forward.
Speaking on the topic, the primary role of art journalist in Nigeria, Akeem Lasisi pointed out that the job has not been easy, stating that it is the passion that has sustained the art journalist in the little expansion they have made in Nigeria. According to him, “the art desk is the most endangered page in every newspaper as it is the page that suffers whenever adverts come”.
The celebrant in his comments thanked all for honouring him. Jahman who described himself as the most terrorized person in the newsroom before he fought his way out said that it was the mentality he got as a student under Prof. Adelugba at Ibadan that endeared him into the challenges and that he introduced to Guardian that made him to excel.
After the exhaustive interactive session that celebrates his personality, contributions and service to the development of the culture sector in the country, the audience were treated to an evening of songs, theatre skits and performances by the Crown Truope of Africa, Edeato and other groups.