By Lari Williams
Artists have been saved by their knack. The knack for survival, plays ‘shadow’ to every true artist. Each one with an original true autobiography of himself and his circumstances of survival nevertheless ‘’saved by the bell”, though quite a few of them missed the banquet and will never hear the bell. Stage and screen shares the belief that they have headed for Heaven’s Gate, where all true artistes belong whatever religion, class or creed.
It is yet another year and the entertainment industry still hangs on there. ‘Take five’! For resillence! Haba! That individual capacity to ‘hang on there’ keeps the collective force of the industry ‘hanging on’, only by their knack and now by the grace of His Excellency, we have survived.
Lately, some pillars have crumbled beneath the swamp ‘dwellers cottages’ and the entire family has been shaken with the fear of sinking into the mire.
The Entertainment industry hangs on there even without professional management for artistes. The Nigerian professional artist has to be writer, performer, promoter and investor to survive. Then he has to be part of the marketing team.
We praise the music wind of the industry PMAN which has managed to secure a way of getting their rights paid and have wrestled their way into keeping one voice for representation.
I hope PMAN are now strong enough to remember their heroes, dead or alive. I recall with regret the case of late Ambrose Campbell who made several SOS calls all the way from U.S.A asking for support for return to his fatherland.
I wonder why the actors forum has been a disaster. The stage lights went off altogether, and performers were bumping into one another groping in the dark, each presenting a candidate for leadership. Elections were cancelled, postponed and finally policed to conclude.
The industry is still in the tunnel moving towards the direction it faced groping without a touch.
What we need is commercialism, and that will require professionalism, management, advertising and promotion. We require the full works for the show to go on, sales can be made from home video consumption and export, we can then talk of profit and propaganda, entertainment or enjoyment.
We still have the key problem to solve, and that is, the problem of ‘recognition’ which should come from ‘representation’, especially now we are basquing in the euphoria of ‘dancing democracy’.The Nigerian artist have come of age, but needs to wash his hands clean to dine with the impresarios that sell and buy the products.
If the actor makes a mark on the international screen, Nigeria artists need the sophistication. It is therefore necessary for the government to show more interest in the affair of the Nigerian performing artists. It is not enough to pay cultural officers salaries to warm their seats and attend meetings to discuss matters that have nothing to do with the advancement of the entertainment industry.
Today, we rejoice for producing a Miss World. We were deafened by the thunderous applause for Mr. Ben Murray-Bruce who singlehandedly kept the flag of ‘Beauty Pageantry’ flying, as though it was a family crest. No guidelines, no moral or financial support from the government but he was hanging on there until we got the crown.
Congratulations Nigeria and well done Ben for your ‘knack’.
The year is moving on and we keep on keeping on like true artistes. To make footprint in the sand of our time, we need to move! Not move out of the national theatre nor move the nation’s entertainment capital from Lagos, but move towards the international art market. To achieve this, Nigeria needs a ministry for art. Art is the saleable commodity, assessable product, fit for the stalls of international market of art, where skill is paid for in hard currency, and the culture of the people beckon audience in their thousands and remunerations commiserating.
It is yet another year and the Nigerian actor has no stage to produce a live drama with a hope to make profit. At present, there is no auditorium that can make a million naira at N500 (Five Hundred Naira) per head, no auditorium seats up to 2000 people. The producer still has to build set, pay for the hire of hall, pay artistes fees and welfare through rehearsals. The artists still hang on. Improve the float, Nigeria needs to get on.
If privatisation must take over, then it must be so taken over by specialisation. Even, little kids don’t play ‘doctors’ anymore, they play psychiatrist, gynaecologists.
Don’t sell the national theatre to a bunch of traders who might want to build stalls for Tokunbo goods, or at best build five star slaughter houses. We are well blessed with cultural endowment, to help keep us cultured.