Monday, December 29, 2008

A Song for my Acting Teacher

The road claimed a master of the stage. The shock of the violent death of my teacher, Femi Fatoba has become a deep wound on my heart... an endless stream of tears in my subconsciousness. It is harder to express it in words. Not because Fatoba, like every human, will not die but simply because he had to die the most undeserving death -- Road accident. And so the Road stole the dream in the broad daylight. I am still weeping in my the deep. Below is a tribute write up by MR SHAIBU HUSSEINI.

So Long... Agbari Ojukwu

So Long... Agbari Ojukwu
(As appeared in The Guardiian December 28, 2008)

IT was difficult for the popular Nollywood actor Segun Aina Padonu ( Segun Arinze) to speak on the renowned actor, celebrated poet and playwright, Dr. Femi Fatoba in the past. ‘Uncle Femi can’t be dead,’ he exclaimed repeatedly as this writer tried to get his reaction as soon as news filtered in that the Ekiti-born theatre don, who until his untimely demise after a road accident last Saturday on the East/West highway near Patani in Delta State taught theatre studies at the Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State. Segun had fond memories of the academic and star of such hit movies as The Return, Oduduwa and the Hollywood best seller, Mr. Johnson, who was later to combine farming with teaching even as he traversed all genres of the literary and performing arts. We were on location together for several months, when we shot Kingsley Ogoro’s The Return,” Segun recalled. “He was such a total artistes, whose contributions on set made the production worth the while. Uncle Femi, who was my teacher in Ibadan inspired, so many of us on set. We always looked forward to scenes involving him because there was so much to learn. If indeed he is gone, then Nigeria, and the continent as a whole has lost a big man of the tribe,” Segun remarked. But that’s just Segun on the unassuming teacher, who is popular as Uncle Femi. Reactions have continued to pour in from home and abroad for the jovial, down to earth and personable practical cum theory oriented practitioner an old boy of CMS Grammar School, Lagos. We reproduce here, and as Moviedom’s tribute to the star of most of Ladi Ladebo’s exploit on celluloid and a strong advocate for professionalism in moviedom, one of the early reactions contributed on the Arts Writers Organisation of Nigeria (AWON) site. It was penned by Jahman Anikulapo, one of Uncle Femi’s many students at the University of Ibadan, Editor of The Guardian Life and The Guardian on Sunday.

2008… Again.
Patani… Again
Death… Again
Artiste… Again

Sam Dede broke the news to me last night, and I just went numbed, so numbed that I detoured from the grand finale of the Naijazz concert that I was to attend. Just went home and wrapped myself up in sleep. On Saturday, when (at The Guardian) we got a copy on the death of three lecturers of Niger Delta State University, we had pestered the reporter to give the names of the affected lecturers, but he said their names were yet to be made known. It was as if I knew something ominous was in the air. As if, I knew I was affected in some way. Fatoba was my Drama Theory teacher, and later Practical Theatre coach at UI. He was nick-named Agbari Ojukwu for his trade mark clean-shaving head. I had serious disagreement with him on acting styles, but he was one of the most student-friendly lecturers in those star-studded days of the department. While our generation of actors pushed for instinctual, naturalistic style, the old Ibadan tradition of epic, declaratory acting was unyielding. And he, being an accomplished actor himself, was a defender of tradition. Later acting alongside the set of Ladi Ladebo’s films, we became quite close with all the differences sorted out. He had said as our teacher that all he was insisting on was that we first acquired the skills in fundamentals of acting, before evolving on our individual styles, which was what naturalism tended to push. He also spoke about his new venture: farming, and urged that whatever I do in life, I must think of having a farm. To him, farming beyond supplying your subsistence needs, helps to make you a better human being, because you learn how to nurture and not destroy things. That is a deep lesson I have never let out of my head.
Dr Fatoba wrote some of the most fascinating pidgin poems that I ever read; the other person is Frank Aig-Imokhuede. And in acting, his skill and delivery is winsome any day. Their generation, which also includes Dapo Adelugba, Sonny Oti, Sumbo Marinho, Femi Osofisan, Jimi Solanke, David Oteri, Tunji Oyelana, Chris Nwobi, Kalu Uka and by a stretch the Ife collectives of Peter Fatomilola, Kola Oyewo, Tunji Ojeyemi, Laide Adewale (late) and others, gave acting its good name, even if they did not rake fortune from it.
That that infamous Patani claimed such a valuable spirit is most painful. Patani Junction has long shown itself a death trap, but what have successive administration in Delta State done about it? Worship it with silence! But why 2008? Why: the graveyard is mouthful already with remains of the most adorable fruits plucked from the arts and culture community. 2008, May your very 31st be fast-forwarded. May you or your spirit never return to this path you have smeared
Last line from Moviedom: Good Night ‘Agbari Ojukwu’.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Alfredo Bini’s tale of darkness from the Sahel

In the ambience of the Azania Speaks conference that held November 17-19, the tall, gangling fellow with glasses firmly planted on his Hollywoodite face looked like just another character on the campus of the University of Udine; perhaps a student or a teacher in the school that was playing host to the conference on Spoken Word and Oral Literature in post-colonial Africa. However, many of the participants who could or must have given him such an inaccurate identity, had already encountered his work without putting the lean frame behind such a monumental piece. No one could have walked through the passage of the campus at Sala Conveni di Palazzo Antonini via Petracco 8 in the heart of Udine into the hall where the talking sessions held without encountering the work of Alfredo Bini.
It was a video cum slide show installation mounted in the passage, and which welcomed everyone to the arena of the conference. Frame after frame of deeply affective images streamed out of the TV screens signifying the artist’s recording of the tragedy that water politics has visited on the people in the Sahel landscape of Africa, particularly in Burkina Faso. The collection, which he recorded when he accompanied an ngo on a mission to the Burkina Faso chunk of he Sahel region, was presented under the theme Water and land in Sahel, the case of Burkina Faso.
Bini’s images are fascinating in the photographer’s choice of angle, in such a way that an otherwise innocuous scene is transformed into almost live rendition because of his point of emphasis. In every frame there is a dominant figure that foregrounds the tragic mood of the landscape. The artist also explore the relationship between light and shadow to create contrast and strike emphasis. The technique is so effective that the viewer is compelled to thus empathise with the artist’s POV by just gazing at the huge figure that often seems to dwarf other features in the frame, and by simply tracing the movement of the shade in the frame. The images signify the failure of critical thinking of African political elites as well as the rape and plunder that colonial powers or the so-called industrialised nations continue to visit on hapless continent and its helpless critical mass.
Even years after he undertook the journey that recorded the collection, Bini still spoke passionately about his experience. He said he could still not overcome the shock he had when he encountered the magnitude of poverty that the selfish, conniving political leaders of most African countries have put their people. “These people did not use their land to produce food, which they need, they sold the land to multinationals who use the land to produce sugarcane which cannot feed the people, and which they export to Europe with the people the owners of the land as the workers who earn small money per day. They have become tenants on their own land, and they have allowed foreigners to take over the land, who then employ them! They do not even have water, because they have given out the land”, he said over lunch in the course of the conference.
Here is Alfredo Bini’s full explanation of his project:
After president Sankara’s death and after the European interference reaffirmed, water and land are still two valuable resources for daily life. The uninterrupted exploitation carried out by multinationals is only making the problem worse.
Burkina Faso is a country located in Sahel area, a stripe of land in Africa between the Sahara and the tropical moist region – a boundary zone between two contrasting bio climate areas, marked out by a half-arid landscape. The meaning of the word Sahel, from Arabic ???? sahil, shore, border of the Sahara desert, is in fact side of the desert. For millenniums this territory has been affected by the climate. Rainy and arid periods shape the environment and condition its inhabitants, who today and in the past as well, have always been looking for the two most important resources for life: water and land. Agriculture and sheep farming, so the survival of entire villages, depend on the availability of these two elements.
In Sahel people are used to depend on out-of-control events and they developed during the times a great spirit of adaptability. People are shaped by the land and by the conditions they are living in. The more such elements are difficult, the more they develop a sort of meekness and respect toward what surrounds them. In Burkina Faso more than the half of the people is animist, following the ancient beliefs that natural element have a soul. Earth is considered as a god. In fact during sowing time propitiatory rites are dedicated to it and carried out with sorghum beer in order to get its benevolence. Fields, crops, cattle, people, everybody and everything depend on earth’s capacity to distribute wealth such as cereals, grazing lands, fruits. This is the reason why men try not to alienate its spirit. Rains, alternating with sun, perform their precious task and give the land water – indispensable element in order to keep the vegetative cycle. Water too is an element bound to popular beliefs and its eventual plenty or shortage is connected to the behaviour of the people all the year long. Crimes, offences, homicides are often seen as causes of scarce or late rains. The controversial political facts happened in Burkina Faso are often considered having a bad influence on rain time.
The Sahel and, more in detail, Burkina Faso, became famous at the beginning of the ‘70s when a rainfall lower than 75% of the still lacking local rain average caused a drought that had impressive repercussion on people’s life: inadequate yield of agriculture and disappearance of grazing lands with the following death of 70 – 80% of oxen. The faming in Sahel caused the death of one million people and at least 50 million people suffered heavy food shortage.

Burkina Faso was one of the most damaged countries. In 2005 and 2006 some events made believe a severe famine could occur again and also in this case some unfavourable conditions found their origin both in natural and human causes. In the whole area it has been scarce rainfalls for years, the consequence was lower crops yield and a following higher consumption of the limited food stocks. An invasion of locusts concentrated in Niger made the situation more and more critical endangering an area tried by scarce crops of the previous years. It was told that in Burkina Faso 80% of the population could hardly find sufficient food.
Such food crisis made again emerge one of the biggest problems of the Sahel’s countries, where the reduced availability of fertile lands magnifies the effect of the scarce rainfalls. The lack of growable land has not a natural cause only; it is also a consequence of the choices made by the colonial administration and later, because of the huge interests, kept by the most of government set up after independence.
In the past the growers grew thermophile cereals, such as millet and sorghum, that need little water. Together with rotation such cultures granted a good balance to the delicate land. During colonial period the most fertile lands were changed into plantations by the foreign companies that did not cultivate thermophile or xerophilous cultures, but they planted cotton and sugarcane, maize, peanuts – products for export that, besides impoverishing the land and bring to desertification in about thirty years, this is the case of cotton, they also lower the level of the underground water layers because they need a lot of water to grow.
It is easy to understand that the prevailing of this agricultural model, besides reducing the scarce cultivable lands, that in Burkina Faso are only a small part of the territory (14%), changed also the social structure of part of the population.
Today those who work in plantations earn from 0,4 to 0,7 ? /day – insufficient to grant an acceptable support and the purchase of indispensable articles. In some area before such economical model prevailed food provisions took place through barter that assure a minimal, but constant, production and spread of particular goods. Many growers after plantations were established could no more cultivate the best lands and moreover got an inadequate salary to support them, without goods to exchange and with a seriously compromised that does not allow even the cultivation of cereals needed for food.
At the moment this area of Africa has an underdeveloped agriculture, with a few means available, where the work is carried out almost exclusively manually on not much fertile lands, without the possibility to have sufficient food stocks. In such situation, as soon as unfavourable weather conditions reduce lands’ yield, food stock problems rise and many associations distributing help affirm that, in case of severe emergency, their efforts will not be sufficient to avoid famine, such as the one known in the 70s.
Thomas Sankara, during his premiership, tried to solve this situation. He tried to limit foreign companies’ influence in domestic politics trying to give farmers a more effective mentality for the management of their land. He was used to say “the land belongs to those who work it”. Further to this and other reforms Sankara was killed in 1987. In Burkina Faso everybody agree on saying the murder was supported by the French government and organised by Blaise Compaoré, Burkinabe president in charge. After Sankara’s death reformist activity regressed and nowadays, 20 years later, Burkina Faso meets again into the possibility of a catastrophic famine.

In this background during the years the interventions of humanitarian associations that realised development and help projects increased. The interventions were steered into children’s education, schools were built and teaching staff was trained and they tried to improve sanitary conditions thanks the opening of free drug dispensaries and sanitary education courses. In the same time professional training and local handicrafts production were supported and thanks to micro credit institution ethnic and local trade initiatives were born. The aim is to improve the quality of life of the people, making them financially self-sufficient and giving them cultural and social means allowing them to set themselves against the evil political choices of the government.

I was born in Pistoia, Tuscany, where I still live. I have always been attracted by the visual arts and their reproduction. I started off playing around with an old family Cannonet which I used on trips and holidays; as time passed, this passion developed, and with it came new commitments.
My first projects were based on landscape photography, which I gradually matched with travel and social report stories, which then became the principal focus of my work.
Initially I sought a faithful and descriptive representation of reality; later I began to create a more personal and interpretative vision of the subject, especially when I no longer feel the division between subject and myself, when the camera becomes a prosthesis of my body rather than an extraneous object I carry around with me. When this happens the subject perceives the sensation and becomes more spontaneous, taking no more notice of me.
I limit my equipment as far as possible in order to be as unobtrusive as possible; when I go on a shoot I take just one camera and a wide-angle lens. I make many of my landscape cuts with the tele, using the flash only as a filler, both in natural light and at night-time.
My work has been published in several European magazines and newspapers, displayed in Europe and in the United States, and are also shown at cultural events. In 2008, with a selection of images from my Burkina Faso project, I gained “Runner-Up” position in the “Travel Photo of the Year” competition, run in the UK by The Independent and Wanderlust Magazine. I won the Silver Award of Excellence in the “Biennial Juried Photography Show” held at the Edward Hopper House Museum on New York. I received the Bronze Award in the Orvieto Fotografia competition for the portrait and reportage categories. The “Water and Land in Sahel, the case of Burkina Faso” reportage gained second place in the International Photography Awards 2008 (NY) in the Editorial-Political category, and obtained two honorable mentions for the Environmental and Feature Story category, in the same contest.
I adore Asia, I find it a fantastic continent and an inexhaustible source of mental and photographic inspiration.

Azania Speaks in images

*Caught blackberrying... shuuuuooo

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rhythms of Azania.... in The Guardian 7/12/08

(As published in the LIFE magazine of The Guardian of Sunday, December 7, 2008)

Azania Speaks, a conference on Spoken Word and Oral Literature in contemporary African literary discourse held between November 17 and 19, 2008 in Udine in the Northeastern part of Italy.
With the sub theme Visions of Patnership in Africa: The Art of the Spoken Word, the conference focused much of its deliberations on the power of oral poetry and storytelling; female voices in contemporary African oral poetry and contemporary African poetic production in connection to ancient African oral traditions. It was organised by the Faculty of Modern Languages of the University of Udine, under the leadership of the Dean, Prof Antonella Riem Natale as convener, backed by Dr Maria Bortoluzzi. The Doctoral research fellow, Raphael D’Abdon was coordinator of the conference with support of Laura Pecoraro and Piergiorgio Tresvan. Music was coordinated by the South African poet, Natalie Moletbasi while Tiziana Pers oversaw the Visual Arts segment.
Nduka Otiono, former Arts Editor of ThisDay newspaper and ex-Secretary General of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, gave the keynote in which he traced the origin of oral poetry and story telling performances in Africa, highlighting the current movement around countries on the continent.

. Otiono with Prof Itala Vivian, middle is Raphael, arrowhead of the conference secretariat

Speaking on Mind Grenades, Verbal Missiles: Spoken Wor(l)d and the Impoversihed Generation in Post Colonial Africa, Otiono, who is currently a Doctoral student at the University of Alberta, Canada, stressed on the development in Nigeria using the advent of such events as the now defunct Beautiful Nubia-initiated Word n’ Sound, British Council-sponsored Word and Picture, WAPI, the Culture Advocates caucus/Goethe Institut-driven WordSlam as well as Taruwa among others as example of the popularity that the form is gaining in the public performance space. He also noted that much of he content of the so-called Hip-Hop musical production in the country have their root in oral poetry performance. He however, paid tribute to the work of Sage Has.son (Rage) and Jumi Fola-Alade (Imole) – both of whom he said have focused their career on pushing the frontiers of the form. He also acknowledged the work of those regular features in WordSlam such as Awoko, Dagga Tolar, Edaoto and Cornerstone, naming them as artists who could be relied upon to continue to deepen public interest in the Spoken Word and Oral poetry act.
However, Otiono warned that except there is serious scholarship work trained at the work currently being produced, the potential gains of the Spoken Word form as a platform for free expression by the citizenry as well as a medium for advancing participatory democracy and good governance ideals may be missed. Sad enough, he observed that the Nigerian aged and seemingly un-dynamic academy culture does.
Exceptionally instructive, was Pierpaolo Martino’s (University of Bari) presentation titled Wi tired ah di degradation: Women’s dub poetry, in which he exposed the intrigues and politics of the sexes even in as neutral a genre as Poetry. He observed that much of the content of men’s dub poetry is full of condescending references to women, particularly summarizing women as simply objects of lascivious desires and libidinous fantasies. He said, however, that women themselves are beginning to respond although not as openly disrespectful of men – for instance, making uncomplimentary remarks about their genitalia – but in setting records straight by showing the men the straight face. They challenge men to change their tone and sing of more sensible subjects and behave responsibly. Intriguingly however, Martino said even as women wash up their sensuous personality to the vocation of dub poetry, they still have to rely on the ‘brawnish’ hard grind of male dub rhythms, which carries with it the atypical phallic aggression.

. The meeting of the continent: Ntsiki Mazwai, Nduka Otiono, Shailja Patel and Napo Mashaene; squatting is Jahman Anikulapo

The creative head of Culture Advocates Caucus, CAC, (conveners of the quarterly live poetry performances, WordSlam, also spoke on Popular Music and politics citing works of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, his contemporaries and the protégés of their type of music such as Lagbaja, Femi Kuti, Seyi Solagbade among others as well as the work of the so-referenced Ajegunle musicians and a few of the Hip hop and Afro-pop acts. Specifically on Spoken Word, he gave credit to Mode 9, whom he said is about the most eloquent of the form. He informed that the future of Spoken Word and Oral Poetry in popular musical idiom depends on the encouragement from the larger consuming public, who would at some point need to start demanding more meaningful and serious lyrical content from the Hip-hop singers and musicians. “For now, much of the music that is coming out from these chaps is flat, lack depth or worthy themes. The lewd and sleazy lyrics have become the norm, giving strength to the claim that philosophy and critical thinking have taken flight from the faculty of many of the current generation of artists”, he said.
There were other remarkable presentations including ‘The Brave New World of African Women Fighting Through Words’, by Prof. Itala Vivian from the University of Milan, who in conclusion urged for producers of cultural events on the continent to give more rooms to expression by women, especially through the arts. Prof Itala was indeed an inspirational presence at the conference; her knowledge of African literature is vast and she seems to have met virtually everybody who was important to the great cultural movement that produced the literature of the 60s through the 90s and beyond. She recalled with nostalgia her meeting with Ken Saro-Wiwa, especially, “the huge laughter from the smallish man… he was full of life and it was sad that the Nigerian government killed him so violently”, she said, recalling that she and a few friends had few hours after the writer, environmental activist was hanged in November 1995, organized a quick conference to draw world attention to the madness that had just transpired in Nigeria.

. Pierpaolo speaking on Women Dub poetry

“I remember that people from AGIP were invited and they came… making attempt in their presentation to show that unlike the other oil companies in Nigeria, they had been responsive to the needs of their host communities”.
Aside the various presentations, the conference was suffused with performances, mostly by the South
Africans, whose vibrant voices were led by the compulsive crowd teaser and thriller, the poet Natalia Moletbasi, who also played active role in the organization of the conference. The performers were no doubt drawn from the past work of the coordinator-in-chief of the conference, D’Abdon, who had done an earlier research: The Post-Apartheid South African Poetry. The star performer was Ntsiki Mazwai, whose cute act leans more towards dub poetry. The audience members were instruments in her fingers and she knows how to twiddle them to her will and rhythms – with music as a strong feature of her work. Napo Masheane, did not rely on music but her sensuality even while she invokes the spirit of the heroines of the motherland and talked about political issues was winsome. She drove the audience to passion with every of her rendition. There were other poets too, encouraged to perform in either Italian or their native languages. Sardanian Alberto Masala, whom Prof Vivian described as a very sensitive poet but who needs to organize his live acts, articulated the anxiety of his people, which he described as one of the fast disappearing tribes in the world. “my language is fading away, my people are disappearing”, he wailed.

. Tahar Lamri, the Algerian migrant poet in Italy, in performance

Lance Henson, however, whom Otiono critiqued as intensely sensitive is a poet in the natural fare of the griot of old, who engage nature to explain the foibles of man and living. His subjects are often the unexpected and his poem very short, such that just as the listener is warming up into the act, he has already finished his words leaving his voice and his evocative words lingering in the consciousness.

. A cross section of the audience

A brief screening of recordings from WordSlam also gave a hint of what is currently happening in Nigeria. It’s elaborate staging technique and often charged atmosphere coupled with the involvement of children, was applauded by many in the audience.
Perhaps the most affective lesson taken away from Azania Speaks was the performance possibilities that were exposed for the Short Story form. Shailja Patel, the Kenyan Word artist’s performance of excerpts from her published work, Migritude: An Epic Journey in Four Movements remained the most applauded presentation at the conference. On her stage, the cold word of the short story gained a narrative strength that is executed in intense dramatics and vocal colourings; her voices rose and dipped according to the cadencies of the characters of the historical facts she was narrating – she drove every of her conviction about the narration into the heart and heads of her audience. The silences in the room were an attestation to the veiled accord between her and her listeners.

. Lance Henson...

Sharing of Patel’s new wave of performance Short Story form was Tahar Lamri, the Algerian migrant artist who is based in Italy. Lamri’s reputation in the story telling vocation actually runs ahead of him. He has earned immense credit as a public performer, and this was what he proved with his presentation in Udine, in which he recapped the story of the decimation of Africa and its human and natural resources in his The Voices Pilgrimage. There was also Gabriella Ghermandi from Ethiopia presenting Queen of Pearls and flowers: A Story of Ethiopian patriots Resisting Italian Colonisation.
Azania Speaks is indeed a testimony to the power of the spoken word to help in quickening the democratic in post colonial Africa. As was observed at the conference, in a continent that has not managed to master the ideals of democratic governance, where despots and irresponsible leaders deliberately cripple participation of their people in national political debate, Spoken Word and Oral Literature could manifest as platform of free expression of the wills of the people.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Feast of Book & Art Begins in Lagos



7am: Exhibition already set up

9am : Formal Opening of CHILDREN FESTIVAL
:Exhibition and comic Workshop.

10am : “My Encounter with the Book” by Funmi Iyanda

11am: “Green Graffiti” Workshop – Karo Akpokiere & Chukwuma Ngene
“Green Tales” Workshop – Obari Gomba & Adeleke Adeyemi
Theme: “Lagos on My Mind”- [Organized by LC3 in collaboration with CATE/CORA].

11.30am: The Festival Tour (where kids and their teachers are taken round the grounds of the Fair).

Children on duty at the festival last year



(Panel Discussion on “Youth, Creativity and Development”) with established artists and active young people such as:
•Mrs Nike Davies-Okundaye: (Director, Nike Centre for Arts and Culture)
•Dr. Hope Eghagha: (Lecturer, Dept. of English, Unilag)
•Odion Ogogo: (Director, Heritage Ceramics)
•Tunde Aboderin: (Director, Mobile Cinema Crew)
•Denrele Edun: (presenter, Sound City)
•Segun Adefila: (director, Crown Troupe)
•Oyiza Adaba (Director, Africa Related)
•Kaffy Shafau: (Dance Director)
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Reviews, readings and discussions of Novels, and Non Fiction Works including
i. Ahmadu Koroma's ALLAH IS NOT OBLIGED ,
ii. Uzodima Iweala's BEASTS OF NO NATION;
iii. Helon Habila's MEASURING TIME,
• Theme: The visibility of Photography in the Nigerian Art Gallery Space
Keynote: TAM FIOFORI, veteran photographer,
2. Rep, DEPTH OF FIELDS (James Uche-Iroha)
3. Rep: BLACK BOX (By Uche Okpa-Iroha)
5. CHUKA NNABUIFE — Art writer
6. Victor Politis – Photography Enthusiast
7. Rep, Society of Nigerian Artists, SNA
8. Rep, Guild of Visual Artists

Moderator: Molara Wood, Writer, Journalist
Chairman: Kunle Filani
Special Guest: Chief Joe Musa, Director General, NGA
• Accompanying EXHIBITION on the theme: ‘The Energy of the City’
Featuring works by:
I. Members of PAN including Don Barber; Richard Enesi; Tam Fiofori; Okhai Ojeikere; and Adolphus Okpara
II. Members of DOF,
III. Members of Black Box and
IV. other photographers


7am: Exhibition already set up

10am: Talking Books with Aunty Sola & Friends: A roundtable discussion on ‘Banana Leaves’ – a sequel to ‘Without A Silver Spoon’ by Eddie Iroh.

11am: Panel Discussion and Interactive Session on ‘Sanitation and Climate Change’ the theme of ‘The Green Book’, an anthology of environmental poems, prose and plays by children and young people of ages 7-16.

1pm: “Green Creative Art Workshops”
with Rosalie Modder; Uche James Iroha/Akin Oniti; Wale Asobiojo; Tina Mba; Sheriff Ojetunde/Nike Fagade; Nkechi Osili

11. 30am: OPENING RECEPTION: Dance, Music, Readings etc

1pm: Presentation of THE WEAVER'S COLLECTION


Readings and discussions of Novels, and Non-Fiction Works including

(i) Paul Theroux’s DARK STAR SAFARI,
(ii) V.S Naipul's HALF A LIFE,
(iii) Shiva Naipul's NORTH OF SOUTH,
(iv) Gil Courtemanche's A SATURDAY AT THE POOL IN KIGALI,

Moderator: UCHE NWORAH
(Author, The Bloody Machete; The Long Harmattan Season; Chasing The Shadow)

Music, Wine and Dance Party For:

* Filmmaker TUNDE KELANI at 60,
* Painter KOLADE OSHINOWO at 60
Actor * Zack Orji at 50.
* Writer KUNLE AJIBADE @ 50
* Dancer ARNOLD UDOKA @ 50
* Designer HORGAN EKONG @ 50
(More names of “birthday people”, who have made significant contribution to the growth of culture production in the country, will be added)


• Theme: Dijns, Ghosts, Ghomids and Magical Spells: The reappearance of the Moonlight Tale in the New African Novel

* Zakes Mda's HEART OF REDNESS ,
*Ahmadou Koroma's ALLAH IS NOT OBLIGED

Day 3

10- 2pm: Fashion Show
(Between Kowry Kreations and LCC)


Theme: When Is The Profitable Reading Market?

Toyin Tejuosho,
Otunba Lawal Solarin,
Muhtar Bakare,
Bibi Bakare Yusuf

Moderator: TONI KAN
(Author, A Ballad of Rage; When A Dream Lingers Too Long; A Night Of The Creaking Bed)

5pm : Presentation of Awards for participation

* This will be the result of the Green Book Contest published to mark National Creativity Day. It will be a contest whereby notable environmental authors will participate by 'writing' the 'first paragraph' of a poem, story or play to be completed by school kids. 21 winners of the contest will have their works published and launched during LABAF 2008.


. National Gallery of Art
. National Theatre of Nigeria


The 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival

The Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival is a self styled ultimate gathering of admirers, lovers and downright fanatics of comics, cartoons and animation. The 4th edition of the Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival holding at the National Theatre, Iganmu Lagos from the 7th – 9th of November, 2008 as a part of the 10th Lagos Book & Art Festival organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) and is themed: Youth and the Creative Revolution.

Youth and the Creative Revolution
This year's theme captures effectively the mandate assumed by LC3's organizers to harness the creative energies of young people towards positive development particularly through socio-cultural and economic empowerment. In that regard, this year, we have tagged on to the ever vibrant, ever youthful and ever revolutionary hip-hop movement in our programme for the LC3 through our different collaborative activities which we have lined up with our partners for the three days.



8:00 am – 9.00am: Participating exhibitors / collaborators set up their stands.

10:00 am – 10.30am: Official opening of the 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival.

10.30 am - 3.00pm: Graffiti workshop and talks on creativity and the environment. Organized in collaboration with The British Council Lagos, Children And The Environment (CATE), Dream Arts & Design Agency and the African Artists’ Foundation. School children will get to practice their hands at graffiti under the guidance of visiting international graffiti artists and their home based peers.

3.00pm – 6.00pm: Interactive sessions / exchange for young artists with International Comic Book Artists from across Africa facilitated by the Center for Contemporary Art, Lagos CCA.

11.00 am – 6.00 pm: Screening of animated short flicks will hold for older folks who are not engaged with the children. Participants will talk shop on the screened flicks and the talks will be moderated by leading lights in the industry.


8:00 am – 9.00am: Participating exhibitors/collaborators set up their stands.

10:00 am – 4.00pm: Words and Pictures (WAPI): The free expression event organized by the British Council Lagos will berth at LC3 with a major focus on hip-hop and its influence on comics, cartoons and animation.


8:00 am – 9.00am: Participating exhibitors / collaborators set up their stands.

10:00 am – 2.00 pm: Fashion show in collaboration with Kowrie Kreations Media featuring the works of young Nigerian designers and of course, costumes inspired by comics straight out of Nigeria. All attendees are encouraged to wear the costumes of their favourite local / international super-heroes.

2pm – 4pm: Music, dance, networking till close.

What interested participants should do:

Comic / cartoons publishers and artists are encouraged to book stands to exhibit their comic books, cartoon collections or portfolios by contacting us through the email addresses / phone numbers below. Networking is key to LC3.
Artists who are already involved / who have interests in comics and cartoons are invited to bring their portfolios on Saturday the 8th of November for the Interactive sessions / exchange for young artists with International Comic Book Artists from France and across Africa facilitated by the Center for Contemporary Art where they will have one-on-one interaction with these facilitators.
All lovers of comics, cartoons and animation – children and adults alike- are encouraged to wear their favourite super-heroes' costumes on Sunday the 9th of November for the fashion show. Home made costumes are also most welcome and the most ingeniously dressed attendees will get to strut their stuff down the catwalk, right on television!
Spread the word.

For further information, please contact us though the following means:
Phone: 234-803-3000-499, 234-806-7421-215
Secretariat: CORA House, 1st Floor, 95 Bode Thomas Street, Surulere, Lagos.


Professional Portfolio Review for Young Comic Artists at the 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival

The Centre For Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA Lagos) will be facilitating during the 10th Lagos Book and Art Festival an interactive session and creative exchange for young cartoonists and comic artists with visiting comic professionals from Africa and Europe at the 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival. This programme is part of the educational component for the Picha. African Comics, an international touring exhibition featuring 19 comic artists from all over Africa opening at CCA,Lagos on the 8th of November and continues to 20th December 2008.
- Hide quoted text -
Young cartoonists and comic artists are invited to come with their portfolios to the main exhibition hall, by Entrance 'C' of the National Theatre Iganmu, Lagos, venue of the 4th Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival (which holds from the 7th till the 9th of November 2008) on Friday 7th November 2008 from 3pm till 6pm.
Two of the artists Kola Fayemi (Nigeria) and TT.Fons (Senegal) with curator of Picha Joost Pollman (Holland) and Caroline Vedhuizen (Holland) will take turns reviewing and discussing individually the works of the young cartoonists and comic artists in attendance after which will be held an interactive session with the general audience. This is a capacity building / cultural exchange initiative from the CCA in collaboration with the Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival and the Committee for Relevant Art.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

10th Lagos Book and Art Festival, November 7-9, 2008

Literacy and the Global Knowledge Society
DATE: NOVEMBER 7-9, 2008
Key Literary Events
Panel Discussions . Dialogues . Conversations . Arthouse Parties

Details on

95 Bode Thomas Street, Suruletre, Lagos
Contact; Toyin 08057622415; Jummai: 08023683651

Marketing Consultant:
c/o AYOOLA SADARE 08023044806;

Knowledge capacity of the people of Africa

Preparations for the 10 th Lagos Book & Art Festival, scheduled for November 7 – 9, 2008 , began on the last day of the 9 th outing. The key goal of this edition, which is slated to hold in the spacious Exhibition Hall of Nigeria's National Theatre, right in the heart of the city, remains two fold: (1) To help improve the African human capacity through encounters with The Book and (2) to provide a site for the most informed, robust debates on the literature of the continent.

In pursuit of the second objective for this edition we have detailed the programme content for the three days in this brochure. Conversation will focus on Africa in the Eyes of the Other; The Moonlight Tale in Emerging African Fiction ; The Growing Popularity of the Child Hero in the New African Novel and The Search For A Reading Market.

The first objective – to help improve the intellectual capacity of the people of our continent, -- is a work in progress. We continue to work with libraries, educationists, governments, private sector, brand specialists, communication solution experts, to find the formula to build the knowledge capacity of the African people. We are getting there: Last year we had, 1,600 children attending reading workshops, book debates, drawing experiments, craft practice. LABAF is not a Book Fair, it's a culture carnival with a high book content.

This booklet is a first call for participation: For registration as a trade visitor, to the festival, or as an exhibitor, please fill the form on this brochure and mail to our address, visit our website, or call 234 -8022016495. Thank you.


Secretary General.

Join us at the Feast

The Committee for Relevant Art invites the public within and outside Nigeria, to the Tenth annual feast of the written word. For exhibitors from anywhere, this is a huge market. A hundred and forty million Africans inhabit some 960,000 sq km of space in Africa 's most populous country.

Over 60% of this population are young people between the ages of 18 and 25. Lagos, where the event is holding, is home to 10 million souls.

Every year the Lagos Book and Art Festival plays host to a stream of visiting writers coming to take part in some of the most insightful conversation on literature, literacy and the book market in Africa.

This year won't be different and if you are a writer, an intellectual, a student, a book enthusiast, and you want to participate in any of our programmes, please simply go o the registration page, do the needful and fax to us. We are as keen to have this party filled with Kenyans, Ivorian, Algerians and Mauritanians as we are interested in welcoming Sudanese, Egyptians, Zambians, Angolans and South Africans.

If you have a proposal to do anything that's outside the template that we've put on the programme page of this brochure, please send it to me at, or call me on 234-8022016495.

Lagos is an exciting place to be. You're welcome to share the human energy that animates this city on the edge of the southern Atlantic .


(a.) Opening Reception- The Book In My Life- Funmi Iyanda
(b.)Presentation To Winners of The The Green Story Writing & Telling Contest
(c.) Presentation To Winners of The The Green Comic & Cartoon Contest
(d.) The Festival Tour (where kids and their teachers are taken round the grounds of the Fair).

• Theme: Wars Without End: The Child Soldier As The New Hero in The Emerging African Novel
Reviews, readings and discussions of Novels, and Non Fiction Works including Ahmadu Koroma's Allah Is Not Obliged , Uzodima Iweala's Beasts Of No Nation; Helon Habila's Measuring Time, Biyi Bandele's Burma Boy


• Theme: Challenges of Liberal Democracy In Africa
William Mervin Gumede, author of Thabo Mbeki and The Battle For The Soul of the ANC spars with Dare Babarinsa, author of House Of War



Talking Books with Aunty Sola & Friends" : A roundtable discussion on Eddie Iroh's 'Banana Leaves', by upper primary and lower secondary school kids.

*Presentation of "The Green Book ", an anthology of environmental poems, prose, plays and paintings by children and young people of ages 7-15.



• Theme: Africa In The Eyes Of The Other .

Reviews, readings and discussions of Novels, and Non Fiction Works including Paul Theroux Dark Star Safari , V.S Naipul's Half A Life , Shiva Naipul's North Of South, Gil Courtemanche's A Saturday At the Pool In Kigali, Karl Maier's This House Has Fallen.

2-3PM Saturday, November 8,2008 .
Music, Wine and Dance

Party For:
* Ambassador Segun Olusola at 75,
* Jazz Promoter Tunde Kuboye at 60,
* Filmmaker Tunde Kelani at 60,
* Painter Kolade Oshinowo at 60 and the actor * Zack Orji at 50.
(More names of “birthday people”, who have made significant contribution to the growth of culture production in the country, will be added)

• Theme: Dijns,Ghosts, Ghomids and Magical Spells: The reappearance of the Moonlight Tale in the New African Novel

Zakes Mda's Heart of Redness , Andre Brink's Imaginings Of Sand , Ahmadou Koroma's Allah Is Not Obliged


When Is The Profitable Reading Market?

Andy Akhigbe, Toyin Tejuosho, Otunba Lawal Solarin, Muhtar Bakare, Bibi Bakare Yusuf

Moderator: Tolu Ogunlesi

Presentation of Awards for participation

* This will be the result of the Green Book Contest published to mark National Creativity Day. It will be a contest whereby notable environmental authors will participate by 'writing' the 'first paragraph' of a poem, story or play to be completed by school kids. 21 winners of the contest will have their works published and launched during LABAF 2008.

Paintings will also be sent in and the winning illustration will be placed on the front cover of the book.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wordslam....Poetry in the garden


Words are for the sage
Of old but now on page
We publish its message.

WOW! Fantastic, Fabulous, Mindblowing... were some of the adjectives deployed by members of the distinguished audience of the old and the young -- that congregated satrurday July 5 in the Goethe Institut garden in Victoria Island-- to capture their impression of the proceedings at the first edition of the newly-birthed WORDSLAM.
Under the misting cloud, they sat stubbornly and stuck with the artistes, defying the troublesome rains that kept disorganising the technical set-up (and eventually annihilated opportunity for a technical rehersal for the eventl) to flow with the flow of melody and rhythm of the poetic performances dished out by 10 specially selected artistes; and a score of unbilled budding and aspiring poets that featured in the programme. It was such a splendid evening of celebrating the essence of the WORD in the life of man; particularly, the very essentials of WORD expressed in poetic colours to the average African.

The rage
Of Sage
Mount the stage...

The proceedings started with an ensemble of drummers shocking the audience to life with a festive parade; and then the voice of the eclectic poet, Sage Has.son lazed his famous work RAGE on the staccato of drums. The Priest of the rite of the WORD, Ropo Ewenla came in strongly throwing the house back to the good old day of the celebratory hunter's chant amid a rhythmic trip of the drums.
Then flowed in JUMIE Imole's voice from her CD , IMOLE to which the fleet-footed MURI AMULEGBOJA gave an exciting dance and movement interpretation, drawing loud applause from the audience.
But this was just the beginning as the Ewenla lived up to his billing as the compere teasing the gathering: You Haven't Seen Anything Yet. He went on a trip, chanting, singing, welcoming, cajoling, romanticising... the house to get prepared for the MOTHER POET...

The quiet poetess, Iquo eke, who has performed in virtually all the poetry events (Word&Sound, Poetry Potter, Lagos Poetry Festival etc) swayed in as if in poetic trance... SAY MY NAME, she sang... wooing the gathering with her soothing voice and her seductive steps..... the house fell deeply in love with her, even as she reminded them of the CAGED BIRD. And she came on with VOICE FROM FARAWAY LANDS to sign off her performance.

Let my art
Suit your heart
Only tonight -
You may leave overnight
Without my thought...

Although, many thought that the resilient rain would not allow the event to take its destined shape but... the organisers -- the Culture Advocates Caucus and the Goethe Institut -- stuck to their own guns; and the never-giving-up rain met a hard-resolved Spirit of the Artiste insisting 'The Show Must Go On'.
While the rain unleashed its torrents, the Iremoje poet, Akeem Lasisi countered it with the power of the Word. Well, Rain is of God, and WORD is also of God.. afterall in the beginning was the WORD... No rainmaker was needed to halt the rain; and no rain-conjurer was employed to stop the flow of the Word too. Akeem Lasisi, the word-weaver appeased the rain with some line in Yoruba. And like magic, the rain petered out to mere drizzles till it faded to dryness. Poetry captivated minds, spoken words soothed hearts and rhythm caressed chilled body. And, everything melted into one another like a confluence of rivers that makes mighty ocean.

AKEEM LASISI did Correct Pricing which did torch up the gray recesses of Nigeria's ailment. He weathered the rain and sent the rain to slumber.

Mind not my string
When my magical ring
Strum the Guitar
On the high alter...

Soon it was the AJ soldier-poet, Dagga Tolar that took the audience through the antics of the politrickians; how the thieving elites have decimated the soul of the land and make life nearly unlivable for the masses. The audience had a wow time with the gangling poet, whose dreadlocks kept flowing in the wind like the threads of the angry gods; and his eyes red-shot as he hopped and danced to his irresistible reggae-inflected poetic rendion.

Habeeb Ayodeji, whose stage name is Awoko sang truly like the weaverbird, twanging romantically at the soul of the accoustic guitar. sweat cascaded down his face and the gathering wiped him neat with ovations; even as they could not get enough of him, and kept asking for more. Awoko paid tribute to Children and the seeds of tomorrow; warning errant parents to ensure that whatever action they take today has no dent on the hope of tomorrow. He was speaking to the mood of now when quarrels among the elders in the teaching profession and the political class have left the young ones ever vulnerable... prowling the streets like hapless orphans.

Soon it was the Song of Suya&Wine segment that overwhelmed the audience as jazz music from the band of veteran musicians led by the bassist, Nik Abel.

Then came the poetic reggaist, Cornerstone, fondly called the Spokesman for the Motherland. The revolutionary thrilled with his song deep in philosophical postulations about Freedonm. He wailed 'We are not Slaves' and got the audience worked up to chant along as he strummed on his accoustic guitar. Muri Amulegboja, thrilled on oral poetry interpreted in contemporary dance, singingh the praise of the rain. SAGE, a rare act in the gathering of the poets is a master his art and he dazzled the audience with another of his dance-poetics on love... IFE. It was marvelous!

Perhaps the hottest of the act -- a mix of poetry, music, dance.. the very total art was deliberately left to the final act... This was Edaoto... the Unique Being. As the adage goes "the biggest masquerade leave the sanctum last" , Edaoto, a peculiar-being, trilled and warmed the audience with his participatory and energetic poetry.

Dews drop on leaves:
Small leaves;
Big leaves
Every morning
Without Mourning
The dried leaves
But in celebration
Of the awaken leaves...

Ropo Ewenla, that's the compere. He dropped the anchor of performances by the selected artistes for the 1st WORDSLAM and sailed on the vessel of Open Mind & Mic - a segment of the event - towards picking new candidates for the next edition of WORDSLAM. About 18 people performed their poems on the open session and five of them were selected.

Meet the Candidates For The Next Edition of WORDSLAM

Ayodeji Akinpelu

Uche Uwadinachi

Lanre 'Ari-Ajia

Ayeola Mabiaku

Segun Eluyemi

Photos by Charles Okolo

Word Slam Provides Literary Gourmet For Participants
(Daily Independent, July 8, 2008; )
By Darlington Abuda, Art Reporter, Lagos

Poetic art came to life on Saturday, July 5, at the Goethe Institut, Lagos, as poets and poetry lovers gathered to witness Word Slam - A Feast Of Poetic Flights, a venture that sought to provide answers to questions and seek solutions to life's problems through poem recitation, music, dance and choreography.
The programme, a collaboration between Culture Advocates Caucus (CAC) and Goethe Institut, featured poems and poets that addressed themes ranging from the religious, political, survival to the romantic, the hustles and bustles of life as it affects our land.

Given limited time, the poets performed their recent literary works backed with rhythm and music provided by Awade Jazz Ensemble, and Edun, the ensemble of young masters of the drum.

Among the artistes that performed in Word Slam are Sage, Arne, Ropo, Jumie, Iquo Eke, Akeem, Dagga, Awoko, Jumoke, Cornerstone, Muri and Edeato, all presented their individual style and exceptionality with different messages.
As a tool for political discourse, poetry can be seen as a medium of communication that speaks to all kinds of people from all walks of life. Akeem, for instance, in his poem Correct Pricing, wonders why in the face of hardship occasioned by bad leadership issues to do with the common good of the people are not addressed. Instead, leaders call for the head of the poet.
He also ponders on why pricing in Africa in general cannot be uniform and stable especially as regards petroleum products. Akeem, whose poetry is a recreation of the poetic tradition of the Yoruba, is a journalist and has two poetry albums to his credit.

Dagga, on the other hand, in trying to be philosophical in his poem, Killing Our Dreams, propounds that not all dead people's dreams are dead. He opines that the ideas of people like Martin Luther King (Jnr.), M.K.O. Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, among many activists gone, are still being pursued not just by their protÈgÈs, but poets who believe in their dreams.

Word Slam by the same Dagga, however, is a bit in the musical side; both poems were accompanied by instruments. The dreadlocked Dagga, who said he drew inspiration from the likes of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, is a teacher, socialist and community activist whose poems draw their themes from his everyday experiences.
Poetry was presented through Word Slam in the age-old tradition of African griot and the troubadours of Middle Age Europe. This was evident in Muri's rendition of Yoruba poetry with a blend body language, using dance in both pieces entitled Rain and Ife.

Known as a priest of Yoruba poetry production, his sequence of steps and dance pattern left much to be desired by the audience.

Adding a dash of romance to the contest, Jumoke laments the loss of a lover, Ajani, in her rendition entitled Ajani. A journalist who wrote for The Guardian on Sunday and winner of 2006 Prince Claus Awards, Women Writers in Nigeria (WRITA), Jumoke has her poems, short stories, and essays in several journals in different countries of the world.

Kaduna-born Sage, however, added a touch of modern music in the form of rap to the contest in his rendition of a poems What am I (the spoken word), The Televised Revolution and Music Musing. The poem, What am I (the spoken word) is one with religious message that seeks answers to the existence of man.

Rap music is generally believed to have evolved from poetry, which is an ancient art of black civilization. Ancient literature and history were handed down from generation to generation in African communities. The pattern of chanting customary songs has evolved to become rap music. Sage's The Televised Revolution can be seen to have followed the same pattern, as it is a blend of poetry and music considering its rhyme and rhythm components.

Contemplating Sudan, praying for Ochalla and Kwoto

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Contemplating Sudan, praying for Ochalla and Kwoto

Every time i think of the tragic song that Sudan has become, my mind goes to my dear friend, Stephen Ochalla, artistic director of Kwoto Dance Institut in Khartoum, who to escape the ethnic cleansing going on at home against the 'black' Sudanese had decided to spend time learning and teaching dance in Amsterdam. A deep ideologue, Ochalla and his institut had been active on the political stage, using his theatre to mount campaign against the decimation of Sudanese of his hue by an obvious 'arabite' political elite led by soon-to-be-fugitivised President Omar. When the scene was becoming too volatile and discomforting for his kind of activism -- recall what happened to Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and his theatre comrades in Kenya of the Jomo Kenyatta and later Arap Moi time -- Stephen Ochalla was lucky to be helped out by the Dutch government through The Netherlands embassy in Khartoum to go cool off in an art academy in Amsterdam where he was teaching up till 2003 when we last met. Then he had been full of hope of returning home the 'next year' to continue his activism. I had expressed worry at the choice he was ready to make but Ochalla assured that even while he was stepping to 'relief'in Amsterdam, he had assured himself he had to return home as soon as he concluded his study. According to him, it was discomforting enough that he had to leave behind scores of friends and fans of his theatre and as well members of his troupe. 'I have to go back and join them', he had said. Yet he knew that his choice was fraught with danger. I knew that too. I have prayed ever since then that someday I would see the thick-built Ochalla alive; and on duty. I am still praying anyway.. even as Omar and his Janjamadness have gone completely naked into the market place. Stephen Ochalla, this is for you... still waiting for that promise of the rain.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ogunde… This month I am feeling the doyen

Perhaps, it was that short conversation last week between Biyi Bandele and myself in the thick of the First Lagos International Jazz Festival that has brought me to this conundrum. Otherwise, why would I all of a sudden be filled with the thought of the late Hubert Adedeji Ogunde, 18 years after his passage to higher service on April 4, 1990.
Last Sunday after a soak in the classic jazz menu flowing from the guitar-riddled jazz ensemble led by Bright Gain, I had strolled over to the corner where Makin Soyinka, Lemmy ‘Radio’, Jide Bello and Biyi Bandele were reveling. I hadn’t noticed Biyi minutes earlier when I saw the group trooped to the venue of the Inspiro-organised jazz fiesta at Studio 868 on Aboyade Cole Street, VI, Lagos. It must have been the missing dreadlocks, of course. Okay, I had been hinted earlier on Mama Pako’s blogsite that Biyi had indeed jettisoned the locks for a skin-scraped look – in protestation against certain iniquities in world affairs… it must be the tibetisation of fellow human beings by the soulless Chinese political leadership or the endless cycle of dehumanization in Darfur – to which the world has decided, no resolved, to be overtly, criminally silent or pretentiously – as in half-minded – bothered.
Ohhhh, I am digressing so much.
Anyway, I had joined up to the group; and after initial banters, Biyi who was in the country to run workshop for younger writers, as well as to do a tour reading of his latest work, ‘Burma Boys’ (published by Farafina), had pulled me a little to the corner…
“Jah, I have been thinking… what do you think we can do about our photographer friend, Hakeem?’
‘Oh Hakeem, sad story, very sad story.’
‘Oh yeah, sad. I was thinking that we could do some documentation of his works…’
‘Great idea. Really, it was the mum that frustrated an earlier attempt to take those works into preservation as a testimony to Hakeem’s legendary work around the art.’
“But where can one get the works?’
‘Well, I can’t guarantee the ones with the Mum, though his brother a lawyer, told me last year that some of the works can still be redeemed’.
‘Oh, great. Can we start working with him...’
‘Yes of course, he is very ready. As a matter of fact we were going to do something around the 10th anniversary of Hakeem’s death last year. But somehow it never came to be’.
‘Never too late anyway… oh yeah? You know I was one of the lat people to see him at the hospital then. I would go to see him at the hospital, and we would gist endlessly. ..’
Yeah I remember the at the Cromwell hospital, I recall that hospital recently when I had to stay in Cromwell vicinity.. his ghost was sopresent in my head that I could not sleep properly.’
‘My last visit to him at the hospital, I still remember vividly.. he was wrapped up with all this massive bandage after an operation, and the man was still managing to share jokes and talking about the future of his career’’
‘Yeah, that was Hakeem… do you know that shortly before he returned home only to die, he had given the sum of 1,200 pounds to Ambassador Olusola, towards the opening of a gallery for his photographs, some sort of monument to hios memory… but the problem with the family killed that dream.’
‘But some of the work must still be somewhere..’
“ Sure. Wasee Kareem, the CEO of ZMirage – the company that supplied the stage and lighting materials for this festival – has quite a collection. Maybe about 600 framed works, which Wasee collected from Hakeem shortly before he died.
‘Oh yes, why don’t we start from there.
Sure. Wasee had collected some of the works as his own contribution to the ‘Save Hakeem Shitta’ project that was launched in the heat of his illness then. He had done a beautiful display of those images at his former office at the Gateway Hotel, Sango Otta. We may be able to get him to get the works for whatever we decide to do’. I am sure he will be too glad to cooperate with us… Anybody who knew Hakeem will be ever too ready to help in any project that will help keep his memory alive’.
‘Hakeem was indeed an invaluable asset to the Nigerian art, especially the much work he did in the 80s through the 90s… those documentation….’

That was it. Biyi had reawaken something buried deep in my psyche: the debt I think I owe not just Hakeem but the entire art community to which I have spent my entire working life servicing within my limited resources and opportunities at my feet.
A process is already forming in my head about how to push the idea forward. And very soon, much very soon, much shal be heard about this process and project. It is a promise!!!!!

But then this is not about Hakeem… it is about Ogunde, right?
Yeah, that is my second debt. I have got to dream up something on Ogunde… not because it is fashionable to do that.. nope. It is because Ogunde, the way we his survivors – we… we are all Oginde’s theatre offspring, aren’t we?… even of his politics cast us out of his thatre kingdom as ‘awon alacada’ theatre artistes – have proceeded with his theatre estate, his memory may fade further into the abyss of the forgotten.
I have been asking myself: so what happened to the brilliant idea of the Hubert Ogunde Foundation Award – HOFA -- which one of his sons, a lawyer and his dutiful wife had headlined in the early 90s.
I think the next time I am chanced to be in the presence of the Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel, my only request to him shall be: ‘sir, it is not enough to name the performing hall of the Ogun State Council for Arts and Culture after a man, whose tenacious holding to a dream led to the flowering of a profession that today has produced thousands of Nigerian working class; and as well put the nation’s name on the global stage. Yes, I must remember to tel him that.
At this time, may I share a piece I had done in 2000 for the Millenium heroes project – ‘People In the News’ -- of the TheNews magazine on the legendariness of Hubert Adedeji Ogunde. This will at least serve to remind me of what I set out to write tonight: I am feeling like Ogunde….

Sage of the stage
Jahman Anikulapo
He came in like any ordinary person; no star or unusual event heralded his arrival. When he exited 73 years later, his name was known world wide; the heavens sang in preparation to receive the grand artiste.
Ten years after his exit, one of his monumental creations, Ire Olokun resurfaced on stage in Lagos, during the week-long national and global celebrations to usher in the new millennium. The songs of the theatre doyen remain evergreen. His productions are far more authentic and didactic, more politically and culturally relevant and more socially committed and audience-friendly than pieces that were produced as recently as the first week of the year 2000.
By 4 April 2000, it will be 10 years since Hubert Adedeji Ogunde, revered as the doyen of Nigerian theatre, passed on to higher service, yet no other name surpasses his in Nigerian theatre. No other artiste-figure can contest headship of the art house.
1916: Ogunde did not start out as a nobody. He was the scion of a lineage of political leaders. His grandfather was the head of Ososa, his birthplace, a sprawling string of settlements in Ijebuland in the present Ogun State in western Nigeria. Ososa was one of the earliest towns in western Nigeria to embrace missionary activities and European education. Even at that, the practice of traditional religion was very strong (still so today) and little Ogunde was probably more grounded in the traditional customs than he ever was in Christianity.
“I was born into a family of idol worshippers”, he said. “We are used to singing, drumming all day long and all night long as well”. Besides, being the grandson of a village head and by extension the spiritual head of Ososa, he grew up close to his grandfather, who, as he recalled often presided over the traditional religious ceremonies. In addition, the young chap had a manifest talent for composing songs and creating imaginary scenes even in the middle of festive singing and dancing. He was born already infected with the bug of the performing arts.
Between 1924 and 1928, he was the lead performer in the Egun Alarinjo, the itinerant, as well as Daramojo Atete and Eko Oko masquerades. He would lead the tumultuous chanting, singing and dancing, that were hallmarks of these masquerades.
At St. John’s School, Ososa, where he began schooling in 1925, he was a little star twinkling brightly in the class of equally brilliant pupils.
His parents, Jeremiah Dehinbo and Eunice Owatusan, who had taken up Christianity, were not particularly worried about the predilection of their little boy for ‘entertainment’, as theatre activities were dubbed. He was brilliant in school and that was enough consolation. They could not stop him from performing with the masquerades anyway. He was protected by his grandfather, whom he said had the greatest influence on his life and career.
Ogunde joined St. Peter’s School, Faji in Lagos in 1928, and to his parents dismay, he got more steeped in performing arts. Lagos was one vast pool of opportunities and experiences. The European sailors and their brass bands, ballroom dances and dinner parties were the height of entertainment in the city, and an impressionable Ogunde took in as much as he could.
Schooling at St. Peter’s served to enhance his abilities in the performing arts. Even a short break form Lagos between 1931 and 1932, when he attended Wasimi African School, Ijebu-Ode, could not divert the starlet from his attraction – Lagos and the theatre world.
While teaching between 1935 and 1940, Ogunde was known more for his mastery of the organ than for his speed when writing on the classroom songs and stories. He organized them into a sort of drama society and they engaged in acting plays. According to reports, many of the pupils defied their parents to follow their teacher to his church. As Ogunde’s fame as a gifted organist grew, he was constantly in demand by other churches. It was said that he was no ordinary church organist. He would play folk tunes even to back famous Christian choruses and hymnal songs.
In 1941, however, more out of willingness to satisfy family expectations, Ogunde joined the Nigeria Police Force. It wasn’t a worrisome development to him. He had always been a service-oriented young man, conscious of the need to assist in putting the society on the path of sanity. He felt that the police force was a place where he could contribute to societal progress. Besides, the force workload and rules did not legislate against private practice – not against theatrical activities.
Between March and September 1941, he was at the Police Training School in Enugu, (then in the Eastern Region). In October, he was posted to Ibadan as a 3rd class constable. In 1943, he was transferred to the Force ‘C’ division of the force, in Ebute Metta, Lagos.
Returning to Lagos afforded Ogunde the opportunity to pick up his suspended theatre career, which the six months police training had somewhat interrupted. On 12 June 1944, he presented his first opera – Te Garden of Eden and The Throne of God at the Glover Memorial Hall, then the main venue for artistic programmes, and social events dominated by colonial officers.
While he received huge applauses for the great performance, which to fellow Nigerians was novel and to the European, unimaginable for a black man, he earned a warning from the police force. I 1945, when he presented Worse than Crime, he resigned his service and formed his a company of amateur performers called African Music Research Party.
‘Tiger’s Empire’, which launched the company and Ogunde into professional practice in March 1946 again earned him harassment from the police: even though he was no longer in the force. In spite of this adverse reaction, he presented in 1946, Darkness and Light; Mr. Devil’s Money (Ayinde); Herbert Macaulay and Human Parasite.
From this time onward, nothing could stop Ogunde! His troupe embarked on a tour of the old Western province, extending to Benin and Asaba. When he ventured up North, his troupe was banned in Jos for staging Strike and Hunger in October 1946. The artiste and radical however, still sought to register his message; he flooded the tin city with posters of the play, which highlighted the predicament of workers and their families in a corrupt system. He was fined 125 pounds for that effrontery.
By this time, Ogunde had gained a good measure of notoriety such that he had to take extra security measures at his performance venues. According to him, “truth is bitter; and worse when it is directed at the man who holds the power to punish you. As an artiste however, I saw myself as an opinion moulder, as speaker for the deprived and that was what I did, even though the authorities did not like it”.
Organizing the troupe was no easy task, especially in the areas of recruitment of artists and financing. This is what he said about his experience in 1943. “It was very difficult at the beginning “ he told a crowded press conference in 1986. “My first problem was casting – getting boys and girls on stage to come and perform was most difficult. Nobody wanted his son or daughter to become a beggar or street dancer, which was what they took artists to be. I had to devise a way. I married three or four of the women and they performed with me, so their parents had little chance of discouraging them”.
“But finance was my biggest problem. My savings when I left the police force was nine pounds, which was lot then! And that was after about eight years in service. It was from that little savings that I maintained my first group. But when we started to perform, we had a huge audience and fans who came to see our shows, so we were earning just enough to keep us going. What really sustained us though was the commitment of those artistes who were not particular about money as most artistes of today. The whole idea of theatre was new to them and they loved it; they liked the fame it brought them.”
Though it had a huge audience at home, the African Music Research Party was haunted by law enforcement agents. The troupe was becoming a security risk. It was at this time that Ogunde, the adventurous artist, ventured to take his company out of Nigeria.
In October 1946, the company took Strike and Hunger to Dahomey (now Benin Republic). It was the first time the company performed outside Nigeria. Ogunde discovered there was a huge market potential for his productions on the West Coast, which he was later to tour extensively.
With the growing profile of the company around the West Coast, the relentless adventure took a shot at Britain. When he and his lead actress, Miss Clementine Ogunbule, who later became Mrs. Adeshewa Ogunde, were refused passports by the British High Commission. A gale of protests swept through the land as thousands of fans condemned the inconsiderate action of the colonial officers as undue censorship. Ostensibly, this was the first test of the magnitude of Hubert Ogunde’s national status. With so much uproar, the authorities were forced to issue the couple passport and the two left Nigeria in March.
When he returned to Nigeria in October 1947, the dramatis t had been exposed to a more effective organizational structure for a theatre company. Thus, the African Music Research Party transformed to the Ogunde Theatre Company. The change of nomenclature was then perceived as a strategy to re-position the company for a new professional phase. The Pan-Africanist and patriotic disposition of the company.
Back home, the international fame garnered by the troupe my stified its status in the eyes of a people just stumbling on oil wealth. There was a huge demand to see the unofficial Nigerian cultural ambassadors, did not change, as Ogunde continued to use his drama to conscientize the society; rousing the people's consciousness and sanitizing the psyche of corrupt leadership.
He continued his exploration of the West Coast and took his company to the then Gold Coast in 1948 to stage King Solomon, which marked the first major setback of the company. A more politically conscious Gold Coast society, already familiar with Pan-Africanism and the political determinism ideology of Nkrumah, gave a cold reception to Ogunde's biblical story. He hurried back home with his troupe, disappointed but not defeated. Later the same year, he revised his strategies and stormed the Gold Coast with ‘Swing the Jazz’, and got them hooked to his authentic African concert party idea. He had the last laugh as they celebrated him.
Having conquered Ghana, Ogunde and his company faced French-speaking Ivory Coast, where they became lords of the theatre house, breaking language and culture barriers.
Later in the fifties, according to Professor Ebun Clark, an ardent documentarist of the Hubert Ogunde phenomenon, "the Ogunde Concert Party was founded, Ogunde modeled the style of this theatre on the Western variety theatres".
Professor Clark continues, "it is a measure of the man's originality that it is with this much misunderstood form that he created yet another revolution in Yoruba theatre, moving it away from musical form to that of speech. It was during this phase of his theatre that he gave his actors the free rein to speak their line rather than sing them." The theatre also became multilingual; exploring pidgin English as a means of reaching a wider audience.
An indeed innovative move in theatre, movement of the time, which also paraded Kola Ogunmola and Duro Ladipo among others, the new deal of the Ogunde Concert Party spurred a prolific creative enterprise in the troupe. In the new form, he produced ‘Towards Liberty’ (1947); ‘Swing the Jazz’; ‘Yours Forever (Morenike)’ (1948); ‘Half (S'eranko S'enia) (1949); and ‘Gold Coast Melody’ (1949).
The new form, however, exposed Ogunde more to the vagaries of censorship. He went to Kano in May 1950 to stage Bread and Bullet -- about his most biting satire. His company was banned, and he was arrested for sedition. Upon discharge, he was fined six pounds for putting up his posters in spite of the official sanction.
On the occasion of the seventh anniversary of his troupe in 1951, he staged My Darling Fatima, which, because of its mild political undertone, was perceived as a traditional phase of his career in terms of thematic focus.
From ‘Bread and Butter’ to ‘My Darling Fatima’, the Ogunde Concert Party had gradually shifted from plays with a political focus to social satire: getting more engaged with themes of every day living.
Some critics felt that his bitter encounter with the law in Jos the previous year, had cowed the activities of the great artiste. Ogunde replied that he was responding to the yearnings of his huge audience, who he said had had to succumb to the rot and immorality that were being imported from overseas by returnee Africans. His theatre was for the people, he asserted.
After ‘My Darling Fatima’ in 1951, he went on to produce other satirical pieces such as ‘Portmanteau Woman’ (1952); ‘Beggar's Love’ (1952); ‘Highway Eagle’ (1955); ‘Princess Jaja ‘(1953); ‘lle lwosan (Village Hospital)’ (1951) and ‘Olowo Ojiji (Delicate Millionaire)’ ( 1958).
In 1960, the Ogunde Concert Party seemed to have been jolted back to political themes, when Ogunde was commission. He wrote and produced ‘Songs of Unity’. Though the title sounded harmless, the concept was politically biting; an excoriation of the problems of the emerging nation, forewarning of the factors that could hinder the unity of Nigeria in future. It didn't find complete favour with the government, but it projected Ogunde nationally as the true artistic voice.
Moreover, ‘Songs of Unity’ set the artiste back on the political path. His next play, Yoruba Ronu, produced under the name Ogunde Theatre, was banned, and his company was forbidden from performing throughout tile Western Region by the Samuel Ladoke Akintola government. The play had analysed and caricatured certain political leaders, especially functionaries of the ruling party in the region; exposing their iniquities. Premier Akintola thus banned the company.
This did not deter Ogunde. He reacted by producing Otito Koro (Truth is bitter), which worsened his case. Nevertheless he produced Awo Mimo(Truth Is bitter) , which worsened his case. Nevertheless, he produced Awo Mimo, which engaged allegories and metaphors to criticise the insincerity of the leadership. The ban on Ogunde Theatre was lifted in 1966 by the new military regime headed in the region by Col. Adekunle Fajuyi. In 1967, the Ogunde Theatre was chosen by the Nigerian government to represent the country at the famous Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada. A glorious era of international fame had begun for the prophet despised at home by over zealous political leaders. At the expo, Ogunde was contracted by impressed scouts to make a detour through the United States of America, where he performed at the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City.
From this point on, the troupe became a regular sight on the international stage. Between 1968 and 1970, the troupe staged three plays in ‘London: Mama Eko’ (1968); ‘Obanta’ (1969); and ‘Oh Ogunde’ (1969); and ‘Ogun Pari’ in 1970 to celebrate the end of the Nigeria Civil War(1967-1979).
Back home, the international fame garnered by the troupe mystified its status in the eyes of a people just stumbling on oil wealth. There was a huge demand to see the unofficial Nigerian cultural ambassadors, the Ogunde Theatre. In 1970, upon return, the energy and resources of the company were excessively stretched to realise three plays at the Glover Hall Lagos —‘Ewe Nla’, ‘Iwe Gbemi’ and ‘Ayamno’.
A journalist with the Daily Times recalled that the vast Glover Hall was too small to accommodate the number of people that turned up from Lagos, Abeokuta, Enugu, Kano and parts of West Africa. The reporter noted in particular, the changes in Ogunde Theatre's technique of staging — there was profuse use of lighting effects and a more stylised form of acting, different from the realism that was the hallmark of previous presentations.
In 1971, the troupe returned to Glover Hall with ‘Onimoto’, one of its most popular pieces, which eventually sold thousands in musical album format. That same year, the troupe went to Obisesan Hall, Ibadan with ‘Kehin Sokun’, which featured the death by firing squad policy of the Nigerian government.
Ogunde's exposure to professional theatre management in the West as well as the growing influx of charlatans into the theatre production business, partly spurred by the new oil wealth and the profligacy of the elites' consumption pattern, led him to found the Union of Nigerian Dramatists and Playwrights. He was appointed the pioneer president. At inception, there were as many as l50 members.
The formation of the union was also to prepare the theatre producing community for the challenges of the impending National Festival of Arts, proposed by the Nigerian Art Society as a prelude to the proposed festival of black and African arts and a sequel to the first Negro Festival of Arts held in Dakar in 1966. As much as possible, Ogunde's vision helped to present a common theatre agenda to the government
Ogunde himself spent much of his time, especially between 1971 and 1976 engaging the organisers of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in media battle over what he saw as an attempt to undermine the professional integrity of the indigenous artistes. In 1975, he led a national protest by artistes against the organisers' invitation of Ipi Tombi, a dancing troupe from South Africa, to formally open the festival.
Deploying clout and resources of his office as president of the Union of Nigerian Dramatists and Playwrights, he canvassed that an indigenous Nigerian company should perform at the opening of the festival. When the government and FESTAC organisers were adamant, he was reported to have threatened staging a parallel festival of dance, music and drama that could dwarf the FEST AC opening ceremony.
In the euphoria of FESTAC in 1977, he produced ‘Nigeria, Igba lode’ and ‘Orisa Nla’ -- three highly entertaining, culturally rich works that were instantly acclaimed by critics as masterpieces. The government was eventually grateful for his immense contribution to the success of the global fiesta.
As Ogunde battled the FESTAC organisers, he was still equally active in his career, and came out with a monumental production, ‘Aiye’ — a piece loaded' with myth, fantasy and a profusion of magic realism, which changed the face of theatre production. Glover Hall was the venue of the performance witnessed by royalty and political leaders; including tourists from across the West Coast.
After Aiye, Ogunde slowed down or so it seems! His next production, Ekun Oniwogbe was in 1974, followed by Ekun Oniwogbe in 1975. Murtala Mohammed, a politically patriotic piece, was dedicated to the memory of the military Head of State, General Ramat Murtala Mohammed, who was killed in a coup . d'etat on February 13, 1976. It was also staged at the Glover Hall, followed by Oore Niwon in the same year at 1lorin.
Hubert Ogunde did not only counter the FESTAC organisers for their lack of respect for indigenous artistes in their programming, he also tack- led the management of the National Theatre in Lagos for indiscriminately increasing the cost of hiring facilities in the edifice. He held many public briefings and in the end succeeded in getting the hiring fee slashed. When he stage Igba L'ode in the national cultura1 edifice later, it was sweet victory for the indigenous troupes that had been prevented from using the facilities at of the theatre complex. It was however the first time Ogunde would stage a premiere of his own play at the theatre or at any other venue other than the Glover Memorial Hall.
Hubert Adedeji Ogunde extended the frontiers of theatre production when in 1976, he put his famous work, Aiye, on celluloid. Like all his innovations, Aiye the film, was an eye opener on the potential of the film medium. A large number of theatre practitioners took to the use of the medium. He went on to produce Jaiyesimi (1980); Aropin N'tenia (1982), his 1964 political drama script. He capped the film exploit with Ayanmo in 1989, said to be partly an allegorical autobiography.
Even after over 35 years of global acclaim and honour, which Ogunde had brought to his country, he was not formally recognised by the Nigerian government until 1983, when he was awarded Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He rejected it, to the bewilderment of the government. He cited personal reasons for the rejection, but observers said he was disenchanted with the corrupt tendencies of the government.
In 1985, however, the Obafemi Awolowo University, IIe-lfe awarded him an honourary Doctor of Letter.
The greatest national honour given to him was his appointment as the founding Consultant/Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria. Against widespread trepidation that the maverick, radical artiste would reject the appointment by a military government, Ogunde took up the onerous responsibility; traveled all over the country to sample over a thousand potential talents for the troupe. He later congregated an initial 46-member troupe called the Ososa Experiment, comprising mostly members of his own troupe and selected artistes from parts of the country, whom he took on tour of Burkina Faso and Morocco.
The Ososa Experiment was to prove to a doubting federal government that it was possible to constitute a National Troupe. The troupe was to have gone to the Commonwealth Festival in Auckland, but Nigeria boycotted the festival as a mark of protest against the apartheid situation in South Africa. After taking the troupe round the then 19 states of Nigeria, Ogunde disbanded the group and persuaded the government to send him on a nationwide tour to recruit members for a 120-member group, which he christened The National Troupe of Nigeria, and nursed, nurtured and groomed to international standard.
Ogunde sought to launch the troupe internationally when he contracted them to the cast and crew of Mr. Johnson, a Hollywood film project to which he had been appointed a Co-producer. He developed a heart problem while on the set in Jos. Millions of fans and admirers went into mourning. He died at 5.25a.m on Wednesday, 4 April 1990, at Cromwell Hospital in London.
And the Heavens wept.
And the face of Nigerian theatre was distended for ever!
A hollowness caused by the exit of the grand patriarch of the living stage.
But in the year 2000, ten years after his death.
Hubert Adedeji Ogunde remains an evergreen memory;
the towering lroko;
the grand force of the swirling theatre world of Africa.
A legend of the world living stage.
This is one artiste who shunned
success and instead went after greatness.
He was greatness itself.