Everyone loves a good story. Through storytelling, we can get our message across more clearly and in a more engaging manner. It is also common knowledge that nobody can tell your story better than you, and this applies to the Nigerian creative industry today, as no one can tell Nigerian stories better than Nigerians.
Theatre professionals in the Nigerian theatre industry have continued to re-tell Nigerian history creatively and dramatically through drama, dance, and music while celebrating Nigeria’s different but unique cultures. Through stage plays, these artistic professionals have peddled Nigerian stories and captured the interest of a large majority both home and abroad in Nigerian theatre.
Recently, MTN Nigeria through its Foundation partnered with three theatre professionals to produce three stage plays; Death and the King’s Horseman, Ufok Ibaan, and Osamede the Play.
Death and the King’s Horseman, written by Professor Wole Soyinka, was produced in partnership with Bolanle Austen-Peters. The story recounts the event that took place in the ancient town of Oyo during World War II, when Nigeria was still a British colony. The king has died and Elesin Oba, the chief horseman, commences the traditional ritual that will ensure the smooth transition of the late king to the world beyond. The story dramatically tells the consequences that befell the king’s horseman and his family when the British colonial officer intervenes and stops the ritual from happening.
Speaking on the play, the producer, Bolanle Austen-Peters, said Death and the King’s Horseman is based on a real-life tragic event that took place in the ancient town of Oyo, and the story is about culture, history, tradition, and culture clash.
“The story is deep, now I understand why Prof. Soyinka got the Nobel Prize for Literature. I also went deep, I became Elesin Oba! I had to get into Elesin’s head. I wondered how I would feel knowing that I had to commit suicide to follow my king to another world,” said Austen-Peters.
Ufok Ibaan was produced in partnership with the Duke of Shomolu Productions in the city of Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State. It is a dramatic recount of the Ikot Abasi Women’s Uprising.
Commenting on the play, the producer, Joseph Edgar, said Ufook Ibaan “is a dramatic recount of the 1929 women’s riot that positioned Eastern Nigerian women as notable forces to be reckoned with during the Nigerian colonial era.
“This play focuses on the experiences of the Ikot Abasi women led by Madam Adiaha Edem Abia. Through music, dances and dramatic sequences, it brings to life the brave actions of women who stood against financial oppression albeit with tragic consequences. The play is a heartfelt celebration of Ufok Ibaan – the collective strength of women,” Edgar said.
Senator Udo Udoma, whose grandmother, Madam Adiaha Idem was said to have led the protest and was killed in the uprising, was present at the play and he recapped the story as told to him by his father (late sir Udo Udoma).
Osamede (for Kingdom and Country) was produced in partnership with Lilian Olubi of Lillygates Productions. OSAMEDE, meaning ‘who the King has crowned’ in the Benin language tells the story of an orphan girl who went from obscurity to the palace and risked her life to redeem the people of her community from a life of oppression through her remarkable courage.
Lillian Olubi, Executive Producer of Osamede the stage play, while speaking about the play, said Osamede is a story that speaks in many ways to a problem and a solution. The play tells the story about a woman of courage who was favoured, had an opportunity of influence, and used that influence, with immense courage and fortitude to try and bring change to her community.
“The overarching theme of Osamede revolves around nationhood, societal injustices and how we can make changes when we have the opportunity, at the same time celebrating the Nigerian culture through dance and music,” said Lillian Olubi.
In all, the theatre productions in partnership with MTN Foundation was an opportunity to appreciate Nigeria’s history through dramatic storytelling, celebrate Nigerian culture and create opportunities for young Nigerian creatives in arts and culture.
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