OVERVIEW: 30 YEARS IN PERFORMING ARTS IN NIGERIA
It is discouraging to the artists when they hear that there are provisions made for the arts but such grace can only reach them if they know where to go and lobby and spend days and hours of their creative time waiting for the crumbs to fall from the table of bureaucrats. Artists are never remembered when 'the chips are down'.
A lot of us were remembered when we were needed to come and perform at FESTAC but no one remembers us when the goodies are to be shared, no royalties, not even to be given a remembrance pat on the back for past performances. CBAAC's gesture in remembering the great festival was a splash of N3 million on postage stamps while artists are starving and looking for ways to support their creative channels.
Writers are looking for publishing avenues, producers are looking for financial support to make films and give actors jobs to keep the nation happy. Some of the joys I have experienced so far is the singular honour of bringing out Egun LAPAMPA across the bridge to perform in my stage production of Awero, and also to get the greatly reverred to Chief Ajanaku II, on stage in my cast in the main bowl of the National Theatre.
For the production in 1986.
The fantastic experience of spending two hours alone, on top of Zuma Rock to record late Maman Vatsa's poems.
On the whole, I have seen the arts grow from arts for-arts-sake to arts for money. What we need now is showbusiness' businessmen to help the entertainment business generate money and make Nigeria's entertainment industry lucrative, and more viable to open up to bigger ventures.
For my 40 years celebration in the arts, I am presenting my collection of 128 poems, to introduce performance poetry and ligher and gather followership in poetry among young Nigerians I have also just completed a musical album using some of the poems for lyrics.
Over the years, I have run the Lari Williams' playhouse as the theatre of “Edutainment” our 'live' shows include the annual “LOVE SHOW' on February 14, Valentine Day and regular speech classes to improve presentation in productions of DRUMCALL performances to crown my contributions.
I also established a school-The Academy of Dramatic Arts and Music (ADAM). I am also putting in motion a Soap Opera titled Home to AJEGUNLE to be aired at LTV Channel 8 Lagos.
It is a serialization of an old stage play - Home to Ajegunle.
My recommendation is that ceramics, graphics and especially the performing Arts need special schools, well funded, to raise the standard of arts to international level to stand the task, demand and service of nation building. The skills, intellect, professionalism required to build standard productions to stand the international competition and commercial viability require better, well established and properly managed institutions.
We are scratching the surface in trying to build the Arts and entertainment industry without proper training grounds.
The global village which the world has blossomed into, accommodates every competitor on equal footing and thereby demands equal standard for equal treatment. Commercial arts is less than a hundred years old in our part of the world, and since the market has spread and opened out to admit us, we must know that we are competing with nations that established their market 500 to 600 years ago.
We therefore cannot present our products at amateur level, and expect to achieve the standard for such competition. We require absolute professional training which cannot be got from one small wing of the University dealing with arts training as if it's doling favours to a few individuals who need to keep their teaching jobs.
Polytechnics are doing a good job giving basic training to beginners. But such masters should be given the opportunity to start proper professional schools that can stand the test of time and bring out worthy artists. Such institutions will discourage untrained, though talented crowd of art enthusiasts from wasting their time and bringing down the standard of our arts.
This has given room to all sorts and all-comers, to infiltrate the industry and proliferate the screen productions with poor standard works. With such institutions in existence, there will be no room for motor mechanics and spare part dealers to extend their trading skill as far as producing films and dictating the market run of the movie industry.
These bunch of traders and markers armed with their bank accounts, have successfully dominated the Home Video (described as movie industry), enough to hood-wink the nation into endorsing the establishment called “Nollywood” which has been described by many as Igbo-wood. We need to correct the situation, otherwise our big bird will keep attempting to fly without feathers. Perching on shrubs in grassland not woods in forest.
Britain established commercial theatre since the 15th century, till date they still run professional schools like Webber Douglas Academy, Centre School, London Academy, Royal Academy, East 15 Acting School, Rose Brafford, the Guldhall School etc, etc, to train performers in acting and music profession, while we are admitting all-comers on the face of talent. We need training grounds for this giant and noble nation builder called Entertainment Industry.
How do we talk of the Nigerian Film Industry without the mention of “Cow penny” Samuel Oladele, Eddie Ugboma, Dr Ola Balogun, Chief Hubert Ogunde, Ade Love. These are the pillars of the industry that should uphold the Entertainment Hall of Fame that should endorse “NOLLYWOOD”, NIGERWOOD or CALM WOOD, if it must be “WOOD.”