Nigerian state, Nollywood, And Their Impact on the Social Stage
“Government needs to support the growth of theatre in the country being one of the oldest, most social and most impactful forms of art,” said Professor Olu Obafemi at a seminar during the Eko Theatre Carnival.
The art has a role to play in societal development because “the artist’s vision is honed for the cultivation of redemptive strategies.”
In his presentation, which was held on Zoom, the scholar claimed that the introduction and explosion of the film and video industry in Nigeria, known as Nollywood, made the theatre take a “backseat in the cultural life of the nation.”
Arguing that security issues in Nigeria took a toll on the theatrical art, Obafemi opined that “instability to escalation of violence, insurgency, insurrection, terrorism, dystopia arising from religious fanaticism, sectarian fundamentalism, ethnic clash and ethnic nationalism” have endangered the security of the social stage.
Despite these challenges that beset the performance and patronage of the thespian art, Obafemi contended that theatre has proven a force to reckon with in mass mobilization and conscientization.
He provided two scenarios that showed the theatre as a mass mobilizer from Shakespearean plays. The first was Mark Anthony’s graveside speech. A speech that commanded mob action against Julius Caesar’s murderer, Brutus. The second was in Hamlet, where “Hamlet deployed the power of the theatre to confront the evil perpetuated by his mother (Gertrude) and Uncle (Claudius) against the late King Hamlet.”
Obafemi, in addition, reminded all present that, in the precolonial Yoruba empire, performers and bards in the royal court used their art in exposing and talking down on evil. “The example of Oke Ibadan day of license, Ibuni Ajon, in my Kiri culture where all social misconduct during the year is brought to open ridicule and lampoon during Ajon Festival and in the Olukiri palace. No one is allowed to escape the scapel of the performers’ satirical shaving – Obas, religious chieftains in their shrines, political actors, overnight wealthy characters are brought to denunciatory account.”
In this context, he pointed out that the works of Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi and others were used in criticizing the dysfunctional government of the 60’s and 70’s.
Despite the persistent issues of insecurity in Nigeria and the effect of Nollywood productions, live theatre has managed to thrive, Obafemi concluded.
The works of Crown Troupe and Terra Kulture, both in Lagos were commended. Terra Kulture, founded by Bolanle Austine-Peters in 2003 and has become “a formidable theatre outlet in Africa” and has organized “over 300 art exhibitions and 140 plays,” Obafemi said. On the other hand, Crown Troupe is “committed to awakening people’s consciousness to the social issues that affect them.”
The Eko Theatre Carnival is geared towards celebrating the beauty of theatrical works in Nigeria, and on Its second day of celebration, Professor Olu Obafemi, who is a retired Professor of English and Dramatic Literature, a poet, playwright, essayist, novelist, and songwriter, facilitated the seminar which was on the topic, “Securing the Social Stage: Theatre and the Nigerian State.”