By Anote Ajeluorou
Last week Friday at Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre on Airport Road, Benin City, the NYSC Theatre Troupe, Edo State Chapter staged its Arrows in the Art, as part of its preparation for the national NYSC Cultural competition that was held in Abuja. It was a lively afternoon inside the main hall of the cultural centre, as act after act and NYSC’s cultural troupe thrilled audience with their performances. that was put together by the Edo Cultural and Tourism CDS.
Although designed to raise money for the troupe’s trip to Abuja, audiences got far more than they expected with the various performances that was on display. From Prince, White Angel, Jide sax to MC Maleke, the audience got a fair dose of singing, dancing, comedy and cultural dances and songs.
More traditional dances also followed. But what was clear from the initiative of NYSC Theatre Troupe, Edo State Chapter, was that there is hunger for sustained stage performances and other cultural offerings in the ancient city of the obas. Although token gate fees ranging from N200 to N1000 were charged, Corpers as well as folks from Benin trouped in to see what artistic offering the amateur Corps members had on offer.
From the sheer enthusiasm, it was clear that the ancient city is in dire need of artistic and cultural revival of sorts. Poor patronage by the state government and lack of support for local troupes are just some of the hindrances for artistic flowering in the city reputed for its tradition as a performance centre in years gone by.
The attitude of state government towards culture is allegedly a disincentive to cultural offerings. The Adams Oshiomhole-led government repeatedly shuns the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre for its events that ought to help it put up occasional cultural shows. Government prefers to patronize private events’ centres in the city and pays three times more for such places than it costs to rent the government-owned centre.
For a state that has an abundance of youth creative talent and a rich cultural heritage to woo the world, government has repeatedly failed to harness the state’s creative potentials to give employment to its youths and create cottage industry through the creative arts. Such woeful neglect has made a migration of youth creative energy to Lagos and other more friendly centres, where talent is treasured and rewarded.
In an age where such states as Lagos, Rivers, Cross River, Ekiti, Niger and Osun have long realized the importance of culture and art as components of tourism investment, states like Edo and Delta that ought to be at the forefront on account of their youth potentials still lag behind and hasten the rot in their youth energy, which is often conveniently unleashed in kidnappings, oil bunkering, armed robbery and other vices!
BUT on the foyer of the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre, a visual art exhibition was mounted with works by four Corpers – Gbadebo Oluwaseyi, Taiwo Owoyemi Raji Ade and Seyi Fajimi. They were works that showed budding talent in painting. Particularly, Fajimi’s works stood out from the rest. A graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Fajimi’s ‘Reflections’ on three ladies looking at themselves in the mirror and ‘Lovers’ kiss’ of a man and a woman in lovey-dovey mood. But ‘Night reading’ and ‘Landscape’ give a glimpse of Fajimi’s prodigious talent as a painter.
Also an animation guru, Fajimi particularly caught the attention of filmmaker, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, who promptly engaged him for a TV animation cartoon series on such characters as Adesuwa, Oguara the giant and other folk heroes that would specifically appeal to African children as against Disneyland’s cartoons that orientate African children away from their cultural backgrounds. The next day, Fajimi was taken to the palace of Enogie of Obazagbon on the outskirts of Benin City to see the 198-year palace where the setting of some of the cartoons would be based, as a model of Africa’s enduring architecture.
A play skit, E don die, was performed by the troupe to the excitement of the audience, which remained wondering at a woman’s exaggerated wailing over a death that captures the imagination of a community, which joins in what becomes a communal mourning when it isn’t known exactly who has died. But when questions begin to be asked, it becomes clear the cacophony has been about the death of a fowl that belongs to the woman who raised the alarm! One after the other, all the sympathetic mourners begin to disperse to their various activities in disgust, as they leave the real mourner to her incredulous frivolity!
The audience applauded endlessly in appreciation of the suspense generated and the success of the anti-climax generated.