Call it Wild and Free

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Yinka Olatunbosun
They called it “Lagos _Live Festival’’. We saw it all and name it “wild and free’’. There had never been such assemblage of youths for the love of the arts in Lagos like it was last weekend in close-knit multiple venues, especially where the performances, for the most parts, were very unconventional yet contemporary. The last time Goethe Institut organised this festival was in 2012. Hence, it was heartwarming to see throngs of youthful audience, mill around for sound art exhibitions, dance, stage play, performance art and quite appreciatively too.

The Old Printing Press Building on Broad Street had its doors flung open to accommodate young people who were intrigued by the new dynamics in art forms. One attention-grabber was the projector that showcased images which conveyed deeper meanings than what meets the eye. After soaking in the recorded masquerade procession in Lagos, Segun Adefila, a theatre artist-turned-masquerade appeared from the flanks in his full Egungun costume with a stage prop no one was expecting, namely, “a POS machine.’’ Such innovative thinking could have only come from the present generation of artists who explore modern technology to express indigenous ideas and cultural ethos. Lagos masquerades are known to solicit for funds as they parade the streets and market places. But in the enclosure of the once-abandoned building, there was no running away from the financially intelligent masquerader who was armed with an electronic device to obtain money from his bewildered audience.

Then Busayo Olowu took to the floor with his shredded raffia costume to execute the performance art titled, “Becoming’’, produced by The QDance Center. His twists and turns and the unspoken emotions captured the audience, holding them spell-bound for about an hour. Like other contemporary dancers such as Sunday Akpan, Taiwo Ojudun and the choreographer of the dance performance, Qudus Onikeku, Olowu gave a visual meaning to philosophical elements of the piece. Using the padded floor as his creative space, his bouts of energetic acrobatics and mystical spasms were such a thrill. As the synopsis revealed, Becoming is “neither the origin of things nor the last things; it is aware of a future to head into and a past to fall back on; it is the home of doubt and indecision of suspension, of disbelief, of make-belief, of playfulness, of the unpredictable and irony.’’

At Freedom Park, a mobile laboratory theatre performance was staged by Yacoub Adeleke to set the mood for the bigger collaborative show at the main stage. It was a spontaneous performance titled, “The Junkyard Professor’’. A one-man play, The Junkman is a self-narrative of a professor, trapped in a world of confusion and insanity. The world sees him as a lunatic and the feeling his mutual with him, albeit inversely. He sees the world, full of insane people and guinea pigs for his experiments. Through his protracted monologues, the audience could infer that he had disappeared from the academic environment for over 20 years without any traces of his whereabouts- a complete mystery to the university.

Two researchers found him where he had been working on recycling scraps. The researchers, sympathetic to his course, moved him to a new environment where he can present the outcome of his two decades of research. The performance drew upon the strength of the actor to arouse and sustain the audience’s excitement while avoiding anti-climax. It was also audience-participatory and only a spoiler would resist the invitation to step forward and participate.

The Berlin-based Monster Truck collaborated with The Footprints of David in “Sorry’’ which had many gnawing at visual torment of repetitive routines. It was a delicate one which could be misinterpreted as a racial identity piece. A seven-year old Nigerian child laid on centre-stage, looking lifeless. A middle-aged man, Caucasian, watched for a long time before deciding to pick his body up. As soon as he did, the child attacked his neck like a vulture, falling him face down. The child rose again and collapsed on the floor. The man recovered from the attack and came for the child once more. The child attacked him in the same manner he had done before and this cycle continued. The performance could be read as a portrayal of the futility of life and man’s determination to survive.

Before this show was yet another esoteric drama that explored the theory of dualism. Using total theatre as the medium of expression, the playwright and director, Joshua Alabi who recently participated in a two-month residency for Children and Youth Theatre in South Africa, demonstrated strong directorial skills in the play, “Punctuation’’. Relying on hues and lights to relay the message, the play is a metaphor for those ideologies that create repeated and regular interruptions or divisions. One of these is one’s religious orientation. The play, by this writer’s judgment, was a risky though brilliant artistic effort in its portraiture of Islamic devotees especially in a period that is very sacred to Muslims across the world. But the theatre remains a safe haven for the discourse of sensitive topics and that would be Alabi’s untouchable defense. The Lagos_live festival is the last event to be spearheaded by Marc-Andre Schmachtel who completed his tenure as the Director of the German Cultural Centre in June with the hope that the embers of art stay aglow in Nigeria.