A Metaphor for Nation Building

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Mary Ekah

When foremost dramatist and choreographer, Peter Badejo got the invitation to participate in the 7th edition of the annual Children’s Creative Station Workshop (CCSW) of the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), he saw it as an opportunity to allow the voices of the children to be heard directly through their inputs in the medium of theatre expressions. So with the opportunity presented to him, there was no hesitation in accepting the role to work on the project and so he happily joined the crew for the 2016 edition of the Children’s Creative Station Workshop (CCSW) of the National Troupe of Nigeria. So for four weeks before Badejo’s arrival, the team led by its Coordinator for seven years, Ms. Josephine Igberaese had gone to work to auditioned a group of over a hundred children. Consequent upon this, with a synopsis prepared by Badejo, who had subsequently been picked as the Director, the team started working in developing a script for a stage play titled, “Dented Anthill”.

The enthusiastic children from various backgrounds had a daily grooming in numerous dances, musicandsongsof different cultures of Nigeria from seasoned arties of the National Troupe. This preparation gave the childrenthe energy forthe production that was eventually staged penultimate Sunday at the Banquet Hall of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.

The workshop which lasted for six weeks was supported by Access Bank, Wapic Insurance, Promasidor, Mimee Noodles, Sona Foods and Aqua Dana and kicked off on July 26 with about 120 children who were engaged creatively in the areas of acting, miming, dancing, writing, voice training and singing all of which resulted in a command performance of the ‘Dented Anthill’ on Sunday, September 4.

Before the stage play were choral presentations, where the children sang in Hausa, Ijaw, Yoruba and English songs with a conductor directing the performances. This was followed by modern dance performances and hip-hop while traditional dances followed thereafter. From the South East came Asama dance; from South-south came Orukoro dance of progress and fertility; from South West came Omitu dance, showcasing the Osun goddess and her female, acolytes clad in all-white, paying homage to her.

Dented Anthill, according to Badejo, is a metaphor for building the dent in the structure of our country while borrowing from the “Ants” world in rebuilding and restructuring our society and nation at large.“Anthillis a natural construct of ants made almost to a near-perfect architectural structure. It is designed and constructed by ants for housing and protection from unwanted environmental assaults and climate. It houses ants in sociallydefined set up. In their ever busy work routine, ants work tirelessly in social groupings constructing what might be termed the ants-city,” Badejo noted.

Giving further analogy, he said, “This could be equated to a city of a nation of humans. When this fortress is distributed it disorganizes the social setup of the ants and sends them helter-skelter. If a dent occurs to this design, it affects the entire existence of the ants. From the dented part of the anthill emerges a brigade of ants struggling to defend and form themselves into a working group for reconstruction.”

The scenario in ‘Dented Anthill”, the Director explained, could be juxtaposed on our present day Nigeria, adding, “History has it that, as from the time of our independence in 1960, an anthill-like structure was envisaged and in the making for the Nigerian society. The country was working towards a perfect structure, looking towards building an egalitarian society where the members will be proud to be Nigerians but as the years went by, the ‘dent’ happened – the Nigerian Anthill got dented and things fell apart. Since then, the centre could not hold.”

Badejo said further that ever since, the society has gone through several amendments and repair methods but to no avail. “Generation have tried to patch the wobbling structure from the top but have not succeeded,” he added.
Borrowing from the “Ants’ world in the play “Dented Anthill”, which evoked so much emotion from the audience while it was being staged, it connotes that children and teens in this society, like the brigade of ants, who emerged from the soil of the dented structure, will need to rise to the occasion. They will have to come up with suggestions for the amendment and restructuring of the society.

“In this project, our young people are made to think and suggest solutions on how to mend the ‘Dent in the nation’, Badejo said, adding, “Freedom of thoughts and suggestions come from children and teens. With guidance atthe workshop, the outcome were collated and structured into a creative performance experience that is tremendous benefits to all.”

Coordinator of the workshop and Head of the Drama Department of the National Troupe of Nigeria, Ms. Josephine Igberaese disclosed that the workshop aims at developing children’s interest in creative activities.
“The Children’s Creative Station project is to encourage and nurture talents in young children and youths, who otherwise may not have an avenue to develop their talents outside the walls of the formal schools”, Igberaese said, adding, “This is even more urgent because of the need to diversify our economic base away from oil. The project will enable the children and youths to be self-sufficient and self-employed in the near future as practicing artistes.”

In his short welcome address at the occasion, Artistic Director of the National Troupe, Mr. Akin Adejuwon, reiterated his commitment to providing more opportunism for young people and children to express themselves creatively. He noted that the 7th edition almost didn’t hold due to the lack of funds and the apathy of sponsors towards sponsorship of theatrical events. He however commended partners like Access Bank, MTN, Mimee Noodles and the National Theatre, which he specifically thanked for providing the conference banquet hall for the staging of the command performance. He expressed optimism that under the present dispensation, the National Troupe will get the kind of support it requires to encourage and nurture talents in the performing arts as well as ensure that the productions of the national troupe are of high artistic standards. Adejuwon noted further that the workshop has since its inception in 2010 been targeted at children whose imagination and talents are reawakened, developed and appreciated.

Chairman, Access Bank Plc, Mrs. Mosun Bello-Olusoga’s commended the children for their spectacular creativity in the dances. She also praised National Troupe for bringing up culturally aware children in an era, where we are losing our culture, adding, “The performance is worthy of a Broadway show”, she noted while pledging continued support in coming years so as to raise the profile of her bank as a culturally conscious organisation.