For three days, theatre enthusiasts thronged the MUSON Centre to feast their eyes on the stage play ‘Osamede’, a rich cultural performance set in the ancient Benin Kingdom. Sponsored by the MTN Nigeria Foundation, the ‘Osamede’ storyline is woven by the hands of time, marrying antiquity with modernity.
It begins with a narrative about a powerful woman in the ancient kingdom Aguabon who escaped captivity from enemies through her magical power ‘Ase’.
The narrative leaps forward to many years later to find the King of Aguabon, caught between his materialistic and power-drunk wife Efe who is keen on using the ‘Ase’ for selfish reasons, and palace chiefs whose advice is by no means selfless. Though humble and compassionate, the King played by Olarenwaju Dele-Abrahams often plays into the hands of the palace chiefs. This would later cost him.
Aguabon is a developed kingdom, attracting neighbouring villages and western countries to its rich abode through its main export, a healing substance known as Psychotech, mined by a minority clan.
The heroine Osamede (Rolake Adesina) is an orphan from this minor group and sets herself apart with her thirst for knowledge. Where others think of marriage and all sorts, Osamede is occupied with the sciences, consuming every piece of knowledge she finds. But beyond her quest for knowledge, she is concerned about the plight of her people who are subjected to the harsh conditions of the mine, often leading to deaths. Attempts to get the King of Aguabon to look into their dire situations are unsuccessful, even with Osamede’s uncle serving in the palace.
However, Osamede, urged by her uncle, would marry the king, but the forces of envy and greed halt her mission, resulting in a power tussle and sacrifice for love and country.
Although multi-layered with themes that address love and friendship, at the heart of Osamede is a message dipped in the true essence of leadership. While projecting the titular character Osamede as a powerful female leader, deconstructing gender bias towards political leadership, it provides a lens through which social injustices and ills can be dealt with. But more importantly, it projects the ancient kingdom in a futuristic light through psychotech while still retaining the excessive royalty of the time with the set design and costume.
The film perfectly balances the old and new, even with the cast that includes veterans like Nobert Young, Patrick Doyle and Soibifaa Dokubo who played the villain Uzama Uso. For Lilian Olubi, the executive producer of the play, Osamede is her first foray into the art scene. An equally brilliant mind with over
20 years of Capital Markets experience, ‘Osamede’ is her way of addressing crucial topics of human rights and women’s role in social change.
Her play was among the three theatre productions sponsored by the MTN Foundation. The others are ‘Ufok Ibaan’ and ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’. Throwing its weight behind Olubi’s debut play speak volumes of MTN Nigeria Foundation’s commitment to reviving the cultural and arts space in Nigeria.
In the past few years, the foundation has made it a tradition to sponsor theatre productions across the country during the festive season which is often dominated by music concerts. This has resulted not only in a vibrant art scene but helped in empowering and promoting young and new creative talents whose passion lies in theatre productions in retelling Nigerian stories that celebrate our diverse culture as aptly depicted by ‘Osamede’. The play was produced and directed by Ayo Ajayi.