Muyiwa Ige: Elevating Arts for Social Change

Wondering what an architect does in the world of arts? Muyiwa Ige, the scion of Cicero of Esa Oke and late Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,Chief Bola Ige, SAN has the answer. “There is poetry in architecture, there is architecture poetry, and

then again architecture is really art. So we need to sensitise the consciousness of

 Nigerians using art.” The recently staged Muyiwa Ige Arts Festival themed ‘The

 Arts  Against Insurgency’ attests to Ige’s quest to use the arts as

machinery  for tackling societal ills, writes Funke Olaode

The late Cicero of Esa-Oke and former Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Ajibola Ige, SAN might have gained renown for his oratory skills and political sagacity but his intervention in the arts is quite legendary. He was a grand patron of art with footprints in the Association of Nigerian Authors, Abuja Literary Society and many others.

Following this footprint is his son Muyiwa Ige, a trained architect who treats arts as more than just a pastime. Recently at the Rotary Club Hall in Iyaganku, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, the Muyiwa Ige Arts Festival themed, “The Arts against Insurgency” tugged at national conscience.  The occasion, which coincided with Nigeria’s Independence celebrations, was a showcase of talents mostly drawn from the younger generations, with strength in spoken words and other performances. A book titled “Rhythms for the Architects,” a collection of poems written in his name was also launched.

Initiated and directed by Anthony Ebika, Muyiwa Ige was in high spirits as various talented artists mounted the stage to thrill the audience.

Muyiwa has been in the forefront of arts activism for sometime now and being celebrated not as an architect or politician brought back old memories of his father and his delight in keeping his legacy of being a ‘doyen of the arts.’

“Honestly, I feel humbled and honoured being celebrated. The reason being when the request for this  celebration was brought in, initially I had to turn it down, that there is really no need. But Anthony  Ebika who used to be former president of Nigerian  Association  of Authors, Oyo Chapter started rolling out some of the things that I have done, that is captivating to the art and adding value to humanity. I have never really sat down to ever catalogue any of my participation or contribution towards the arts. And while he was listing them, he was even talking about the fact that my wife and I had a children’s theatre, Alo’s Children’s Theatre, a 44-man crew and we were showcasing performances to children.”

Muyiwa’s journey into the arts didn’t start today. His house in Ibadan has always been the epicenter of folktales. Together with his amiable wife, Oyinda, a lawyer, they have been impacting morals and values into children’s lives through folktales.

“My wife will tell folktales to children and we will set up a stage even in the compound and we have 50 to 100 kids coming, coupled with the Kaduna boy play that I produced, which was my father’s story. So, all of these were catalogued and I thought, okay, well no problem. Initially, it was supposed to be a poetry event because Ebika had written a collection of poems in my honour, titled “Rhythms for the Architects.” I thought that rather than it just being a poetry event, let’s make it a celebration of arts and culture. We picked the first Saturday in October which coincidentally was October 1st.  And thankfully October 1st has now come to stay as the day for Muyiwa Ige Arts Festival. So, everything worked out for good. I have been getting a lot of phone calls from people wanting to partner with us, also wanting to showcase their craft.”

For Muyiwa Ige, while he cherishes his profession as a reputable architect, his involvement in the arts is etched on his DNA.

“There is poetry in architecture, there is architecture poetry. And then again architecture is really the art. And again it has always been in my DNA. I recall my father was grand patron of the art in terms of the Association of Nigeria Authors, Abuja Literary Society and coincidentally even after he had passed, they published a book, Uncle Bola’s Promise, which is a collection of poems. And so art has been in our DNA ever since I was young. Again, like I mentioned, my wife is also a creative person and so it is just a natural thing to support the art.  And there is a huge talent pull in the country that we really must harness and showcase. And so if Muyiwa Ige Arts Festival is a platform to showcase the talents that we have in this country, all the better.”

For him, the core message mustn’t be lost in performance, given the state of the nation. The art against insurgency is actually a wakeup call in response to these perilous times.

“I think it is all pre-knowledge, that theme came out of the discussion, that if we are going to do this programme, then we must encourage young people to participate. And then what is current nowadays, everybody is worried about their security and their safety, with all the insurgency that is going on. Some people even called that insurgency is too mild, that it should be the art against terrorism. But when we picked insurgency, the train has already been out of the station. And I say the train, incidentally, again the  last of the 23 abductees have been released. And so we need to sensitize the consciousness of Nigerians using the art. And you could tell that in the rendition of the poem tagged ‘the art against insurgency and the presentation was targeted at sensitizing the populace and encouraging us that this country will be the better.”

Muyiwa made a reference to the poetry titled ‘Black Pentecost Sunday’ set against the backdrop of the Owo massacre in Ondo State with vivid mental pictures of the sanguine experience.

In retrospect, he remarked that the Muyiwa Ige Arts Festival was created to also mold young and upcoming artists.

“I figured that there is a lot of talent out there in our young people and they need a platform to showcase these talents. Those that are grounded in their skills in terms of the spoken art or the spoken word. It is a platform that allows them to practice their craft in different areas. Yes, we invited primary and secondary students from private schools. But next year, going forward, we will be opening it up to public schools. And I have been getting a lot of phone calls from people that want to partner us. We will be more than happy to have people partner us. Corporations, sponsors and we can blow this up and have a three, four, five, six and seven day festivals, even add food to it so it can be like a mini taste of Ibadan. You know there was a taste of Chicago, that was a one week event which culminated on July 4, celebrating the art and food culture. It will also be a platform to encourage support for charities. It will just be a brilliant opportunity for people to get involved in promoting and adding value to humanity.”

Looking at the Ige’s dynasty, the burden of carrying on a good name and legacy weighs on Muyiwa and he relishes it.

“Why not?” he said proudly. “I mean it is an incredible legacy. Let me just say this. My father had always supported young people, young artists like Lagbaja. And if you recall, he actually analysed Lagbaja’s album that came out in 1990. Since then, Lagbaja really took an interest in him.  In ‘Praying for the Youth’ which is a track in Lagbaja’s album, the voice from it actually was the voice of my father, Bola Ige. I mean the prayer was rendered by my father.

Commending his late father’s unwavering devotion to the arts and youths, he praised his ingenuity.

“Yes, it is prayer for the youths, the album came out in 2000. And also my father wrote the foreword to the Beautiful Nubia poetry collection. And when he performed, my father was on stage with him. If you Google it, you will see about a two minutes extract of my father’s rendition of the song. My wife is an absolute creative person as well. Like the Alo Children’s Theatre that I mentioned earlier, we have culture messages where we showcase young people and tell folk tales. And she has written so many books. The Kaduna Boy illustrated book, we are putting that together now, to let people know the story of Bola Ige. Yes, it is the same play staged last year to commemorate his 20th anniversary but it is going to be an illustrated book for children.”

Muyiwa has not been active in politics lately by seeking political office, his ‘siddon look attitude’ is not being aloof but just finding out who really mean well for the polity. He explained his position. 

“A whole lot of characters have emerged on the political state lately  but very soon the cloth will be lifted up from their faces. The political climate is so unsavoury. Everybody is tense, the economy is taking a spiral, there is unsettlement in the land, insecurity is heightened and nobody is really talking about what they want to do. There is really no manifesto that is unveiled for the betterment of the common man. Presently, I am a ‘siddon look.’ But ‘siddon look’ is not being aloof, it is basically giving time to explain and finding out who really means well for the polity and how are we going to emancipate ourselves out of the mess that we are in right now.  I have my PVC, I will decide what to do with it on election day.”

If there is anything that gives him joy right it is his first son, Ajibola Olumayowa Ige, a young man in his early 20s who has made him proud.

“He is an architect like me. He has graduated and has got a very good job in America. He did very well, he got a leadership scholarship. Even though he is working now he is putting together an Ige Leadership Initiative. He is trying to spearhead leadership qualities in young people. Getting them young from secondary school.  So, you can Google and you can see what he has done. He is a brilliant young man and he is going to do exploits.”

The high point of the event was the unveiling of collections of poem titled ‘Rhythms for the Architects’ written by Anthony Ebika. It is a compilation of poems celebrating Muyiwa Ige, the son of Bola Ige as the architect, a public servant and a promoter of the arts.

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