It was an exciting moment at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Abuja on Saturday, August 15, as Arojah Royal Theatre treated residents to a harvest of theatrical performances in honour of Nigeria’s literary icon, Professor Wole Soyinka, who clocked 81 on July 13.
Tagged Kongi’s Harvest 1, the founder and Artistic Director of Arojah Royal Theatre, Om’Oba Jerry Adesewo, in his opening speech said the group had been organising events to celebrate the literary icon in the last five years.
“In 2011, we joined the rest of the literary world to celebrate the 77th birthday of Professor Wole Soyinka with a discourse on the ‘the art and politics’ of Wole Soyinka with support from the National Institute for National Orientation, National Council for Arts and Culture, National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners and the Korean Cultural Centre. Since then, we have not looked back.”
The event turned out to be a harvest of the Nobel Laureate’s creative output as the audience were served a selection of his poems performed by Adesewo Fayaman Bay.
Some of the poems performed include ‘Conversation in the Night with a Cockroach rendered by Oyewale Oluwatoba, ‘Abiku’ by Nwankwo Ijeoma, ‘Civilian and Soldier’ by Oluwaseun Odukoya, ‘Night’ by Desola Williams and ‘I Think it Rains’ performed by 11-year old Eyimofe Jerry-Adesewo.
A short excerpt of Esiaba Irobi’s ‘Gold Frankincense and Myrrh’ which was co-directed by Oyewale Oluwatoba and Om’Oba Jerry Adesewo followed suit. It starred Biola Ajayi, Samuel Oluwasola, Promise Ebichi, Chinny Amadi, Mayowa Ikujemijisi Adebayo, Dammie Blaq, with Oyewale Oluwatoba as Professor Ogunyemi Ogun, a Wole Soyinka character.
The featured play, Childe Internationale is a 1987 play by Kongi and one which satirically explores the theme of culture clash. It tells the story of a father, played by Ijadunola Babatunde Richson whose daughter, Titi, played by Abiola Akindele returns home on vacation as a completely changed person, lacking in discipline.
His attempt to discipline the child was frustrated by his ‘been to’ wife played by screen diva, Nita Byack-George Iruobe, who complained that he was being too hard on his daughter and would end up giving her complex.
While the play, directed by Oluwaseun Odukoya could pass for comedy, it raised a couple of salient issues bothering on the African culture, social norms and values. Soyinka made the clash between African and western culture a thematic preoccupation of the play and the production team, especially the actors did a good job in their interpretation which ensured a memorable theatrical experience.
To say the audience had a good time would be an understatement. Their excitement was evident in their reaction while the play lasted. They laughed heartily and applauded the actors repeatedly, which showed that they truly enjoyed themselves.
One of such members of the audience, Mr. Patrick Oguejiofor, described the performance as ‘wonderful’. “I have had the privilege of watching Arojah Royal Theatre perform severally and I know what they are capable of doing. With the right support, the group will go places. I must commend the never-say-die spirit of Jerry Adesewo to keep churning out quality theatrical performances, in spite of the challenges facing that sector, especially in Abuja.’’
Similarly, Esther Akwukwaegbu said “this is my first time of seeing Arojah Royal Theatre perform and I must say that their performance was awesome, everything about the play was cool. I enjoyed every moment and it was very educating. The play teaches us not to dispose our culture for the western way of life. Discipline is the keyword in African culture, we should always be proud of being Africans,” she said.
According to Queen Amadi, “I enjoyed the play, it was very interesting. We have to educate our children about our tradition and how to respect our parents.”
The Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation and a Patron of Arojah Royal Theatre, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Professor Suleiman Bogoro; representative of the Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, DCC Tobi Olaye; Managing Director, NTA Properties, Mr. Akinloye Oyebanji and his wife; representative of the Postmaster-General of the Nigerian Postal Service, Mr. Alao Frank; representative of the Chief of Defence Staff, Major-Gen. I. N Ijoma, and the Norwegien Ambassador to Nigeria, VG Soegaard, were some of the dignitaries that attended the event.
When asked how he felt about the outcome of the event, Adesewo said “Though our expectation was to see the hall filled up for the two shows, but you see, at times, what matters is the quality of the audience and not the quantity,” adding that his troupe needs sponsorship from corporate organisations, government agencies and multinationals to be able to take the play around schools in the FCT and beyond.