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Charting the Future with Centenary Celebration

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The children, the smallest of whom, was nothing less than five years old, were decked in a mixture of Nigerian’s cultural attires, depicting various tribes and regions of the country before the amalgamation took place.

They were all participants at the recent National Troupe of Nigeria children’s creative station workshop, where they staged the command performance of the play “Eriri - The String”, to close the 2014 edition of the workshop.

The play was a story of Nigeria’s political history as written by a pioneer artiste of the NTN, Mike Anyanwu.

The children tried as much as they could in their capacity to enact the play, which was chosen to inform and educate the children and their peers on Nigeria’s political history, bringing to bear the actualisation of the political will that led to the amalgamation of the North and Southern protectorates by the British imperialist and the struggle that led to Nigeria’s independence.

As they intermittently halt the show with songs and dances, the children enacted Anyanwu’s Eriri, a historic folk-drama – a meta-aesthetics of the Nigeria’s socio-political and cultural narrative through 1914.

The children tried in their bid to build the play around Eriri, a symbolic and abandoned black baby that ended up in the home of Frederick and Flora Lugard as a foster child in 1914.

The naming of the child, which coincided with the amalgamation of the different clans into one central leadership under the colonial administration of Lord Frederick Lugard, created the rising conflict of the play, as paternity of the baby became contentious.

The plot and complications in the play were explored through a widening chain of interplays of rejection, suspicion, power struggle, mutual distrust and disharmony amongst the different clan heads, the contentious paternity of the baby and the unpredictability of Lugard’s motives and actions as the first Governor-General of Nigeria.

A voyage of discovery unveiled the filial and genetic bonds of Eriri to the contending royal families of the clans. The collective resolution of the clan heads to reclaim the baby from the Lugards’ failed due to their inability to produce the biological parents.

Eriri spent most of her childhood and education with the foster parents in England. She eventually returned to Nigeria and helped to fan the embers of nationalism and political independence.

Her story cuts through the trying pre and post independent years of Nigeria’s political odyssey to the auspicious centenary year, 2014 and beyond.

The Children Creative Station Workshop (CCSW), an initiative of the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), is a project conceived as a long vacation theatre workshop for children from  the ages of 5 to 17, with the aim of exposing participants to general theatre practice and the appreciation of creative arts.

Directed by Josephine Igberaese, a director in charge of the Drama of the National Troupe and Coordinator of the workshop, the play, Eriri, a by-product of the national storytelling competition among primary and secondary students in the country in 2013, was simply a narrative of the historical birth of Nigeria.

Staged at the Cinema Hall 2 of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, penultimate Sunday, Igberaese, said the command performance was to detail all that the workshop participants, who have been rehearsing for three weeks, what they have learnt during the almost one month training period, while educating the young minds not just as citizens of the great and indivisible entity called Nigeria, but also as future leaders of this noble entity.

“We took them through various aspects of the theatre. We got them involved in acting, improvisation, miming, dancing, creative writing, singing and voice training.

“The playwright’s ideas came through the lens of the productions presented by various schools during the last year’s national storytelling competition. The play was a simple narrative of the historical detail of our struggle for independence. The sad irony is that those ideals which the independence struggle represented has no place in today’s Nigeria,” Igberaese noted.

She however expressed the hope that through the creative workshop, the children and youths understood the complexities and difficulties that Nigeria is faced with today.

She said: “We are indeed very lucky to have today a generation that will be detribalised, who do not carry on their shoulders the burden of cultural differences, religion and social class.”

“The programme is to help the children to cross the borders of their cultural luggage with dignity, knowing who they are and where they come from first and foremost as Nigerians and as Africans.

“What this little effort here represents is to imprint on these young minds our history, culture and civilisation, which is a sign for humanity”.

The NTN’s children creative station project was set up to encourage and nurture talents in children and youths, who otherwise may not have an avenue to develop their talents outside the walls of a classroom.

The dream envisaged by the troupe was that children who are talented will be able to explore their dreams to the limit of their abilities.

The station is a collection of children from all backgrounds and walks of life.  It is believed that the one-month spent by the children will be most memorable in their lives and it is hoped that the bond of friendship and teamwork’s achieved will be lasting and have positive impact on each child.

The play was said to be a lesson on the fragile and sensitive links of individuals to the collective and shared humanism with the intention to provide a historic interface between history   and theatrical experience for young people.

And it is hoped that the dialogue engendered through the one month creative experience will continue to regenerate in the fertile and imaginative minds of all the children that participated in this year’s children’s creative station.

The special guest at the event, Mrs. Paulina Kofoworola Adebusoye, a retired university professor said the workshop will give the children a horn, so that children that may not otherwise have the opportunity of publicly expressing themselves would be able to do so.

“This is very important and I think more of this should to be done particularly in this present educational system that we have in the country where schools may not even have halls let alone a stage.

“This important work that is being done needs to be replicated and there is a need to finance such. I will recommend that the state governments should replicate this sort of children’s workshop in their respective states.

“It will go a long way in making these benefits go through a better number of children. The children that have participated in this programme have been so lucky to have some skills imparted in them such as live performance skills. And whether they grow up to go into the art or not, these skills will guide them in life,” Adebusoye said.

She said further that the performing art is extremely important for children as a way of expressing themselves in the public, an opportunity that may not be available in any other way.

The retired professor explained further that the play summarised in a very interesting way, how Nigeria was born.

She said: “It gives a great opportunity to children to learn about the history of the country while the adult also can refresh their minds as to what actually happened”.

She made case for performing art in the country saying, “the creative and performing art needs to be made available to more children.”

She suggested that because of the financial difficulties that the national troupe has presently, the state governments should encourage such in their domains by replicating the summer project in their various states so that more children will benefit from it.

Noting that many parents have already bought into the project, she encouraged parents to continue to allow their children to participate in such project, as it was very good for them.

“A project like this will help the children to know more about the history of the country and also showcase through those dances that we are a great country and that even by performing, they can contribute their own quota to the greatness of this country”, she enthused.

The attendance at this year’s command performance was huge and people who turned out in an unexpected large number could hardly get a place to sit or stand as the children staged the play to their delights.

The number of children who also participated in this year’s programme almost double what the NTN had last year and to control the crowd for next year edition, the Artistic Director/ Chief Executive Officer, NTN, Mr. Martin Adaji said, “For next year, we would have a target and the first 200 that register will be the ones to consider so that we can give quality attention to all of them.”

On the significant of the programme, he said: “We try to inculcate into the children a sense of pride and hope in Nigeria. These children have given us hope by acting the play and there is a lot of hope in the fact that this country is greater than the selfish wish of a few individuals and by the grace of God, Nigeria will continue to wax stronger.”

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 2 Years ago

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Tags:     Mike Anyanwu     CCSW     Cinema Hall     NTN     Mrs. Paulina Kofoworola Adebusoye