Yesterday, Lagos Theatre Festival 2017 opened with a symposium at the National Theatre. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed declared it open. Activities that include performances, workshops, and seminars continue today through March 5, when the festival comes to a close.
However, on Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Freedom Park, Lagos, and as part of the British Council Lagos-sponsored Lagos Theatre Festival (#LTF2017), Women in the Arts Seminar, a conversation and forum for women in the creative industry to connect, network and empower each other to greatness, will hold. It is an opportunity for women in the business of arts to talk, a chance to have an honest conversation about how to start and how to ‘make it’ in the creative industry.
Last year at #LTF2016, the convener and producer of Lagos Theatre Festival, Brenda Uphopho, and award-winning actress and founder of Beeta Universal Arts Foundation, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, shared some of their successes, failings and sacrifices as they try to create their own opportunities through collaboration.
“As women are conquering mountains and crashing glass-ceilings in the creative industry, there is a need to create sustained and intentional mechanism to ensure that there is a platform for the immensely talented, who do not have the privilege to have their craft honed and seen,” the convener, Uphopho said. “Furthermore, there is a need to create opportunities for coming generations of women, who will step into the shoes of the giants ahead. This year’s speakers are phenomenal women, who in the past year, have done a lot of advocacy work for women and girls and are women with thriving careers in the creative industry.”
To give impetus to the conversation are industry stars, Ego Boyo, the radical Joy Isi Bewaji (who advocates for common sense), talented Kemi Lala Akindoju, graceful Titilope Sonuga.
Also, the 2017 edition of Lagos Theatre Festival is partnering with the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) to host a seminar for young critics working on the continent. The seminar will hold March 1-5 at the National Theatre during the Theatre Festival, organised by the British Council, Nigeria.
Professor Emmanuel Dandaura, the only African member of the Executive Committee of the IATC, in a press statement, revealed that the Nigerian section of the IATC, otherwise called IATC-Nigeria, is “partnering the British Council Nigeria to deepen international participation in the 2017 edition of the Lagos Theatre Festival. Already, IATC-Nigeria has invited some established critics and festival curators across four continents including the IATC global President, Margareta Sorenson, a veteran Swedish Journalist and Critic to participate.
“Also, in order to reinvigorate interest in theatre criticism in the younger ones and particularly for those who wish to take to Journalism as a career, IATC and British Council have agreed to mount a young critics seminar in line with the IATC global format where 20 Nigerian young critics and a few of their foreign counterparts will be mentored through workshop sessions.”
The objectives of the strategic partnership between IATC and British Council, include opening avenues for more international tours for the average Nigerian Theatre makers, increase media visibility for works of Nigerian creative artistes, facilitate cross fertilization of ideas and galvanize discourse around home grown theatre performances and other emerging forms of expressions in Nigerian Theatre, and create a meeting point for sharing of experiences between theatre critics in the media and those in the academia.
Besides Margareta Sorenson, other critics and festival curators expected include; Ivan Medenica, the Artistic Director of Belgrade International Theatre Festival; Professor Jeffery Erik Jenkins, Editor Best Plays Theater Yearbook, USA; Maria Shevtsova, Co-editor of New Theatre Quarterly Cambridge University; 2016 IATC Thalia Laureate, Professor Femi Osofisan of Nigeria, Professor Olu Obafemi, President National Academy of Letters, Halima Tahan, Journalist and Director Artes De Sul, Argentina; and Deepa Punjani, Editor, Mumbai Theatre Guide, India
The International Association of Theatre Critics, which is UNESCO’s statute B global partner in theatre criticism, has been in existence for six decades now. However, the proposed Lagos International Critics Conference will be the first ever IATC activity in Africa. Accordingly, the conference will deliberate on the theme ‘Theatre, Criticism and Politics – Where Are the Limits?’
Moreover, Julius Obende will make his debut outing at Lagos Theatre Festival on March 3 & 4 with his outfit, A1 Productions, as they perform Ijakadi at Freedom Park. Obende said Ijakadi is a contemporary dance piece that has stigma as its core of performance aesthetics, written and directed by him. Obende’s piece is a socially-conscious campaign tool and “not-for-profit oriented project of ours of introducing our goal to the world, which is that ‘art is not only for entertainment but also as a tool of positive change towards societal, ethnic and religious menace.”
According to Obende, “Ijakadi (means wrestle) is a contemporary dance piece, with poetry, that entails wrestling with oneself over a stigmatised illness. It is set against the backdrop of three major victims with a narrator, who is also a victim of gender discrimination. The piece shows how they all struggle for both internal change and reintegration into the community as a result of societal prejudice. The piece takes the audience through an emotional journey on how these victims are perniciously affected in goal attainment, loss of opportunities, segregation, coercion, functional limitations and also how it reduces self-esteem and self-efficacy.
“Questions such as ‘why stigmatise when he or she can’t harm you? Are they really to blame for their illness? Isn’t the stigma worse than the disease itself?’ It is our intention to give hope and support to the affected by being their mouthpiece.”