By Dr Folakemi Ogungbe
DR CHUKWUMA OKOYE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN COLLABORATES WITH TWO OF HIS FORMER STUDENTS ON “THE BLIND MINSTREL” PROJECT FOR THE AHSCE, LAGOS HUB
Dr. Chukwuma Okoye’s face glows with warmth as he grants the interview on “The Blind Minstrel” project. The reason for the warm glow is not far-fetched: he is collaborating with two of his former The Bling students: Leke Gbolade and Babatunde Ojobaro and he is being interviewed by yet another one, Dr. Folakemi Ogungbe.
Dr Chukwuma Okoye is an Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan. He has written and choreographed several pieces. One outstanding piece that he has created and choreographed in Speaking Back which raises salient questions about the girl-child, marriage, and being a woman in a Nigerian societal context. Dr. Okoye has always been passionate about the girl-child.
Leke Gbolade is the CEO of Xtheatre company in Lagos. Leke is a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan. While in school, under Dr. Okoye’s supervision, Leke experimented with the Absurdist Theatre of Samuel Beckett and Poor Theatre of Jerzy Grotowski. Leke has never been afraid to try new things. For the AHSCE project, he is experimenting with site-specific theatre for the first time ever in the city of Ibadan.
Babatunde Ojobaro is also a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan. Babatunde belongs to another generation that is different from Leke’s but they have a common denominator in their teacher. Dr. Okoye is able to traverse two generations of students-turned-professionals in this collaboration.
This collaboration is important at this time because it discusses the girl-child marginalisation as well as discrimination against people living with disabilities. Dr. Okoye, who is developing the script, sees this project as timely in addressing some of the challenges plaguing the Nigerian society.
For Leke, this project is important for three reasons. First, it discusses girlchild marginalisation in the Nigerian society, Leke hopes that the play would inspire women to step into roles originally taken by men and shatter many glass ceilings. Secondly, he wants the awareness on people living with disabilities to be stronger. He said many times, the society ignores people living with disabilities whereas they are a part of the society and should be given equal rights. It starts from the design of buildings. The design must factor in the easy mobility of people living with disabilities. He said members of the society must be willing to give a helping hand at all time. The third reason why the play is important at this time, is to draw attention to the fun, the excitement and the low cost inherent in making site-specific theatre shows. He states that the production of site-specific shows usually reduces the budget by a quarter and the producer is still assured of making good profit from the venture.
Tunde, on his own part sees this collaboration as one that will inherently boost his CV and bring about other valuable projects down his way. He says he was extremely proud when he searched for his name online and the search engine brought up his name under African Hub for Sustainable Creative Economies. That brought a big smile to his face. He is also willing and hoping to learn a lot from his senior colleague, Leke Gbolade, and his former lecturer, Dr. Chukwuma Okoye.
Tunde also indicates that this project is taking him in a new direction. Before now, he had been involved in musicals (Oluronbi the Musical, Moremi Ajasoro – the musical) and comedies shows – theatre and stand-up comedy – but this project is making him to steer away from just entertainment to see how entertainment can be infused with agitations for social change and development. This project is making him to see ways by which theatre can have a direct impact on the immediate community. He also states that he likes to perform plays written from scratch as compared to already established plays. He believes that the newly written scripts are more tailor-made for the local community.
For Leke, he is totally at home with this project because he has always advocated for a change in the conventional processes of theatre. About fifteen years ago, he established the New Direction project which is basically aimed at changing or altering some of the theatre conventions that are in existence. He sees site-specific theatres as an opportunity for up and coming producers to make a living and get by. Instead of looking for humungous funds to rent a theatre, they can easily set up a show in a less expensive venue and still get good return on investment on their show.
The AHSCE, Lagos Hub is happy to support this project Initiative! Like we say in theatre, “break a leg!”