By Dr Folakemi Ogungbe
AWELE DEKPE’S THEATRE FOR DEVELOPMENT: ENGAGING THE CHILDREN AND YOUTH OF EGBEDA IN THE ARTS OF THE THEATRE TO MIRROR SEUN AWOBANJO’S FOOTPRINTS OF DAVID
This AHSCE, Lagos Hub project: Theatre for Development: Engaging the children and youths of Egbeda in the Arts of the Theatre is the brain child of Awele Dekpe. Awele Dekpe collaborates with Seun Awobajo, her friend and former classmate, to replicate what Seun has done in Bariga with his Footprints of David Foundation.
Awele Dekpe had always admired the idea behind Footprints of David. Seun Awobajo established Footprints of David as a community-based children’s theatre organisation. This organisation is located in Bariga, Lagos. Bariga, Lagos was initially known for badly behaved minors who have no interest in productive things but were street urchins and very susceptible to crime. Starting with Crown Troupe of Africa, which aimed at capturing and transforming the lives of the Youths of Bariga through theatre, Footprints of David is specifically targeted at children and teenagers.
Seun Awobajo, in an earlier interview, stated that when establishing a children theatre company, there is an actual need for father and mother companies that would help give the company a strong footing. For his Footprint of David, the father company is Crown Troupe of Africa while the mother company is Starlight Home of Entertainment. Seun Awobajo’s Footprints of David Foundation houses organisations such as Footprints of David Academy, FOD Gang, My Bariga, My Pride and Bright Achiever’s School. Others include Seaside Cottage Theatre, Bariga Photo School, Bariga Fashion Academy, I-Read Community Bookclub, Adult Literacy Centre and Footprint of David Festival.
Footprints of David Foundation aims at raising a total child. Their policy is to promote, preserve African cultural values in raising especially the disadvantaged children while they lend them a voice, giving them the wings to their aspirations and convictions through the arms of sublime creativity.
Seun and Awele have been friends for fifteen years. Seun has always been prodding Awele to push for theatre for children and by children in her own area in Lagos. Awele has however been reluctant because of her work engagements and because she did not think she possessed the go-getter spirit of Seun. This is why Awele and Seun think that their skill-set are complimentary. While both were trained in Theatre Arts, a unit under the Creative Arts Department at the University of Lagos, Seun has gone into full time community theatre while Awele went to work at the National theatre where she has risen to a senior administrative level. Both of them therefore see this collaboration as a dream come true. Awele is able to realise her long-held dream of replicating Footprints of David initiative while Seun is able to fulfil his dream of having his kind of children theatre in every area of Lagos.
Awele and Seun have worked together on a number of projects. Awele sometimes acts as compere at Seun’s events, especially at the Footprints of David theatre festival. While at the University of Lagos, Awele had featured in Seun’s staged productions and vice versa.
Awele also buys into Seun’s dream of having a vibrant Arts community in every area of Lagos. She thinks that a vibrant Art Community in Lagos will help to reduce crime and create art conscious individuals and families and this is better when you catch them young.
During the Creative Imagination Week, Seun and Awele were always at the comments section of the Zoom events discussing the theme each day. They especially loved the theme on “Theatre for Social Change and Development. Given that they both had a blueprint for community children’s theatre, Seun and Awele knew early on that they were going to come together to apply for the voucher scheme and see if their project will get a funding.
Excitedly, Seun alludes to the fact that this is the first time that they will be getting any kind of funding for the work that he does and it is really exciting that the AHSCE project is able to support this.
“If your child is brilliant, let him go and do the Arts, if your child is dull, Science can help”. This is Seun’s philosophy and it is addressing a societal balance about Science/Art courses in Secondary Schools. Seun believes that Art should get the brilliant students. This shows his depth of commitment to children in the arts.
Awele says she is impressed that Seun operates a free school and he is helping the less-privileged children to achieve education as well as visibility for their arts through the Footprints of David foundation. Some of the children have travelled outside the country to showcase their art as well as create an awareness for the plight of the Nigerian child.
AHSCE thinks the project is laudable and exciting. We wish Seun and Awele all the best in the project.