CATCH THEM YOUNG! MS. PATIENCE BITRUS AND OMO’BA JERRY ADESEWO TEAM UP FOR “YOUNG NIGERIAN THESPIAN” IN ABUJA
By Dr Folakemi Ogungbe
A lot of young secondary school students in Nigeria are at a loss of what career or profession to pursue and those who have an idea of what they want to become will choose to be doctors, engineers and lawyers. However, not everyone can be doctors and lawyers, some will excel in the Arts, hence the reason for this project. “Young Nigerian Thespian” is a workshop for secondary school students who are at the crossroad of career choice and who need to discover their calling in the Arts through workshops culminating in theatre production competition amongst schools in Abuja.
Patience Bitrus and Omo’Ba Jerry Adesewo met at the Creative Imagination Workshop week held virtually by the Lagos Hub of the African Hub for Sustainable Creative Economies (AHSCE). Patience said she was drawn to Omo’Ba for two reasons. First is that she was happy to see a thriving creative entrepreneur who was based in Abuja and second, she was willing to tap from the wealth of experience of Omo’Ba Jerry Adesewo.
Patience, who has a background in film from the National Film Institute in Jos, sees her collaboration with Omo’Ba Jerry Adesewo, a seasoned theatre practitioner and the founder of Arojah theatre in Abuja as a perfect combination. Patience says Omo’Ba Adesewo has taught her a lot about Project Management and how to work with relevant stakeholders. He also makes her to see things in new perspectives and to map out contingency plans in case something goes wrong.
Patience thinks that the Young Nigerian Thespian project is important at this time, because most people do not pays attention to those who work behind the scenes, but only to people in the limelight. There is however, a lot of behind-the-scenes job opportunities in the creative industries, that people do not pay attention to and which is capable of generating sustainable job opportunities. Parents also need to be helpful to their wards on career decisions. Many times, parents and guardians sees Arts as a hobby and not a profession. They do not think it is a sustainable career to pursue. Patience makes example of a relative of Omo’Ba whose parents want her to study Medicine but she has more inclination for the Arts. A proper education of parents on this matter may help to mitigate this situation.
Omo’Ba believes that there is a need to change narratives and stereotypes about the Creative Industry and Thespians. The primary target is the senior secondary school students that are closer to make career decisions as well as their parents, who although may appreciate the prowess of their children in performance and allied engagements but will still want them to pursue a more “serious” profession such as Law, Medicine or Engineering. The parents will also be invited to these workshops to make it more balanced and to make the message to be passed, more effective.
Patience Bitrus, the lead collaborator, is planning to disseminate the workshop recordings on YouTube to reach more audiences. Omo’Ba says this project is important from a “catch-them-young” point of view and also for promoting the continuity of the Arts. He states that if live theatre culture is ever going to be revived in Nigeria, it has to start with the younger ones who will then grow up to be Arts Enthusiasts, Promoters and so on. Furthermore, if they ever find themselves in a sphere of influence, they can push the agenda for the Arts because they are already grounded in it. He laments that although most schools have Arts club, they do not practise it seriously.
Performances are also a good avenue for public engagements. Young people must be trained to be able to open up conversations around a topic using the vehicle of theatre. Theatre is also instrumental in building confidence for public speaking as it is a form of artistic expression. The benefits of the programme are therefore for the students, the schools and the society at large.
The idea for this project came to Patience during the creative imagination workshop week. She then reached out to Omo’Ba who incidentally have a similar programme going on in Abuja. Omo’Ba had previously hosted the Abuja Children’s festival which usually involves drama competition among twelve schools. This year edition however will not be holding and Omo’Ba who believes that partnerships are important agreed to team up with Patience to start “Young Nigerian Thespian.”
Omo’Ba Jerry Adesewo admits that he has been practicing theatre in Abuja since 2007. He however said that at first, it was not sustainable in itself and he had to do some other profession alongside. He was a journalist for the Guardian and Daily Trust. However, he is now fully into Theatre for Action and not for Arts sake. He believes that theatre must be for social change and development and not merely for entertainment.