If you think that the arts are a dying art in Nigeria, then you probably need to jump from whatever century you’re in and come to 2019. There’s so much going on in the art space these days and it’s incredible.
The MTN Foundation is making such headway in the arts and culture industry by supporting and promoting of Nigerian arts and what makes them unique. One of the ways it’s doing this is by sponsoring plays that retell Nigerian stories; sometimes taking us back to history class or basically telling us things we never knew. Which is why we’re stanning 5 plays that had us saying “Wow!” while schooling us on one or two things at the same time.
1) Fela and the Kalakuta Queens
This musical has all the right shades of Nigerian glamour, giving us a side to much loved afrobeats legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti; a side we’ve never seen before.
Fela and the Kalakuta Queens depicts the loyalty and reverence that existed between Fela and his dancers. It also debunked many misconceptions people have about the late Fela. Do you know how fascinating that play was? The lead character who played Fela did such a good job, that people started asking if Fela had somehow come back. We stan.
2) Legends the Musical
You might have seen Thor and are a serious Marvel superhero fan but, did you know we have our own super cool superheroes who will beat the Thors of this world hands down? Legends the Musical is a play about African gods and legends: Sango, Shaka, Yaa Asantewa, Queen Amina and Queen Nefertiti–who work together to rid the earth of the fictional evil character, The Shadow.
The Shadow had his comeuppance when earthly beings shook in their boots and had to call on The Legends to help them out from the drudgery of the Nigerian society, so they got The Legends on speed dial and were saved by the selfless love of these superheroes, despite the challenges the African heroes were faced with.
This play has the right shades of feminism with the lead character, Efetobore, going head-to-head with her father over her choice of a husband.
Agbarho highlights the struggles women face including issues of widowhood and false accusations of killings one’s husband. It also addresses issues such as, being sexually objectified and harassed in the quest for a job. Efetobore experiences these and more. However, despite this, she continues on her quest, ignoring every discrimination and going ahead to apply for an all-male music contest. YOU GO GIRL.
Oh, and we are stanning the cultural diversity in this musical! Efetobore is born of an Urhobo father and a Hausa mother and she chooses a Yoruba man as her spouse; and instead of going to the abroad in search of greener pastures, she decides to move to Abuja from Delta.
4) Oba Esugbayi
This was a classic throwback to history and how it should be told. This play focuses on the Late Oba Esugbayi, also known as Eleko of Eko, who reigned supreme as the Oba of Lagos from 1901 to 1925, and from 1931 to 1932.
The play highlights the role of Oba Esugbayi who protected his people from the tyranny of colonial rule; collaborating with market women to fight colonialist who was turning Lagosians into slaves, blatantly opposing government oppression which eventually led to his exile from Lagos. He resumed his kingship years later to the joy of his people who he represented greatly.
Oba Esugbayi is a noteworthy play that gives necessary accolade to one of the greats and incorruptible leaders Nigeria ever had. Also worthy of note is the fact that the producers of this play also produced another much acclaimed historical play, Emotan
5) Jungle Story 2
Are you tired of Nigerian politicians who lie through their teeth, creating manifestos and mandates they do not intend to achieve? We are and so is Sound Sultan.
In Jungle Story 2, Nigerian musician, Sound Sultan explored the nuances of corruption and its effects on society. Jungle Story 2 is a satirical depiction of what happens in a society that has been cursed to turn every corrupt individual into animals. This exposes everyone for who they really are within — showcasing the lions (liars), cheetahs (cheats), chicken (follow follow), parrot (“eke is my hobby” people) and more.
By supporting these great Nigerian theatre productions that show the essence of the Nigerian culture, the issues, the solutions, MTN Foundation is really giving voice to the long-forgotten history and realism of Nigerian art. Something that should indeed be greatly lauded, which is why we’re LOUDING it.
Another event that is worthy of a mention on this list is the recently concluded, Lagos Poetry Festival which held from October 30th to November 4th at Freedom Park, Lagos. The Lagos Poetry Festival, also known as LIPFest, featured spoken word presentations, literary workshops, parties and more with guests such as; Wana Udobang, Brymo, Logan February, Kaveh Akbar, Itiola Jones, among others.
It’s okay if you missed out on these shows even though you missed out on a whole lot. However, there’s a way out. MTN Foundation is sponsoring another art and culturally immersive programme; OMG the Musical. If you loved reading about Legends the Musical, you will definitely want to see this because it is created by producers of Legends the Musical and it will focus on the great deeds of Nigerian heroines; Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti, Margaret Ekpo and Hajia Gambo Sawaba.
OMG the Musical is scheduled to hold at MUSON Center, on December 27-39 and 31st and January 1, 2020.