One of my frequently asked questions these days is "So, What is your plan after school?" or precisely put as "so, what is your participation in the ongoing development in Nigeria", although it is an ambiguous question to ask a young guy like me who is just about to leave The National Higher School of Circus Arts, a school that is considered one of the best in Europe, where one becomes a sort of "hot cake" after passing through this school.
The Ambiguity of my frequently asked question is that, i am a contemporary dance artiste, that, i'm about to finish from an art school, and musing over going to play a part in the ongoing development of my country, haha, that sounds more like a suicide mission to me, being a dancer and being a Nigeria, two things that doesn't go well together, well why am i complaining is it not my choice after all, because some will counter my stupid notion of dance in Nigeria by citing that "shebi Kaffy is a dancer, Ijodee is a dancer and they are both Nigerians and doing very well" The only excuse i have at the end of the day is that, our aspiration and pride is just not the same, i'm going to lay down my problems and you have two choices to choose from, either you will move with my stupid notion or urge me to seek alternative elsewhere, cos i don't usually sound patriotic.
I'm creating this kind of forum which i have tagged MAD HAUZ (Media And Dance), to see if i could ever settle with these questions that fiddles with my mind, to engage you all in a forum where the ignorance and general misunderstanding of contemporary dance in Nigeria can be settled, to update my own general understanding of the typical Nigerian society, which of course i cannot still claim a complete understanding of how things work and to also share my own vision for development.
To start with, i will give a very brief narration of a very recent wind that simultaneously swept over many nations of Africa, it is the wind of contemporary "African" dance, that came in trough the windows of the west (mostly French), the race began in the 80s, then it will be legal to say that contemporary dance in Africa has been around for close to two decades, it marked its debut in Nigeria, in 1994 to be precise and since then it has been growing with an unquenchable pace all over Africa, network is being set all over the continent, dancers started getting together and it is sounding very much like the eve of independence, and so it will also be legal to say that, it is the fastest growing contemporary art form on the continent, but i find it difficult to alter such a phrase in the Nigerian context.
Since 1994, Contemporary dance has only existed (officially) in Lagos and Ibadan, proponents of Contemporary dance in Nigeria has performed outside Nigeria or rather outside Africa than they've ever done in Nigeria, even at that, the audience for contemporary dance in Nigeria is usually fellow dancers, few other artistes, but more of the expatriates, it is still perceived as a foreign product, as a copycat of a western value, but i have no problem with that, it is new then it must certainly be chaotic and that will evoke a lot of agitations and contempt, but what i tend to have problem with is the circumstances at which it is being operated in most countries of Africa.
However, local critics has scolded us over and over for our sell off, then i demand of them to respond my questions, economically, are we able to meet up with our ends-meet, while performing our traditional dances that has presently been degraded to a tool to welcome VIPs at the airport and terminals, entertainers at wedding ceremonies, an element for filling the gap during "item 7"(Menu! Menu!! Menu!!!) at Unilever and Cocacola end of the year party. Legislatively, are we up to date? are we able to command respect by trying to keep tradition alive? i don't know if other dance practitioners feel good doing that, but i got my own dignity and pride to shield, and nobody can put me in a box. I am not holding anyone responsible for that, not even the government, whose idea of a dancer is a raffia wearing and spear carrying man looking very "African". Its all about the general misunderstanding.
The question i in-turn ask myself is that, does my notion of Home mean precisely being physically in Nigeria? are dancers really forgetting their cultural heritage, if some of them tend to do away with dance forms that has existed centuries ago, to be involved in some more creative tasks that conforms to today's lingua franca and becoming a vanguard that will shake tomorrow, i ask myself if there will be any logical development or cultural evolution, if we decide to stick to our root, which is suppose to make us grow and spread out more branches. The dance industry is not only about the dancers, it also about who is managing it, who is writing about it, who is making it popular for the audience to have a feel of it, a work of art is only completed when it is out there, if it is still in the studio, there can't be any dialogue on such art piece.
Now, talking about development, this is the part i feel capable of developing, there is a bi-annual meeting that rotates from country to country all over Africa, (just like the African cup of nations) it is called Dance -Africa- Dance (African and indian ocean choreographic encounters), it has never been brought to Nigeria and the only Nigerian that has ever won this price is Adedayo M. Liadi (Ijodee) and that was since 2003, the last edition was in Tunis between 1st and 8th of May 2008, i have had the opportunity to regularly attend this meeting since 2001, and i will tell you that Nigeria lags so much behind in all of these continental norm.
I am presently at the edge of bringing in over 130 professionals, cultural operators, journalists, film makers and art scholars into the city of Lagos in 2009 for EWA BAMI' JO, this is one of the initiatives i find very important for clarity and for us to well fix our gaze unto the floor as we go on with our encounters with the world, being able to go global but with our local consciousness. This initiative is about Africa, which as well stand a great chance of bringing the realities of contemporary dance to fellow Nigerian where my primary target lies. i want to begin a fresh movement that is very well poised, backed with intellectual discourse and powered by this present youth-quake spreading all over the continent.
For this logical development, i found it absolutely impossible for Contemporary dance to grow in a society such as ours, if the media is not educated on this dance genre, in order to educate the masses or be persuaded to cover it (for we believe that seeing is believing). However, it is when a precise representation of dance is made by whosoever is writing about it or presenting it on TV, that this general misunderstanding be eradicated, what i propose now is using this blog medium, to answer questions (those that i am capable of...) on contemporary dance, propose articles that has been written on dance in other parts of the continent and other links to such discovery.
To make my final precision in order to avoid another general misunderstanding, i am not doing this because i need fame or its look alike, (i like the kind life wey i dey live now!), so please don't suggest writing my story in the front page of a national daily (no harm meant), I'm not so much hungry for popular audience, its not about the audience now, its about you and us, the media and dance! because for me, it is a really sad thing that we've got just one dance critic on the African soil (Adrienne Sichel, who will soon retire by the way), so this is just to see if we could share something amongst ourselves as youth and who knows, you might be the next celebrated African dance writer and that will certainly be a plus to Nigeria.
for further info please visit the following link and have a different feel of what i am talking about.