Update from Qudus' blog

Jun 27, 2009

There will be no REVOLUTION !

Published on Sahara Reporters on 27th June, 2009 as There will be no REVOLUTION !

Why do Nigeria even need a Revolution?

Lately, I have eloquently engaged people on different fora over my musings on the possibility of the Nigerian revolution, and I have finally come to terms with the fact that there will be no revolution in Nigeria. But what else could be required of a nation where one must bribe a worker before he performs the duty he was employed for? What is required of a nation where there is no respect for civil rights, just as there is no respect for our fellow human beings and their freedom of speech? no Democracy, no development. A people who cannot be convinced that those with different social and sexual orientation have a right and dignity to be different and alive, how then do you begin to tell them that they deserve socio-political freedom? A people embedded in 'Up NEPA' mentality, jumping in euphoria when the least of their basic amenity as a citizen is given to them.

Nigeria is surely overdue for a purge, the problem is that Nigerians themselves are too corrupt; they are either too fat to be bothered, or too skinny to lift a plume, and above all, too cowardly to ignite a revolution. If our indocility could not make brave ones like Fela or Soyinka, or even Ribadu take us safely to the promise land, is it our generation filled with a bunch of big-mouthed Philistines that will provide such hero? The revolution i dreamt about is not absolutely about a thirst for blood on the land, but what other DRAMATIC CHANGE will forcibly overthrow, not only to establish a new political system but to transform and re-orientate an entirely corrupt society and social order in favour of a new system that will replace the status quo?

We are SICK and TIRED.

No revolution in a SICK and TIRED nation; Sick Youth with Tired elders...

For the Abatis* and the Bankys*, please do the equation with me. A bunch of self deluded Youth + Disillusioned adults = No space for revolution. 'For record purpose', this piece is might as well be considered as my rejoinder to the article 'A Nation's Identity Crisis' by Reuben Abati in the The Guardian on Sunday, June 21, 2009 and Banky W's response on his blog, June 22, 2009.

I was alerted by a well respected brother about the existence of this article, with all exuberance and eagerness to finally discover the Reuben Abati that my ears are filled with, I read the article over dinner and realised it wasn't an article really worth losing sleep over. It only showed how Nigerians love to reminisce about a synthetic day of yore. I have no patience for that these days. If I want to be generous, I will say 90 percent of our so-called elite elders are a waste of space, a storm in a tea cup. I don't bother with tea cups. If more people, even if they were writers wrote well, and I mean well and not terribly, then we would have something to talk about, so on that note i said goodnight to myself in my cosy hotel room.

The greatest shock came when I realised how much uproar this article has caused amongst the Bankys* of our time, who crept on this article until it became pandemic all over the search engines. I asked myself, is it really worth the energy? but my question came too late, this phenomenon has already taken over Google itself, but to me these debates are really writ-large beer parlour conversations. Since my public banter with Chude Jideonwo of the Future Awards, I have noticed that many of my generation rarely comment on substantive topics that demand actual thinking, because many are incapable of such thought patterns and processes - for quick confirmation, go take a look at an article titled "D’BANJ & HIS LIFE OF INFIDELITY", on facebook alone there are 280 comments on it - The pint is not that we are not intelligent, The disaster however is that we just don't think. A thoughtless statement like this article that began by eulogising a colonial heritage and looking for the lost 'eria' in 'naija', will make us pile up like area boys that had just sighted a goods container driving into their territory. Yet, these are our so-called educated class. Give me a break, /Sigh/. What kind of revolution are we waiting for?

The Power of culture.

There will be no revolution in a nation oblivious of the Power of culture...

There will be no revolution in a nation whose inner spirit is not embedded in her cultural values, her inability to understand and appreciate her beliefs and values will lift no feather, to apply them humanly to our daily lives, and to explore the human experience in all its richness. There will be no revolution until our so called elders in high places begin to teach ordinary people that art is valuable, that its not something that the rich have in their own worlds, and that access to the arts it the secret to a high quality and satisfying life, that the human life and the distinctive human potential is empty without these values and virtues. 

Standards and values are an integral part of any culture; hence, culture is the bedrock supporting every development, it is a tool for emancipation and holds true for equal rights, responsibility for future generations, freedom of speech, and democracy. Our cultural heritage is generally associated with archives, works of art and monuments. In times of need, music, writings and other works of art can be a beacon of hope and comfort. Monuments and art treasures make a shared past visible and thus strengthen our need for a better future.

Through access to the arts we learn to make choices, learn to criticise, to discriminate between the meritorious and the meretricious, between good and evil. Through them we determine which endeavours are worthy of our best efforts, and ultimately we learn to know ourselves, our humanity socially, culturally as well as individually. In the absence of the knowledge behind the power of culture, there will be no such thing as development or revolution.

However, how much grounds has been in place for A culturally deprived generation such as ours? with no poetry, no theatre, no museum, no art, in short no culture. How much respect does an elder generation earns from the younger, when it refuses to make available its shoulders for the attainment of Babylon, they jealously hold on to the baton, willing to release it only to their children and the children of their rich friends, even when they are not qualified.

So if what we cherish is the money making nation of mediocre standards, isn't it so easy? already the Bankys* of our generation are fulfilling the book with their bad odour music, all in the name of 'commercial strategy', and as long as we the people are stupid enough, not to be able to figure out how much of an apparatus we are to their marketing gimmicks, there will be no freaking revolution. So let's collectively turn our monuments and art treasures into massive beer parlours, and franchise sections of them to some big boys, who are ever willing to pimp them into five star discotheques and private parks. Perhaps then we can finally create monumental versions of SWE bar or KOKO lounge crowded with more Abatis* and Bankys*, sparring and ranting over bottles of Gulder, and creating more social talks for our blogs and talk about on our social networks. 

Come to think of it, in a nation peopled by a mass, oblivious of the power of their own culture, of what importance is there in keeping the National museum then? what is there to preserve in our National theatre? of what use are the numerous art councils and indigenous cultural centres that litters the whole nation? Visit these dust bins that harbours our supposed cultural heritage to see what our heritage and history has been reduced to, then you will understand how much we have mixed up sentiments for patriotism.

Fela sang... 'My people sef dey fear too much, we fear for the things we no see...' Well, that was his generation, in this new media era 'we no even fear for the things wey we dey see everyday,' if not ASA will not be compelled to declare that 'there is fire on the mountain and nobody seems to be on the run...' 

Noise is an assemblage of unpleasant and discorded voices, it will never turn into a revolutionary voice. Maybe our problem now is even too much information, we are over informed, we grew up hearing our parents ranting over it, our Profs in school teach about this long awaiting revolution, we see it for ourselves on TV; we live with this need for CHANGE on our streets and neighbourhood. Every newspaper talks about it, placards and bill boards advertise it. Most of all, when we log-on to our online tatafo social networks, we are bombarded with status update, notes and articles, our lovers yet bother our eardrums with revolutionary talks, even at comedy shows we laugh about it. Maybe that's why it eventually became a social talk. Our social life is filled with cheap talks about CHANGE that it begin to sound like Zenith Bank advert on CNN -normal thing- it only makes much sense in the first instance, and not when it is over-flogged. 

With all these anti-change symptoms living closely with us, we shall continue to walk about with our heads tuck in between our chests. We shall continue to sanctify all the vanity fairs and lies we are fed with everyday, so we can continue to smile and go to our churches and mosques; to give the complete authority of our lives to some clever ones behind closed doors to legislate, and we shall continue to try to make sense of our sufferings and there will be no freaking revolution.

* The use of Abatis and Bankys in this article, does not signify a particular person or an entire generation, but a term i figured exclusively for the representation of a particular sect of two distinct generations in this article.

Jun 23, 2009


CURATORIAL NOTE for the1st edition of the Biennial.


For the curatorial discourse of this 2009 edition of ewaBAMIJO, we propose "HOME and ABROAD" as the theoretical basis from which we hope to explore our critical vision. under the Artistic direction of Qudus ONIKEKU.

Context and Rationale:

Contemporary dance in Africa has struggled for a while to overcome problems like accessibility by local audience, finance and lack of Infrastructures, power and lacks critically in legislation. Dance-forms other than traditional dances in contemporary Africa, are very similar to all imported or foreign activities in the society at large, reserved particularly for the expatriates and the elite class, it is obviously there present in the society but it has been suspending and surviving in a sort of extinction, never had the ability to come to rest and be integrated in the society we operate. Moreover, there is only a thin line between the artiste and his society, paradoxically we get fame and gain grounds outside our primary society, and all these is as a result of the standards and circumstances at which we operate our art "HOME and ABROAD."

We are convinced that the notion of HOME for many artist of the 21st century varies, it could be only but, a series of thoughts, images and sensations - a CONCEPT - a cherished aspiration, ambition and ideal, it perhaps exist only in our self/deluding fantasy - Not in real-time. Maybe this earth is an eternal ABROAD after all, and so said Faustine Linyekula 'Maybe my only county is my body', but on what basis does our art excel at 'home'? The art market or its practice? Our proposition of "HOME and ABROAD" as the theme for this first international edition of ewaBAMIJO, is not a denial of the existence, importance and rewards of this intellectual tradition; but in many ways to further seek a place for the entrenchment of cultural and racial, economic and other fundamental differences under the machinery of globalisation.

Reality has proved to us that, due to our lack of infrastructure and audiences structure, many African creators make their works ready mostly for exportation in order to survive as artistes, not only for economic balance, but for their sanity and survival of their creativity, productivity, and pride in the companies they run, this irreproachable trend also have a reverse effect on our primary society. As we have seen in the recent past that a higher percentage of African audience has practically lost interest of live arts to showbiz and home movies, The basic interest of this initiation is primarily to review our basis and bring back attention to the Theatre. We believe that at this present point of our encounters, after many decades of pre|post colonial exchanges and several hand shakes with the world, it is high time we became focused on internal issues. More so, as we live in a new media world saturated with technological advancement, coupled with our vast resource of indigenous professionals, we only need to appropriate all these ready made elements as our own means and apparatus, as well as using maximized effort to sculpt our art face and divert some sluggish energy into a steady and positive change reaction.

A moment of reflection around DANCE in contemporary African...

History itself is shaped and written in bias towards the present day reality, and slightly directed to favour the orientation at which the future is dreamt of by the powerful, and so as contemporary dance in Africa, America and Europe and elsewhere where 'political correctness' matter, the ideals and the writings of contemporary dance on a global world-view has enriched itself on the inevitable notion of identity, race, gender and class. Far from identifying the contemporaneity of our dance in Africa or branding it for that matter, but approaching it from a viewpoint which doesn't ignore the state of affairs of our collective economic, social, political and cultural reality as a people. In the era of post colonialism, post modernism and post world war II, other art forms had exercised continuous revolutionary concepts that transformed into leading discourses guarded by 'political correctness'. As 'African' dance practitioners, it is inevitable to disregard the question of identity, color and other baggage of history, due to the direct exposure of our naked bodies and the visible twist of cultural expressions, which has in turn triggered a series of resistance in the part of traveling dance practitioners, as against exoticism and second class validation, if not third. However, this construction and continuous resistance have also adversely developed an institutionalised pluralistic landscape that has today turned into a combative affirmation of an ideology, and unfortunately a new form of stereotyping.

For some years, major international organisations and parastatals around the world, have worked towards building up 'discursive platform for a cacophony of African voices' outside Africa, and emphasizing 'correctness' in cultural politics; these have of course created more talks that hinder actions, it has stated more obvious problems than proposing solutions, but unconsciously succeeded to the neglect of the core existence of the young and alternative artist's project in the continent, creating further fiesta of the ex-colony and the ex-colonised, an independent pursuit of illusive relationship through artistic endeavors. Fundamental problems transformed into cocktails and social rendezvous of the dominant sect, through which the new order is defined to create restriction for liberal artistic expressions. In this first edition of EBJ we wish to draw attention to the 'political (in)correctness' of traditional trends which led to the dominative power play of multiculturalism, globalisation, identity politics and post-colonial discourse. Urgent issues facing contemporary dance today, that we wish to make a scandal of is; How do we establish an 'ethics of difference and mutual respect' within the framework of dissimilarities in cultural production and functionality? Is DANCE in contemporary Africa: An imported household branding or a local craft for export? How do we prevent 'Hegemony' without sacrificing the grounds already gained against the power status quo at Home and Abroad? By Re/Moving boundaries, are we certain of creating larger territory for dreams?

Core principles of the EBJ biennial: Negations

Africa has been told and shown constantly through western eyes, and in funny way we end up seeing ourselves through western judgment. To trail the proposition of the 3rd GUANGZHUO Triennial, ewaBAMIJO may be as well understood as a locus of questions for the international art world, boom time of fresh breeds hailing from cities yet to come around the world, as history has been written based on the intuition of a few and rules always made for us to follow, we have the conviction that there are lots of lies in history and we are set to deny everything regarded as 'truth' to lead the way for our discovery, the existence of this Biennial will be a process of discovery for ourselves; not just the fulfilling of preconceived ideas. Instead of claiming what this Biennial 'is', we wish to find out what it should not be.

The Self Imagining of ewaBAMIJO is an Ètude in Negation ...

Neither global nor local; Neither Western nor African; Neither mainstream nor independent, Neither tourist spectacle nor high art. Not multiculturalism; Not tribalism; Not post-colonialism; Not identity politics; Not sociological report; Not alternative modernity; Not showcase of new stars; Not competition for superiority; Not a celebration of our heroes and wins, Not further affirmation of all possible swear words, such as **gritudism... By saying 'Home and Abroad' we call for the renovation of the practices and theoretical interface of contemporary dance around the world, to depart from its all pervasive socio-political discourse, but work together with other kind of artists, scholars, students, critics and our audience, to discover new modes of thinking and develop new analytical tools for dealing with today's world, and bring attention to the 'limits of globalisation'.

Yk Projects.

Jun 22, 2009

Reflection on Liberty, Morality and Homosexuality.

PUBLISHED ON GUARDIAN AS Liberty vs Morality : Reflection On A 3-million People 'Pride Parade' In Sao Paolo.

Growing up in a conservative country like Nigeria, I have always wanted more freedom to explore certain things no one ever took time to explain to me. I have always wanted to keep the police off wherever I let my mind thought take me to. With my curious mind as a teenager, I read about great philosophers, scientist and artistes as well as made my own research of religions and beliefs, and I came across certain issues that were very much underground, such as the issue of the followers of "Guru Maharaj ji" or even homosexuals.

I recall that at the age of 12 or13, I happened to be a victim of molestation by a young man who had attempted to rape me. My understanding at that time, could not fully grab his predicament, but I felt like a clot of rubbish, until years later when I came across the word homosexuals. Members of this sect are frequently subjected to prejudice and discrimination in our society, which further adds to their marginalisation and vulnerability; it doesn't mean they do not exist in our hypocritical society.

Similar to that are the Transmen and Transwomen – those who were males or females at birth, but feel that is no accurate or complete description of themselves. So they desire transition towards a gender role as a woman or a man to varying degrees. I have always wondered, instead of keeping silent about these pacing phenomena: is it not better we voice it out, rather than living in pretence ? Because they are definetely a part of us.

In the last ten years now, I have traveled even more than I desire. I have met with people I only read about in books or watched on TV. I have found liberty at its peak and I have understood its limits. I have realised that i am a free man from the moment i have the right to act according to my will without being held up by the power of others, with the capacity to determine my own choices.

Nonetheless, liberty in the absence of subordination and constraint, like every other thing in life can be addictive. When you get so addicted to your liberty, you definitely become a slave to something else. 

Now, I think of the degree of our madness on earth. I thought there used to be a time girls dress-to-kill in order to show off their clothes, but now we kill-to-dress to show off our bodies. It is my thought that soon, people will begin to share bodies to go out in, the way girls share clothes now; we'll say to one another, "Who'll wear the brown body tonight?", "Hey honey, go put on the muscular body." 

For sure, immorality is where we are heading in the name of human right, and sooner there will be no such thing as 'Wrong'.

On my arrival at Sao Paolo, Brazil, few days ago, I immediately identified myself with the city. I knew something was insane just the way I liked it. But why Sao Paolo to start with? The mission to Brazil will last for a month – June 1 - 14 in Sao Paolo and June 15 – 28 in Belo Horizonte, but it will be multi-tasked. 

This year 2009 is the year of France in Brazil, and I happen to be part of the French delegation. I shall as well be networking with a host of cultural operators as regards ewaBAMIJO, my coming festival in Lagos during the last week of October. I shall be screening my film "Do We Need Cola Cola to Dance?" and making more alternative space performances in collaboration with my Brazilian producers. 

In the midst of my busy program, the adventurer in me was able to yet dig into the heart of this wonderful city. All through my travel experiences I have come across just two cities of similar insanity; New York and Johannesburg. Every night, there were at least four plans to choose from. But one significant event I wouldn't miss for anything was the 'Gay Pride Parade', which held exactly on my last day in Sao Paolo. I was told there will be three million gays in a carnival!

On many occasions, I have deliberately avoided having to state my opinion publicly on this controversial phenomenon. I am one of those few Nigerians who are not gay but really don't feel any different from those who are. Even if my definition of an 'ideal world' doesn't subscribe to such, yet able to state my opinion clearly without bias or offense. My existence as a dancer who works with his body and emotion, has at many times expanded my discovery and deepened my realisation of some sensual parts of me and also the sensuality of my dance partners, be it male or female. 

This same construct has taught me not to find bodies attractive nor repellent; only the people in them. 

So today, when I look at a homosexual, what do I see? Do I see a dead fag just waiting for a penis to bring him alive? Do I see a punk who has become what he is due to his addiction to liberty, with a bottle of beer in hand and singing "NO FUTURE?” or do I see a fellow human being capable of engaging in a meaningful conversation that could make the world a better place and being able to talk freely (without the influence of his proclaimed "identity") about the entrenchment of difference in a one world? 

So under what category is the existence of this 'Gay Pride Parade'? Of what significance is it? A political movement or a folie de grandeur? These are questions that caress my conscious self as we colorise the city en mass.

-Immorality Is Our Destination-

On getting to the Metro SE, it was as if I forgot that three million was no joke. Sure, on paper it looks a minute population, but for real, imagine the sight of a mass of human beings counting from one to three million. Seeing them all from afar in their ecstatic frenzies, I thought it was interesting as I was anticipating it ever since I heard of the event. 

The image I had in my head began to wash away as I got closer to them. I felt a massive energy filled with life in the punk way. The first reaction that touched my animal instinct was "run back". My legs failed me for at least two seconds. "Courage man" I told myself and so I joined the mob of apparently young boys and girls in their early twenties - newly hatched gays, free of parental guidance - all in pairs. You could feel the pulse of liberty in their faces. 

I was still trying to get used to the hundreds in the throng until I got to the platform of the blue line, where I intended to change for the green line that will take me to CONSOLACAO, my meeting point with the rest of my friends, most of whom were girls and who would be my shield for the next six hours. 

There were at least a thousand people waiting at the platform for the coming Metro. I was astonished. I had never seen a Metro filled with such a crowd. This is the kind of carnival you wish to be at its forefront, archiving all the experiences it could bring you in your mind. And trying to figure out a sense of this interesting madness before your very eyes, something tells you that you are also part of the three million, yet you are in love with the vibrations. As I took pictures, some would come closer to me in an attempt to hug or kiss me. I can still tolerate a hug but get easily and swiftly repelled when something other than that gets close. 

In this gathering, everything is allowed. It was complete madness! We watched in suspense and suspicion, for we all knew that something was absolutely missing in everyone's head. And that one thing was morality. Nothing seemed abnormal no more; each time I asked my friends in curiosity "Is that girl a guy?” “Are those breasts real?” “Is he a girl?" Seeing a guy and a girl kissing was the most abnormal thing in such gathering. No one was sure of what was wrong and what was not to be done. Everything was in a defiant mood of “YES WE CAN! 

We quickly took our exit after the last carnival van that passed us, for we were warned that the moment you see the sun going down, you had better leave with the sunset, because just like vampires, it could get really nasty after sunset.

MORALS are created and defined by society, philosophy, religion, or individual conscience and intuition, which differs between the liberals and the conservatives. Morality is seen as a collection of beliefs as to what constitutes a good life. Throughout much of human history, religions have provided both visions and regulations for an ideal life. In a secular community like in Euro-American setting, lifestyle choices, which represent an individual's conception of good and bad, are often discussed in terms of "morality." The individual makes an appropriate lifestyle choice first, before being compelled within his civil rights, to accept the codes of conduct within their chosen community as what is fundamentally moral, even when such codes deviate from larger social principles. 

HOMOSEXUALITY: A sexual orientation, social construct or identity politics?

The term homosexual is often used in European and American context to encompass a person’s entire social identity, which includes the self and personality. In other cultures such in Africa where the principles of right and wrong behavior is still a communal responsibility, homosexual and heterosexual labels don’t emphasize an entire social identity or indicate community affiliation based on sexual orientation. 

Homosexuality is a modern western social construct, which has today become a group of some interconnected powerful men or women, doing everything possible to buy more young and agile men or ladies into their 'ideal' world, leading to a 'choice' and eventually metamorphosing into a circular religion. 

I recognise that just as heterosexuals, we don't 'choose' our sexuality, some people don't get sexually connected to the opposite sex, if it is about the sudden discovery of one's attraction to same sex, which will of course respect the heterosexuality of the other, I have nothing against that. However such cannot be used as a basis of identifying a human being. 

My resentment has really not much to do with sexual identity, but to the uproar that follows any ideology that the liberal West wishes to sell to humanity as a whole. They make so much uproar about it until it becomes the new world order; and going against it becomes the new sin. And since they are the ones in the front line of human history, they will always look for one truth or the other to cover their lies. 

Finally, I have always believed that to continually participate in this world with curiosity and pleasure, to see any sense in this illogical existence of ours, one definitely have to pretend to be young and uninformed, pretend to be free of traditions and religion, and like that one learns to tolerate others in their identified weakness and insanity.