Update from Qudus' blog

Oct 24, 2012

Review: My Exile is in My Head - Cardiff

Review: Afrovibes – Inception/My Exile is in My Head 

IT has taken almost 10 years for the annual Afrovibes festival to reach the UK and as part of this year’s tour, which celebrates the work of award-winning Southern African performers, two renowned artists delivered a double bill that delved into the darker side of human nature.
Sonia Radebe’s Inception was as challenging as it was bizarre. The short solo began when Sonia crept into view with just a small headlamp alerting us to her presence. As she explored the stage with animalistic lunges, a resonating Taj Mahal Travellers score set nerves on edge.
Blending traditional African dance with experimental, at times a tad self indulgent physical theatre, Radebe attempted to take us inside a fragile woman’s consciousness. Her barely controlled movements descended into hyperventilating madness which was at times captivating, but veered dangerously close to comedy. Accomplished as Radebe is, Inception could benefit from a hefty dose of coherence.
Part two was provided by Nigerian dancer and choreographer Qudus Onikeku. The veteran artist based My Exile Is In My Head on the prison notes of Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, set to grating guitar loops and voiceovers of the original writings. Onikeku used his body to describe the stages of despair that the solitude of imprisonment causes. His gradual pulsating gave way to him kneeling on the floor before he threw himself into a series of staccato, highly stylised jolts that gave more than a nod to his past hip hop training.
Onikeku’s movement control is beyond admirable. What made My Exile special was more than just a series of impressive acrobatics. Qudus Onikeku engages an audience utterly. Parts of the celebrated solo only served to slow the piece down but Onikeku’s convincing, disturbing portrayal of a man on the brink of sanity was compelling throughout.

Oct 23, 2012

Africa Straight Up

Dear Friends.

I am using this medium to invite you all to watch this beautifully made document on contemporary Africa. For those who have not been so privileged to have access to such information in this docu, which enables us all to think
rightly, above the truthful lies we are all fervently fed with, through the propaganda giants who either see Africa as a place of death and diseases, or that of aid and humanitarian 'see me see you' or a huge natural wildlife managed solely by nature, but if you believe and support the views of the producers of this film, please be kind enough to share it and make it go viral in your own little circle. One more soul saved and delivered from the deadly cancer of stereotype, is one more humanity restored from its denial of others' own humanity.
It is worth the price we pay for a great job done by the producers.
Please let's all support it.

Oct 20, 2012

Inception / My Exile Is In My Head – Contact, Manchester

Inception / My Exile Is In My Head – Contact, Manchester

At the risk of failing to sound like the cultured liberal I like to think myself, I have to admit to often finding African culture difficult. It’s a part of the world I’ve never been to, I have a scant understanding of its political history, and a lack of knowledge about its contemporary social and cultural life. So the notes in the Afro Vibes programme which describe these two solo semi-narrative dance pieces as ‘complex’ and ‘sophisticated’ make me think I’m going to be missing something thanks to my inexcusable cultural ignorance.
So when this extraordinary evening is over, a revelation has taken place. I don’t need to come at this with a wealth of cultural knowledge, just a big dose of humanity. Both Sonia Radebe and Qudus Onikeku have made work that goes straight to the core of the human soul. These are works about the human physical and psychological journey, about succor and spirituality, loss and longing.

In Inception Sonia Radebe seems to be fighting for her life, pursued by an unseen threat, chasing an unseen goal. She runs, breathes, screams and laughs, moving her body with a sinuous, animalistic and earthy power. Her limbs spin until they blur, golden against the black depths of the stage, made jewel-like by Suzette le Seuer’s simple but dramatic lighting. Nhlanhla Mahlangu’s techno whale song score grinds and soars along with Radebe’s incredible muscular body.

The honeyed, richness of Inception seems long gone as Qudus Onikeku appears in a greyish white light for the evening’s second piece, My Exile Is In My Head. Overcut with spoken text which tells of a child finding a place to hide away (actually drawn from Wole Soyinka’s prison notes, The Man Died), he moves across the stage as though carrying a heavy load. With Onikeku’s physique, any load that made this man move this way would truly be a heavy one. This astonishing sense of weight pervades the piece, with Onikeku seeming to be striving to, and then breaking through, fighting gravity and worldliness as he spins and somersaults, blending traditional Nigerian dance with hip hop and capoeira. His fight is astonishing, he gives his all to us in a violent and desperate frenzy, then ends in stillness as he sings a haunting Yoruba song. But this is hardly a solo work. Charles Amblard’s brilliant live score, looped on an electric steel guitar, moves from ambient sound to bluegrass, blues to rock. He follows Onikeku’s movement like an accompanist, the sound and movement fusing like they could never survive apart.

Tonight’s small but appreciative audience know they’ve seen something special. Those not privileged enough to have been at this launch of the Afro Vibes Festival at Contact should seek out this incredible evening of dance at one of its other venues. A truly memorable and moving experience.

Sep 23, 2012

Qudus Onikeku/ Yk Projects on tour...


Tour dates in Netherlands
Thursday 27th September at 20h30 - Park theatre Eindhoven
Friday 28th september at 20h - Bijlmerpar theatre Amsterdam
Saturday 29th september at 21h - MC Theatre Amsterdam

Tour dates in United Kingdom
Thursday 4th October Albany Deptford
Saturday 6th October Dukes Theatre Lancaster
Tuesday 9th October The Black-E, Liverpool
Thursday 11th October Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham
Saturday 13th October Drum Theatre Birmingham
Tuesday 16th October Contact Theatre Manchester
Saturday 20th October Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
Coming dates ...
November 18 - December 18 - 2012
Residency at Rimbun Dahan, Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia - Research QADDISH - Creation 2013
January 6 - March 10 - 2013
Visiting professor. University of California. Davis + Research QADDISH - Creation 2013
11 - 15 March 2013
Residency at Yerba Buena Art Center. San Francisco + Research QADDISH - Creation 2013
1 April - 30 June 2013
Residencies (Musée de la danse Rennes, WIP Villette Paris etc) - QADDISH - Creation 2013
24 - 25 May 2013 
Maison de la Danse in Lyon - Show STILL/life - Creation 2012
July 2013
Premiere QADDISH at Festival d'Avignon

Aug 23, 2012

QADDISH: A memorial

            An image came to my mind. Not an image I constructed on my own, but that which gradually builds after an expanded moment of silence. It's the image of a path, not really a straight path, but a set of dots that I'm trying to link, one to another.

It was two generations before my father's, that began a series of amnesia, in which I have inherited and now struggling to remember. Willingly or not, I can do nothing else. When I dance I get flashes and I remember, but this remembering escapes me as soon as I stop dancing...
But I have to remember, though I don't know why I have to, what will be the object of this remembering? Perhaps to see if, in answer to the question 'who are you in the world?' with my great grand father – that Owu warrior – in mind, I'd say without qualification, ‘I’m a descendant of warriors'? Or to determine if, to such question I could reply that I was someone else's property, the matter on which someone else exercised right of arrogation, the object that in the hands and mind of another once received the form of a thing.
            ...Then, what is this thing,
            and why must this thing remember?
            An anxious flight from boredom? A desire to be free from oneself and from one's pitiful existence? What is this theatre other than that of a long finger that stops, looks around, points and pokes at somebody – anybody blameworthy – pours out its feelings, and returning to contact, presses, wounds, crouches and chews up, swallows, digests and... Excretes?
            Yes! Excretes, this filthy excrement is what remains of this long probing finger, loaded with our blood line, through this excrement we know what have murdered us, it is the compressed sum of our evidence, the age old seal of that arduous process of digestion, without which, all would remain hidden forever.

Jul 19, 2012

Interview for Afrovibes

A dancer who leaves his imprints on the Stage: 

by Liesbeth Tjon A Meeuw

Dance has always been at the centre of the Afrovibes Festival. This year's visitors should not miss the strong dance piece My Exile is in my Head by emerging choreographer and dancer Qudus Onikeku (1984). He is a performer from Nigeria who is spreading his art via France to the rest of the world. The performance he will present at Afrovibes is inspired by the writings of Wole Soyinka, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, as well as by his own experience of living far away from home.

The performance is introduced in Qudus' own voice. He talks about how he used to hide in the attic of his family's house, where he tried to create a space for himself. 'I didn't want to create a dialogue in which I address the audience. I wanted to create an interior monologue. This part is like an intimate diary. It is a memory from my childhood that permits me to deal with certain discoveries about solitude', he explains.

Qudus Onikeku was born and raised in Lagos, one of the most crowded cities on earth. During adolescence he gave up his talent for science to switch to the performing arts. This choice in the end brought him to France where he was given the opportunity to take his dancing skills one step further. The change was huge for the young dancer. 'I lived alone in a very small town called Châlons-en-Champagne where I attended the National Centre for Circus Arts. At the age of seventeen I lived in an apartment alone. Before that time I had never even been outside my hometown.' He began to write, as he would talk to himself, and this became the starting point of his authentic manner of expression. 'The longer I remained abroad, the closer I got to Nigerian reality.'

It is not surprising that the prison notes of famous writer Soyinka touched him and became his source of inspiration for My Exile is in my Head. He explains why: 'His expressions of extreme solitude strongly echoed my feelings of exile.' Onikeku refers to the book The Man Died which Soyinka wrote while he was in jail during the civil war in Nigeria in the late 1960s. 'I aimed to create a monologue in which I would use movement instead of words. The structure of Soyinka's book is like a poetic movement. It is not a book with separate chapters or scenes. That is also how I see my performance. Instead of using text as a narrative, I let words appear in my work like a flash, like emotions that pass through the movement.'

The result is a dance solo that integrates live music, lighting effects and video. Onikeku premiered the piece in Paris two years ago. He also performed it on the African continent in places like Johannesburg and Bamako. A review in The South African called the dance piece 'sophisticated, slick and enjoyable'. Artslink.co.za wrote: 'In a country where we have a big expatriate community and xenophobia riots, it is psychologically interesting to go on this journey with him'. The theme of being in exile far from home is still very much present in Onikeku's life. However, now he has managed to turn the pain of it into something that is beneficial to him. 'It would be different if I would be living in a country like the UK or the United States, because there are large Nigerian communities. Here, in France, I have retained and perhaps even nurtured my sense of solitude and loneliness. It is the feeling of being a foreigner that keeps me at a healthy distance. As an artist I need that. So France to me is the right place to be right now. I can keep that distance and yet enjoy a lot of support for my work.'

The French audiences will see much more of the young artist because My Exile is in my Head is the first part of a trilogy. He already presented the second part and the third will premiere next year at the prestigious Festival d' Avignon. Onikeku explains how he incorporates all those global influences: 'While my artistic upbringing took place at the boundaries of different cultures, I try to erase all these different encounters and live with only the imprints they've made on my body. It is through the memory of my body that I search for my own style of movement.' Over the past five years the essence of his experiences has become clear to him: 'I have been occupied with the existential questions and this has paved the way for the discovery of my authentic self. You can find those deep insights not only in my work on stage, but in everything around me. I am the piece.'

This September the dance piece My Exile is in my Head by Qudus Onikeku will be performed during the Afrovibes Festival in Amsterdam and Eindhoven, to then continue its tour in the UK leg of the festival in October.

Afrovibes is a biennial festival presenting (South) African dance, music and theatre. The festival takes place in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Jul 14, 2012

Wole Soyinka. This tree won’t make a forest.

Between two decades before independence and two decades after, is a period Femi Osofisan refers to as the ‘age of innocence’. Nigeria knew its golden age of extremely creative talents who shook the world; they are so many that I have decided to pick one of them as the matter of this article, one with whom I feel closest to. Wole Soyinka. That lone tree, which might not make a forest in this ‘age of madness’.

As a Dancer/Choreographer and one of the most privileged young artists in contemporary Nigeria, with a wide access to the international art market. I consider myself one of the very rare remaining Nigerians – not to say Africans – who have access to the prerequisite elements for creating, and able to retain the precise mental balance that their creative temperament requires. Get residencies when needed, an access to theatres to conclude technical aspects of creations, and a ready network for touring. Those who are however aware of the loss that comes with negotiating one’s space of influence and cultural backdrop before the unforgiving gaze of the ‘other’, will understand that every traveling artist, especially of this contemporary times of flux and mixing, where every notion of ‘roots’ and ‘home’ is perpetually shifting, the need for a locality is much stronger than any time.

As a traveling artist who continuously struggles to fix his sense of locality on Nigerian terrain – like many of my likes – I have mostly relied on the brains of such writers as Wole Soyinka to regain the memory of a time before time. For the purpose of authenticity and that of choice, I recognize the need for a body memory, which has lived longer than my own lived power or freedom. Soyinka’s writings have helped me a great deal in recognizing such mental territory of existence, but that is a locality solely based in a psychic asylum.

Let me get back to earth; let’s take a quick excursion around the nation state called Nigeria.

Jun 18, 2012

Qudus Onikeku : fulgurance centripète et centrifuge !!!

Qudus Onikeku : fulgurance centripète et centrifuge !!!

Observer Qudus danser est une réjouissance simple, puissante, inouie.
Ce jeune homme a reçu le don de la danse et le cultive.
Il sait tout faire, sauter, tomber, rebondir, aller à toute birzingue et s’arrêter net en souriant.
Il s’envoie en l’air sans prévenir, comme une déflagration. Il défie et s’amuse de la gravité.
Ses déséquilibres permanents sont insaisissables. Pure énergie.
Fluidité, rebonds, flip flap, sauts périlleux arrières, il rebondit comme une balle folle.
Et son sourire, il faut l’avoir vu sourire.
Lorsque son visage s’illumine comme pour nous prendre à témoin, en nous questionnant : et ça,
vous l’aviez imaginé??? Et bien, non, cher Qudus !!!

Qudus est un rêve ambulant et un guerrier à la recherche de l’absolu.
Il s’accapare de l’espace pour l’exploser. C’est le Nijinski d’aujourd’hui.
Il s’élève avec une vélocité maximale, tant et si bien que nous nous frottons les yeux
comme après un mirage. Equilibres sur la tête, sur les mains, sur le dos, sur les genoux,
il défie en permanence les lois de l’apesanteur. Ses chutes au ralenti sont un miracle du carrefour de l’horizontalité et de la verticalité.

Son engagement est un bonheur qu’il partage avec une générosité
irrésistible. Enjoy for ever, la danse phénoménale de Qudus Onikeku

Regine Chopinot le 24/04/2012 (Pour La remise de Prix SACD - Nouveaux Talent Chorégraphie)

English Translation 

Qudus Onikeku: fulgurant centripetal and centrifugal!!! 

Observing Qudus dance is simply a joy, powerful, amazing. This young man has received the gift of dance and cultivates it. He can do everything, jump, fall, rebound, go to all birzingue and stops instantly, yet with a smile. He goes into the air without warning, like a deflagration. He defies gravity while having fun with it. His permanent imbalances are imperceptible. Pure energy. Fluidity, rebounds, flip flap, back somersaults, he rebounds like a crazy ball. And his smile, you have to see him smiling. When his face illuminates, its like taking us to witness, by questioning us: and that, you imagined it??? well, no, dear Qudus!!! 

 Qudus is a travelling dream and a warrior in search of the absolute. He monopolizes space to explode it. He is the Nijinski of today. He rises with a maximum swiftness, so much and so well that we wipe our eyes as in after a mirage. Balancing on the head, the hands, the back, the knees, he defies the laws of gravity permanently. His slow motioned falls are a miracle at the crossroads of horizontality and verticality. His engagement is a joy which he shares with an irresistible generosity. Enjoy for ever, the phenomenal dance of Qudus Onikeku 

Regine Chopinot le 24/04/2012 (For the handing-over of 2012 SACD Price - New Choreographic Talent)

Feb 2, 2012

Le nigérian Qudus Onikeku est un homme de scène dont le corps prend pleinement la parole. Il danse comme s’il était en transe. Son énergie est impressionnante.

Dans My exile is in my head, il s’inspire de l’oeuvre de l’écrivain, poète et dramaturge nigérian Wole Soyinka qui témoigne de ses années d’emprisonnement dans L’homme est mort, publié en 1972. Cette lecture résonne chez Qudus Onikeku comme la marque de l’exil et du combat contre l’oppression politique. Accompagné sur scène par un guitariste, il plonge au milieu d’images vidéo qui glissent sur le sol. Par une expressivité et une énergie fulgurantes, il nous parle de son « chez lui  », de son « home  », de la terre qui l’a vu naître et qu’il a dû quitter. Il danse toute cette force que l’exil lui donne en retour. 

Contorsions et équilibres, souplesse et fluidité, assauts et tumultes : tout son corps exulte de la rage qu’il ne peut contenir.« Ce que j’ai perdu, c’est un foyer, et je sais à quoi ressemble mon foyer, un lieu qu’on ne peut quitter sans abandonner définitivement une partie de soi qui s’arrête à l’instant du départ. Peut être serais-je jusqu’à la fin de ma vie à la recherche de ce foyer perdu au Nigeria. Pour l’heure, je suis un vagabond, qui chante à la frontière des différentes cultures. Le sentiment d’être partout étranger nourrit mon art...» Ce spectacle a reçu les honneurs du festival Danse Afrique Danse 2010 en remportant le premier prix de la catégorie solo. Il sera suivi de la projection du film documentaire Do we need cola cola to dance ?, un carnet de voyages dans plusieurs pays d’Afrique où Qudus Onikeku et sa partenaire font l’expérience de performances dansées en plein air, suscitant des réactions étonnantes et des échanges drôles et émouvants.

suivi de Do we need cola cola to dance ?
compagnie YK Projects

jeudi 16 février à 20h30
durée 1h40 avec entracte
tarifs : normal 20 € - réduit 15€ + tarifs abonnés et groupes