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.