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Deji Toye on Segun Adefila’s “A Dance…”

Writer and friend, Deji Toye, takes on my latest review of Segun Adefila’s production of A Dance of the Forest and produces something fine and beautiful – a wide and robust review of not just the work itself and the genius of its creator but the director’s work in particular, and his influences. An excerpt:

Adefila’s discipline could produce a revue on the point of a pin. Then, as a director, he has that propensity to strip a script to its bare essence and recast it in a mould all his own. A director who pushes the directorial licence farther than most, for him, a constant Brechtian jolt of his audiences to see through the seductive entertainments of the show into their own shocking reality is almost an obligation. And to achieve this, that stand-up comic trick of ‘something happened on the way to the theatre’ is an artistic reality. 

More here.

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WRITER HENRY LEE DUMAS (1934-1968) Turns 80! (July 20)

FUNK
The great god Shango in the African sea
reached down with palm oil and oozed out me.
                                Henry Dumas, “Knees of a Natural Man” (1989)

Dumas’ Rebirth in Word-Deed

Awake as a quake, dreamin’ Henry wrought

Hank into “Ankh,” Dumas into “Samud.” Named

his poems “sabas” & “ikefs,” his friends

“Headeye” & “Jonoah,” his settings “Sweetwater” &

“Harlem,” his vessels “afro-horn” & “soul-

boat,” his heroes “Probe” & “Sun Ra”

& his brothers “Fon” & “cosmic arrows.”

                        Eugene B. Redmond, “Arkansippi Memwars . . .” (TWP 2013)


henry-dumasWriter Henry Lee Dumas (1934-1968)–whose posthumously published works include “Ark of Bones,” “Jonoah and the Green Stone,” “Knees of a Natural Man” (poems) and “Echo Tree”–would have been 80-years-old today (July 20). Born in Sweet Home (Arkansas), and raised in Harlem from the age of 10, he was a teacher at Southern Illinois University’s Experiment in Higher Education (East St. Louis).

Among his colleagues at EHE were Katherine Dunham, Edward Crosby, Joyce Ladner, Oliver Jackson, Hale Chatfield and yours truly. As literary executor of the Dumas estate (with the consent of his widow, Loretta Dumas), I have received invaluable support from Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin (among scores of others) over the past 46 years. Morrison, who called Dumas “magnetic” and “a genius, an absolute genius,” published his works while an editor at Random House, noting that a “very deserved cult” had grown up around him. One “cult” member, the late Jayne Cortez, referred to collective efforts to keep his work before a reading-listening-studying public as “the Henry Dumas Movement.” The Henry L. Dumas Foundation, whose goal is to create a namesake Library and Cultural Center, has been established in Sweet, Arkansas.

HD is patron saint of the East St. Louis-based EBR Writers Club which turned 28 this year. –EBR

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A Dance of Complexities

“One of the magical things about theater is that it gathers a crowd of people in a quiet space, and each member of the audience gets to see how people respond differently to the different things being said on stage. The person next to you will laugh at something that you’d never think of laughing at, and you’ll get a glimpse into all the different ways of viewing the world. Unfortunately, so much theater today is less nuanced. It gives you a large dose of one way of thinking, in hopes of getting as many of the same type of people into the theater as possible.” – a thespian recently features on the Humans of New York page.

IMG_2113 I begin my review of a stage production of Wole Soyinka’s A Dance of the Forest (1963) by Segun Adefila’s and the Crown Troupe of Nigeria from this, a succinct appraisal of theatre as a vehicle to entertain and inform a populace without catering to mass appeal alone, but rather individual tastes through a large but severally tailored offerings.

Perhaps no other play could be used as a poster example for the complexity of theatre and its ability to regenerate itself in a myriad of colours to diverse people than this production which, produced to mark the 80th birthday festivities of its playwright, was only one of the few other performances of the author’s play around the same time. In actual fact, another production of the same play, at a far larger and ambitious scale, was performed on the night of the celebrant’s birthday itself, right across from his front yard in Abeokuta, with trees, shrubs, and real life rock formations as a live set. Photos from that ambitious performance posted on social media depicts a throbbing energy of an audacious imagination, with an air of theatrical verisimilitude for which the author should be extremely proud: an ensemble of real life masquerades, for starters. But I digress…

IMG_2131Segun Adefila’s production was a far less ambitious enterprise, which shouldn’t be surprising giving the grand and colourful exertions the play itself embodies. A Dance of the Forest, first performed in 1960 as an iconoclastic satirization of Nigeria’s independence celebrations, has been described as one of the author’s most complex and most difficult to understand works. However, effort was made, not just in the utilisation of the small stage that Terra Kulture (the venue) provides, but also in improvisation on the script of the play itself. Most of the improvisations were with songs, jokes, costumes, and slangs. At one point in the play, a character sings from Omawumi, a contemporary Nigerian musician who was definitely not born in 1960: If you ask me, na who I go ask…? An obvious oversight that could have worked for great dramatic effect happened when the corrupt civil servant was presented a bribe in broad daylight. The token was… a loaf of bread. Audible gasps in the audience suggested that it could have worked way better with a bag of rice. I agree.

For a low budget production which, one assumes will not, except with some sponsorship, recoup its cost of production (even with the 3,000 naira, $20, gate fee), the play was well rendered. The hall was full, and the audience engaged, with songs, dance, drumbeats, and a dialogue that flowed in the right cadence, at least for most of the night  (except for a few understandable omissions or stammers here and there). For a member of the audience with no knowledge of works by Wole Soyinka, this might be a rough introduction, helped only by the dynamic acting of some of the cast. A green-white-green motif featured prominently throughout (a reminder to the audience that Nigeria is the real subject of this play), while the masquerades dressed in white fitting overalls.

IMG_2173For someone watching the production of this play for the very first time, not much is lost. In fact, a few things are illuminated; how, for instance, the two undead characters loitering around the forest in search of someone to take their case were actually metaphors for the evils of slavery from an earlier time. Why the author chose to depict the man as a castrated being is his to explain, but the depiction leaves no one in doubt. That explanation is just one of the many layered metaphors that earned the play its reputation as a difficult but ambitious experiment. Patient readers, and audience members of future performances will benefit even more unveiling of the work’s many nuances.

There are others head scratchers. Names of Fela! Awolowo! Balewa! were repeated at a number of times as chants to what came before. But there was no Azikiwe. Why? What defines this group which takes only three names: Fela, Awolowo and Balewa? In any case, by 1960, none of these men had achieved much of what gave them the great stature that eventually stamped them into immortality. Definitely not Fela. It is also highly improbable that the author had written the names of any one of these into a script written as early in the life of the country as 1960 when much of what toppled that first democratic experiment had not even unfolded yet.

IMG_2121And while we’re on oversights, why was there never a consensus before, during, or after rehearsals as to what the right pronunciation would be of Demoke the murderous carver, a major character in the play? Is it “Démoké”: [A + dé + ọmọ + kẹ] “We crowned a child to pet”, or “Démókè”: [Adé + mú + òkè] “Ade held onto the heights”. It seemed a bit distracting after a while, I would assume even for those who don’t speak the language of source, that the pronunciation of the character’s name changed at will without any logical, textual, or dramatic justification.

And there end the knocks.

“Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good.” Terrence Mann was said to have quipped. For me, as theatre typically guarantees, it was two and a half hours of mental and aesthetic stimulation. Definitely a well-spent time.

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Read a review of the work itself here, and – even better – here.

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My Grand Adventure Abroad

by Gospel Giwa

 

Hello readers, my name is Gospel Giwa and I am KTravula’s sister-in-law. I just returned from the greatest trip of my life, really the only trip of my life. I studied abroad in Rome for about 7 weeks, studying the Italian brand and working an internship doing social media and brand strategy for an up and coming language school. My weekends though were spent traveling all over Europe, here are my thoughts on the five most see cities, and one region in Europe.

Rome

Rome ForumRome AlleyWhat can I say; I fell in love with Rome. My trip was just perfect. I like to pretend to really be living in a city when visiting; I want to feel like a local. Walking on the cobbled streets, whilst eating the best gelato in town from Frigidarium, or visiting the outdoor market on a Saturday morning.  While I of course visited the major sites like the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and Vatican City; what I loved the most is discovering the hidden gems. The amazing art in some of the smaller churches are breathtaking, I almost got a kink in my neck from staring at the ceiling. Piazza Navona was a personal favorite and I preferred the lesser-known Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) to the overly crowded Trevi Fountain.

The so many things to discover and learn, I was there for 7 weeks and barely cracked the surface. It wasn’t till my last week that I solved the mystery behind the small paintings of Mary and Jesus scattered all around the city. They were placed there to decrease crime in the city, the theory was, the citizens would be less inclined to commit crime with mother Mary and baby Jesus watching you, and the plan was apparently effective.

 

Venice

VeniceVenice5Everyone has heard of Venice, so I don’t know what to say here except that, yes, it’s fabulous and a must-see for all! Venice is one of the most visited cities in the world, due to it being one of the world’s greatest and most beautiful cities for art. Museums abound! And really, the city is a museum in and of itself. I would also say that it’s one of the most romantic cities I’ve visited and for once, I was actually wishing I was not traveling solo, and that is rare for me to say.

Venice was, as expected, incredible and a must see. It is indeed a romantic city especially at night, it might even revile Paris, and that’s saying a lot of me. St. Mark’s Square was huge, awe-inspiring and filled with people. Watching all the tourists from so many parts of the world, seeing them sharing in my wonder and appreciation of the city was one of the highlights of my trip. Riding a gondola on the Grand Canal was incredible, I had imagined that moment so many times in my life and actually living it was an experience I will never forget.

 

Paris

The Lock Bridge, Paris

The Lock Bridge, Paris

Ahhhh Paris, the city of lights, romance and love. The Louvre, the home of the infamous Mona Lisa, as well as Hammurabi’s code, is a must. The admission to get in is free every first Sunday of the month and visitors under the age of 25 can visit on Friday nights without any cost.

A lot of people make the mistake of paying for the steep price of the view from the Eiffel Tower; luckily enough for me I was advised to choose the view from the Sacre Coeur (a church located in the Montmartre region of the city) as it is free of cost and you still get to see the Eiffel Tower. I recommend doing your exploring during the day and seeing the major landmarks at night, especially the Eiffel Tower.

I also had time to visit Versailles, which is about 20 minutes from the city by using the metro, which I would recommend in place of taxis. It takes the majority of the day to explore the entire palace, not including the gardens, or Marie Antoinette’s estate. Immaculate and over the top, Versailles is neck to neck with the Eiffel tower in my opinion, the gardens are vast and lush, so be prepared to set out a day for this trip and wear comfortable shoes.

 

London

London1I loved the Tower of London, learning about all the torture devices like the rack and the scavenger’s daughter was both gruesome and interesting, to think a human came up with that in mind for another. And of course the magpie in me loved the crown jewels. Seeing the Rosetta stone at the London Museum, and the view from the London Eye were my favorite parts of my trip.

Tower BridgeI was not expecting a lot from London besides Big Ben and royalty; and it turned out to be my favorite place I visited. While the sites and attractions were great, they were not as amazing as others I’d seen; Paris and Rome have spoilt me for life. The weather was gray in July and the city was incredibly expensive. Maybe it was that I could finally understand what people were saying on the metro, or maybe it was the attractive men with their even more so attractive accents, or maybe it was the first city where I could imagine myself in. I don’t know why it clicked, on paper I shouldn’t have loved this city, but I did, and I can’t wait to come back.

 

Naples

I had my own little Eat, Pray, Love moment, on our way to the Amalfi coast, we stopped by the pizzeria that Elizabeth Gilbert eat in the book, and it was also featured in the movie adaptation, there’s a picture of Julia Robert on the wall to prove it. I got the pizza margherita with double mozzarella, which is what they are famous for, it was delicious and worth the hype.

 

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi1The Amalfi coast is a group of small seaside town along the south side of the Sorrento Peninsula. We were mainly in the small town of Erchie, a town with a population of 80 people. I learned a lot about living the simple life. We eat fresh picked fruits for breakfast, experienced what it felt like and sounded like to eat at a traditional Italian dinner table, went hiking for the first time and saw some of the most amazing views.

Every site and view of this wonderful piece of nature was breathtaking. From the beaches, to the caves, to the mountains and yes even the hiking trails; around every corner you will discover a Kodak moment.

If you would like to learn more about the study abroad process and solo traveling visit my blog.

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Gospel Giwa, a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota, can also be found on twitter

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Save this Heart!

by Olayinka Egbokhare

 

I met Mufidat Boluwatife and her mother, Mrs. Akilapa, for the first time, at University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, in January 2014. Lase, my daughter, had just started attending the clinic at CHOP (Children’s Out Patient Clinic). Mrs Akilapa had the baby strapped to the back when she arrived. We exchanged pleasantries. After a few minutes, she brought the baby down. Before we parted ways that day, I already knew so much about her.

This was her first child, Mufidat. The baby had “holes in the heart” and would require surgery. She talked about their frequent hospital admissions and told me of one or two mothers whose babies had passed on. She spoke of how she no longer plied her trade and how she had stopped attending social functions because she could not keep up with the questions about how her baby was not developing well. She told me of the comment made by the woman whom she usually bought diapers from who asked how come her baby still used the same size of diapers she had been using since birth.

Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a friendship whose attraction will be tied to shared pain and hope.

scan0002I spoke with Mrs Akilapa this morning, July 10, 2014. It has been 10 days after Lase, my daughter, passed on and I was yet to receive my friend’s condolences. I knew she was aware my baby had gone to rest and today as I scrambled for some comfort and hope from those who could feel my pain, I called her. She apologised profusely for not calling. She said she could not bear to talk to me and did not know what to say to me. I have heard this line a lot these past few days, not only from some of my young students but also from some adults. “I don’t know what to say to you”.

Many of us really don’t know how to handle grief. What did I also ever say to people in this situation? Some trite cliché, I am sure. Now I fully understand what loss means and how it feels. It is an empty, strange, utterly sore, caged-in feeling.

Mrs Akilapa told me Mufidat is still receiving oxygen. We found her on oxygen when Lase was admitted on June 29th. She must have been on oxygen for about two weeks now. Her mum asked the doctors to take her off oxygen but they reminded her of how she passed out the last time her oxygen finished and there was no money to refill the cylinder. I now know the emptiness of not being able to hold your baby because she has ceased to be. My husband and I would have given all we have and even borrowed more if only Lase’s case had required corrective surgery.

But Mufidat’s case is redeemable. If we all give something, she will get the required corrective cardiac surgery and live. The operation will cost about 2.5 million naira (about $15,500). Is it something we can raise? I believe so. Rather than merely mourn a loss, I realize how important it is to also do something substantial to help those still holding on to hope and possibility. If we raise sufficient funds, Mufidat Boluwatife can heal and grow up to fulfill her life’s dreams.

Will you partner with us on this urgent fundraising bid? Do you have the heart to help? God will grant Mufidat a new heart and a new lease of life. Did I hear you say Amen? Then act now.

Information about how to send money to Mrs. Akilapa towards the surgery for her baby can be found on the photo above. More information is also available on this Facebook page created for this purpose. Donate generously. Save this heart!

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Olayinka Egbokhare (PhD) is a writer, and lecturer in the Department of Communications and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Her novel Dazzling Mirage, a story about sickle cell anemia, was recently adapted into a movie of the same name by Mainframe Productions.

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Editor’s note: Anyone willing to do anything to help from outside Nigeria can also contact the blogger at kt@ktravula.com

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