On November 14, 2016, Segun Adefila, who is also known as the BARIGA BOY turned 44, he is no longer a boy. This single article is meant to simply glorify, both the Man and the Bariga. It is a general knowledge that Bariga is one of the most notorious areas for cult clashes and gangland conflicts in Lagos, fact, but Bariga is also a treasure land for all sorts of talents and creative expressions. Located in the heart of Lagos Mainland, Bariga is arguably one of the most interesting parts of the state that anyone who claims to be in Lagos, must visit, fact. Aside the obvious Olamide Baddo, who’s presently shaking the pop music landscape to its bones, in order to properly understand how to capture Bariga in its interestingness, it is important to honor the pioneer of this present talent boom in Bariga.
For those of us who came into the arts in Lagos, in the year 1999 and beyond, most will agree with me that a lot of remarkable works abound in that period, Segun Adefila and his Crown Troupe of Africa’s signatory pieces, however, stood out; the playfulness and the innocence they brought to the fore was most contagious. This was the beginning of Nigeria’s forth republic, and Crown Troupe of Africa for me, was THE theater company of the forth republic, unsophisticatedly positioning itself as its entertainment, its conscience, and its journal. Through pieces like “Eda 1997,” Osusu Owo 1998,“ “Aluta 2001,” “Exodus 2003,” “Digbolugi 2003,” “Kaleidoscope 2003,” “Monkey Post 2005,” “Oga Malo Wan Piss 2007,” and countless others, together they recorded time and the instability of daily life, like no other, they spoke the heart of what is generally referred to as the masses, Adefila in his modesty, would say “I create the way I do, simply because I was lazy, all I do was look onto the streets of Bariga, and the stories and aesthetics required to tell them were offered on a platter of gold, all I did was to position myself as a vessel, and a direct mirroring of such reality".
Through this acute mirror, its eyes and mind, those of us seeking essence and meaning in dance - music - theatre - arts, found in Segun Adefila’s works, a natural solace, both in the sincerity, the creativity and his creative processes, his aesthetics and effortless beauty, his social and community engagement, in the dreams he sold to the youth of Bariga and many other young artistes of that time, in the way he comically addresses political reality of the time, and in the way he aptly raises consciousness. For many years I studied his works like past questions, attended his rehearsals in Bariga, even relocated to Bariga, discussed my fears and worries and the path of my own self-realisation with him. I found so much interest in the manner at which, he attacks the leadership, but was harder on the followership; he speaks truth to both the power and cowardice that lives in all individuals that makes up his audience, anywhere, anytime. When I moved to France for my studies, I would often time call him up, and for hours we will dream together, critique the rotten system which doesn't allow art to thrive, and end the rather long conversation with "let's all keep working on different grounds, we can’t fall out of this world.”
Indeed Segun Adefila never fell out, even though that in itself, is nothing devoid of wonder, especially how he continued to be so creatively fertile and productive, with shows almost every weekend on the island, Theatre at Terra Kulture was built on the back of his tireless efforts, to tirelessly produce and show. Freedom Park was no exception, he it was who made us discovered the most unimagined theatre spaces in town; he will tour the world and yet return to Bariga, the world would come into Lagos and go straight Bariga, yet he resisted all temptations till he managed to put Bariga on the big stages of this world. The multiple awards winning documentary film BARIGA BOY, by Femi Odugbemi became the first cinematic attempt to capture both the man and the Bariga on a big screen. Even though I was at no time a member of Crown Troupe, nor have I ever worked under his direction, but as a distant mentor turned colleague, Segun Adefila is in some ways responsible for the man I have become. So naturally, I was happy to celebrate him at his 44th birthday on November 14th 2016.
Myself and a group of like minds in Bariga, decided to throw a surprise party for Segun Adefila, but like everything in Bariga, nothing get expressed aside through the excessive flow of talents and creative energies brewing in this area. From a simple idea of celebrating the one man responsible for an explosion of talents in Bariga, a makeshift Monday afternoon event became a feast of cultural and creative expressions, imbued in the creative energy of this jaw-dropping neighborhood. In a spree of what was like a never ending succession of performances, we moved from a site specific contemporary dance performance by the notorious FOD GANG, to circus (mono cycle), free dance jam, to performance art, mock rituals and offering profane sacrifices to the orisha himself, through traditional dance performances, music concert and drums ensemble, which ended with an improvised open air cinema where BARIGA BOY was screened to all the fresh talents who already have great reverence for him. Then an after party.
What else can be said of art and its meaning beyond what I have had the privilege of witnessing in Bariga for more than a decade, in this vicinity, I have witnessed art becomes effortless, and I dare say in-existent, as it often times naturally becomes a direct part of life and daily living. As I watched amazing talents grow and bloom, all of them still young and with a lot of future, and this very event of November 14 made it the more clearer. I knew something was happening, and this something is the future unfolding in our very eyes, it was an unwavering claim and an announcement of what we’ve always referred to as “the future”, it made it all too obvious that my own religious devotion to redefining the “Now” had gotten to a stale point, where what all that must matter now is the future, because I have seen in it in the hunger and in the faces of those young and very young talents, and the sooner we put our differences aside, and dive into the mix, the sooner we might create a channel whereby these talents may be properly nurtured, bloom and become a great asset for this city, this nation, this continent and ultimately this world in the future, which itself is NOW.
(images by AAF Lagos)