On January 1st of this year 2018, we launched a project that has been generally hailed as a fresh idea, it is a dance/music video piece titled RainMakers. One of the reasons for making the RainMakers dance Music video, is simply because this year, our mission at QDanceCenter is to reach newer audiences, both locally and internationally, and one way to do that effectively is through digitization of our works, not simply by making a recording of our live performances, which I’ve never been a fan of, but create an entirely different object out of an existing work, how do we reimagine the plot for camera? how will cinematography create its own proper reinterpretation? How do we retain abstract form without going overtly didactic and simplistic in our narrative, that it actually magnifies the force our audiences felt while watching us live. I have a feeling that our last year was characterized by a wider outreach to a more international and a little more sophisticated local audiences, and we want this year to be a year of reaching out to the mass of the people who aren’t on the island and aren’t probably moneyed enough to be on social media to watch a five minutes video.
In a week RainMakers have recorded over 50k views across social media platforms, across the globe. But this isn’t the end point of our mission, it is actually the beginning. This year at QDanceCenter, we are returning to our drawing board, exploring newer ideas of how to create a proper strategy towards our goal, how to create a synergy between the interest already generated online, push it through TV Contents and other guerrilla methods. In the next months, we are hoping to push RainMakers out, a little more beyond social media, we shall be screening it on some local TVs who are supporting the idea, we shall be on BRT buses across Lagos, all the 400 of them reaching millions of commuters daily, and ultimately, we shall be entering it for international festivals that are open to such materials.
This year we have a plan to take a bold step of bringing back the traveling theatre experience, just like the Hubert Ogundes and the Duro Ladipo of our 60s and 70s, armed with our mobile stage, sound and light equipment, how can we take live performances away from the muffling hold of a middle class, whose taste for something crass and mediocre is fast on the rise and really strangling imagination and creativity in this country, in a situation where artistes now create shamelessly commodified works without any form of risk taking, the comfort we all seek is creating its own proper decay in our cultural landscape, our present activities are building nothing but a dead archive for the future. Today we hear of bogus ideas which are nothing but dreams in the mind of artistes who are dead asleep, while those that are achievable are mere rehash of old and tired routine we call performances.
If art cannot embody all the human virtues that is found wanting in this society of ours, if art isn’t bold and daring, isn’t about truth, a truth that lacks conformity, if consistent courage, which is father of all virtues, isn’t apprehended simply by watching our performances, i wonder what we hope the audience to perceive beyond the chewing gum effect we offer. The audience, which mistakes the bogus for truth, has the sense of what is true and always react to it when it appears. Today, however we must look for it in the streets, at bus garages, in traffic, certainly not on stage, certainly not on the island, and if the masses on the mainland have grown unused to going to the theatre, if we have all finally come to regard theatre as an inferior art, a means of coarse distinction, using it as an outlet for our worst instinct, this is because we have for too long been told theatre is all lies and illusion, a make believe which the middle and elite class use as Sunday Sunday past time, because since Nigerian theatre became translated into English language, we have accustomed to purely descriptive, narrative theatre, narrating psychology rather than embodying the experience of it. Any wonder why the mass of the people go more to dance and Music?
One wouldn’t need to have lived in Nigeria for more than few months, to be able to clearly discern that the characteristics of our elite class, which eventually became the endemic weakness of the Nigerian society; a weakness that is characterized by the sheer apathy of that same elite class, their mediocrity and a lack of taste for the sublime and the extraordinary, their hope that with money all things are buyable, this characteristics has eventually become the preferred model for societal norm, a norm which has the psychology of an immoral businessman, not that of a captain of industry, therefore, the ultimate ambition of the average Nigerian, including her creatives, is now to accumulate wealth up to the realm of the impossible, to repudiate its status to that of a 'big man,’ an oga which himself is an instrument of wealth, that blinds him from seeing that he is becoming entirely subservient to the revolutionary wealth that the mass of the people represent.
And this is how we grow leaders in this nation, this is what artistes have become in this nation, it is from this pool of betrayers, who serially betrays the vocation to which they are destined, simply because they wants to belong, they want to forget their humble beginnings, they want to pull that layer off their skin and hop as high over the social ladder that they lose the common touch, almost to a point of schizophrenia, they've move to the island, either physically or in their minds. These wannabes which Frantz Fanon refer to, as an underdeveloped bourgeoisie, that betrays their vocation of learning from the people, and make available to that same people, the intellectual and technical capital they have gathered through privilege and experience.
Here i take a moment to sigh. To do differently, we must first know differently. The act of thinking is an act of separation, i almost said an act of dying, a departure from a former who lacks understanding to a new being, who has passed through death. For every immortality, death is a means, but death isn’t a play thing, it isn’t a tunnel that may be talked through, it is rupture, a finality, an anarchy, the ending of an end, an end that is necessary for every new beginnings. Therefore, there is a beauty to death, a kind of beauty which always escape those who’ve got addicted to position and power during their 15 minutes of fame, death for them represents the highest height of terror, for they’ve been aware of their natural death, but only stayed put through force and usurpation of the right and liberty, which naturally belongs to others, it is a frightening position to occupy. Then you understand why the simple act of genuinely thinking away from the norm, in such a society can be considered a rebellious act in itself.
Truths are illusions, worn-out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses, so i care very little about Truth with a capital T. An artist however, cannot create art, cannot demonstrate his objective truth, if he is in the service or in the consideration of personalities or reactionary fascism; because art is not merely the discovery of new truths or new aspects of old knowledge, but the demonstration of the human need for the rational objectivity, the struggle of the human will which strives to emancipate itself, which is the true subject of all authentic art, that, in fact, bears the subjectivity of the artist with a singular voice. Art isn’t the discovery of particular truths in the way science is; it simply demonstrate the practical working out of the human need for truths, but truth isn’t in any way not guilty of its capacity to threaten the flow of acceptable reality.
This can be one reason why the acceptability of a past radical artiste like Fela Kuti, is often better than that of our radical contemporaries, because truth doesn’t pay bills in this part of the world, tyranny and injustice aren’t ‘viable’ either; but they can be lived with, even if not expressed with consent and approval, at least by participating in keeping the status quo alive, one may at least be alive, albeit on our knees. Within such situation of silent conspiracy, when a living artiste makes a public statement about his dissatisfaction with the state of things, the first response he gets is not likely to be eagerness and proximal engagement, but an irritated and slightly paranoid ohh! ‘we are being attacked', ‘my friend is being attacked’, ‘he’s simply jealous with a Phd - pull her Down - syndrome.’ Then if the artiste is someone like me, who is often times more productive and successful than the one that is supposedly being attacked, then it develops into, ‘who does he think he is, who is he to assume a superior position to ours? Who is he to make such claim for the special urgency or truth of his perspective?' and since almost every other artist, feel some dissatisfaction all the time within our cultural landscape, since we all engage in petit talks and gossips among friends in small pockets where we speak beside the point, 'what right does he have to make his dissatisfaction known to all? On Facebook of all places he insulted our personality’.
You see. Personalities rule our world, it is as if there is an unofficial conspiracy amongst the custodians of power, class and positions, about how they themselves have largely contributed to the damaged state of the theatre profession in this nation, so to keep the water still and quiet, becomes not only a necessity, but a devotion. Which literally means that we operate in the domain of inflated egos, so bolted that it often demands us to ritualize it and offer audible lip sacrifices to them, one is therefore continuously advised to tread softly in the manner at which one tries to ruffle such egos, which in essence could mean that one should seek ways of speaking truth in an alternative manner. These godheads in the cultural sector are often surrounded by yesmen and women, who have adorned them with all sorts of adoration and sun worship, they’ve coined all sort of appellations to cater for and caress their personalities, this precisely is the reason why straight talks only appears to these lots as straight bullets, they now take the posture of the Boko Haram of free thinking and the liberty to express oneself.
However self serving it may sound. My function as a dance artiste is to make revolution irresistible. The evolution of my kind of dancer, is an evolution of consciousness, from the subjective awareness of my body which belongs to me and me alone, to a realization of my underdeveloped surrounding, that spreads out till it encompasses the entire cosmos.
May this year be rough.