By Tajudeen Sowole
A recent pronouncement by the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode has brought hope of returning arts, particularly, cinema going culture to Lagos' grassroots beyond the curent state of cinemas in shopping Malls. For several decades pre and post independence, traveling theatre of the Yoruba language, which had its roots in the old western region, spilled into Lagos territory and later generated a vibrant cinema going culture that lasterd till 1990s.
|Gov Akinwunmi Ambode and other guests during the opening of Heartbeat The Musical…A New Beginning|
said the theatres should be ready before the end of 2017. “We are already engaging the Terra Kulture and we are speaking to another consultant and the truth is that we want to have the theatres in Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu, Alimosho and on the Mainland," Ambode announced. "We already have one in Victoria Island. But the truth is that this is where the energy of Lagos is and that is where we should go."
The trajectory of today's Nigerian film industry - otherwise known as 'Nollywood' - owes its emergence to the traveling theatre culture of departed icons such as Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, Oyin Adejobi, Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade Love), among others who led individual drama troupe in performance across Nigerian cities from pre-independence to post-independence eras.
And after one of pioneer Nigerian filmmakers, Dr Ola Balogun shot his second feature film, Ajani Ogun (1975), in which he starred Afolayan in the lead, other leaders of the Yoruba traveling theatre professionals joined the business of film-making. Frpm Ogunde, to Afolayan and Baba Sala, the first generation of Nigerian filmmakers swelled through the 1970s to the 1980s.
However, the cinema outlets of these films - which were an extension of the theatre performance started experiencing low turnouts of audience in the early 1990s as a result of the advent of video. By the mid 1990s through the late period of the same decade, the video explosion had completely killed cinema culture in Nigeria.
Curently, the revival of cinema-going culture, courtesy of Silverbird chains in Lagos and Abuja over 10 years ago had provided hope that theatre and cinema have future, again. Also, the regular production of plays by Bolanle Austen-Peters' Terra Kulture venue, Victoris Island, Lagos, in the past ten years, more than any other factors, have inspired several other efforts.
For Ambode, however, youth empowerment in the creative sector is also a factor that inspired the five Theatre project. “It’s not so much about physical infrastructure, but 67 per cent of the Lagos population is below the age of 35, so we need to start finding things to keep the younger ones more creative and then open the space for them to be able to just show their talents.”