Archive for the ‘arts/culture’ Category

He is perhaps Nigeria’s, most decorated, internationally renowned choreographer, dancer, as well as being the Chairman of the National Advisory Council, Dance Guild of Nigeria (GOND). His dance career started in the dance troupes of Bishop Clarke’s Central School, Queen of Apostles’ Seminary, Nigerian Christian Secondary School, all in Abak, and became a permanent member of the award-winning South Eastern State and later Cross River State Government dance contingents to national festivals in Nigeria from 1971-1975. Appointed Principal Dancer, Choreography Assistant, Student Demonstrator-in-Dance in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Calabar, he later became a Dance Lecturer and Choreographer in the same institution and a Sessional Dance Teacher at the Laban Centre in London between 1979 and 1991. He is the first and only Nigerian to be appointed into the Federal Government Civil Service structure as a dance expert.

A recipient of a number of scholarships, including the Cross River State Government Scholarship; Commonwealth Academic Scholarship; United States Information Agency Sponsorship to International Choreographers Residency Program of the American Dance Festival and Voluntary Visitors Programme, he has created over 70 works some of which include: Ndem Mmong; The Defilemnt; New Generation; Ariagha-Umo-Nkoriko; We, The Dead; Song of the Sea, Abaikpa Ideghe Akang Iba, Fire of Peace; New Frontiers; Flames of the Niger; The Water Basket; One Earth, One People; Rites (Rights) of Passage. Damsel; Dawn;

He has served as consultant to arts councils of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos, Adamawa and Nasarawa states apart from extensive works with the other thirty-two arts councils in Nigeria.

His published works include: Nigeriana and Rainbow Over the Niger; Mbarra; Inyene; Long Walk to a Dream; I am the Woman; The Gods Are So Silent; Poems Across Borders; Akon; Critical Perspectives on Dance in Nigeria (co-edited with Ahmed Yerima and Bakare Ojo Rasaki); and several scholarly contributions in professional theatre journals worldwide.

A widely travelled choreographer, he is the Holder of the Medal of the City of Shimizu, Japan, and has been cited in several biographical publications including Marquis’ Who’s Who in the World; Who’s Who in Entertainment; American Biographical Institute’s International Directory of Distinguished Leadership.

He holds B.A. (Hons) Theatre Arts, University of Calabar and M. A. Dance Studies (Choreography, Sociology of Dance and Dance History) Laban Centre, London and other dance related training.

He choreographed the impressive Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 8th All-Africa Games, Abuja, 2003; Opening Ceremony of the Abuja Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2003.

He is the most decorated NAFEST choreographer and dance practitioner.  He is also credited with the dance and choreographic consultancy at The Heir Apparent, Nigeria’s first and official Television Reality Show.

 Meet Arnold Benjamin Udoka, the Assistant Artistic Director of the Abuja National Carnival and Dance Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria, as he talks about his choice of career, dance in Nigeria, his family, and many more. Excerpts:


Who is Arnold Udoka?

Arnold Udoka is an Anang man from Akwa Ibom State, and a Nigerian who went to school, took to dance first as a hobby and then finally as a career and who has created many dances, taught dance in Nigerian universities, and at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance of the University of London Goldsmiths’ College (United Kingdom), and now is the director dance, National Troupe of Nigeria and is also into choreography. And that is all he has done both for himself as a scholar and dance as a profession as an element in the civil service and also as a career. So he’s a career choreographer and a public choreographer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Professional background and recent productions

Well my recent productions have been various and varied as in some productions I am part of some productions and at other productions I handle everything, anchor it, direct, choreograph and produce by the troupe. My recent production was the performance by the National Troupe at the commissioning of the new African Union building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which delegation was led by President Goodluck Jonathan and the minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke involving the co-ordination of all the other troupes that we invited from other parts of Africa, under the  auspices of the National Troupe of Nigeria which I was head and interestingly I was the head of the choreography and we handled that to celebrate the whole of Africa. At that level we have been able to take dance to the level of diplomacy. Again, by October last year I was able to put up my own package to celebrate 51 years of Nigeria’s Independence, with the work titled Akpaturo: The Summary, which was a selection of six of my works that have national character and identity and address the issue of national unity, the challenges of this country, the dynamics of politics and cultural changes, the effect of colonialism and how the art can help to re-integrate us as a people and re-integrate our culture. And December last year, I put up a Christmas show to celebrate the yuletide for Nigeria; those are some of the latest productions within the last six or eight months.

Are you working on any production lately?

Well, at the moment, the production I’m working on is going to Lebanon. For the first time we are taking our dances to the Middle East. But of course we have performed in Algeria, but this is the first time we are taking our dances into core Middle East zones. We are performing in Beirut at the end of this month (June 2012). That’s what I’m packaging on at the moment, which is the compilation of some of the beautiful dances you can find in Nigeria now, out of over 8000 dancers in Nigeria, we have taken these few to Beirut, in Lebanon that’s what we are working at the moment.

Where do you draw your inspirations from?

I actually draw my inspiration from the culture and people of Nigeria and they have been the basis, the real source of my inspiration. Their cultural challenges, the vibrancy of our culture, the beauty of our dances, the history behind our dances, the ideology that founded them, they thrill me, they excite me. The fact that they were developed civilizations well before the advent of colonization and those civilizations were being phased out but certain elements of that civilization are refusing to go and one of such is the dance and they remain the chief source of our identity and that inspires me so much to be proud of the history; a history  that has been in existence for so long and nobody seems to remember; or people seem to ignore. That history inspires me.

Personal awards

On a personal level, as a choreographer and in terms of NAFEST I don’t think there is any choreographer that has won as many awards as I have won in NAFEST. In the history of NAFEST, I have won about ten different gongs, As of 1974 I won the silver gong after Ogunde’s gold gong in the contemporary dance category when I was about 15 years old, and of course the choreographer of my state. As from 1988 I was able to win 2 gold gongs, 2 silver gongs and 3 bronze gongs. Of recent, in 2009/2010, the gold gongs of Nasarawa dance drama, I created the dances for them as a consultant, and they came out as gold gong winners; and so a least I have won about 4 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze and there is no choreographer that has won that much in the history of Nigeria.

What is the beauty of the Nigerian Dance?

The beauty of Nigerian dance is the philosophy behind them; the philosophy behind them is such that you find out that man is nothing without his culture, and man is nothing without his nature and without pulling the beauty of movements around him, without considering his environment and geography, those informing spirits of his environment, those motifs   that sustain his life; that build relationship between him and man, him and nature, and between him and the deity; whatever that deity is, whether it is from the water, land, hills, the ability to capture this holistic feeling and philosophy, that’s the beauty of the Nigerian dance and all African dances. But Nigeria, with a population of 15 million, over 600 different cultures, the dance are too much and you find that the people already base their philosophy of dances on this holistic man and nature, man and divinity, so the dance are the dances of people who want to live a symbiotic life with nature.

Do you think it is possible to teach a non- African the African dance?

In time past, it was not possible, because the dances were shrouded in secrecy, even the social dances, their steps were shrouded in secrecy. Well I have said in a recent interview that the legacy I want to leave behind for the Nigerian dance universe and the universe is to bring signs into the dance, the capacity to be able to bring signs into devising techniques that our dances are based on, which will make it easy to break down the dance and easy teach them, first as alphabets, as then as words, and then as sentences; before we know how to put this together to create the symbols. The symbolism of the dance was shrouded in mystery and that is what I wanted to disintegrate and to emancipate so that the teacher can know to speak about the dance, he’ll know that it is not just a movement, it is a powerful cultural statement, a deep philosophical statement embodied in symbols. And so it is possible to teach the dances now. It would be better for the colleges of education, the National Board on Technical Education, the ministry of education, national policy on education, all of these organizations are able to sit down and look at the possibilities of raising our dances beyond the peripheries of intellectualism, academism, beyond the peripheries of intellectual discourse and bring them to the centre stage of intellectual discussion. You will be so shocked on how much we can use even Mr President’s concept of transformation agenda, if we can apply them to our dances, you can imagine what our dances can stand to produce, you can imagine how many dance teach we can send around the world, you can imagine how much we can celebrate our cultural identities. We can be the America of our own dances. Everywhere in world we can be known we base it on the amount of dance culture we have in Nigeria, but that culture is still to be exploited, because even at the national level the National Troupe of Nigeria does not have a dance school and history teaches me that any national dance company that does not have a school dies the day it is established. So we need a school at the national troupe level to ensure continuity of ideas and of thoughts and develop a curriculum, system, mechanics and schemes on how dances can be taught and maybe that way it can have a multiplier effect  especially at the local level as then people will begin to know about how to bring out their dances and begin to develop them. If we don’t go through this process of modern education, it would be difficult to teach the dance, and at the same time it must be known that only the traditional dance in Nigeria serves as the only aspect that people earn a living from, from the art councils to the National Troupe and it is the only source of training the modern dancers.

You talked about dance being shrouded in secrecy, as a dance practitioner; do you see that as a challenge?

Well, I’ve encountered that in my practice but maybe because of the way they see me, some of my dancers when they see me they think I am coming to redeem them and so they open up to me. But even if you don’t open up to me all I have to do is look at your dance, I will decode it, so when you tell me something else I would even tell you more about the dance than you know, because I studied from the rhyme to the posture, the gestures and costume of the dance to the sound of your music. I could say if you are trying to invoke nature, or grow your crops, invoke the rain, go to war or seduce, I would be able to decode all that but I have a training, that I seem to see most of those things sometimes three quarters of the time I am correct. It is when I open up to them to tell them what the dance are that they’ll agree that okay we understand. I would even take them to the level of the imagery they have borrowed from for the dance; is it animal imagery, vegetation, or is aquatic, is it aero?  I show them the source of that creativity, and I’ll begin to show them element that has been applied to the motifs, and they find out that I actually understand what I am talking about. Is it emotional, is it ego, all those things are sources that dances are derived from because that itself is a human personality, a cultural personality that is a characteristic of a culture. So my training, exposure and experience have always come into play, I don’t know how many other dance professionals who would be able to know these secret knowledge.

A lot of people say that the national troupe turns away from African contemporary dance steps, hopw true is that?

I don’t know what they call African contemporary dance steps, because from the time colonialism released the dances into our culture they became contemporary. As a matter of fact, there is no reason why the “Atilogu” dance in Lagos is not contemporary because it is not performed within its shores where everybody understands its move, I don’t know what is not contemporary about that, any dance that cannot communicate is no dance, because the whole idea of dance is communication at the highest level of symbolism, but the audience should not be lost in that symbolism. If the performer performs and the audience is unable to interact and be part of that communication then that is no dance.

There are dances and steps dance created on the streets, what is the place of these dances in the repertoire of the National troupe?

Sociology will show you that such dances actually emerge in cosmopolitan settings where there are people from more than one culture associating. So those dances are like pidgin English to ease communication, they are part of the pop culture in the cosmopolitan setting, people just make moves, for the purpose of kinetics. They just want you to feel their flexibility, their athleticism, they want to show you that they are rigid, but dance is not about rigidity but about grace and communication but those dances emerged and they don’t impact on the Nigerian culture that way because it performed by a percentage that is marginally negligible.

How would you describe the size, shape and colour of the National Troupe of Nigeria?

The size and shape and colour of the national troupe is basically that the National troupe is Nigerian in every aspect of the word and the mandate is to ensure that we bring the cultural manifestation of our cultures to the highest level be it professionally and internationally and that is what we do, the size and colour of what we do are all embedded in what the Nigerianess in all of us is all about. You look at our artistes you find everybody from every language group in Nigeria. Because we carry out national auditions, as some states don’t send people, we also integrate the country and in terms of our output our dances are national. So we are doing the whole idea of what the compass of Nigeria tells us, which of course is why the constitution says ‘we the people of Nigeria’.

What platforms are you creating for the continuity of ideas on a personal that is?

Well this fear is not out of place. The national troupe already has already created a platform for me, where I have to try to pass my knowledge and experiences of the art to the dance students, that too is still not enough because the school system would have been a better system. If it is possible for me to say let me set up an NGO where I can do this free of charge. About three years ago when I said I would want to run a choreography clinic every month end, I found out that, I didn’t have control of my time to do that because there is so much work to do at the national troupe. I might say let me set up a dance school, where is the fund to do that, where can they be found. In the universities, we are not producing the dancers of my quality, those who could take over the mantle of leadership in that area. Where are they? So that’s why I say that that fear is alright. But I think that lacuna can be filled and I hope I’ll do something about it in the nearest future to see how we can prepare a generation that can take over from us because at the moment that generation is not there. Most people are even afraid of the dance. Most are afraid of coming to a profession where a thank you is not what the economics of this country is all about. Some people do not see how they can sustain a good housekeeping from dancing because they see it as something for not rewarding. People see dancers as those who lay about and never-do-wells; but that is not necessarily true. So this kind of fears do not even bring in people with the right intellectual tools who can carry this mandate. So those e factors that militate against even me passing on the information to others. I mean I was taken from the university and I’m still a university person but within the university system I know what I would have been able to do but the exposure and experience here have put me in a position to know what to do when I go back to the university.

Do you have a forum for re-orientating professionals on the rudiments of dance, especially those in Nollywood?

I think you are trying to let the cat out of the bag, and I think you have opened the bag, so let me let the cat out.  One of the things we are going to start this year is what we call dance projects. Within the last quarter of this year, I am going to hold a workshop which is for producers, in-producers, dancers, choreographers, and those who are pretending to be choreographers, journalists, so that even the criticism of dance, they would know the rudiments, principles of choreography itself. So we are going to have a workshop within the fourth quarter of the year when these would be taught, we hope we’ll be able to sustain it because even the one for children is expensive and money is hard to come by and so we will try and see if we can get sponsors to be able to sustain that because we will have to bring resource persons even from abroad, so that we would be able to start another thinking culture. Most of our Nollywood films are not properly choreographed, what do you do when there is no alternative or when the producers are afraid of bringing someone who may tell them what may be too expensive to do because that is very expensive to do. The Dance Project would be organized basically one for the youth and another for the professionals.

With so much activity surrounding you, how do you relax?

I relax by talking with my wife, reading my Bible, watching the television. Before now I use to relax by wrestling (laughs), yes something that will make me not think about dance but I just found out that everything I see is dance; how do we move it forward, I even relax thinking about how dance can be developed even in the school system, how it can developed to be something that children can start from in their early school. I was part of that team that started discussing minority art in Britain when In was doing my post-graduate studies in Britain; why can’t that happen in Nigeria. Those things bother me. So you might be right to say I don’t rest In fact I try to rest but I find it difficult to rest because the onus is on me to chart a path for dance for this nation so that others can follow but I can’t do it alone. Others have the passion but they can’t find a way so I have to find a way so to relax only the bible, my wife and children.

What is your take on standardizing dance practice as a profession?

Well, the answer is simple; the National Troupe is not a regulatory organization. It would be the function of the National Board for Technical Education to come to regulate because dance is a technical thing, but the National Board for Technical Education does not even recognize dance as a subject. The school curriculum does not even recognize dance. What they have for children in primary and secondary schools, I think they call it psychomotor activities; that is very amorphous. So how would you plan to regulate what you have not planned to regulate.

If you say dance is not recognized in the school curriculum, what is the national troupe doing about it?

I think that the kind of personalities who have managed the National troupe have all pushed the issue of dance to a point that ordinarily, anybody that is interested in the educational sector should be able to take a decision about it; we don’t have to do a song and dance about it. Those at the policy making level should know that for the national troupe to exist it means that dance has political, economical, social and diplomatic values at the national levels. We require those who are the think tanks in the educational sector to review what developments have taken place which should be accommodated within the planning for the benefit of our children.

Challenges of dance and art in general

The first challenge is ideological; the substructure has not created the bulwark for the people who want to get into dancing to grow, I just think I was lucky or that Nigeria loves me so much that I have been able to rise to a level of a director as dancer that I did, I don’t know how many people who can get there even at the state level. We have to transform our ideological thinking and think of how to develop every aspect of our human endeavours in other to bring out the best, even from the very least of the areas of our concerns as a nation. In terms of facilitie,s those ones don’t exist because the educational policy has not changed from the time of Ajayi Crowther’s Bible school in the 1860’s,  that curriculum has not changed till today. That ideology has other elements in religion, some religion abhor dance, others accept dance, and they don’t see it as an important cultural element, as a capital for development. If the ideological basis is structured then we can talk about infrastructure; it would come naturally. We would be able to challenge people to be politically, culturally, and socially responsible to the enablement in the society. The major challenges are ideological.

Do you think dance as an industry is self-sustaining?

Nollywood was not created by government, it was created by individuals but we are meant to know that Nollywood holds in about 14 billion naira, dance can be created but at the moment the problem is about the kind of capacity behind it, the human capacity. Most people do not even know what dance is all about. They think it’s about wriggling your body by the capacity we have, people just want to be dancers as a way of escaping but that is a very serious business and the whole world can see what is happening in the international communities and what they use their dances for, and how they are able to climb the social ladder to dance and provide social mobility for the citizens but first it must be acknowledged and structured as a generic element in the ideology.

You unveiled a set of literary works last year, any plans of going to the screen?

Well I can’t go to the screens because I don’t have the money, and what I want to now is that, my book that won the ANA award was dedicated to the queen, so I am planning to send 60 copies to the queen to mark her  60th anniversary queen, that’s because I don’t have money to go to the screen so it’s better to give my books to those I dedicated it to and if they want to change the books to screen works, so be it.

Can you talk about your family, how much motivations have you gotten from them?

My immediate family is my major source of inspiration, even my first book titled “I am the woman” was dedicated to my mother and my wife and the women of the world. In fact, my wife has been a major source of inspiration to me, I get a lot of inspiration and support from my wife and children.

Names of wife and children

My wife is Pamela which means sweetness, my daughter, Arikanawasi meaning God is with me, my first son, Ubongawasi which means God’s glory, and my other child is Nsikagawasi that means nothing is impossible with God.

Your kids taking to dance

Well my daughter in SS 2 won her first awards in dance but she says she wants to become a medical doctor and I don’t object to that. My father was a headmaster but he didn’t stop me from dancing. My wife too is also a dancer, playwright and clinical psychologist, so it runs in the family, but I wouldn’t want them to take to my profession, let it be of their own volition.

From your perspective, what’s the future of dance?

The future of dance in Nigeria is great especially now we have a minister, especially now that we have a minister who likes culture to be performed to the fullest. Other ministers have encouraged the dance but then they are just individuals. it is such that if we were to have a sneak preview we would put everything to work to develop a school curriculum that would develop our children from the primary to the secondary, so that when they arrive at the university, they already know their calling and mission, that way, there would be better Arnold Udokas in Nigeria and the future but it requires the political will and a lot of funding to make it come to fruition but it can also be achieved. I can put it to you that Nigeria is capable of exporting more than a hundred thousand dance teachers, if you look at the myriad of culture we have and imagine the quantum of culture that we have, I don’t think you can find such in other continents. It remains an untapped resource waiting to be tapped to draw in both foreign and local currencies, develop our tourism to increase our GDP.

If you were asked to market the national troupe, how would you start?

I would say the National Troupe in Nigeria is the most outstanding, performing dance company in Black Africa and I would say the National Troupe can thrill you even in your dreams and has the best talents in creative arts. It is the only troupe that can show Nigeria to the world.

 

Tallest building in Europe opens in London

 

As the tallest building in Europe it dwarfs the others in the capital. Its distinctive style stands at odds with the historical buildings in the city centre. Prominent writers complained about its construction but the city’s inhabitants have generally come to love it.

This description is not of London’s Shard, but of the Eiffel Tower. When it was opened in 1889 it was far more radical for its time than the Shard is today. Nothing like it, in stature or in its revolutionary iron construction, had ever been built before. Yet it quickly became the iconic symbol of Paris.

Admittedly, the title for Europe’s highest tower is open for debate. At 308 metres the Shard is widely quoted as now being the tallest building in Europe. But while the main body of the Eiffel Tower is only 300 metres tall, it stands at 324 metres once you add the base and television antenna.

What is not at issue is that both buildings are relatively small compared with the world’s highest skyscrapers. The tallest of all at present, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is 828 metres high. The Shard – at 310 metres – only makes it to 59th on the global list with most of the giants located in east Asia and the Arabian peninsula.

Against this backdrop the extreme conservatism of the Shard’s critics should be apparent. They complain about its scale, the way it symbolises inequality and – horror of horrors – that it is largely owned by foreigners.

It is true that the Shard is strikingly larger and different in design from many of London’s traditional icons. In their time St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower bridge no doubt also stood out against older buildings. Yet to thrive cities need to be living, breathing institutions rather than fossilised organisms.

Many recent additions to the capital have quickly become a welcome part of the scenery. As Karl Sharro, a London-based Lebanese architect who has been involved in many projects in the Middle East, has written: “The Gherkin, the London Eye, and the Millennium Dome [now named The O2] have not only displayed ambitious architecture and cutting-edge technology but have quickly become symbols of London.” Soon they are to be joined by several more tall buildings including 20 Fenchurch Street (the “Walkie-Talkie”), 122 Leadenhall Street (the “Cheese Grater”), the Bishopsgate Tower (the “Pinnacle”) and 100 Bishopsgate.

As for inequality, it is no doubt true that the Shard will be an exclusive building but that is hardly unique. How many ordinary couples get married in Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral? How many grand residences are open to the public? If this logic were followed consistently there would be far fewer striking buildings in London or anywhere else.

To the extent that social divisions can be tackled through construction the answer is surely more not less. Not only opening up existing architecturally impressive buildings to the public but building many more. The larger the number of innovative constructions the more the public will have access to them.

Indeed a group of architects and others have recently created a detailed scale model of a Mile High Tower that would soar to 1,600 metres and could well be a solution to London’s housing shortage. As the capital’s population grows, through natural increase and immigration, it could provide many people with decent housing.

Yet even residential buildings on this scale are not new in principle. As far back as 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the world’s greatest architects, presented his plans for Mile High Illinois. Only with modern techniques and materials could such a hugely ambitious building be easier to achieve than in his time.

The anxiety about the Shard and other ambitious skyscrapers reflects a deep anxiety about progress. Rather than nervously cling on to earlier achievements it would be far better to reach for a bolder future.

London-based and partly Nigerian-owned art gallery, the Tiwani Contemporary, Wednesday, opened the solo exhibition of works by Nigerian contemporary artist, Obiora Udechukwu’s who presents a selection of  his drawings and paintings titled; Uli to Li: A Natural Synthesis.

Udechukwu, known for his experimentation with the traditional Igbo Uli design motifs, Udechukwu is one of the country’s most influential contemporary artists.

This exhibition presents work from the 1980s in which Udechukwu’s interest in Chinese calligraphy led to new stylistic developments in his art. Some of Obiora Udechukwu’s best known pen-and-ink drawings were created during this decade. The dramatisation of spatial tensions, the expressive quality of line and the bold pictorial elements became stylisticpoints of departure from earlier works.

During this period Udechukwu also experimented with colour, turning to watercolour as his medium of choice. In his paintings, he explores colour arrangements, shapes and textures which produce a soft, calligraphic effect resulting in a strong and compelling harmony.

Despite a reputation for lyricism in his work, Udechukwu’s art also reveals a strong socio- political dimension. His work over the years has confronted the evils of poverty, dictatorship and corruption in Nigeria’s post-oil boom era.

Born in Onitsha in 1946, Udechukwu studied for one year at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria before serving in the Biafran War. He completed his art education at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, receiving his bachelor’s degree in fine art in 1972 and his masters in 1977.

His work exhibited extensively locally and internationally is to be found in the permanent collections of the National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C.; the National Gallery of Art, Lagos; Iwalewa-Haus, University Bayreuth and the Museum for Volkerkunde, Frankfurt.

Udechukwu is a published poet, winning the ANA/ Cadbury Poetry Prize for his book, What the Madman Said in 1990. He is currently Dana Professor of Art and Art History at St Lawrence University, New York.

The exhibition which opened Wednesday, July 11 will run till Thursday, July 26.

According to the gallery’s directors; Ayo Adeyinka, Jude Cesar and Maria Varnava, Tiwani Contemporary, London, focuses principally on contemporary artists from Nigeria, from across Africa and its Diaspora as well from the Global South.

The gallery’s aim is to present the works of emerging and established artists to a London institutional, corporate and private collector base. In addition to its commercial activities, Tiwani Contemporary intends to present a dynamic and innovative public programme that will include publications, talks, panel discussions, curated projects and events within the gallery space as well as in collaboration with other partners in London and across the United Kingdom.

122 countries have signed the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Beijing Treaty just as artists’ advocacy groups Actors Unions SAG-AFTRA and the International Federation of Actors (FIA) welcomed the signing of the new international treaty, which aims to protect the intellectual property rights of film and television performers worldwide.

The WIPO Beijing Treaty, which recognizes film and TV performers’ intellectual property rights, is seen as a major step towards protecting performers in a globalized, digital marketplace.

Many in the industry see the signing of the WIPO treaty as a major step towards protecting intellectual property in a global, digitalized world.

A group of 122 countries signed the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Beijing Treaty last Tuesday after a six-day diplomatic conference in China. The WIPO treaty will only take effect after it has been ratified by at least 30 signing members, which include both countries and certain intergovernmental organizations.

The treaty, the result of years of negotiations, will provide a legal framework to protect and strengthen actors’ rights to their work. It will potentially allow actors to share in revenue generated internationally by their work and grants them the moral right to prevent the distortion or lack of attribution of their performances.

“Actors and other audiovisual performers have long needed the crucial protections of this treaty, and now we can finally have them,” said SAG-AFTRA co-presidents Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon in a statement. “With new rights to proper compensation for the use of our work and control over the use of our images and likenesses, actors will have important tools to protect themselves around the world. This rising tide can lift the boats of all actors worldwide.”

“The Beijing Treaty will make a clear difference in the lives of performers by helping us to get paid for use of our work, and giving us more control over our image and performance,” added FIA president Agnete Haaland.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the diplomatic conference in Beijing, Liu Qi, a member of the political bureau of the Central Committee of China’s ruling Communist Party said “respect for IP is a must” and that China would “grasp this opportunity to further strengthen intellectual property and build Beijing as the first city of IP.”

Nigerian contemporary photography artist Adolphus Opara is set to present a selection from his body of work, titled: Emissaries of an Iconic Religion, a photo-documentary series which brings together portraits of traditional Yoruba priests from three different western states in Nigeria.

The solo exhibition at the Cape Town, South Africa-based art gallery, Brundyn+Gonsalves, runs till August 14, having opened on Wednesday, June 27.

The Yoruba religion, with its beginnings in South West Nigeria, is today spread across the globe in its various mutations. The extent of its reach is primarily attributed to the Atlantic slave trade of 1300 – 1900 AD. Traditions stemming from this core belief are referred to as ‘New World lineages’ and include Santería, Oyotunji, Candomblé, Umbanda and Batuque, and, perhaps the most infamous, Voodoo. These wide-reaching variations are practiced in Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, Togo, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States (especially New York City and Florida) and the West Indies (to name a few).

Emissaries of an Iconic Religion consists of 20 photographic portraits of traditional Yoruba chief priests and priestesses who are considered to be human representatives of the Yoruba Orisha. Directly translating to ‘owners of heads’, the Orisha are thought of as mediators between man and the supernatural. Opara photographs his subjects within their individual contexts, surrounded by their religious regalia. By doing so he imbues them with a sense of dignity and offers an interesting counter to the West’s, often skewed, portrayals of African religion. Emissaries of an Iconic Religion is intended to emphasise the Yoruba religion’s relevance in contemporary society.

Coming from a background in documentary photography, Opara is more inclined towards a journalistic approach and sees the artistic status of his imagery as secondary. Regardless of this stated intent, his photographs are reminiscent of Victorian portraiture and the theatricality often attributed to it.

Adolphus Opara, born 1981 in Nigeria, is a freelance documentary photographer based in Lagos, who has exhibited extensively all over the world and won numerous prizes for his photography. Most recently he was included in Tate Modern’s group exhibition Contested Terrains (July 29 –October 16, 2011).

Meanwhile, the gallery will during the same period run another exhibition, titled; SeeingEye, a group exhibition exploring the relationship between painting and photography.

The exhibition is intended to stimulate further debate around the two mediums’ status of representation and value. Spanning from painting that draws on photographic tropes such as blur, pixilation or hyperrealism, through to photographs that directly reference traditional painting subjects or task themselves with exploring the subconscious, SeeingEye offers moments of overlap.

Participating artists include: Sanell Aggenbach, Roger Ballen, Zander Blom, Alex Emsley, Matthew Hindley, Karin Preller, Andrew Putter, Matty Roodt and Chad Rossouw.

As part of the activities aimed at celebrating the exit of Nigeria’s culture patriarch, Chief Segun Olusola, a befitting cultural fiesta involving the totality of arts, culture and media will be showcased on Monday, July 16 at the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos.

According to a release made available by the Sub-Committee on Art, Culture and Media, there will be cultural carnival with take-off point being the late Olusola’s Ajibulu-Moniya Galllery, on Babs Animashaun Street, Surulere, to terminate at the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos.

According to the planning committee, over two thousand artistes and members of the creative industry are expected to participate attired in different types of costumes at the residence of late Chief Olusola.

“In their midst will be Igunnuko, Eyo, Zangbeto, Agere and Ekpe masquerades. They will be joined by various other dance and theatre troupes to embark on a cultural procession from Surulere to National Theatre,” the statement read.

There will also be an Open-air musical jamboree later that Monday at the open field by the Entrance D of the National Theatre with cultural performances by masquerades and theatre troupes and musical performances by popular musicians of all genres: Fuji, Juju, hip hop, highlife and others.

While a craft exhibition has also been lined up at the Corridor of Banquet Hall, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, a film show is expected to round off the day at the same venue under the auspices of Tunde Kelani’s Mainframe Productions.

“The craft exhibition features an astonishing variety of crafts and affordable art items. It will be held within the corridor leading to the Banquet Hall, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. There will also be cultural panorama showcasing a plethora of performances by Associations, Guilds, and selected groups and individuals featuring drama, dance, music, comedy, literature and media at the Banquet Hall, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, and then finally a film show by Tunde Kelani’s Mainframe Productions takes place on the Open Field by the Entrance C of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. It will feature one of Nigeria’s classic films in dedication to Chief Segun Olusola,” the sub-committee stated.

Nigeria’s Rotimi Babatunde has won the 2012 Caine prize for African writing for his book titled; Bombay’s Republic, about the story of a Nigerian soldier fighting in Burma during the Second World War and described by the prize’s judging panel as “ambitious, darkly humorous”.

Babatunde, who beat authors from Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa to win the prestigious £10,000 (about N2.54m) award for a short story by an African writer published in English, tells of the experiences of Colour Sergeant Bombay in his winning piece Bombay’s Republic.

Chair of judges, the novelist and poet Bernadine Evaristo, praised his “vivid” descriptions. “It is ambitious, darkly humorous and in soaring, scorching prose exposes the exploitative nature of the colonial project and the psychology of independence,” she said.

Evaristo had previously spoken of her desire to avoid the “stereotypical narratives” of African fiction when finding a winner, saying she wanted to “show there is a bigger picture” than the “familiar tragic stories” that come from the continent.

Babatunde said he was moved to write his story because “that context of world war two in African history, and the story of the Nigerians who went to the Burmese front, has not been properly explored”. Growing up hearing stories of the war, and reading about it, he also wanted to “commemorate the sacrifice” of the soldiers who died there.

“To understand the present we need to explore the past,” he said. “In African literature so many stories have been lost, and I think we need to establish the stories of the past have been explored properly to understand the present.”

In Babatunde’s story, at first, when the army recruiters come to Bombay’s town, they are largely ignored. “Shrugging, people just said, the gecko and the lizard may decide to get married, fine for them, but it would be silly for the butterfly to dance its garments to shreds at their wedding celebration.” But when “reports came that Hitler himself was waiting with his ruthless army at the border and that with him things were going to be much worse than the imagination could conceive”, that “those he didn’t pressgang into slavery would be roasted alive for consumption by his beloved dogs … panic began spreading with virulent haste” and people begin to sign up.

In Burma, Bombay is astonished when the Japanese flee from his inexperienced squad. But he is told: “The stories that preceded you to this war said that the Africans are coming and that they eat people. We fuelled those rumours by dropping leaflets on the enemy, warning them that you will not only kill them but you also will happily cook them for supper. The Japanese, as you very well know, are trained to fight without fear of death. They don’t mind being killed but, like anyone else, they are not in any way eager to be eaten.”

Babatunde, who lives in Ibadan, Nigeria, has previously had his fiction and poetry published in international journals and anthologies, and his plays staged by institutions including Chicago’s Halcyon Theatre and London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. He joins former winners of the Caine prize including Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo, whose debut novel We Need New Names is due out, and Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry, who won in 2010.

The award counts the African Nobel winners Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee among its patrons.

Oxford University Press, the global academic publishing department of the university, has been ordered to pay nearly £1.9m after two subsidiary companies bribed government officials for contracts to supply school textbooks in east Africa.

It would also be recalled that in 2010, the World Bank excluded the British publishers Macmillan from contracts it financed for six years after the company admitted bribery payments relating to an education project in Sudan.

Macmillan was ordered to pay more than £11m in the high court after a two-year investigation by the SFO.

The two wholly owned subsidiaries, based in Kenya and Tanzania, made payments to obtain contracts on a number of projects, including two financed by the World Bank.

The corruption was uncovered after investigators from the World Bank approached the OUP last year. An internal inquiry found concerns relating to contracts entered into between 2007 and 2010.

Following a high court action brought by the director of the Serious Fraud Office, the publisher was ordered to pay £1.89m “in recognition of sums it received which were generated through unlawful conduct”.

The SFO said in a statement that there was no evidence of board-level connivance in relation to the bribery, and the products supplied were of a “good standard” and provided at market values.

The statement read: “This means that the jurisdictions involved have not been victims as a result of overpaying for the goods or as a result of being supplied goods which were unsuitable or not required.”

The two subsidiaries have been excluded from competing for World Bank contracts for three years.

In addition to the fine, OUP has offered to contribute £2m to not-for-profit organisations for teacher training and other educational purposes in sub-Saharan Africa. The SFO director, David Green, said: “This settlement demonstrates that there are, in appropriate cases, clear and sensible solutions available to those who self-report issues of this kind to the authorities.

“The company will be adopting new business practices to prevent a recurrence of these issues and these new procedures will be subject to an extensive and detailed review.”

Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of OUP, which publishes academic and educational works in more than 40 languages, said: “OUP is committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards, and we have been deeply concerned to discover evidence of wrongdoing in two of our African subsidiaries.

“As soon as these matters came to light we acted immediately to investigate thoroughly and report to the relevant authorities. We have strengthened our management in the region and are taking appropriate disciplinary action in respect of those involved in this conduct.”

The improper behaviour was confined to a “small part” of a global organisation, Portwood said.

The chief executive said the firm’s £2m contribution was a recognition that the conduct of its east African subsidiaries “fell well below the standards we expect”.

Leonard McCarthy, the World Bank’s integrity vice-president, said: “OUP’s acknowledgment of misconduct and the thoroughness of its investigation is evidence of how companies can address issues of fraud and corruption and change their corporate practices to foster integrity in the development business.”

Brazil will offer inmates in its crowded prison system a new way to shorten their sentences: a reduction of four days for every book they read.

Inmates in four federal prisons holding some of Brazil’s most notorious criminals will be able to read up to 12 works of literature, philosophy, science or classics to trim a maximum 48 days off their sentence each year, the government announced.

Prisoners will have up to four weeks to read each book and write an essay that must “make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing”, said the notice published on Monday in the official gazette.

A panel will decide which inmates are eligible to participate in the programme, dubbed Redemption through Reading.

“A person can leave prison more enlightened and with a enlarged vision of the world,” said São Paulo lawyer Andre Kehdi, who heads a book donation project for prisons.

“Without doubt they will leave a better person,” he said.

Courtesy: Reuters

Segun Olusola passes on at 77

Posted: June 22, 2012 in arts/culture

Culture aficionado and the patriarch of Nigerian culture, Chief Segun Olusola passed on Thursday June 21,. A hyperactive culture activist, he suffered a brief illness.  Born March 18, 1935, and living a life full of activities in the entire culture sector and other branches of endeavour, he passed on at 77.

Chief Segun Olusola will be remembered from four fronts. First is the Arts and Culture (he was an actor, playwright and a founding member of The Players of the Dawn, an amateur theatre outfit that held sway until 1959, prior to the emergence of the 1960 Masks, a more professional theatre outfit established by Prof. Wole Soyinkna. He was an art connoisseur whose family gallery, Ajibulu-Moniya Gallery transformed into a full-blown commercial gallery open to public to date.

In Broadcasting, he became the first African television broadcaster when television debuted in Africa with its first transmission in Nigeria at the WNTV, Ibadan in 1959. In Diplomacy, he was the longest-serving Ambassador of Nigeria to Ethiopia (1987 – 1993).

He was reputed as a Culture Ambassador who employed the instrumentalities and functionalities of arts and culture to drive Diplomacy. In Humanitarian circle, he was moved by his experiences as a diplomat when he dealt with many critical refugee issues, to eventually found the African Refugees Foundation in 1993 shortly after his service as Ambassador.

He is survived by his wife, Chief Mrs. Beatrice Fehintola Olusola; his children: Ms. Aderonke Ajibulu-Moniya, Mr, Jimi Olusola III, Mrs.Toyin Laditi, Mr. Sabitu Olusola, Mrs. Toyin Adejumo and Mr. Samuel Olusola; his immediate younger sister, Chief Mrs. Biodun Kehinde and others.

Burial arrangement will soon be announced by the family.

Coming on the heels of a successful worldwide Broadway production of his life story, titled; Fela! The Broadway Musical, and addition to  a soon-to-be released Hollywood production of the same title, the late Afrobeat creator, musical icon and rights activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is again being immortalized.

The late Fela’s well known residence at 18, Gbemisola Street, Ikeja, Lagos, will soon be converted to a museum to be called The Kalakuta Museum.

The Lagos State Government approved and supported the ultra-modern project which when completed will have an exhibition area, a coffee shop, a 5-room boutique hotel, a roof-top restaurant, a bar and stage, a souvenir shop, a passenger lift, the tomb area and the car park.

When established, the museum will achieve the following: the preservation of the history of an illustrious son of Africa, promotion of tourism in line with the Lagos State’s Mega City initiative, acquisitions, display and preservation of the artifacts, documents and records of the man referenced as well as those of his contemporaries of African ancestry, custodian of collectors’ and historical items-bordering on fine and folk arts for public enjoyment.

Other purposes include; to assist scholars in researches, ready accessibility of authentic materials and relics on the man referenced, serve as an educational, historical and cultural institution of music and musicality of African origin and entertainment of visitors to the museum.

The Kalakuta Museum is conceived and project managed by Total Consult, a reputable firm of architects and builders of numerous projects notably the conversion of the first colonial prison in central Lagos to The Freedom Park, a fast rising historic and tourist spot in the city.

The Museum which is supported by the Lagos State Government is scheduled to open this October in time for ‘Felabrations’, the annual musical festival celebrating Fela’s life and his birthday on October 15. The project is also marketed by Inspiro Productions.