Monday, August 19, 2013

‘SARO… is a liberating experience for me… for the people of Africa’ - Makinde Adeniran, Executive Director, SARO

‘SARO… is a liberating experience for me… for the people of Africa’ - Makinde Adeniran, Executive Director, SARO

"For the theatre practitioners, it is about learning, like I said, we learn new things. So it is about learning, all of us learning a new way to do certain things.  Because, that is the vision of the project; if possible stop our money bags from going abroad to bring entertainment into the country. There are people who can do it here.  All we have not been able to do is to act.  We keep talking and talking and not doing but the opportunity has been provided now by Terra-Kulture to do."--Makinde Adeniran, Executive artistic director for SARO

May we meet you sir?
My Name is Makinde Adeniran.

You are the Artistic Director, who wrote the play?
I am the Executive Artistic Director. I have other directors working with me -- Kenneth Uphopho, Gbenga Yusuf (dance), Ayo Ajayi (music). I have some consultants too. I have personnel who are young, vibrant and they are pushing the force to make this a reality. We have our Executive Producer, Bolanle Austen-Peters, who equally is the MD of Terra Kulture. She created the piece, the story.

In recent years, you seemed to have taken a break from the Theatre to work in the Media Industry…
Yeah, Media industry… that was a stint. True, in the media industry, we tried to do our best as you know; you know how that story ends. That was the bit I could do in the media. My forte has always been the theatre and that is what I am trained for and I have spent going to 25 years of my life doing. So, the terrain for me is the one that is inseparable from my personality; so it is like my comfort zone.

What have been the major events in your Theatre career this past 25 years?
In the theatre? A lot! A lot!! Both locally and internationally, I have done a lot that one can’t simply recount here. You can carry out the research. A lot… Internationally, I have worked round the world with internationally reputable directors. Even by myself, I have done quite some works locally and internationally. One keeps working. You know, 25 years is not a joke. 

One thing that I have always dreamed of becoming right from the time… even before I went to school is to become great in whatever I do. That has been my passion. Money is not the first passion for me; it is to become first amongst equals.  And that has been the driving force. Any opportunity that comes my way, I channel it in such thinking which has helped me seriously even in other areas of life. Been a broadcaster, this was instrumental even when I came there, I found the theatre there. The short time I spent in the media, I climbed the ladder as if I had been there for ever. It has been my life.  It has been my driving force.

Can you tell us about your most remarkable moment so far in the theatre, internationally?
Most remarkable moment? Hmmm! Which one na? Internationally I would say when I first came into the international scene as an actor in the premiere of Beatification of Area Boys, directed by Judy Kelly and written by Wole Soyinka. I was in the premiere cast as Boyco. It was remarkable because it was my first time in that range as an international actor. I had been out before then performing as far back as 1992 (with Ben Tomoloju’s MujeMuje) going out of the country to perform. This (Beatification…) marked a significant change.
Was this like a career launch?    
Well, not necessarily a career launch. It was something that has to do with my vision personally. I want to fight for people. I want to be able to liberate people and if you recall, when that play happened it was during the time of Sani Abacha when Soyinka went into exile. The play was a campaign against the Nigerian government. It became a campaign channeled towards freeing the people from the grip of military dictatorship. So for me, it was that unique moment.  A moment I needed to prove that I could fight for my people; so, I threw everything I had into it including my freedom because, when we were on that tour, we couldn’t return to Nigeria.  The government was hunting for us. But for the passion and my fighting spirit to liberate people, my freedom didn’t matter to me as much as the play was able to free Nigerians from the grip of the dictators. It was a spectacular moment for me. A time in my life I will never forget. Even though the entire citizenries of Nigeria wouldn’t see that moment; I knew deep in my heart and with the atmosphere, that I did something. People could refer to it as drama but I refer to it as a fight of freedom for my people.

And now you are engaged in a major theatrical project; could you throw light on the project?  
We are working on Saro – the musical. It is a musical production with Terra Kulture. It has been another challenge in my career. When you are into this field, everyday you come in contact with new work is a new challenge except of course, you are not willing to move forward. It is a new opportunity for you to grow and learn because you come into contact with all kinds of people. Even if you are the director, there is a lot a director who is sensible, who is creative learns from the actor, from the people you work with; but you need to open your eyes very well and your spirit wide to be able to connect. It isn’t about me knowing it all; it is about us working as a team. And I enjoy that. That for me has been the focal point: that there is always something to take home.  

So when this kind of opportunity –Saro, being a large cast… and musical in this part of the world is not common. Even though we have a lot of people mouthing ‘I am doing musical’ but the nitty-gritty of knitting up a musical is a different ballgame in terms of finance and artistic, in terms of psyche, everything, it is a different ball game. So, if you found yourself within this leverage of opportunity, you just get to be happy and be honoured to do this.

In what way do you think this new play would impact the general public; or specifically, theatre practitioners and the theatre scene?
For the theatre practitioners, it is about learning, like I said, we learn new things. So it is about learning, all of us learning a new way to do certain things.  Because, that is the vision of the project; if possible stop our money bags from going abroad to bring entertainment into the country. There are people who can do it here.  All we have not been able to do is to act.  We keep talking and talking and not doing but the opportunity has been provided now by Terra-Kulture to do.  Until you are able to do, you don’t have a mouth to say anything to the government. Now we are able to do. We have done enough of talking, the opportunity has been provided to do.  And that is what this project is affording the theater practitioners and the country as a whole to do. And if the government cares to see, they will see the value.
The government has said they aree looking for how to change the Nigerian economy from oil-based economy; entertainment is one sure way. But they need to look deep and set the structures right.

What is happening to the entertainment industry in the country is: individuals are getting richer because the structure isn’t set by the government because they really don’t know the wherewithal and the so called experts who could show the way are busy getting into politics and enriching themselves. Until we get to that point where we say… ‘look, enough of talking!’ You see, Terra Kulture is doing something by exhibiting this and if we have run this place for nine years, we believe that the entertainment industry needs propelling for diversification of the economy. It is one potential, you can’t take it out, one potential because it carries people. Entertainment thrives only on people’s culture.

We have got the people. 160 million people; you know what that means? Entertainment can cut down unemployment if there is the proper structure because creativity is about everyday regeneration. There is a lot. And to the general public, it reduces the tension in the country; it can tame hostility.  People are afraid of everything from Boko Haram, general insecurity to even government itself. We need to see the other side of life. Psychologically, we don’t have the other side of life. We only know one side of life which is -- fear!  Nobody succeeds under fear. I have never seen the person. Even in the Bible; fear is the first thing God is warning you about.

We got a lot of issues that we need to see as a country whether as a people in government or as ordinary citizens. We have coloured ourselves so much that we are losing our good culture. Everyday a culture emerges -- regenerate. We need to be able to document it through drama, musicals, music and even in our dances. This is one of the ways. When we let all of this fly by saying –they have done it, no proper way of documenting it, no proper way of keeping it, who is losing?  We are losing because those things, when you document… what are the reasons for documenting? For history and for economy. It is only the information you have that you can tap into in the future to do something.  For purpose of history or to sell. Lots!  If we keep talking about this part, it keeps going. We can talk for days because; your experience determines what you know. I think my experience of 25years in this terrain locally and internationally, I have got a lot. Yeah, we are doing a lot of mistakes here.

What makes Saro- the musical of international standard?.
When they brought Fela-on-Broadway here, with foreign cast; it was disheartening!  Is it that we didn’t know we could do that?  No! We are negligent! We knew we could even do better but we are negligent. Same way we are negligent about several other things. Until the western world will come and show us, we neglect that which is us!  We really need to wake up. That is why this project cannot but get to that level of exportation.  If you are doing anything now that can’t be exported; any entertainment package that is not fit to be exported, that means, the person has not started because Nigeria is getting big everyday. Even in entertainment, you can see, the artistes are getting big every day. Unfortunately, it is the finance and security that constitute major challenges. Because where there is no policy that secures your creativity, what do you have? You are afraid.  You would rather take it out to a place where there is security for it than staying here. Corporate sponsorship is one thing that is lacking and it is because of lack of proper policy. Security is lacking for entertainment packaging. So, those who are not investing into it, what they are running away from unconsciously is the security of it.

Nigerians are vast! But they don’t know how valuable they are. That is the problem. I don’t know. God has created us differently and I say that very boldly. I say it with confidence. But we don’t value ourselves. So, there is a problem. How can somebody be so golden and doesn’t know he is golden? We have a lot of good cast members both experienced and inexperienced but potentially alright. From beginning to the end, the cast is all Nigerians!

You mentioned Fela-On-Broadway; a musical where the promoters had to import artists to play the role of Fela. And, this Saro the musical, is it indigenous like the name-Fela. What is the history behind such a name?
Saro, is Nigerian. If you know the story of freed slaves that returned to Nigeria, the Sierra Leoneans, who returned during those days to Africa; any port that was black they entered. The same determination they carried  to everywhere they went is the same determination we have in the four guys who are the protagonists  in Saro…  they came from the hinterland into the city, in pursuit of their dreams. They were resolved that: ‘look, we will make it; with this gift that we have, no matter what, we will make it.  And they came into the city.

We are simply saying, the youth, it is not about signing off – ‘I want to be rich’… signing off your life over a meal of porridge. Your determination and your gift will make you to excel. In other words, what we are saying is, the rebuilding of the Nigerian or African space is not actually on the land mass; it falls on the head of the people, especially the youths. The reconstruction of any nation falls on the human capacity and then, their determination propels it into manifestation. So, it is that determination the Saros who first came into the port of Lagos,  the same determination helped them to own a part of Lagos up till date. There is no way you want to talk about the history of cosmopolitan Lagos city that you wouldn’t talk about the Saros or the Brazilians, Portuguese and the original owners -- the Aworis.  There is no way you won’t mention the Saros! So, it is that same determination they brought -- that we are going back home, even though we can’t go back home anymore, because we don’t know the place, but we know that people here  in this port are blacks. They came in and made name for themselves. Their names still ring bell up till date. That is the determination we are working on; the connecting theme in the play. The four guys in the play -- Laitan, Obaro, Efeh and Azeez -- who left their villages , came into the city to make names for themselves. With that determination, they confronted all kinds of ups and downs. They were arrested, put in the cell, but their determination pushed them to the height of it. That is the connection, the beautiful thing. We are only projecting into the future that Nigeria got a future that the youths have to open their eyes to see it.

How is it handling such an ambitious project?
For me, it is all about liberating people. My personality resonates all through in the play. For me, if this is the kind of play that will channel the minds of the youth towards future and freeing themselves from economic slavery, from all kinds of slavery, you will see that, it is still my fight. My fight is still on course. That is what the play hopes to do; that is what I hope to do. From here, I hope to go further about myself. I know the musical is not going to be one of those rehearsed for two months and then, performed for six days.  No. We want to do this the proper way. What it should be. It can run as long as the opportunity lasts. That is what we are looking at for this.

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