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‘Strelitzia seeks to heal a troubled world’

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Strelitzia, a therapeutic play that helps free pent-up tension and trauma of the past, which may hinder individual and group attainment of freedom, will be performed at British Council-sponsored Lagos Theatre Festival 2018.

The festival starts this week from February 27 through March 4. Produced by Donna Obaseki-Ogunnaike, the play helps emotional recollection and memories’ recovery and the need to repair them. It is Ogunnaike’s brand of therapeutic theatre that brings ‘an experiential journey to self.’

Emotions are very powerful human feelings that tell a man’s unique weakness or strength, and over the ages, man tries to master them. When men lock away memories that evoke emotion, they become real problems.

It is those emotions that Strelitzia seeks to unlock to ensure people do not just master those emotions, but become better versions of them.

Strelitzia was the only Nigerian play that represented Nigeria at the World Cultures Festival 2017 in Hong Kong last November. Strelitzia was performed 10 times at LTF 2017, and received impressive reviews.

While speaking with Obaseki-Ogunnaike on the essence of the show and why it has been successful in spite of the unusual nature of the performance, she explained that Strelitzia is a therapeutic journey of remembrance that allows you heal even after dredging up memories, which lead to forgotten emotions and hurt.

These past experiences, she said, “are usually the things that dictate who, where and what we are today. It is at the same time a captivating and liberating kind of theatre. It uses theatre in one of its ancient and intended forms – a means of achieving healing of self.

“Strelitzia is not a theatre that can simply be explained; it has to be experienced, and each person’s experience is different. Imagine flipping through a diary where you experience the memory of the point in which that entry was written. In the last performance, we had people who saw it multiple times, while some became quite emotional.”

For Strelitzia’s performance, a purpose-built art installation was erected at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, which “walks you through experiences of a different time, allowing the audience to relate with the past.

The performance comprises six sequences – each representing a different human memory and experience. All scenes are sown together in a quilt of memory-evoking recollections of stories that will leave any audience in wonder and delight.”

Apart from being a specialist in energy law, Obaseki-Ogunnaike had her debut theatre production, Love Like Slave at LTF 2016. She is an emerging voice in Nigeria’s intense performance poetry circuit.

She has participated in several landmark events that include Lagos Black Heritage Festival that featured Nigeria’s first cultural trade show (2014) tagged ‘Business Meets Culture.’

Obaseki-Ogunnaike was one of 11 women elected for the ‘National Poetry Month: Uplifting Verses From 11 Strong Female Poets,’ alongside greats like Maya Angelou and Naomi Shihab Nye.

She is also the only Nigerian female poet, who featured at British Council’s video tribute for International Women’s Day in 2015.

She was also the only Nigerian selected to speak in Google’s Doodle to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016, which was aired by Cable News Network (CNN).


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