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At 70, Sonuga’s Deep As The Ocean



IN a country like Nigeria with high mortality rate, attaining the age of 70 is big thing. Surviving the harsh living condition in schools, securing white-collar jobs that are difficult to get these days and eventually retiring from service in good health… usually, calls for celebration. 

   Recently, the Freedom Park, Lagos, came alive, as friends, family members and the arts community rolled out the drums to celebrate septuagenarian, Oba Gbenga Sonuga, Fadesewa of Simawa, in Makun Sagamu, Ogun State, on his 70th birthday. Significantly, the event witnessed the formal presentation of the art and culture aficionado’s photo autobiography titled, Deep As the Ocean

    The celebration featured a photo exhibition running all week, a formal book launch, theatrical performances, an evening screening of SALT and a night of musical entertainment.

    While the book presentation provided opportunity for art practitioners to pay special tribute, the evening session was a mini-dance feast. Anchored by actor and teacher Sola Fosudo, the event saw energetic performances by notable troupes including, Crown Troupe of Africa, Atilogwu Dancers, Adunni and Nefertiti, Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture troupe and the National Troupe of Nigeria. And for a man, who dedicated a better part of his life to the arts, it was a well-deserved celebration that lasted into the night.       

   Before he was crowned king, Sonuga, fondly called Oba Art & Culture or Baba Culture, was at a time, director of the Lagos State Council for Art and Culture. 

   In his autobiography, he recounted his experience, and viewpoints as a heritage of historical photography that spans over 70 years. 

   The launch also gave birth to what the monarch proposed to become a yearly lecture on the importance of retaining the essence of arts and culture, particularly, in its affectation of community building, and the selection and election of leaders.

   Oba Sonuga has long been a voice for change and excellence in the culture scene, having trained under the tutelage of Prof Wole Soyinka, whom he fondly calls Mon Prof, then worked under Demas Nwoko for a decade at the New Culture Studios, Ibadan, then running a film company called 4Reels, before being appointed the director of the Lagos Cultural Centre during the administration of late Group Captain Gbolahan Mudasiru, as governor of Lagos State. He served the council as director for 10 years. 

   During his tenure, he produced a touring performance of Ori by the state troupe to the United States. He also wrote and produced a play for the World Decade for Cultural Development, declared by the UN via UNESCO in 1989, called SALT, which was rehearsed for three months and then performed for only one night at the National Theatre mainbowl. 

   On retiring from the public service, he founded the International Centre for the Arts, Lagos (ICAL).

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