Fela and the Kalakuta queens loud in South Africa
Bolanle Austen-Peters is a Nigerian lawyer and businesswoman. She founded the Nigerian arts, education and cultural organisation, Terra Kulture, in 2003. In December 2014 and April 2015, her outfit, BAP Productions, staged SARO the Musical. She further produced a Broadway-style musical production titled, Wakaa The Musical. It was the first Nigerian musical to be staged in London’s West End, playing at Shaw Theatre from July 21 to 25, 2016. Austen-Peters also conceived a plan to build the first purpose built private theatre in Nigeria, Terra Kulture Arena, which opened on March 25 and 26, 2017. BAP’s Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, which premiered in December 2017, is currently on tour of South Africa. She speaks more on the South African trip.
Tell us about BAP Productions?
BAP Productions is a renowned Nigerian theatre and movie production company set up in 2013. The outfit has produced world-class musicals and movies including, Saro The Musical, Wakaa The Musical, 93 Days (a movie), Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, Moremi the Musical, The Bling Lagosians (movie) and many other amazing productions.
What inspired the creation of Fela and the Kalakuta Queens?
Over the years, we have seen so many plays about Fela Anikulapo Kuti and heard so many stories and they all talk about the same thing, which are his lifestyle and his music. So, I was inspired to tell a different side of his story, his life with his women and how he married 27 women in one day.
For how long has the show been running?
Fela and the Kalakuta Queens has been running since December 2016.
Following the trajectory of Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, how do you think the project will impact your career as an advocate of Nigerian and African cultural assets?
The Fela story is an African story and the project has already gained critical acclaim from people like, Professor Wole Soyinka. The impact of Fela and the Kalakuta queens has left an indelible mark on the Nigerian culture and gone to show the global community the value of our cultural asset.
How does it feel to be the first Nigerian to have her musical performed in South African theatre?
Well, I feel elated and I want to say I really appreciate the South African government and the State Theatre for showing interest in our production and giving us the opportunity to showcase our talent with the legendary story of Fela.
How did you end up taking your show to South Africa?
The South African State Theatre team came to Lagos and saw Fela and the Kalakuta Queens at Terra Kulture Arena and they absolutely loved it, then they reached out to us and we opened the conversation.
What significance do you think taking the play to South Africa has on your project?
It is actually significant to the Nigerian creative industry that our productions are of export quality and this recognises the fact that we are beginning to do things the right way. It is significant to recognise us as a group of people who can tell their story with great detail and originality. This project remains one of the biggest Musicals out of the continent and significantly recognised.
While planning to produce the show, did you expect that it would ever garner international recognition?
Well, in putting together this production we put in our best, from the best actors to technical crew to the set designers, costumiers and performers. By so doing, we could project the response would be great but garnering this level of international recognition and acceptance is really encouraging and we appreciate this so much.
How do you plan to sustain this trajectory for other projects?
By putting in our best, engaging the best hands and working very hard to achieve the best results. We will ensure our productions are of the best quality in terms of the story, costumes, technical and the overall production.
Being invited by South African Theatre, would you say this is the biggest milestone in your career? If not can you run us through some of your other laurels?
It is indeed a big achievement for the production company as it shows we are bankable. However, Fela and the Kalakuta Queens travelled to Egypt in 2018 and had a great reception. We have been invited to London’s West end to perform Saro the Musical in 2016 and Wakaa the Musical in 2017 both at the Shaw theatre and our movie, 93 Days, also featured in eight film festivals around the world in 2016. I believe this is a step in the right direction.
Aside from South Africa, how far are you willing to take your project?
If we have the sponsorship, we are willing to take our projects around the world on tour.
You have a track record of producing powerful, visually striking and memorable production. Can you give us a little insight into how you go about this?
I am a visual person and I relate in colours. I visualise things mentally before I bring them to reality.
What would you say to other Nigerian directors looking forward to getting their content out on international platforms?
I’ll say put your best foot forward and always give your best in everything you do.
Anything you want us to look out for in the future?
We have a movie that will be premiered in July titled, the Bling Lagosians.
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