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Interrogating theatre practice in Post COVID-19 lockdown era

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
06 December 2020   |   4:15 am
For two days, the virtual platform, zoom, was besieged by art and culture practitioners – writers, actors, theatre directors, movie producers, dancers, and other allied art practitioners - under the auspices of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP)

Israel Eboh

For two days, the virtual platform, zoom, was besieged by art and culture practitioners – writers, actors, theatre directors, movie producers, dancers, and other allied art practitioners – under the auspices of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP)

It was two days of experience-based impartation from some of the best resource persons within and outside the country as NANTAP, in collaboration with the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) with support from the Goethe Institut Nigeria, British Council Nigeria an National Film and Video Censors Board hosted creatives to a capacity building workshop with the theme: Artist to Administrators – Bridging the Transitional Gap.

The opening had in attendance Director-General and CEO of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe; Country Director of Goethe Institut Nigeria, Ms. Friederike Moeschel; General Manager of the National Theatre, Prof. Sunny Ododo; former President and Secretary of the NANTAP Board of Trustees, Mr. Mahmoud Balogun and Mrs. Bridget Yerima as the chief host.

Yerima, who represented the Executive Secretary of NICO, reiterated the institute’s commitment to capacity building efforts such as this.

“Considering the mandate of NICO, I can assure you that this is only the first in the series of workshop of this nature to come. We are committed to energising the various cultural agencies in Nigeria to move from mere practitioners to administrators,” Yerima said, as she declared open the workshop.

With participants drawn from NANTAP chapters across the country and institutional participation from the likes of NCAC, NICO, National Theatre, Lagos Council for Arts and Culture among others, a total of seven sessions, with seasoned resource persons were held.

In his welcome address, President of NANTAP, Mr. Israel Eboh, said the workshop is aimed at improving the business and management skills of practitioners, enable them make optimal use of their skills and be able to compete favourably with their counterparts around the world.

“We want to further build the capacity of practitioners within the art and culture space, beyond the exhibition of talents, but have a better idea of how to successfully run their businesses, theatre companies and other art related agencies whenever they are called upon,” Eboh said.

The two-day conference, thus, was not only to retool but provide new vista for practititoners after the COVID-19 lockdown.
At a virtual conference, themed, ‘Arts & Culture Administration In Pandemic Era’, with consolidating unity and cooperation in the culture community as a sub-theme, held on August 2, 2020, Eboh had reasoned that “no sector in any country can grow or develop without collaborating with those operating in the sector.”

He had said, “building sustainable collaboration can only be done with trust — there is need for private sector to believe in government as well as government to do so to the private sector.”

In his lecture on Entertainment Law and Ethics, Elvis Asia called on participants to take contractual agreement serious, either as the ‘contractor’ or the ‘contractee’, as this legality help to ensure some level of professionalism in the sector.

He equally gave an overview of performance rights, image rights, copyrights, piracy and other related rights within the entertainment industry.
Professor Duro Oni’s session on Leadership and Administrative Skill was more like a practical summation of the entire workshop. It was like a review of the life of the lecturer himself, who had transformed over the years, as a young artiste into becoming one of the major cultural administrators in Nigeria today.

In advancing his thought, the Chairman of NANTAP’s Board of Fellows identified some core attributes of creative management such as self-awareness, strong communication, and learning ability.

He said, “there is one thing that has propelled my life and career, and that is self-improvement efforts. How much are you improving yourself towards the leadership goal. Productivity, focus and mentoring is important in all of these.”

Mercy George-Igbafe of Leantor took participants through social media training with focus on Instagram. The lecture was titled, Performing Arts and the Social Media in Marketing and Advocacy. It was a fun and interactive learning moment with key focus on participants engagement, which helped in gauging participants knowledge of Instagram.

Dr. Patrick Fohl, a culture specialist from Goethe Institut, Germany, was on hand to deliver his presentation on Art as a tool for cultural diplomacy.
Fohl reeled out some aspect of Germany’s cultural policy and how this policy shapes Germany’s diplomatic policy around the world, noting, “in Germany, cultural institution enjoys a lot of funding from the government. Culture is deliberately created and funded down to the grassroots. And this includes the huge investment into infrastructural development, which is considered especially important in preserving and promoting cultural heritage.”

Weighing in on the discussion, Professor Mabel Evwerhoma of the University of Abuja reinforced the need to enhance cultural community. She argued that this would help to arouse cultural consciousness in the people, hence, growing the community. “Development need to start at the local level. Issues of culture are beyond tourism and profit. Hence, there is need to rejig the cultural policy along this line. This impetus, is what would help internationalise our culture,” she said, adding that, post-COVID, Nigeria needs empathetic leadership, especially in the culture sector.

Speaking on the topic Business and Financial Strategies for Marketing Nigerian Arts Locally and Globally, Joseph Edgar, a theatre entrepreneur and investment banker, who is popularly known as Duke of Shomolu, drawing from practical experience, took the participants through strategies that appeal to investors, corporate partners and sponsors.

He told participants not to focus primarily on sponsorship money, which he described as ‘prostitute money’. Professor of Theatre and Communication from the Nasarawa State University and Nigerian President of the International Association of Theatre Critics, Professor Emma Dandaura, in his lecture, titled, Overview of Cultural Administration in Nigeria, through which he highlighted challenges as one of many adversaries of the cultural sector in Nigeria.

The plenary session was quite stimulating. With three practitioners who have consistently maintained a high level of sustained success in their practice sharing their experiences with the participants. The likes of Mr. Joseph Omoibom, Producer at BAP Productions and General Manager of Terra Kulture; Mr. Fusi Olateru-Olagbegi, head of Programme at the British Council, and of course, Mr. Femi Odugbemi, fta, founder and CEO of Zuri24 Media, known for his many ground breaking productions such as Tinsel and Battle Ground.
The workshop was anchored by Uju Ukwu of the NICO Training School and veteran journalist and culture activist, Jahman Anikulapo.