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Kakadu ignites symbiosis of visual and performance arts at Christmas



Alakija at work painting a Kakadu scene during rehearsal

Perhaps, it is no longer news that two Broadway-style musical theatres – Kakadu and Wakaa! The Musical – will rock Lagos city this Christmas. But what may be news for both new and old enthusiasts of Kakadu, written and produced by Mr. Uche Nwokedi (a Senior Advocate of Nigeria – SAN), is that a painter of immense ability has also set to work to paint some of the scenes and performers onto canvas as a way of immortalising the fleeting historical moments captured in the musical drama. From this part of the world, this is obviously a first, and Nwokedi is excited about it.

At his Five Ways law chamber in Lekki last weekend, Nwokedi expressed enthusiasm towards the new synergy and praised Alakija’s passion in working among the cast, taking photographs and painting furiously to realize the project. The paintings will be on display alongside the performance of Kakadu starting from December 29, 30, 2015 through January 1, 2 and 3, 2016 at MUSON Centre.

According to Nwokwdi, “Kakadu has its own energy; there’s a certain temperament all its own about it. We’ve also made a lot of changes to it, especially in the musical rendition. There are some drastic changes although it is the same story. Of course, you don’t want to change a successful story”.

Although the same theme the cast is 80 per cent new, it tallies with Nwokedi’s historical projection of the musical theatre. As he put it, “I thought that since this is essentially our 4th run of Kakadu, it would be useful that the emphasis be placed on youth and relatively new talent. Why? Nigeria at the time of independence in 1960 was a very young country with plenty of human capital and potential. Some of our ministers in the First Republic were in their mid-twenties, and when Yakubu Gowon became Head of State, he was the youngest in the world at the time. Casting this time was more to emphasise the historicity of the production”.

Kanayo Omo is director while Benneth Ogbeiwei is musical director.
Kakadu is a dramatic and musical recreation of Kakadu Night Club in Lagos’ 1960s that mirrors the unbounded optimism and feel-good mood of the period shortly after Nigeria’s independence in the music and the lifestyle.

But things soon come to a head with violence in the north that would lead to avoidable bloody civil war that pitched one part of the country against another. What has become of the soul of Nigeria after that needless war 45 years on since the war ended in 1970?

An artist statement from Alakija on the synergy between Kakadu and her artistic rendering of it on canvas, says, “When I was approached by producer Uche Nwokedi, to be a ‘visiting artist,’ to tell a visual story of the cast of Kakadu whilst they rehearsed, I was expecting that this would be a wonderfully hedonistic way to end the year. I had in my mind the visual feast of the first production, the costumes, the colour, the music and dance routines. How wrong I was.

This production is no mere indulgence in the glamour and optimism of the 1960s. Sitting in on the rehearsals was so much more than this. What I witnessed was producer, director and cast re-living and learning about the political situation in Nigeria in the 1960s and how optimism turned into destruction and the pain and suffering that ensued. So my imagery could not be a mere visual representation of a cast in character. The line between being in character and living the pain has become blurred for this cast. I am not sure myself if I am representing cast or character, but the emotions are real, be it pain, outrage or joy”.

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