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When artists prayed to ward off death

By Florence Utor
24 December 2009   |   8:00 am
Year 2009, for many, has been one year of mixed fortune. For the arts community, it was another annus horribilis - horrible year. There had been frustrating arts and culture policies. And not forgetting, a year of dashed hope, as the National Endowment for the Arts bill is still waiting to see the light of day. It was a year of motion without movement... But wait a minute, it was a year of painful deaths. The spate of deaths recorded in the year was such that baffled many.

It witnessed irreplaceable losses of brilliant and highly enterprising professional colleagues, which possibly made Toyin Akinosho in his column, Artsville, published in The Guardian on Sunday to say: “The last time this kind of mood presented itself was in 1997, the year that Fela Anikulapo Kuti died, and his niece, Frances Kuboye followed suit, with his daughter Sola. It was the year that Nico Mbaga (Sweet Mother) lost his life in an Okada accident, and the photographer Hakeem Shitta died. That year, the Committee For Relevant Art organised a stampede calling for Rites Of Cleansing and invited the leading senior artists of the day to lead the rituals.”


The spate of deaths in Art House may have prompted the Lagos State chapter of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) to initiate a prayer session to ward off such occurrences in 2010.

Mr. Mufu Onifade, chairman of the chapter, in his address at the event, said the general prayers was initiated at the Christian wake in honour of the late Ande Folorunsho (A.K.A Baba Blue).

He said it was necessary for all members of the creative industry, in view of unexpected circumstances that had challenged them physically and psychologically, to seek spiritual solace in their creator to preserve their lives and the industry.

He also said, “this special season is a way of re-uniting the entire creative industry in a spiritual manner such that the industry is kept stronger and better.” He added, “with this unity of purpose, we could bid farewell to the year 2009 while we also get adequately prepared to usher in the new year 2010.”

Deji Sulayman, a past EXCO member, who has just returned from Mecca, led the prayer session in Muslim way.

Thereafter, Pastor Benjamin Frankincense started with praises to God and a little admonishment that, one way or the other, every artist is affected and so they must declare that enough was enough.

He further revealed, “the devil is not happy about the way you expose his powers on the television and stage therefore he will fight back.”

This was concluded by an intense prayer session. However, the event was more than prayer session. There were special health talks and free medical tests for practitioners.

Pathcare Laboratories provided medical attention such as the screening of blood pressure of practitioners present and also, to know whether there was high glucose content, for free.

The client service manager, Adenike Aderonke, revealed that the health condition of practitioners do not affect them only, but also their families and everything that concerns them.

She emphasized that eating well was very important and that you didn’t need to be rich to be able to eat fruits and vegetables or exercise.

Aderonke advised them to do away with bad habits such as drinking, smoking and eating chocolates, as most of them affect the kidney. And when they are harmful, they aid gradual deaths. She recommended visiting the doctor at least two times a year for check up.

. Mr. Ben Tomoloju, founding father of NANTAP and one-time Deputy Editor of The Guardian, in his closing speech, said, “though organisations are found on the politics of arts, sometimes we just have to put that aside to face the spiritual. We have gone through tragedies but God always assures us that we have him.”

He advised them that, as they reflected on the tragedies, they should remember that they were only occupants on the surface of the earth.

The session was rounded off with performances from Equity Theatre, Dance Guild of Nigeria and the Lagos State cultural troupe.