When UI hosted Afolayan for Town and Gown Masterclass Speakers’ Series
Universities are beginning to realise the gap between the realities of town and idealism or theories of gown and the need to empower students and theatre artists for the future. It is this knowledge gap on how to start initiating students into the practicality of industry requirements and how higher institutions can train students to meet such requirements that Prof. Segun Ojewuyi is curating the Red Carpet Town and Gown Masterclass Speakers’ Series.
According to Ojewuyi, “‘The Red Carpet Speaker Series’ facilitates the presence of successful professionals in direct conversation with our university community. This simple exchange will activate such innovation and creativity that is sure to build revenues and platforms of market power for the arts in Nigeria. It pursues the proven path that the emerging creative industry of Nigerian film and theatre presents an alternative economy that will need a highly trained, intellectually savvy and business-minded pool of professionals for the country’s regeneration. The goal is to bridge the existing gulf of knowledge and innovation between the academic Gown and the professionally successful Town, in order for both to independently (and sometimes jointly) validate what either party is teaching and/or doing”.
Invited from a highly select pool of successful professionals, Red Carpet speakers exemplify distinguished professionalism and citizenship, proven in both local and international settings.
Founded and convened by Ojewuyi, the ‘Red Carpet Speaker Series’ brings together the brains of two universities – Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, United States, where he is Head of Directing, and the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, where he was a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow in 2015.
The project which is in its second edition hosted, filmmaker and director, Mr. Kunle Afolayan, two Fridays ago at the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, and hosted renowned columnist, Dr. Reuben Abati and actress and entrepreneur, Monalisa Chinda, last week.
While opening the class, Ojewuyi said it was created to motivate and engage not only the students from the Department of Theatre Arts, but other creative individuals through a-town-and-gown conversation so that young students and creative individuals could easily find their feet in society. His complaint was that “most of our students end up in advertising agencies and banks because of the shocks they encounter when they graduate from here (theatre). This is due to the lack of ample information about creative businesses”.
Ojewuyi described Afolayan as a catalyst in transcending the Alarinjo (travelling) theatre tradition to the current cinema culture in the country. Ojewuyi maintained that the first edition of the event hosted Chairman of Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA) and co-curator of Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF), first Arts Editor of The Guardian and culture activist, Mr. Ben Tolmolu, curator of Saro and Wakaa Musical Theatres Producer, Mrs. Bolanle Austen Peters and a leading actress and director, Madam Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett.
Ojewuyi noted he decided to continue the project because the knowledge gap between the public and the ivory tower has persisted as the two fail to see how they could harness their respective synergies and work for the good of the Nigerian society. To spice up the conversation and get it going, students of Theatre Arts performed an urbane American performance Hit Me with the Music and a satirical comedy of the current political issues in the country encapsulated in Mr. Mallam.
HOD, Theatre Arts, Dr. Tunde Awosanmi, said that the University of Ibadan has produced numerous Afolayans who are doing well in the country such as Dr. Adeshina Afolayan, now a lecturer in Philosophy in the university and Gabriel Afolayan, a singer and actor. While commending Ojewuyi for his initiative Awosanmi said, “We must all aspire to impact the lives of our children, and teachers must also do so”.
The stage was then set for Mr. Afolayan to engage the audience which comprised of lecturers of the Faculty of Arts, students of the university and other personalities. Afolayan narrated a coming-of-age-story of how he became a filmmaker after graduating from Lagos State Polytechnic having failed to gain admission to the University of Ibadan. In a way, he said it was like homecoming for him because he always had the opportunity to visit his brother who was an undergraduate student of the university at that time. Afolayan said he studied Business Administration and got a job in a bank as Human Resources personnel but finally resigned to be a filmmaker.
Afolayan spoke extensively about his relationship with prominent filmmakers like Mr. Tade Ogidan, his father, Ade Love and most especially cinematographer, Mr. Tunde Kelani.
As he recounted, “I was home for eight months and I will buy films and I will watch three films a day. I will invite Kelani to watch with me most times and I would ask him questions concerning the picture. He would explain them to me. Kelani would explain the films from a cinematographer’s point of view and not from a layman’s point of view, and I grasped the little I could”.
He also recalled how Kelani challenged him, “Who are you to want to be become a filmmaker? You cannot inherit filmmaking; it is a craft”.
Continuing his narration, Afolayan enthused, “I pretty much grew up in cinemas and theatres in Nigeria. It is either we were selling films or promoting my father’s film. I learnt the basic business of film from my father but I learnt to be passionate about films from Kelani.
“Then I started looking for films schools because the film profession has several specializations. You see, you can fake acting and in no time become a superstar actor but you cannot become a superstar filmmaker overnight. You must have the basic knowledge. The Tarantino’s of this world may not have gone to film schools but they learnt by spending a lot of time on set learning on the job”.
Afolayan also used the platform to correct a certain wrong historicisation about filmmaking in the country. Contrary to scholarly texts, according to him, late doyen of film and theatre performer, Hubert Ogunde was not the first person to move from travelling theatre to cinema in the country. Afolayan said that his father’s film Ija Ominira was produced and screened first before Ogunde’s Ayanmo. He, however, asserted that Ogunde remains the doyen of Nigerian theatre.
A book editor, Mr. Ademola Adesola wanted to know who Afolayan’s audience, who his films are meant for and what socio-political relevance they convey in Nigeria’s current troubled times. Afolayan explained that his movies are for the public, but that they also have an artistic intent suitable for film festival screening. He noted that an artist must be able to decide how to balance artistic relevance with commercial success, adding, “I don’t do advocacy films as such but I address some of these issues as part of several other problems in our social and economic climate”.
Jane Muse wanted Afolayan address concerns about the absence and abandonment of veteran actors and artists by the new generation. The director of The CEO explained that he is always enamoured whenever he meets an old actor in his father’s category “because they are repositories of the theatre craft,” asserting that he had featured the veteran actor, Saddiq Darba in October 1 “because actors should act until they pass on”.
While bringing the event to a close, professor of film and television, Hyginus Ekwauzi, said Afolayan needed to realise that films needed not only to be watched and spoken about but that they must also be written about for the sake of posterity. He canvassed for a vigorous critical culture for Nigeria’s film industry so as to strengthen it and make it better.
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