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With Akiko Ayin, Gifted Steppers in awareness campaign for the less privileged

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Describing the raucous and savage life in the ghetto, Felix Alexander, the author of The Last Valentine, said: “It is known all over the world that there are no secrets in the ghetto and as long as you keep those secrets, you may keep your life.”

With this stand, it shows that inhabitants of the ghetto, no matter where it is located in the globe, are actively involved in the daily hustling and bustling of life and also in some clandestine exploit to be alive. It presents ghetto life to be full of struggle to survive obnoxious rife created by class struggle and man’s inordinate ambition.

Unveiling some of these struggles recently, the Gifted Steppers Kids staged Akiko Ayin (Our Story) to shed light on those areas people may not necessarily be paying much attention to, yet they are the nexus to different actions in the various communities that have conditioned or are conditioning the way human beings behave and react to everyday issues of life.

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Written and directed by Oma Harrison, Akiko Ayin portrays man as constantly struggling with himself and other vicissitudes of life to attain greater height. It highlights the pains, sorrows and sacrifices parents go through to bring up their children in a challenging world.

Using the home as the microcosm of the society, the kids show how a father relinquishes his role of providing and caring for his family to his poor wife and goes ahead to lead a heedless lifestyle. The woman resorts to petty trading, using her children to sell her wares in uncomfortable places. And in a situation, where the woman is not quick at providing for the home, including for the drunk of a husband, he beats her.

The play exposes how children at their early ages are exposed to the wiles of the street, the fiendish class war of surviving, parents abusing themselves and fighting over trivial issues, as well as child labour.

Aside exposing their impoverished family economy, the play also shows how tenants outsmart one another to gain space for their petty trade, their daily chores like laundry and cooking and even spread clothes on the lines in their crowded compounds. It depicts life as war that must be fought and worn.

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As a faction, the play could be seen as personification of deranged country, where the leaders — political, natural or religious, among others — despite the trust placed on them, surrender such trusts to go after trifling things to the detriment of the people they are to look after. As a result of this, the ruled, which here are the children, are left to wander and do things on their own. This is a typical situation in Nigeria and other countries across the globe, where governments seem to be in recess, leaving everyone to be a government of his/her own and providing amenities it — federal, state and local — ought to provide.

Harrison by virtue of the play has raised the narratives of describing the various segments of the society as a ghetto because the main theme and subthemes of struggle, injustice, uncertainty of tomorrow, despondency, fears, among others, are common denominators of man’s life in many societies. With the current happenings across the globe, this puts man in the supra-ghetto that encompasses people of different creed, class and national.

And as a global ghetto, the inhabitants, the children, despite this inclement situation, strive to be the best they can. Though, a few become maladjusted, yet others work hard and smart to be on top of their ugly situation.

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Harrison has used the play to create a very good impression on the psyche of decision makers and city planners, especially as she allowed the kids to tell their own story; a story of deprivation and inequitable distribution of resources.

However, despite the good storyline, relevant music and dance, the kids complicated things with the entrance and exist. The director should work on this, so that, the audience would be able to maintain the left-right eye contact against the confusion, which using all the openings on stage as exist and entrance created.

Also, making the cast to dress in Igbo attires give the impression that the story is based on Igbo family. Even if the inspiration of the play emanated from an Igbo family, it is meaningless to typify the ethnic group, as the issues raised and interpreted by the cast are universal and as such should not be limited to a particular ethnic group. Doing this, is not only demeaning to the ethnic group, but narrows the core messages.

Akiko Ayin, which has been staged at different festivals like Lagos Fringe Festival, Lagos Theatre Festival and Eko Theatre Festival, is one of the good plays for the family to watch. It should be staged in schools to show students that there should be no excuses for failure in life.

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