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You can say I’m a feminist, says playwright laureate

By Anote Ajeluorou
03 February 2019   |   2:00 am
When 10 young playwrights, nine male and a female, converged on the Agip Recital Hall, MUSON Centre, Lagos, it was clear a new awakening was afoot for Nigerian theatre.

Second runner-up, Rukee Ojigbo (left); founder of Paperworth Books and publisher of the award-winning plays, Ibiso Graham-Douglas; first runner-up and founder of Kininso Concepts, Joshua Alabi; winner, Abdul-Qudus Ibrahim; founder of Beeta Universal Arts Foundation’s (BUAF), Bikiya Graham-Douglas; jury members, Shaibu Husseini; Ego Boyo, and Kenneth Uphopho at the prize award last Wednesday… in Lagos

• BUUAF, A Platform To Grow Talent
When 10 young playwrights, nine male and a female, converged on the Agip Recital Hall, MUSON Centre, Lagos, it was clear a new awakening was afoot for Nigerian theatre. It was the grand finale of actress Bikiya Graham-Douglas-led Beeta Universal Arts Foundation’s (BUAF) second Beeta Playwright Competition (BPC).

“I’m still excited, still can’t believe I won the prize,” enthused Lagos-based Abdul-Qudus Ibrahim a day after taking the first prize with his female-centric play, Jagagba (mighty crown). “It feels good; I’m grateful. It’s an amazing opportunity. I’m happy she (founder of BUAF, Graham-Douglas) is rewarding young talent. I will get to watch my play on stage and have it published as a book.”

Ibrahim also said nothing gives him more satisfaction than tell interesting stories to entertain people from which they could learn a thing or two to add value to their lives. Jagagba, he said, tells such interesting and entertaining story, adding that the story is from his maternal root. Ibrahim is of Yoruba heritage.

And so, is he a feminist, for him to have written a play that defends women’s rights to equality in a largely patriarchal society?“No, not really,” he hesitated, “but you can say that!”While social media is a distraction for many young men and women, Ibrahim took inspiration from social media conversations in all the platforms and used them to craft his award-winning play, Jagagba.

As he said, “you just have to find a balance, know what you want,” and the result is a star prize in a keen contest, where he smiled home with N1 million plus an opportunity to see his play staged, with a book publication deal in the bargain.The contest had such jury members as theatre director, Kenneth Uphopho, veteran actress, Ego Boyo, theatre producer and writer, Ayo Jaiyesinmi, publisher, Ibiso Graham-Douglas, and led by award-winning playwright and jury chairman, Professor Ahmed Yerima, who was, however, absent during the award.

For Graham-Douglas, it was a moment of fulfilment, as the young talents filed onto the podium to the admiration of the audience. While welcoming her guests, she said, “when you have an idea, you really need to work hard at it. My desire is to give the next generation of playwrights opportunity for their work to be seen. From 348 entries submitted, 101 qualified and then 10 finalists were selected.”

And then she made the revelation that instead of just working with one playwright as she did in the last season, her foundation will work with the 10 playwrights to deepen the processes. She also commended Union Bank Plc for believing in her dream and coming to give financial assistance. WAPIC Insurance Plc also joined the sponsorship team this year to help boost the contest. Other supporters include NIMASA, Terra Kulture, Olajide & Oyewole LLP, and British Council.

Graham-Douglas also noted that Union Bank Plc bore the Campus Outreach tour cost last year, which had university students staging Our Son the Minister, as a way of deepening theatre practice among them.Mrs Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, Head, Corporate Communications, Union Bank Plc, noted that her bank was keen to intervene in youth talent development, adding, “one area of focus for us is talent development,” the actress said. “It’s a way we can really empower our youths. We’re glad to be part of this relationship. The country is rich in art and culture, but there is a gap and we need to help tell our own stories. We believe telling our own stories is important. There are many platforms through which we can tell our stories. We commend your (the contestants) talent.”

Last year’s laureate, Paul Ugbede, commended the contestants and BUAF for its work in providing a platform for youngsters to excel in their craft. According to him, “the most important thing is the platform this contest gives you all. I can tell you that my play (Our Son the Minister) was the most performed in Lagos last year. I came to pursue my Lagos dream. This is a platform to grow; this is a family to grow.”

While giving the N1 million star prize to the winner, Husseini, who represented jury chair, Yerima, commended the quality of works submitted, saying they were very high. On the winning play, he said, “It will not only come alive, but also go on tour. This is the passion that Bikiya has and we encourage her. The judging process was exciting for us all.”

All the contestants expressed excitement at coming thus far in the contest and the opportunity it gave them to express themselves. But Kaduna-based Shehu Zock-Sock, author of Tick Tock More Talk, said he was jealous of Lagos for the many opportunities it has for creative, which he said were sadly absent in his home base.BUAF also gave recognition awards to certain individuals and institutions for supporting the arts and culture sector. Mr. Theo Lawson of Freedom Park, Union Bank Plc, and Lagos State government were recognised for supporting the sector.