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MIDWEEK ART: Accolades for Austen-Peters, others at World Theatre Day

By Margaret Mwantok
01 July 2015   |   5:32 am
Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters was honoured as the Distinguished Personality of World Theatre Day 2015 by the Lagos State chapter of National Association of Nigerian Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) last week at the National Theatre, Lagos, at a recent celebration of the day.
WTD

Some of the Cultural Ambassadors, including NANTAP Lagos chapter chair, Eki Faith Eboigbe (middle) at the event

Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters was honoured as the Distinguished Personality of World Theatre Day 2015 by the Lagos State chapter of National Association of Nigerian Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) last week at the National Theatre, Lagos, at a recent celebration of the day.

The theme for this year’s celebration was ‘Theatre and Conflict Resolution in the 21st Century’. The event featured paper presentation, Certified Thespians and Ambassadors Awards, investiture of Austen-Peters, official launching of Lagos State NANTAP Endowment Funds Project, dance, drama skit and more. In her remark, Chairman of Lagos NANTAP Eki Faith Eboigbe said, “NANTAP Lagos seizes the opportunity to call attention to established policies on art and culture, and advocates areas of implementing sustainable structure that will create enabling environment for practitioners.”

Eboigbe, whose tenure was coming to an end, said she was grateful to God for the opportunity to have contributed and executed projects towards sustaining the association. On the launching of endowment fund, she noted, “As we celebrate the heroes behind the scene as distinguished arts and culture ambassadors for their contributions to sustaining the sector, we add another milestone as we institute the Lagos NANTAP Endowment Fund. This fund will enable practitioners showcase their trade, increase economic empowerment and expand and promote theatre practice in the community, and it will be tax free.”

In a goodwill message, Steph Ogundele, who represented NANTAP President, Tunde Obalana, said, “I am not too happy today because I am faced with a lost generation. Our leadership is redundant; we voted for change and expected change, but what we are getting from the seat of government is far from change.”

Ogundele further shed light on why the World Theater Day was celebrated in June instead of March 27, due to the political situation in the country in March, and added, however, “I am very impressed with NANTAP Lagos Chapter.”

Chair of the event, Rilwan Bello Osagie commended Austen-Peters for her efforts in keeping theatre alive in the country. According to him, “I did see Saro the Musical but I think what Bolanle has done goes beyond music. I have been to Terra Kulture, and that just displays talent, culture, music, history, and the bookshop displays purely Nigerian books.”

Delivering the lecture was Country Director of British Council, Cannie Price, who stated that Austen-Peters had been a key collaborator of British Council in Nigeria and expressed her pleasure at her being recognized for her contributions to the advancement of the arts sector in Nigeria.

According to Price, “Theatre is one of the most powerful expression of culture, and today is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how theatre can be used to confront and resolve conflict. Sometimes, we avoid conflict but more often it allows us to respond very early, and conflict resolution come into play when we have to deal with a violent reaction.”

For Price, the importance of theatre couldn’t be over emphasized in conflict resolution situations, as it encompasses a wide range of experience for both audience and practitioners through traditional performance in a space, workplace and school or in the midst of a community.

She noted, “Theatre has brought some of the most powerful practices into the sphere of conflict resolution, role modeling, practice, listening, mime, language and play.” She advised that issues must be tackled before they escalated into violent conflict, as it provides the chance of achieving a safer place.

More importantly, she said, “Dialogue among people and community increases understanding of each other, the drivers that cause conflict and therefore improves management of the triggers that can lead to conflict”.

According to Price, “conflict management through theatre offers an avenue for alternative approaches to achieving a deep level of transformation; this approach involves understanding the mechanism of transformation through theatre and drama by exposing people or group of people to experiencing a situation for themselves”.

On her part, Austen-Peters was very emotional while receiving the award. She recalled her journey so far and appreciated those who stood by her, adding, “I came from a developing country and I looked at our environment and realized that the only advantage that the average Nigerian has is in the arts; we can dance, sing and perform without any formal training”.

Austen-Peters, who is also the founder of Terra Kulture, emphasised that theatre plays an important role in promoting arts and culture in any country, and as such more attention should be paid to it.

According to her, “To set up a theatre, you need lightening, stage, set and so on, but in Nigeria, we have little or none of it and that is what we at Terra Kulture have been able to achieve.” Peters also commended the efforts of Ford Foundation, Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank and others who have partnered with her culture centre to achieve what she had done so far.

She further said there was need to take theatre to the grassroots (schools), and disclosed that Terra Kulture was partnering with Ford Foundation to take theatre to schools. Austen-Peters called on the present government to pay more attention to theatre sector, saying, “The present administration should create the infrastructure and make sure that theatre is working well.” She officially launched the Lagos State NANTAP Endowment Funds Project.

Highlight of the event was a drama skit performance by Crown Troup of Africa. The Certified Thespian awardees were Teju Babyface Oyalakin, Bunmi Davies, Pat Oghre Imobhio, Lancelot Imasuen Oduwa, Ejike Asiegbu, Rogers Ofime, Najite Dede, Debo Alexander and Emem Isong. And the Cultural Ambassador awardees were Dr. Osita C. Ezenwanebe, Mr. Femi Odugbemi, Mr. Yemi Shodimu, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, Mrs. Laja Adedoyin, Tunji Bamishigbin and Efe Omorogbe.