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Standing ovation for Onikeku’s We Almost Forgot

By Chuks Nwanne
02 July 2016   |   2:13 am
Back from a successful outing in Berlin, Germany, Nigeria’s talented dancer/choreographer Qudus Onikeku returned to fatherland last week with his latest dance show, We Almost Forgot (WAF).
A scene from the show at the Freedom Park, Lagos.

A scene from the show at the Freedom Park, Lagos.

Back from a successful outing in Berlin, Germany, Nigeria’s talented dancer/choreographer Qudus Onikeku returned to fatherland last week with his latest dance show, We Almost Forgot (WAF). Staged at the Freedom Park, Lagos, as part of the Lagos Live Arts Festival, the piece left so much to desire by the audiences, who watched as the cast delivered a breathtaking performance.

Taking a sweeping glance at the audience, you’d see in their countenance, a seriousness with which they watch the 6-cast create a non verbal dance with so much melee (albeit bloodless) and a craze that typifies today’s society which in his creative philosophy suggests how ‘we almost forgot’ that the world was created with sanity and mankind was meant to co-exist peacefully.

Onikeku himself takes the lead in the one-hour drama, with an actress, whose narrative further provoked the thoughts of the audience.

Complex but clear, Onikeku’s play uses high energy movements, singing, sound and intricate music to tell a potpourri of stories of war, crime, starvation, abuse and weirdness where everyone is victim and villain at some point.  But the underlining message is that while the unusual has become the norm, we are reminded once in a while, of the law of retributive justice.

The Lagos show was followed by yet another thrilling performance at the National Universities Commission, Abuja, where members of the audience got a feel of what went down in Germany few days ago. By tomorrow, the show will hit Paris, France, where fans are already waiting for another exciting performance.

The project has received active support from developmental agencies such as Bank of Industry, Goethe Institut, The French Institut and the German Embassy. This work, which is Onikeku’s latest creation, pooled its cast from Nigeria, Gabon, Morocco, Algeria, Madagascar & France.

A graduate of The National Higher School of Circus Arts, France, Onikeku, for close to two decades now, has constantly pushed the limits of dance beyond the shores of Africa. He is part of the new generation of international creators, whose works are redefining and refining African cultures and philosophy.

Known globally for his solo works, writings and research projects, he was awarded Dancer of the year by the future awards in Nigeria in 2009, while in October 2010, his solo piece titled My Exile is in my head won the Best solo performance during the Africa-wide dance encounters Danse l’Afrique danse in Bamako – Mali, and the 2012 New choreographic talent in France.

A TED global fellow nominee and a visiting professor to the University of California, Qudus is a fluid traveler, who shares his time between borders, but presently involved in various artistic projects, teachings and collaborations in Lagos, through The QDanceCenter.

In his artiste’s statement, Onikeku noted that, “in my approach to art, one thing is clear, this one thing however, might be seen as connection of many things that have simultaneously come to rest within my restless mind, and my body has created a precept and a refuge for these complexities. My personal need for comprehension, for finding answers to the many questions that surfaces on my mind on a daily basis, together with my own personal artistic preoccupation, with a dire need to heal and to advance art and humanity, and to be a bridge between aesthetics that has either been wrongly understood or dismissed as low art.”

He added, “and in all of that, I have also found a space for my spirituality, in search of unity with the cosmos, and hoping to recover a certain verticality, to recover the authentic self that is neither subjugated to norms, history, the past nor thrown aback in his right to the assured presence.”

However, Onikeku is particularly animated by body memory, rather than history.

“I’ve constantly searched for ways to fuse poetic attitudes with an African satirical and fictitious modes of story telling, as in the griot tradition, combining both social history, collective memory or collective amnesia with personal autobiography, as a critical launching pad in the process of myth reading and communal rejuvenation. In most of my works – including group pieces – the dancer is always given the dramaturgic and choreographic liberty to present himself as himself, but pointing to something else, there is restricted level of show off, but a responsibility of an interpreter and the humility of a messenger,” he said.