By Anote Ajeluorou
Perhaps, it was dance and choreography expert Sir Peter Badejo who put the Mentor-Protégé Programme at the just-concluded Lagos Black Heritage Festival 2015 in proper perspective when he said, “This a new addition from Festival Consultant, Prof. Wole Soyinka. We’ve seen masquerades parade, experts perform, but the mentor and protégé session is the new addition. If they can get together in six weeks and be able to do what we’ve seen here today, then they can do better in no time. The programme has come to stay. We hope to get more young people to get into the arts and culture performances”.
That was the basis for the work that the five mentors wrought on the young talents selected for grooming in various spheres within the artistic space. The mentors were Mrs. Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett (playwriting and acting), Dr. Tunde Awosomi (directing), Peter Badejo (dance and choreography), Olori Peju Sonuga (costume and make-up) and Alhaji Teju Kareem (set and lighting design).
The task of the mentors was to groom Amy Richards and Naomi Richards (playwriting and acting), Abraham Aklisoku (choreography and dance), Adenike Adebisi (costume and make-up), Fejiro Adesida (directing), Silvia Oboh Oko and Joy Nweye Obuto (set and lighting design). And they did well, judging from the enthusiastic testimonies of the trainee artists and the output of their performances.
Fejiro Adesida is already a final year student of Theatre Arts Department of University of Ibadan and majoring in directing. She had her own lecturer Dr. Awosomi as mentor, and it just about fitted so seamlessly. But she got more than she bargained for, far more than her classroom offers, as it was essentially hands-on programme.
According to her, “It was very nice, but it was tough and challenging. I had to stay with people I hadn’t met before and had to direct them. At the same time, I learnt about humility, discipline, perseverance, about being a leader and not a boss. I had to listen to ideas from my colleagues without imposing mine. I learnt about being a lady from the etiquette talk we had”.
The programme afforded Adesida to be stage manager for Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy that was performed during the festival. “It helped my morals, having to run errands for older people,” she said. Incidentally, Adesida’s project is on the same play; she has as tentative project title, Preoccupation of Social Reflection and Correction in play Script: Wole Soyinka’s Beatification of Area Boy”.
For Amy Richards, who had medicine as her first love, was mentored in playwriting and acting. She said, “It was fun and educative being with Mrs. Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett. I learnt so many things as an actor; I learnt determination and focus. I learnt articulation, projection and humility. Now, I don’t think medicine is it for me. Acting is the new calling; yes, I’m abandoning medicine for the theatre”.
Abraham Aklisoku was the only male among the bevy of women seeking training in the arts; he came under the mentorship of London-based Badejo. According to him, “It was an experience of a lifetime. I learnt a lot from him; to be humble, that a dancer’s life is not about pride, as they like to show off, that a dancer’s life is about teaching and passing a message. It was fun and lovely. I enjoyed myself. Uncle Badejo is one to give it all to you. I saw dance in a bigger light; it’s not just entertainment, but to pass a message. I was given a purpose for dancing.”
Silvia Oboh Oko had Alhaji Kareem (boss of Zmirage Multimedia) as mentor, and she said it was a worthwhile experience working with him and learning the rudiments of set and lighting design from the master. Oko said, “It was an amazing experience; it was worth my time. If given the opportunity, I will do it again and again”.
Oko gave insight to the set she designed, which was mounted on stage on the night the festival ended. According to her, “The big boot represents the colonial masters; I did something that was 3-dimensional and moveable. I also put a withered tree there, as victim and made it battered and splattered with the blood of our fathers that we lost, as a result of colonialism. The boot also stands on aso oke, which represents our traditional values, which colonialism crushed, including our traditional institutions.
“The other aso oke used as backcloth symbolizes the resilience of our culture and values, which can also mean military rule, could not crush. So, no matter how much the boots of colonialism and military tried to rubbish our values and tradition, they could not, as they remained resilient. It was a triumph of the spirit”.
Naomi Richards also had Ajayi-Lycett as her mentor. She found the experience exciting, as it enabled her to go on location with her mentor to shoot films. As she put it, “We were a group of seven in different areas of the arts; it was practical and theoretical. It was all right, but my mentor travelled a lot so we were mentored by different people. We learnt about body movement, voice modulation. It was a special experience.
“I wrote the Dance to Mother earth, a dance drama. But I did it in a rush; it just came from everything around me, like colonialism, post-colonialism and their effects on the people”.
She said she’d like to be mentored again, adding, “I want study education because I like to impact on others. But I’ll do a bit of acting on the side. Teaching and writing are my main things”.
Also for Adenike Adebisi, who was mentored in costume and make-up by Olori Peju Sonuga, she found the experience wonderful. Already, she has a diploma from Wale Adenuga’s PEFTI in Performance and Media Art. But according to her, “I had been in make-up before and I thought I was good. Sonuga broke me up into pieces and fitted me up again in costume and makeup business. After the training, I could do things I couldn’t do before; she was perfect. The programme really helped”.
Already, Adebisi has her eyes set on the peak of costume and make-up, as she enthused, “Let everybody watch out. I’m the next big thing that will come out of the movie industry. I will be the best make-up artist. I will be better than my teacher. I’m looking forward to mentoring others myself!”
For Kareem also, the Mentor-Protégé Programme of Lagos Black Heritage Festival 2015 was unique in horning the talents of young people. He commended Festival Consultant and his old teacher, Prof. Soyinka for the initiative and the young ones for taking the gauntlet to be part of it.