The Year 2017
A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations
Welcome to what is going to be a collective chronicle of the year 2017! This journal will follow the general change that we experience in our daily lives, in our cities, countries and beyond, in the political discourses and in our reflections on the role of artists and intellectuals. Originating from several talks and discussions with fellow artists and thinkers FFT feels the strong need to share thoughts and feelings about how we witness what is going on in the world. Week after week different writers, artists, thinkers and scientists will take the role of an observer as they contribute to this collective diary.
#22 May, 29th - June 4th
MONDAY, May 29th
Woke up this morning, deliberately numbed. Tried (to a significant extent, successfully) to merely exist and function within my space.
Meaning, to block out everything and go by routine. Routine being:
Wake up early, sweat, go for rehearsals and go back home.
This is a valuable escape route from the seemingly daily global carnage. You just want to shut yourself away from everything and merely live in that dreamland of imagination.
This day is not 'one of those days' too.
This day is a significant one in my country, Nigeria- variously described as 'colonial container', 'the mistake of 1914 (year of the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates), 'a mere geographical expression' etc.
May 29 is our 'Democracy Day'.
It is the 18th year of uninterrupted civilian rule in Nigeria. The longest so far.
Nigeria began another journey of civilian rule on May 29, 1999 - after a long spell of military rule which went from 1966 - 1979 after which we had 4 years of civilian rule (2nd Republic) and slipped back into military dictatorship from 1983 - 1998. So, out of the 57 years of Nigeria's 'independence' from Great Britain in October 1960 till date, the military has ruled for 29 years. Of course, this adversely affected the growth and development of the 'most populous black nation' in the world.
It is also noteworthy that two of the military leaders returned to power as civilians to rule the country 20 and 25 years after they vacated the 'throne'.
May 29. I was exhausted by the end of the day after a long rigorous rehearsal in preparation for our new production – „The Swamp Dwellers“ by Wole Soyinka (Africa's first Nobel Laurette in literature).
TUESDAY, May 30th
Lagos city (Nigeria) is where I live.
The city pounds and pants, heaves and sighs.
Lagos glitters in its tatters.
Welcome to Lagos.
A signpost with a glaring message that reads DO NOT DUMP REFUSE HERE is surrounded by refuse! Piled up.
A man faces a wall bearing a DO NOT URINATE HERE sign and 'lets it out' right in front of the wall! People stay clear of another wall with a 'Tò síbí ko kú' (loosely meaning 'Urinate here and die) sign. Smoothness and contours, hustle and bustle, music, noise, light, grime, frustration, achievement, violence and serenity are all juxtaposed into a fine blend that separates the city of Lagos from other cities.
The city of Lagos grabs, mauls and moulds its inhabitants. A city of contradictions, ambivalence, chaos and order (within the chaos) Lagos embraces all but identifies its own.
In Lagos, there are rules that appear like no rules.
Lagos is warm, kind and consuming.
Lagos leaves you asking for more when you leave Lagos.
WEDNESDAY, May 31
Today, I feel a tinge of excitement. It is the eve of the 21st anniversary of the Crown Troupe of Africa. It's the year's 'middle day'. 183 days gone and 183 days left.
The world just has this habit of moving on. Moving on in spite of all the ruptures to social order.
Missiles and antimissiles are being launched from opposite sides. The belly of the past days is filled up with events. The remaining days will not be left famished too. That feeling of helplessness just hovers over the tinge of excitement one feels.
Anyway, it gets more realistic that ambivalence is an unaffordable luxury. You just find yourself caught in the middle of these affairs. In the saying of my people (Yoruba of South-West Nigeria), „whatever affects the eye affects the nose and when the nose is afflicted, the eye is besieged“.
These affairs just sweep you off your feet without your permission. You can't be a black and living in Africa, with some sense of history and not be affected by the voluminous meal the Mediterranean Sea continuously make of your likes.
Why, it was the transatlantic slave 'trade' in days gone past. Not everyone forced on the ship from the coasts of Africa arrived the shores of America and Europe. Some were thrown overboard while others jumped of their own volition. And now centuries after that dark period, after the industrial revolution, after other pseudo civilization feats, here we still are.
THURSDAY, June 1
Crown Troupe turns 21!
Exactly 21 years ago a group of friends came together to form an ensemble, a Troupe of comprising musicians, dancers and actors. We were all very young (by Nigerian standard) and so there was a considerable level of apprehension about who we were and what we were about.
As far as they were concerned and considering the environ (Bariga in Lagos, Nigeria) that we spewed from, we were just a bunch of juvenile delinquents. Bariga is supposed to be a blighted slum inhabited by poverty stricken hoodlums.
What serious child would make art a profession?
How can mere singing, dancing or acting put edibles on anyone's table?
'Oh, they're lazy'
'Oh, they're crazy'
'Oh, forget about them, they'll soon realize their folly and get back to real business'.
21 years ago!
We fell, we rose, we were bruised, we were blessed. We fought, we cried, we triumphed, we lost, we dispersed, we converged. Generations left and generations came. Exploitations and exultations came and went but we managed to stand firm through thick and thin.
Today as I embark on that solitary journey back and forth, I simply mentally doff my hat to those young people who have passed through or are still in the company for their dedication in spite of the choices today's society provides them.
Then comes the Trump card!
The Paris Climate Accord.
'We are getting out' says the American president amidst pomp and pageantry - it was reported that he emerged from the Oval Office like the superstar that he is, after a rousing performance by a Jazz band to make the announcement! Now, this here's a big one.
Our world appears to be at the mercy of a few powerful gladiators. Planet earth must be engrossed in a dance of diverse hues.
Human and natural onslaught on unbelievable scale that keeps one wondering why man and nature are competing to know who deals the faster and more cruel blows to humanity.
My knowledge is limited in so many things and climatic concerns are one of them but I can feel the heat. Some claim it is a hoarse, a clever set up to rip-off the earth and earthlings while others say (and I stand with this group), global warming is an ominous reality. Trump wants to renegotiate a 'fairer deal' for America - a testament to his 'America first' policy.
Everybody wants a 'fair deal' and for some, no price is too high to pay for it. Here lies the problem because personally, I think the world is not designed for anyone to gain everything all the time. Win some, lose some and the world goes around still.
FRIDAY, June 2
The status of the artist in my country.
The soil in which a seed is planted matters a lot. So also, is the clime in which art grows. Like the biblical parable of the sower and the seed, only those seeds sown in fertile soils germinate and grow into fruition. The artist, I suspect contends with and grows in diverse environment sometimes favourable and at other times deplorable.
The artist is variously feared, revered, celebrated or tolerated.
The Nigerian artist's case may not be peculiar but it is worth sharing.
So, we (Crown Troupe) were booked for a gig in the city of Lagos on this day. It was a commissioned show by an oil company who were marking their 20th anniversary. We were told to get to the venue (a posh one in a highbrow part of the city) by 10 a.m. so as to have a 'dress and tech' before the show which begins by 6 p.m. while we were billed to perform by 7:15 p.m.
This we did but the hall was not ready! We had to wait till 3 p.m. before we got the chance to mount the stage.
As disheartening as this was supposed to be, we were not disoriented. We were used to instances like this. We just stayed calm till it was time. What got me thinking was the attitude of the (all African) event planners towards 'those dancers' I guess.
While in the Green Room, one of them came to inform us that the space was reserved to keep the souvenirs and not for us. For us, they had prepared the 'corridor' and another space around the rest room to relax and even change into our costumes when it was time to perform. At this point, so many things came to my mind.
If we were this treated elsewhere, racism would be a huge factor expected of our thought trail. But no, this was happening in the most populous black city in the world. This was also a day after we clocked 21 years of active practice in the arts. We were there to perform for an oil company that started business a year after we started but then where stands art when there is abundance of oil? Anyway, this attitude was sustained throughout our stay at the venue and we were even asked to vacate the table we sat at after our performance. So, we left the venue after the show but my heart was occupied.
The Compere for the night was a comedian and there was a musician billed to perform too. For them was reserved the 'royal treatment' but not the dance-theatre artist. That is how things run here. Art sells but not every kind of art. Entertainment supersedes education (information).
This insignificant instance was just a catalyst for the 'bigger deal'- the subversion of the arts by the authority. To control the arts, place it at the lowest rung of the priority ladder, create conditions for the arts to scream for help and offer the arts some juicy debris - on the condition that it says only what you want it to say and not what it is traditionally expected of it to say.
Conditions like these compromise the arts and the artist. It makes the practice and the practitioner vulnerable to attacks and influence.
However, consolation comes from the very stubborn nature of the arts. Why, did theatre not thrive even during the dark ages?
SATURDAY, June 3
I wonder how we manage to get comfortable after a while with uncomfortable situations. We just accept and adapt with time. We are that wired.
Does repeated shocks make a shock less shocking? First comes the alarm and consternation and then the acceptance or 'normalizing'.
I start from home.
How come people with same intent and actions are lumped together but given different names?
In the North-Eastern part of Nigeria and a few other regions, carnage merchants gave themselves a name BOKO HARAM loosely meaning 'western education (value) is a taboo'.
But the technology and arms they use wreak havoc are not home-made. They call themselves 'Jihadists' and claim to be protecting the religion of Islam, like their counterparts all over the world. The world seems to find this nomenclature palatable so they consume it with ease.
Another terrorist group in Nigeria is called 'the Fulani Herdsmen'. All these groups carry out similar carnage. They kill, maim and destroy but they hide under divisive nomenclatures. The result being mutual suspicion among the besieged.
The besieged tend to forget that their 'besieger' spare non. They attack all.
The world is at war with itself I think.
SUNDAY, June 4
The events of Friday, June the 2nd, where we were shabbily treated stayed glued to my head like the bitter aftertaste of an unsavoury meal.
It also reinforced my considered opinion that the real battle in life is less about racial, religious or ideological persuasions or leanings but simply more between Good and Evil.
I do not believe that black is bad or white is wise. All I know is that all are one - in the final analysis. There are good blacks and there are bad blacks just as there are good whites as well as bad whites.
As reductionist as this may sound, it helps me to process issues and form an opinion.
It shields me from the tempting tendency to generalize.
This belief was further fortified by my ongoing project with the eclectic Berlin based art company Monster Truck.
I met Monster Truck at a time I was subconsciously searching for 'something new'. A reinvention of the self. The search for a new discovery, a creative adventure that can transport me to the realm of other possibilities.
I found these in my artistic collaboration with Monster Truck. We embarked on a creative journey and exchanges which culminated into a project that came to fruition in the second quarter of 2016 and titled SORRY. This creation was composed with the dynamic, energetic and fun-loving kids of the Lagos based children theatre academy, Footprints of David led by Seun Awobajo.
When we started out, I personally did not know where we were heading but I found the journey engaging, revealing and fun filled.
I start from the gradual trust that grew with time during the creation of this performance art piece.
I had just emerged from earlier production co directed by my humble self and a London based Dutch theatre director. The experience left me staggeringly conscious of cultural differences and how if not well managed, may fuel distrust and its attendant baggage.
We (this white Dutch director and I) disagreed on almost everything from interpretations to form. It was a play by Shakespeare and Fletcher titled „The Two Noble Kinsmen“ which we adapted and titled „Love At War“. A collaboration between a black African artist and a European white one, of a European play adapted into an African (pidgin) English and setting! It was a battle from the beginning. The only thing we were both agreed on was a joint desire to create an amazing theatre piece which hopefully (judging by its reception), we achieved.
So, I was coming out of this experience into another African/European artistic collaboration but my trepidations were quickly dispelled when the project with Monster Truck began. It was for me (I believe) a case of mutually developed trust within a few days of the commencement of the creation. Through coordinated but free rein exploration, we came up with SORRY and did not feel sorry that we did.
Of course, SORRY came up with its own challenge owing mainly to its confrontational tone. SORYY has turned out to be a piece that nudged psychological complacency out of most people who saw the work. SORRY questions gazes. It questions even answers so that reaction to it has varied from one feeling to another.
The questions of race, social order and post-colonial navigations reared their heads. It was during this project that I found the enormousity of a raging undercurrent racial war going on. Childish if you ask me.
As an African who has lived in Africa all my life, coming to terms with racial slur was and is still a handful for me. I know some human beings hate to love other human beings but my experience has taught me to shun the 'easy way out' attitude to issues whenever confronted by such unfortunate human failings. The 'easy way out' being racial or class sentiments. In my opinion, racists cannot be helped. Class divide has been around from time immemorial so I don't see myself adding a fresh voice to an ongoing conversation. Even the Bible asserts a 'chosen people'.
Within the SORRY piece, chocolate rain fell on the children performers and bananas were eaten by the performers and whew!
The reactions from the audience ranged from rage to humiliation, to guilt to shock and for a few still, pure entertainment. These reactions were most times in accordance with racial divides.
For me as a co-creator, it was an illuminating and reflective experience and pure bliss.
If the shabby treatment meted out to us on Friday happened elsewhere and from different people, say in Europe by Europeans, the 'easy way out' would have been the moribund racial route. But no, it happened right in my country, among my people (of same skin colour).
The battle in life is less racial, religious or ideological, it is more between good and evil.
Now, who decides what is 'good' and what is 'evil'?
Segun Adefila (Oriade)
Segun Adefila lives and works as choreographer, director and performer in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied Creative Arts at the University of Lagos and founded the Crown Troupe of Africa with a couple of friends in June 1996, a dance and theatre company based in Bariga, Lagos State, of which he is the artistic director. His artistic practices include dance, theatre, music and visual arts. His works have been presented in Nigeria, Great Britain, Trinidad and Tobago as well as in Germany. He is the protagonist in the awarded documentary film „Bariga Boy“ by Femi Odugbemi.
#1 January 1st - 8th Jacob Wren
#4 January 20th - 30th Alexander Karschnia & Noah Fischer
#5 January 30th - February 6th Ariel Efraim Ashbel
#6 February 6th - 12th Laila Soliman
#9 February 26th - March 5th Gina Moxley
#11 March 13th - 19th Agnieszka Jakimiak
#12 March 20th - 26th Yana Thönnes
#13 March 30th - April 2nd Geert Lovink
#15 April 10th - 16th Iggy Lond Malmborg
#17 April 24th - 30th Jeton Neziraj
#20 May 15th - 21st Bojan Jablanovec
#22 May 29th - June 4th Segun Adefila
#23 June 5th - 11th Agata Siniarska
We are deeply saddened by the devastating news that Mark Fisher died on January 13th. He first visited the FFT in 2014 with his lecture „The Privatisation of Stress“ about how neoliberalism deliberately cultivated collective depression. Later in the year he returned with a video-lecture about „Reoccupying the Mainstream" in the frame of the symposium „Sichtungen III“ in which he talks about how to overcome the ideology of capitalist realism and start thinking about a new positive political project: „If we want to combat capitalist realism then we need to be able to articulate, to project an alternative realism.“ We were talking about further collaboration with him last year but it did not work out because Mark wasn’t well. His books „Capitalist Realism“ and „The Ghosts of my Life. Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Future“ will continue to be a very important inspiration for our work.
Podiumsgespräch im Rahmen der Veranstaltung "Die Ästhetik des Widerstands - Zum 100. Geburtstag von Peter Weiss"
A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations ist ein Projekt im Rahmen des Bündnisses internationaler Produktionshäuser, gefördert von der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.