altDirector-General of Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Professor Tunde Babawale, has been honoured as Distinguished Personality of the Year by the Lagos State chapter of national Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP).

He was honoured in Lagos last week at the commemoration of this year’s World Theatre Day held at the Banquet Hall, National Theatre, Iganmu Lagos. Others honoured as cultural ambassadors included Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-Governmental Relations, Mr. Disun Holloway, Mrs. Ego Boyo, Mr. Dele Morakinyo, and Dr. Sola Fosudo. This year’s celebration has as theme, “Sustainable Environment on reaction to Climate Change.”

Chairman of the occasion, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, disclosed that he would soon return to live theatre as part of his efforts at bringing the crowd back to live theatre in the country. He urged theatre practitioners to do their best in bringing the crowd back to stage, saying that the yearly celebration of the World Theatre Day is a tribute to the pioneers, who laboured for the sustenance of theatre.

“The remembrance of today is a tribute to those who laboured for theatre. Live theatre is not the same as celluloid, where you cut tape. I shall return to playwriting when I will take one year of sabbatical at the university. Do all you can to bring the crowd back to live theatre and stage,” he added.

Professor Babawale, who felt overwhelmed by the honour, said he is not sure he deserves such appreciation by NANTAP, describing it not only as a challenge but also as a vote of confidence.
He said: “I express my appreciation for this honour, which I am not too sure I deserve. It is not only a challenge, but also a vote of confidence.”           

Lending his voice to Gbadamosi’s clarion call, Professor Babawale said it is high time Nigerian artistes went back to live theatre. According to him, Nigerians celebrate galleries that promote films, “but we have all of these in abundance before now. So, we have lots of ground to cover. And it is high time we went back to live theatre.”   

President of the Association, Mr. Gregory Odutayo, observed that theatre space and audience in the country are being dismantled, thus depriving artistes of the infrastructure to be able to speak for the people. He urged government and the private sector to embrace theatre-going culture, noting that theatre lacks the support of the corporate sector.

“Government must, as a matter of urgency, look to the establishment of cottage theatres in at least every local government of Nigeria. We must bring theatre and the allied arts to the people. This is a no brainer in the creation of massive employment for the vast theatre graduates that are churned out every year from the numerous universities. It is the only way to bring massive development to the sector and generate employment for the youths of our country,” he said.

Chairman, Lagos chapter of NANTAP, Ms Eki Faith Eboigbe, said the celebration of the World Theatre Day is a platform to project policy directions for the Nigerian art and culture sector. “As we recognize the contributions of culture to the development of nations, we recognize the salient role of NANTAP, as the moral conscience of the society,” she added.

The occasion which also witnessed the investiture of Professor Duro Oni, Alhaji Shamsudeen Olaoleye, Sina Elegbede, and Olukunle Sotade, as patrons of the arts, was not all about speeches as there were drama performances by Footprints and House of Dance.

Other certified Thespians included Steve Ogundele, Olu Adeniregun, Edmund Enaibe, Francis Onwochie, Hassan Adesina, Kayode Odumosu, Zik Zulu Okafor, Abiodun Aleja, Seyi Fasuyi and Sola Onaiyiga.          

Ozolua Uhakheme, Assistant Editor (Arts)

***Culled from The Nation