altCelebration of UI THEATRE ARTS DEPARTMENT @ 50 began yesterday at the Dominican Community Campus, Samonda, Ibadan.

The three-day conference on the theme, THEATRE IN THE AFRICAN ACADEMY, rolled off Thursday, August 29, 2013, with a formal opening ceremony, chaired by the playwright, teacher, Professor Femi Osofisan.

The Dean of Arts, UI, Professor Remi Raji had flagged off the ceremonial opening with a welcome address shortly before the Oyo State Government’s delegation led by the First Lady, accompanied by wives of the Deputy Governor, Secretary to the State Government, as well as of two commissioners joined up.

The First lady, Mrs. Ajimobi, praised the department for its record achievement in having produced students who have gone on to become leaders in diverse fields of the economy and society.

She said this was an indication that Theatre Arts graduates are proficiently equipped to serve in any field ofalt endeavour.

And in response to an appeal by Chair of the Alumni, Professor Duro Oni, for State support in the effort to refurbish the five-decade old Arts Theatre, which has indeed sunk into distress due to lack of fund for maintenance, Mrs. Ajimobi pledged her support for the planned fund raising; and that she would bring the appeal to attention of the right authorities in the State Executive Council.
There was an impressive turn-out of Alumni of the department dating back to 1970s through the 80s, 90s, and the 2000s, as well as loads of fresh graduates and current students — members of the Association of Theatre Arts Students, UI.
Remarkably present were Dr. Sola Adeyemi from the UK, who assisted the HOD, and Convener of the conference, Dr. Chuks Okoye; and Professor Patrick Ebewo from South Africa, who gave one of the Lead papers. Dr. Dani Lyndersay — who in the 70s through the early 80s taught in the department with her husband (Dexter, now late) — flew nearly 19 hours from Trinidad and Tobago to honour the department; while the couple, Luke Seaber and Tiziana Morosetti came from Italy.

A couple of the Alumni members from the Diaspora also kept vigil through their phones and emails to monitor the proceedings.

The keynote session, chaired by Professor Duro Oni, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services) of University of Lagos, and chairman of the Alumni, featured two keynote speakers — Professor Abiola Irele of Harvard University, currently Provost in the School of Humanities, Kwara State University, KWASU, speaking on “The Uses of Drama”; and Mr. Segun Oyekunle, MD of the Abuja Film Village, who spoke on “On Theatre and Film in Nigeria.”alt

Presentation of the Lead papers followed, and it featured Dr. Lyndersay from University of West Indies, Trinidad, speaking on “Learning to Live Together: The Socio-Cultural Dimensions of the Transformational Elements of Theatre and Arts Education”; and Professor Patrick Ebewo of Tshwane University of Technology, who spoke on “Theatre Practice in South Africa: Implications for other African Nations”.

Other papers presented on the Day 1 of the conference focused on Ideology, Pedagogy, and Theatre Education; Gender and Identity in African Literature in African Theatre; African Theatre in Recent Debates (Literary, Cultural and Performance Studies); Dance Studies/Practice in Africa; Theatre and Society; and Fifty Years of Theatre in the African Academy.

The Day 1 events ended with the launch of the HOMECOMING rites that featured an OWAMBE/ASUN NITE, where the ‘returnee’ old students fraternised with current students, members of Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Students, ATAS.

Competently handled by Tolu Fagbure, aka ‘Afin’ — who alternated between being compere, standup comic and bandleader, it was a swelling night of fun and camaraderie, with students taking turns to thrill in fuji, juju, highlife tunes; and the rest sweating it out on the dance floor, which became a leveller for students, teachers and alumni members.

Chair of the Alumni and organising Committee, Professor Oni praised the students for turning up in such huge number despite ASUU strike, which has sent many of them out of campus, scattered around the country.

He praised the Alumni members at home and in the Diaspora, who showed commitment materially and in spirit, hoping that the ‘Homecoming’ becomes a regular rite, even if periodic — “as many of us in the Alumni are located all over the world”.

He also launched a strong appeal for monetary donations to return the Arts Theatre — ‘that has nurtured many of us to the successful practitioners, men and women that we are today — so we can always be glad to come back and even bring our family with pride to show we started from…”
Asun– roasted meat — ruled the night accompanied by potato chips, kunnu, palmwine… ‘Red Label’ even showed up when boys had gone to bed – haaaaaaaaa!!!

A conspiracy orchestrated by the Secretary of the Alumni Organizing Committee, Pamela Arnold-Udoka and her team including Bunmi Wuraola-Gbadamosi and Segun Ogundipe (aka Laffup, the Comedian) and Racheal.

The conference continues with more presentations on “Theatre Interaction and Audience analysis”; “Indigenous Performance Forms in Africa”; “New Media and Popular Culture”; “Radio, Film and Television in Nigeria”; “Individual/Group Contributions to the Development in Africa”; “Practice as Paradigm in African Theatre”.

The conference will wrap up with a “Special Plenary on Postcolonial Theatre practice;” the celebration ends with a closing address by the playwright, Professor Osofisan, and an invitation-old Dinner.

(C) Jahman Anikulapo