THE IMPACT OF NIGERIAN NATIONAL THEATRE AS A VEHICLE FOR CULTURAL PROMOTION AND COMMERCIAL VENTURE
This chapter gives an insight into various studies conducted by outstanding researchers, as well as explained terminologies with regards to the impact of Nigerian national theatre as a vehicle for cultural promotion and commercial venture. The chapter also gives a resume of the history and present status of the problem delineated by a concise review of previous studies into closely related problems. Africa has variety of Arts, craft and Religion which had contributed to the popularity of its society. From the investigations made by archaeologists and anthropologists into the life of the people over the years, Art and religion had played major roles in the development of the continent in the past and present life of the people. The African masks which were used for religious and social purposes pioneered the European art. Picasso and other artists preferred it to artistic expression of the classical and Renaissance art. According to Smeets (1975) “our generation, in fact has only just discovered the magnificence of the so-called primitive cultures. In the Paris of the young Picasso and Breque, African masks and sculpture had the impact of thunder.” In Nigeria some early artifacts which were collected by K.C. Murray and some excavations which revealed the Nok, Igboukwu and Ife artifacts to mention but a few gave insight into the rich heritage of Art objects, religion and cultural practices which made the society a dynamic socio-cultural religious entity. The ancestors of the Nigerian ethnic groups bequeathed objects especially sculptural forms in wood, metal, ivory and terracotta. According to Eze (2008) “These materials were used by early sculptors using simple tools and hands to turn them into sculptural pieces.” Symbolism was the driving force which produced the art works that were used for utility, religious worship and the development of the ethnic groups. Art, religion and the development of Nigerian ethnic group is not separated from each other. They compliment each other and keep the traditional society going and alive.
Anyachonkeye (2006) states:
Our people are guided by their ethos, the things they value and revere. They are firm believers in their cultural heritage the things that hold and bind them together. The norm and moral ethics can not be extricated from their material and non-material culture-morals, religion, food habit, dialect, values system and others. Many Nigerian traditional ethnic groups in effect practiced art and religion in order to communicate with their gods because of their belief in the human soul and spirit which are ever at work. Some of these gods were worshipped in shrines with art objects. This kept the societies intact and developed.
Ademakinwa (2004) states:
The religious art works are those identifiable with particular shrines and deities. The paraphernalia of each shrines and its god can be differentiated from other sets of artifacts. Included here are the objects of deities in different forms. The traditional Igbo society, for instance has craftsmen who work under the spirit force, Agwunshi (traditional deity of creativity) to produce wood carvings for use in shrines for religions worship and the spiritual development of the society. In Nigerian contemporary life where one form of national development or the other was introduced, Arts and Religion contributed to the programmes. Their impact may not have been felt or realized as when the Nigerian satellite was launched in China. The two human activities are in full force every time to strengthen national development. The Arts produce Fine and Applied Arts objects used for aestheticism and pragmatic use. Religion uplifts the religious belief and faith of members of the nation making them to be individuals with good character contributing to the national development.
2.1 OVERVIEW OF THE NIGERIAN NATIONAL THEATRE
The National Theatre is an architectural masterpiece and a cultural landmark located at Iganmu, in the heart of Lagos. It is easily accessible from every corner of the city. Covering an area of about 23,000 square meters and standing well over 31 meters tall, the multipurpose National Theatre was established for the preservation, presentation and promotion of Arts and Culture in Nigeria. The design for the existing National Theatre in Lagos was taken from the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna, Bulgaria. The contract for its construction was signed on April 24, 1973, during Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s regime with the Bulgarian Construction Company called Technoexportsroy, the main constructors for the building of the complex. Apart from providing a befitting venue for the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77) which Nigeria successfully hosted in January/February, 1977 and for which the National Theatre provided more than adequate venues, the complex is to be a rallying point for both Nigeria and international artistes wishing to share experience with their Nigerian counterparts. Even though it had been in use since late 1975 it was formally opened by the then Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gen. OlusegunObasanjo on September 30, 1976, five months before FESTAC 77. Since then it has hosted a good number of international music concerts, dramas, film shows, symposia, exhibitions, conventions, workshops and even sports. Between 1975, and July 2009, the National Theatre has been managed by six successive Administrators. In August 2009, a new General Manager assumed the headship of the National Theatre Management with a new vision.
2.2 DEVELOPMENT POTENTIALS OF THE NATIONAL THEATRE
Like tourism, theatre has admirable potentials for thedevelopment of a nation or a state. In the first instance, it possessespedagogic qualities, which project teaching and learning as wellas entertainment, and enlightens the society and also affordsentertainment. Theatre reforms the society and creates an idealenvironment for the benefit of mankind. It is an agent of politicalagitation, social and economic reformation. The role of theatre indislodging apartheid in South Africa through the performances ofIpitombi Theatre Company is still very fresh in people’s memories. In Nigeria, Hubert Ogunde effectively used theatre to fight theBritish colonisation. Essentially, the two industries-Tourism andTheatre are compatible avenues for artistic expression with greatpotentials for the development of Nigeria. A culture is a certain way of relating to time, objects, money,history and environment. It is the quality of the relationships thatthe people develop among themselves and with themselves(Pradervand2003). Considering this definition of culture, the validityof the use of stories derived from myth and legend of the people toachieve theatrical objectives is not in doubt. Colourful, prestigious,religious and entertaining, the traditional forms of theatre areunique in form and presentation. The artists consist of thedrummers, masked performers representing species derived fromthe ecosystem, natural scenery of the aquatic environment. Theperformance is purely aquatic. Aquatic performance includes anyperformance that is structured and designed, to be performed onwater. The Nji-owu (fish) masquerade in Bonny and Opobo andthe Odum (Boa constrictor) in Okrika are good examples. The mostprestigious among the indigenous performances is the Regatta, adramatic display of the strength and wealth of a typical River’sKing. For the convenience of the audience, some aquaticperformances are done in four types of stages namely: the fluidstage, the floating stage, the shoreline stage and the arena stage. The Fluid Stage: The fluid stage is basically the natural environment. In this type of stage, the performer is sub-merged in water fromwhere he displays the frontal view of the mask, which he carrieson his head and performs according to the image of the mask. Forexample, he imitates the behavior in water of a crocodile if he iscarrying a crocodile mask. Floating Stage: A floating stage is a platform designed to float inwater and with spaces to accommodate the artists during theperformance. This is typical of the Eguien masquerade in Okrika. The Shoreline Stage: The term shoreline stage is used to describethe area between the water and the beach. The Arena Stage: This is the final destination of the aquaticperformer. It is usually up-land and constitutes the general assemblyarea for members of the community who constitute the audience. The Audience: The audience is not collectively assembled. Eachperson makes his choice of performance. Audiences may assembleat the shore or on the bridge to watch the performance on fluid Modern Traditional Theatre. Modern traditional theatre can conveniently be defined as anyperformance in which elements of traditional values areincorporated in those of the Europeans to create a combinedaesthetics, which reflects the new values of the Rivers man inmodern environment. Ogunbiyi (17:19) records the historical trendin the evolution of modern drama and modern traditional theatreand drama in Nigeria. Following his findings, one may postulatethat the impact of modern drama and theatre began to be felt inNigeria between 1863 and 1981, following the influx of freed slavesand immigrants to Lagos.
2.3 ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF THE NIGERIAN NATIONAL THEATRE
2.3.1 Nation Theatre as a vehicle for Commercialization
Theatre has several influences on tourism. In the instance,theatre sustains tourism through its entertainment and leisurequalities. Secondly, theatre educates the tourists about the cultureof the people. Ohiri explains that:Instead of people explaining the culture of Riverscommunity to tourists, the tourists can throughcostumes, songs, acting style, music, dance, stageproperties, scenery and language understand thepeople’s culture. Finally, tourism has political relevance. Through the theatre,political statements can be made. As can be observed, political issuesare the subject of most historical plays like Ola Rotimi’sAkasaYomi, Henry Bell-Gam’s Orukoro, king Jaja, and Minimah’sOdum-Egege. In addition, theatre provides research materials, which inturn exposes the knowledge of the environment, tradition andcultures of the people to tourists. Again theatre enhances interactionbetween the tourists, the artists and the audience.
2.3.2 The Impact of the National Theatre on Culture
National theatre impacted on the political and socio-economic life of the city of Lagos in several ways. Thefirst noticeable impact is that it was used by the colonial government to pursue its objectives in Nigeria. Aspointed out earlier, several of the films shown in the National theatre in the first two decades of the twentieth centurywere documentaries meant to explain the activities of the colonial administration to the people and to get thepeople to be loyal to the administration. Not only this, the early films shown in the cinemas were meant topromote the culture of the colonial master. Also, during the First and the Second World Wars, the cinemas wereused as avenues for showing films meant to get support for Britain from the Colony. The National theatre has also played an important role in fostering or promoting Nigerian cultural heritageparticularly since the post-colonial period. Cinemas had served as avenues for disseminating the cultural andartistic values of Nigerian people. Several Nigerian film makers like Eddie Ugboma, Ola Balogun, Hubert Ogunde, Moses Olaiya and others have used the cinemas to exhibit their films which showed the rich culture ofNigerian people. In this regard, we can say that cinemas have played a strategic role in preserving the culture ofthe various Nigerian peoples. Related to the above was the use of the National theatre in disseminating information to the people. It was useds a medium of disseminating information about matters relating to nutrition, personal hygiene, politicalsocialisation, community development and the value of forming self-help associations (Agbanoma, 2007:46). The church also used the cinema as a tool of evangelisation. The Christian missionaries realised that “one pictureis [sic.] worth a thousand words” (Leonard, 1967: 162 cited in Agbanoma, 2007:7). The church, therefore, usedthe national theatre for religious propagation. The National Theatre also had a social effect in terms of providing avenue for relaxation and entertainment. In thisregard, it provided an important outlet for the people to “ease off” tension. This should be appreciated in a busycity like Lagos. After a very hectic day at work, cinemas provided a good social outlet for people to “cool off”. As part of its socialising effect, it has also been said that cinemas “provided a common fund of knowledge whichenables [sic.] the viewers to operate as effective members of the societies they live” (Agbanoma, 2007:45). Thishelps to foster social cohesion and awareness thereby permitting active involvement in public life. The cinema houses in Lagos provided direct and indirect jobs for a number of people. From the 1960sthrough to the mid 80s, a typical cinema house provided direct employment for about 5 to 10 people who earnedregular salaries. In addition to this, petty traders made brisk business around the vicinity of cinema houses. Theysold wares such as alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages, gin, cigarettes and other items to cinema lovers. Beerparlour, restaurants and other relaxation spots also usually developed around cinema houses. Hence, we can saythat cinemas acted as a catalyst for economic activities. Modern cinema houses have incorporated services that allow clients to shop, dine and wine as part ofwhat cinema viewers could enjoy within the cinema complexes. Silverbird Cinema, for example, has threerestaurants and several other shops. These shops provide various services to the cinema audience such asrestaurant services, boutique and beauty shops. Cinemas have also become something in the form of a monument; an important reference point in thesociety. For example, a popular area in Agege has been named after the famous Pen Cinema that was formerlysituated in that area. Similarly, Casino Cinema Yaba, is very popular and synonymous with the bus stop namedafter it in the Yaba area of Lagos. The socio-cultural impact of the cinema is apparent in various forms in Lagos. It is common, forexample, to hear songs, slangs and terms learnt from a popular movie in common usage among Lagosians. Theterm “askari” used to describe the police was derived from Indian movies and was popularised by movie goers in Lagos. In addition to this, people copied the mode of dressing popular with their favouriteartistes especiallyIndian and American actors (Ayoola, 1952:211). All these notwithstanding, the cinemas also have some negative impact on Lagos society. It has beensaid that social vices such as drug abuse and addiction, prostitution and violence partly found their way intoNigeria and Lagos society as a result of the influence of films shown in the cinemas. Advocates of this viewargue that “Lagosians look on helplessly, while damaging cultural influences envelope the minds of Lagosyouths through foreign films” (Agbanoma, 2007:43). This may however, not be absolutely correct becausemovies intended for cinema exhibition usually passed through censorship. In addition to this, under-agedchildren are usually barred from viewing films rated above their respective ages. It was the television rather thanthe cinema that can be said to have exposed the society to the negative influences of the foreign movies in thecountry in the late 80s (Akarue, 1990: 54-55). The management of the NTA recognised this when it clampeddown on the influx of provocative videos into Nigeria in 1989 (Okoro, 1989:47). 2.3.3 Art and religion for economic development
The economic policies of the Federal Government of Nigeria since 1980s to 2000 have been quite individualistic and business oriented with interest vested on crude oil as the major sources of earning. Little regard was paid to the huge profits accruing from Art and Religious activities which yield revenue for the development of the nation’s economy. They are both contributing effectively to strengthening the economy.
2.3.4 Art for Economic Development
Nationally, Art, Design, Entertainment, Craft industries generate millions of naira in economic activities every year for spending on national development. The arts accomplish this economic obligations by producing art works that are used in communication industry as visual symbols. The art works such as computer digitalized posters, packages, labels, illuminated sign posts and other adverts placed on televisions and magazines are among the Art and design works which have made unquantifiable wealth to the nation for development. Textile designs and fashion are major money earners which have boosted the economy. The Nigerian textile designs and fashions compete favourably in the world and are well sought for. In Nigeria, U.S.A and Britain, Africans and Afro Americans in Diaspora use them because of their beautiful designs and styles. The Nigerian music, entertainment, and films portray some aspects of Nigerian cultures, though some of them are mixed with the foreign ones. All of them appeal to emotions because of their quality. It is because of this that they are in great demand. They yield revenue for national development. Nevertheless the contemporary Nigerian paintings and sculptures when exhibited also earn revenue. The tourism industries integrate art and entertainment to boost the industry. It yields profits which are ploughed into the economy for national development.
2.3.5 Religion for Economic Development
Religion is a part of the economic system of a nation and it affects the economic attitudes and behaviour of the citizenry. Nwaike (1999) says that “it is an employer of labour, it buys and sells and own property as well as contribute to gross national products.” In Nigeria religion is playing an economic role. It acquires real estate to situate the religious buildings. Some religious organizations engage in the establishment of schools, healthcare, publishing, radio and television broadcasting. These activities in no small measures earn revenue to the economy for national development. Religion encourages engagements in business, but in doing so insists on such virtues as; honesty, fair play, honouring agreements and avoiding corruption. During religious festive periods (e.g. Christmas and Id el fitri) huge sums are sunk back into the economy to celebrate these occasions. Religion provides employment to her qualified priests and other religious workers who practice, expand, preserve and teach the doctrines of the various religions. This has reduced unemployment from the economy as the various religions encourage dignity of labour which helps in national development. Majority of their earnings from adherents are deposited in the banks for security purposes and this in a way boost the economy for the national development. Since the money is utilized by banks as credit facilities.
2.3.6 Art and religion and their contribution to politics and national development
Art and religion play complimentary roles in the politics of the nation. Without each knowing it they are greatly involved in the enlightenment of the citizenry by educating them on what political activities to expect and how to conduct themselves during and after elections. Art specifically produces the adverts, slogans, posters and handbills which portray the ideologies of each political parties in the nation who are seeking to be elected into power. It also produces visual information which gives insight into the government programmes, schemes and agenda. Through the use of drama and theatre arts some of the national policies are communicated to the citizenry in a more vivid form; programmes such as immunization, corruption, abuse of the naira are passed to the people for enlightenment. Drama and theatre arts are used to entertain government visitors, diplomats and the citizenry at the Eagle Square Abuja during presidential invitations such as president Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime. Religion on the other hand is playing very important role in the nation’s political development. It prepares the mind of members on government policies and rulership. The member pray through their various religions for the success of the Nigerian government. But above all the two major religious, Christianity and Islam are used for the opening prayers of any government engagements either at the local, state and national level. Religion is fully observed before the commencement of any government programmes. Art and religion are veritable instruments which have diligently aided the government and political development in Nigeria as they harmoniously join with politics to develop the nation.