Benin Rebellion at Lagos Fashion and Design Week

31 Oct

REBELLION Spring/Summer ’14
by Nkwo

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**Photo Credits: Kola Oshalusi (Insigna).
As seen at GTB Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2013

REBELLION by Nkwo is inspired by the great Kingdom of Benin, which was founded with a rebellion and fell with a rebellion…

The kingdom was well known for its artisans, particularly the bronze casters of Igun Street, who produced some of the finest bronze work in the world.

Unfortunately, most of the bronzes were ‘plundered’ by the British after the fall of the empire in 1897. The argument for the reparation of this great body of work goes on…

The Bronze Casters Guild of Benin City can still be found on Igun Street today and is now a World Heritage Site.

By taking the most iconic of the Benin bronzes, the Mask and fusing it with the most rebellious of the fashion tribes, the Punk, we created a look that is entirely new and fresh and we call it ‘B-Punk’.

Our signature draped jersey was hand dyed in the colours that are representative of the culture, history and architecture of the Benin empire – the coral beads, the blood that was shed during the rebellion and the slate that was used for the roofing of the houses in the incredibly well formed streets. We then gave it a punk make over with our safety pin and hard metal embellishments on our dresses, belts and up-cycled denim.

The entire collection was made in Benin City. We wanted to work directly with the artisans, the bronze casters and the leather makers, but we also wanted to put the traditional hand crafting methods to the test.

A big thank you to Omoyemi Akerele and the LFDW team, to our stylist Crystal Deroche Styling, to Lola Maja-Okojevoh for our great make-up and to all the models, especially Kelvin, who was man enough to wear a dress!!!

For more information about Nkwo and images of the full collection – visit – https://www.facebook.com/nkwo.onwuka

A Love Themed Night of Somali Poetry, Stories and Music!

3 Jun

NITRO THEATRE in Partnership with KAYD Somali Arts and Culture presents:
OH! CAASHAQ

A Love Themed Night of Somali Poetry, Stories and Music!

FRIDAY 7TH JUNE, 6-10PM.

In celebration of the rich heritage of Somali love-themed poetry, music and prose, and to introduce Nitro’s upcoming production set on the coast of Somalia which recently rehearsed at the National Theatre’s Studio as part of Nitro’s TALES FROM THE EDGE, Nitro theatre in Partnership with Kayd present an evening featuring the cream of Somali artists and talent in the UK plus readings of Nitro’s new play. Artists on the night include:

AAR MAANTA + Full live band // www.aarmaanta.com

Featuring:
AAR MAANTA + Full Live Band!
ALI GOOLYAD (De Gabay Poet)
FAHMI KASTELLO  (Poet)

Interview with FELIX CROSS MBE + OLADIPO AGBOLUAJE and extracts from NITRO’S new play set on the coast of Somalia + PRINCE ABDI hosts

With lots more of the best British Somali Talent

£7 Adv Tickets – http://ohcaashaq.eventbrite.com

www.nitro.co.uk

http://www.kayd.org/

 

Oh Caashaq Flyer

 

What do George Michael and Malawi have in common?

21 Feb

Ovalhouse and Bilimankhwe Arts present: Love On Trial

Adapted by Roe Lane from the story by Stanley Kenani

At Ovalhouse London until February 23rd 2013
Tickets and information at this link – http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/love-on-trial

Out of Africa review
★★★★

A half-full bottle of Malawi Gin and a battered armchair resting on sand  are lit by warm orange light, until the silence is broken by the unmistakeably 80s opening bars of George Michael’s Faith.

So opens “Love on Trial” at Ovalhouse, adapted from the short story by Caine Prize nominee Stanley Kenani. When a local drunk stumbles across protagonist Charles Chikwanje and his lover in the toilets of Chipiri Primary School, Charles is arrested under the Malawian penal code for ‘unnatural offences’ and ‘indecent practices between males’. The play interposes illegal homosexuality in Malawi with George Michael’s arrest in 1998 for ‘engaging in a lewd act’ in a public toilet in Los Angeles. The parallels are clear and the piece explores a hysterical prejudice and media hypocrisy which isn’t confined to Africa.

Most of the script is Kenani’s powerful prose, spoken by the single actor Bailey Patrick who plays the parts of narrator and Charles, as well of interrogators, commentators and friends. Patrick has a background in stand-up comedy and as he performs in the round he calls on the audience, and effortlessly moves between the accents and gestures of this cast of characters.

He is accompanied by snatches of voice over and news footage and his props are stick men figures cut from newspaper which are hung around him. These stick men become central onlookers, who become the crowds which gather as Charles ‘story spreads like oil poured on a sheet of white paper’. And, when he is interviewed on national television Patrick jiggles them on their string in excitement, in a moment which draws a laugh from the audience, but is also an expression of sinister energy. These humorous elements are expressed wonderfully by Patrick as he circumnavigates the intimate stage.

Director and Writer Roe Lane is an accomplished young talent who draws on her own upbringing in Malawi in this artful retelling. Stanley Kenani flew in from Geneva for the opening night at Ovalhouse and called Love on Trial ‘a marvellous adaptation’. Asked what he thought of the juxtaposition of George Michael’s story with his own, he told Out of Africa: ‘I don’t think anyone could have interpreted it better…the messaging came out picture perfect.’

The production was commissioned as part of the Counterculture 50 season at Ovalhouse which aims to be a ‘theatrical incubator of a more politically-engaged performance future’. In this urgent, engaged and thoroughly enjoyable piece they have succeeded in that and more.

Written by Grace Benton

A Feast of Yoruba Culture

12 Feb

FEAST

Directed by Rufus Norris

A Young Vic and Royal Court Theatre co-production

At the Young Vic London, until 2nd March 2013

Young_Vic_Feast_002Photograph Feast company –  Richard Hubert Smith

From 18th-century Nigeria to present-day London via Brazil, the USA and Cuba, Feast at the Young Vic tells the story of Yoruba culture across three continents and three hundred years.

The play is directed by award-winner Rufus Norris (London Road, Death and the King’s Horsemen) and the script is a collaboration between five international playwrights – Yunior Garcia Aguilera (Cuba), Rotimi Babatunde (Nigeria), Marcos Barbosa (Brazil), Tanya Barfield (USA) and Gbolahan Obiesan (UK). It is the tale of the endurance of the Yoruba faith and culture, and of the crafting of diaspora identities.

The show’s music and movement provide the dramatic energy and create a powerful sense of time and place. Lysander Ashton’s projections dance across a beaded curtain as the ensemble cast move in and out of view. In an early scene the names of slaves scrawled on a ship’s register float on water and the outlines of bodies, as live music mixes with the sounds of sea and sand to take us on the journey from West Africa to the plantations of the New World. Throughout, the writing and music are woven with Yoruba words, sounds and proverbs and the staging echoes the trickery of the deity Esu.

The collaboration which is at the heart of the production is also, at times, its weakness. There is a certain disjointedness in the format and the strands never quite come together. At its best the writing is energetic and quick-witted, as in the sisterly banter which introduces the three protagonists Yemaja, Oshun and Oya. Nanaa Agyei-Ampadu as Oshun shines in this scene and others – and with Louis Mahoney (Papa Legba) she is among the most versatile of the performers. In other moments the dialogue and acting verge on self-conscious and we begin to feel like we are being lectured. The scene in 21st century London feels stiff and unnatural, although the bawdy humour gets the biggest laughs of the night.

Some of the more interesting themes are raised in passing but left unexplored. There are lines which hint at how African cultures can be romanticised, or fetished, including by those of African heritage. Aguilera’s standout Cuba scene comes closest to engaging with these intercultural questions when Yemaya  (Noma Dumezweni) asks ‘Who do you think I am, Pocahontas?’ and American tourist John Smith (Daniel Cerqueira) frantically explains, while cowering under a table, that he is not prejudiced because he voted Obama.

The constituent parts of Feast may not make an entirely satisfactory whole but the production certainly takes us on a visually striking journey and succeeds in telling the epic story of Yoruba culture. One is left with a real sense of the diverse talents who have come together in the performance.

 Written by Grace Benton

“Caesar could be Amin or Bokassa, Mobutu or Mugabe”

13 Sep

Out of Africa review with interview of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest production of “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

Directed by Gregory Doran

Tours the UK from 19th September – 27th October 2012


“A muscular, intelligent and deeply moving production”
, Sunday Times


Last night we caught the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar, set in the context of an unspecified pre-coup African nation.

I found this a thoroughly compelling production; the robust acting, the African context and the pace of the direction really brought out the emotional transitions of Shakespeare’s characters and allowed the audience to really understand the agony behind Shakespeare’s text.

Watching Shakespeare can be exhausting for the ear, however these actors presented the meaning of each word with such purpose that Shakespeare’s messages were not just understood, but could be related to. And interestingly, at times, the old English language flowed like a type of pidgin English, which sat comfortably in the African context.

Julius Caesar is a fast-moving thriller about a struggle for democracy.  Setting it in an unspecified African nation and exploring the implications of political assassination and the unpredictably of its aftermath has so much resonance with recent overthrows of dictators over Africa’s 60 year history and more recently the uprising in the ‘Arab Spring’.

Director Gregory Doran says “Caesar could be Amin or Bokassa, Mobutu or Mugabe”.

Director Gregory Doran goes on to say that his inspiration for setting Julius Caesar in an unspecified African country came from discoverings the Robben Island Shakespeare and learning of Nelson Mandela asserting that the play spoke in a particular way to his continent and as John Kani clearly puts it, Julius Caesar is quite simply “Shakespeare’s Africa play”.

Out of Africa Interview with Gbolahan Obisesan, Associate Director

After the show we spoke to the associate director, Gbolahan Obisesan, about the motivations behind the production, the challenges and the aspirations.

What are some of the key themes you would like people to take away from watching this play?

Initially, it would be the ideas Caesar has on how to run a society, a state, a country – and the decisions that have to made to achieve this. Then it is the consequences of having a dictator, of overthrowing a dictator – what is the new regime going to be, what does it represent and how will it serve the people?
It’s about the real conundrum that these decisions bring out.  Accepting the full extent of one’s actions.

What has been the biggest challenge in putting this play together?

The casting – who do you cast to play these really iconic roles – and thinking conscientiously about the interpretation of the Shakespeare text and if the context we have chosen serves the piece all the way through.

What are some of the unique aspects of your interpretation of this play?

What the text can say to us if it is set in an (unspecified) African country and presented by an all Black cast. This uniqueness opens new insights and is not just tokenistic.

When you think about this production and you smile, what are you thinking about?

The moment when the audience gets lost, moved and overwhelmed by the story and the level of emotion that the cast go through is thrilling.

“I go to Nigeria and I’m British, in Britain I’m Nigerian”

8 Jun

Belong by Bola Agbaje

Produced by Tiata Fahodzi and the Royal Court Theatre

Bola Agbaje has already made a name for herself. Winning a prestigious Olivier award for her first play, “Gone too Far!” she returns to the theatre with her current play, “Belong”, which manages to combine her first two loves – the theme of identity and the option of choice versus fate – all embroiled within Nigerian Politics. Melanie Scagliarini reports from Peckham’s Bussey Building’s opening night.

Combining a tale of the personal and the political, Belong walks a tightrope between tragedy and comedy, sharply woven together by what is becoming playwright, Bola Agbaje’s trademark of short dialogue and snappy scenes.

It is a gripping 90 minutes that has more than a passing resemblance to a Shakespearean tragedy than Agbaje’s previous work. Politics; the scheming, autocratic and corrupt Chief that rules with violence; the naïve politician who makes a public mistake at work and runs to another country to escape the shame; his wife with Nigerian grandparents, who considers herself steadfastly British; the sister who turns up uninvited and seeks to criticise everything the wife does in a typically Shakespearean habit of adding a character for pure comic relief. Played by Jocelyn Jee Esien – Bola intersperses perceptive physical acting that I defy all not to laugh at.

With the dialogue flowing well between characters and snappy scenes that flip between London and Nigeria, the audience is never bored. Perhaps some scenes are too short and the eternal move between the two countries does become a little tiring.  But Agbaje’s juxtaposition between seriousness and comedy more than makes up for it – with some moments that are pulled off with such great comic timing that you get the impression that the actors are genuinely laughing at the moment, not acting.

Msamati’s portrayal oozes both simmering resignation and despair at the women’s lack of understanding of him and his eternal search to belong – “I go to Nigeria and I’m British, here I’m Nigerian”, he says in one moment.

Bola admits that, whilst she is mainly speaking to Nigerian people in this play, it translates to all people. “The feeling of belonging is a common thing. You don’t have to be Nigerian or black to identify with the play.”

Belong is being performed as part of the Royal Court Theatre’s Theatre Local programme at the Bussey Building, Peckham until 23rd June 2012.
For more information and to book tickets, visit this linkhttp://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/belong-local?gclid=CJHPpt21sLACFUIOfAodPXimVQ 
For information on other African arts events taking place this June and July, visit the Out of Africa newsletter at this link - http://www.icontact-archive.com/WdJy8WXl01msnUgsRPiZW73nhtIO9Xjb?w=2

Shakespeare brought to you in IsiXhosa, Afrikaans, Swahili, Juba Arabic, Shona and Yoruba

3 Apr

Five productions from South Africa, Kenya, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Nigeria come to the UK to perform in the prestigious “Globe to Globe” festival, taking place at the Shakespeare’s Globe in London, to each present one of Shakespeare’s plays in IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, SeSotho, Setswana, Afrikaans, Swahili, Juba Arabic, Shona and Yoruba respectively.

http://globetoglobe.shakespearesglobe.com/

These ambitious productions are part of an unprecedented programme of multi-lingual Shakespeare productions. 37 international companies will present every one of Shakespeare’s plays in a different language over six weeks: Afrikaans,  Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Bangla, Belarusian, British Sign Language, Cantonese, Dari, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati,  Hebrew, Hindi,IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Italian, Japanese, Korean,  Lithuanian, Macedonian, Mandarin, Maori, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Shona, Serbian,  SeSotho, Setswana , Spanish (Argentine, Castilian and Mexican), Swahili, Turkish, Urdu,  Yoruba.

We speak to two of the directors; Wole Oguntokun of Renegade Theatre presenting “The Winter’s Tale” in Yoruba and Arne Pohlmeier of Two Gents Productions presenting “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” in Shona – to find out about their experience of being part of this audacious, exciting and unique theatre project.

How have you found the process of translating Shakespeare into Yoruba and Shona, respectively?

Arne Pohlmeier: We have previously worked with Shakespeare in the English original. Doing Two Gentlemen of Verona in Shona is consequently a real journey of discovery. On the one hand the translation makes sense of the play in new ways so that we end up seeing the characters and what they are saying in a new light. On the other hand, the Shona used in the translation is as far removed from the Shona that is spoken on the street as Shakespeare’s English is from the colloquial English we speak today. This has made us work extra hard on learning, understanding and presenting the language in a way that is muscular, fully embodied and clear to the audience.

Wole Oguntokun: It has been an experience unlike any other. In the casting process, we had to look for people who could speak both languages well (English and Yoruba). The rehearsals have broadened the minds of both the cast and crew members. It has been a bit like exercising muscles one never knew one had, a sometimes painful but mostly rewarding process. Shakespeare in English would not have been a mean task and in Yoruba, it’s sometimes like wading through thick undergrowth with a machete you have to sharpen from time to time.

What do you hope the audiences will take from the experience of watching a Shakespeare play in a language they don’t understand?

Arne Pohlmeier: Seeing a play in a language you don’t understand is exhilarating. It really allows you to watch what the actors are doing and to read every aspect of their performance – you cannot simply rely on what they are saying you have to let yourself be guided by how they are saying it. This is particularly exciting with Shakespeare because his plays are structured so intelligently and the intentions of what the characters are doing to each other in every moment is so powerful, that it communicates even before it is understood.

Wole Oguntokun: The richness of other cultures and traditions. Even though there will be some who won’t understand Yoruba, I hope our craftsmanship will still be able to pass the message, through actions, music and dance and that hidden rhythm that exists in every stage presentation.

What has been one of the biggest challenges in putting this play together?

Wole Oguntokun: One of our biggest challenges has been the translating process. In our initial readings, we had to translate Shakespeare’s English into contemporary English and then had to do the same to the Yoruba Translation. The original translation by Tade Ipadeola, a well-spoken man in his seventies was into very formal Yoruba and even though we have retained quite a bit of the formality of language, we, firstly, had to make the text, accessible to some of the younger members of the cast who spoke a more contemporary version of the Yoruba translation.

Arne Pohlmeier: Honouring the beauty and dexterity of the new Shona translation by Noel Marerwa.

What would be your single message of advice for someone starting a theatre production company in Africa?

Wole Oguntokun: Have faith; close your eyes and step off the cliff believing you won’t hit the ground.  That’s right. I said, “Have faith.”

You can catch these plays and others at the “Globe to Globe” festival taking place from 21st April – 9th June 2012.
http://globetoglobe.shakespearesglobe.com/
****AMAZING Out of Africa SPECIAL OFFER****

Globe Theatre are offering their best seats in the house for £10, to the productions of “Venus and Adonis” in IsiZulu, “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in Swahili, “Cymbeline” in Juba Arabic, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” in Shona and “The Winter’s Tale” in Yoruba – reduced from £35; a saving of £25.

To claim this discount, quote ‘Out of Africa arts £10 offer’ when booking by phone on 020 7401 9919 or ‘PCD10BEST’ when booking online at https://tickets.shakespearesglobe.com/selecteics.asp

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