Sunday, December 13, 2009


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By Akintayo Abodunrin

December 12, 2009 10:32PMT
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It ended where it started 51 years ago. On Saturday, December 5, the week-long activities marking the 70th birthday of dramatist, Dapo Adelugba, ended at the Arts Theatre, University of Ibadan (UI).

One of Nigeria's foremost theatre arts teachers Adelugba was admitted into the then University College, Ibadan in 1958 to study English. His interest, however, spanned drama as he featured in some of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka's productions and later headed the school's Dramatic Society. After completing his postgraduate studies in Theatre Arts at the University of California, Los Angelesm, in 1964, he taught at Ibadan Grammar School before joining the faculty at UI in 1967.

He remained there, nurturing and producing notable scholars including Niyi Osundare, Ziky Kofoworola, Duro Oni, Saint Gbilekaa, Steve Abah, Tunde Oloyede, Ihria Enakimio, Zik Zulu Okafor and others until his retirement in 2004. Adelugba clocked 70 on March 9, 1939 and a committee comprising his former students and admirers decided to roll out the drums for their mentor and teacher.

The celebration which fittingly had Adelugba, theatre in Nigeria, and the relevance of the arts to national development as its focus, started on Sunday, November 29 with a stampede at the National Gallery of Arts, National Theatre, Iganmu.

Adelugba, who directed Nigeria's entry (late Wale Ogunyemi's ‘Langbodo') at the Second World Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77), appeared on the Nigerian Television Authority's ‘AM Express' the following day and shared his views on theatre theory and praxis with the press at the University of Lagos the same day.

Daodu of Nigerian Theatre

A two-day international symposium themed ‘Issues and Developments in Contemporary Nigerian Drama and Theatre Practice' where some of the honouree's former students examined his contribution to scholarship and extolled his virtues, held at the Faculty of Arts conference room of the University of Lagos, on December 1 and 2.

The launch of ‘Daodu of Nigerian Theatre: Tributes in Honour of Dapo Adelugba' edited by Sola Adeyemi and Akin Adesokan preceded the presentation of papers. Theatre greats; Wole Soyinka, Martins Banham, James Gibbs, Segun Ojewuyi, Reuben Abati and Muyiwa Awofidiya, are some of the contributors to the book.

A documentary on Adelugba, whom his students reverentially call Baba (father), was also screened during the symposium. Yinka Akanbi produced the documentary.

In his keynote on the theme, Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria, Ahmed Yerima, highlighted the contributions of Adelugba to the development of theatre in Nigeria, including his campaign against falsification of historical materials, but noted that contemporary theatre in Nigeria has changed since Baba's time. Yerima subsequently recommended measures to put theatre practice back on a solid pedestal. He said for theatre to thrive, artists and government have to perceive the National Theatre the same way; dramaturgy must appeal to the commonality of people; theatre must be allowed to diversify and the private sector must be lured by government and practitioners to put money into theatre.

Professor of Inclusivity

In a tribute he sent in from New Orleans, US, titled ‘To Dapo Adelugba at 70', poet Niyi Osundare noted, "As we celebrate this veteran theatre artist, let us remember the unflattering state of the stage on which he schooled our acting, even more, the theatre which houses that stage. Let us not forget the rescue work that needs to be done to bring the universe back to our universities, culture back to our ministries of culture... We need a theatre (and theatre tradition) that does not make us so helplessly nostalgic about the golden era of Geoffrey Axworthy, Martin Banham, Wole Soyinka, Yinka Adedeji, and Dexter Lindersay. We need theatre practitioners who, enabled by their society, can live by their art and thrive on their talents."

Australia-based Chika Anyanwu, delivered a paper in which he compared Adelugba to Bangladeshi banker and economist, Muhammad Yunus, who developed the concept of microcredit. Anyanwu said while Yunus empowered people economically, Adelugba empowered artists intellectually and has played a pivotal role in the growth of theatre in Nigeria.

Mabel Evwierhoma's paper, titled, ‘The Teacher and the Metaphor of the Waist Beads: Dapo Adelugba's Guilt in Retrospect' acknowledged Adelugba as a consummate teacher who made great impacts on his students. "Permit me to rename you professor of inclusivity; most professors make knowledge and access to their library exclusive but Baba is different. He was able to chisel out roughness and crudity from some of us and was able to add that zest and knowledge into us," she said.

Patrick Ebewo, whose PhD thesis Adelugba supervised, dramatised the gist of his paper, titled, ‘Dapo Adelugba: A View off the Stage.' Ebewo regaled the audience with anecdotes underscoring the humility and generousity of the celebrant. He added that Adelugba is a meticulous, wonderful and humourous teacher.

Muyiwa Awodiya, Nneyelike Nwagbo and Charity Angya, also delivered papers on the celebrant.

A tinge of sadness

‘That Scounderel Suberu', which Adelugba adapted from Moliere's ‘Les Fourberies de Scapin (The Trickeries of Scapin) ran at the University of Lagos before its final performance at the University of Ibadan. Actor and teacher Sola Fosudo directed the play.

Before the grand finale in Ibadan, there was a variety night featuring performances and more tributes to Adelugba at the National Theatre, Lagos. Though it commenced almost two hours behind schedule due to a combination of shoddy arrangements and power outage, students who had a gyration (singing and dancing session) entertained people outside the Arts Theatre before the commencement of activities.

Duro Oni, the chairperson of the Dapo Adelugba @ 70 Committee, gave a recap of the celebration and described the finale as "homecoming."

"Prof has left his mark on everybody who has something to do with theatre in Nigeria today," began the head of UI's Department of Theatre Arts, Hyginus Ekwuazi.

Like others before him, he acknowledged Adelugba's impact on his life, disclosing that Adelugba got him the scholarship that took him to the US. He noted that the evening was "Pleasure mixed with a tinge of sadness" and wondered "why did he go away." It was performance galore, thereafter, as groups took turns to entertain the packed hall.

Two students performed ‘Telephone' about a stammerer who instead of one minute, ended spending 25 minutes on a call he made from a pay phone; Rudolph Kansese presented a dance medley; Femi Aborisade chanted an ijala piece titled ‘Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Theatre' while the Alajota Dance Company opened with drum recitals in honour of Adelugba before displaying their dancing skills.
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