Wednesday, April 05, 2006

arthouse forum, national theatre, friday april 7

Committee for Relevant Art, CORA
Friends of the Arts, Lagos (FOAL)

Arthouse Forum
On Friday April, 7, 2006
At: 12 noon
Venue: VIP Lounge,
National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos

Special Guest: Dr. Ahmed Yerima
CEO, National Theatre

OBJECTIVE: Since the new CEO of the National Theatre of Nigeria (incorporating the National Troupe of Nigeria) presented his programme of actions to the public, there has been a rash of anxious but critical reactions from a cross section of members of the artists/culture workers' community.
As an interventionist in the cultural affairs of the country, as well as moderator of the inevitable dialogue between the public and private sectors of the arts/culture sector, the FOA has decided to stage a special edition of its periodic ARTHOUSE FORUM to enable the head of the National Theatre meet face-to-face with members of the culture community.
Through this meeting, it is expected that a better understanding could be reached between his expressed mission and vision of the CEO and expectations of the artists and culture workers.

The Moderator will be Layiwola Adeniji, Ex-head of The Guardian's Literature Unit, and former Arts Editor, The COMET and, THIS DAY

*** Below is a recent statement (issued February 20, 2006) by Yerima, giving hint of his Mission at the National Theatre and as well, his programme of action:

I pledge that my management team and I would work at making the theatre no less a focus of our energies. I also pledge that we would work with our new governing board to give the edifice the priority it deserves.
But partners one thing I must mention is that the pledge I made earlier would not be realised easily unless it is pursued with singular determination. It would require leadership just as it would demand understanding on the part of the patrons of the theatre, courage and willingness on the part of staff and management to depart from the ways of the past particularly if we are to truly rebuild the theatre and the Troupe and to realise the new functions which shall be:

  • To serve as a platform for the presentation of high quality artistic productions for the NationalTroupe of Nigeria as well as other private productionand cultural outfits
  • To serve as a revenue generating organisation
  • To serve as an internationally recognisable cultural symbol for the promotion of Nigerian arts andcultural heritage
  • To serve as an outstanding edifice and bedrock of international tourism interest in Nigeria
  • To serve as a base for the discovery and showcasing of talents of the children and the youths of Nigeria
  • To serve as a forum for the creative display of the professional thespian artistry of Nigeria theatre art professionally in the genre of music, dance, drama and motion pictures
  • To serve as a structure for the practical demonstration and fulfilment of bilateral cultural relations between Nigeria and other countries

There is no gainsaying that the task before me is daunting. Personally I am aware that the obstacle we could have to overcome in realising these mandates, which emphasises the revenue generating function of he National Theatre, are immense. But these functions represent my new challenges. They are the realities that I must get my staff to contend with if we must attain our vision of making the National Theatre become the envy of the world. I have no doubt in my mind that they are attainable. I am even more reassured that they are achievable because as I look round, I am conscious that I have a unique set of people who would drop by to either prop us on or to say, `hey folks, it can be better done this way'.
Please be assured at all time of our due regards and veneration as we on our part would rely on your guidance and support to carry on.
It was Thomas Jefferson who once said that to preserve the very foundation of our nation; we would need dramatic change from time to time. This is why I think that for the National Theatre to truly become the envy of the world we must embrace change and bring to task our vision and mission.
There is indeed nothing wrong with this edifice that cannot be cured. Most of the problems that have bedeviled this edifice from the issue of finance to that of routine maintenance — as I must stress are a result of mismanagement and or misguided leadership stretching over recent years. I will not dwell on the issues but I do need to add that all that is required now is to do that which is right.
I also need to add that whilst our achievement and hope for the future would not be possible without the patience, sacrifice, commitment and determination of the management and staff, our task has been made easier because of your place and the fact that you all share our vision and mission. This is what has made me slightly comfortable because now I can concentrate on implementation rather than spend the time on trying to make you all understand where we are headed.
In fact, I have since my assumption of duty here been meeting with staff and management on the need forus all to align ourselves with present realities. I am happy to report that the zeal the staff has shown so far has been encouraging. I am indeed moved by their show of enthusiasm to pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift and to assure that a new season for the parastatal has begun.
Presently effort is being intensified to restore power supply to the edifice. We are working with PHCN in that direction and they have assured that we shall have light within the next couple of days. The Theatrehas been in the dark because we lost valuable cables to thieves. We have now decided to fly the cables sothat it would be difficult to tamper with it.
Once we get NEPA back then we can be assured of constant water supply since our reservoir depends onpower supply and security surveillance can be enhanced.
Also I have started work on ensuring that we cleanup the environment of the theatre. We have started by cutting down the overgrown weeds and trees and have also evicted those who operate shanty stores around the complex.
The next big project is Abe-Igi. The place is an eyesore and it is attracting all sort of people from criminals to vandals. Luckily, I have the NBL that is interested in rebuilding the place with branding as the bait. The new plan will make what we would call he theatre village habitable for all with all the facilities that should be there. We have asked all those who operate kiosks there and who even owe inspite of the fact that they only pay 2000 monthly touse the space to vacate the premises by February 28th to give way for the renovation work to commence. We have assured those of them with good record that they would be given the right of first refusal by the time the place is done up to taste. We envisage that their building work would take 4 weeks. We also envisage some resistance from the present occupant but if weare to meet our target of beautifying the edifice and making it the envy of the world then the present filth that is Abe-Igi must give way.

Toyin Akinosho
Secretary-General CORA


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