Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Ring Thingy

i copied this from www.poshbuki.blogspot.com
and decided to share. i will write what i feel on this issue sometime soon.

"my friend Abiodun got married some days back and it was a beautiful day, she and her groom got their papas to spend plenty money and we all cooed over every single detail except the groom, “what is a fine looking sista like Abbe doing with him?” was the question on our minds, but spinelessly not our tongues.The groom, who apart from being just 18 years older than stylish and beautiful Abbe was peculiar, he didn’t behave as if he was getting married, didn’t smile at the bride or anyone, didn’t look longingly into the bride’s eye! Didn’t look excited!...
DIDN’T LOOK LIKE HE WAS THERE!I asked if anyone knew how they met and nobody knew, it sounded a bit odd as Abbe had always enjoyed flaunting every aspect of her life to every one of us.I was beginning to think there could be an X-FILES theory somewhere when one of my girls said,
“It’s the ring thingy you know”“What thingy?” I asked.“Buki, that’s the new virus in town, some of our friends are frenzied with it and have become harmful to chaps, while some others have taken too large a dose of the anti-virus.”“WHAT?” I asked dumbly“We all wanna get married, some of us more than the others while some don’t, don’t be surprised if some of these girls spring up creepier grooms than Abbe’s” and with that she laughed and left me gawking.I wondered what the frenzy was all about but as I looked into the faces of my girlfriends, I felt their fears, some of them had partied too hard, some had been too reclusive, some are ultramodern (like me). I don’t want the virus or thingy, but I’d like a normal ring sometime in the not-so-far-not-so-near future."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Poem?


At his touch, I loosen.
At his caress, I melt.
As the lone finger
Finds me and knows me,
I loss.
But at insertion …
SHIT! This is rubbish.
He’s failed.

(c) UZEZI EKERE. 8th DECEMBER. 2002.

An Amateur's Poem

this is the very first poem i wrote in my life, and whenever i read it, and compare it with recent ones, i tell myself i have improved, but really, have i? why haven't i published? fear?


Infatuation is a foolish love at first sight.
Foolish because you are loving blindly.
Blindly because you are loving what you can’t get.
What you can’t get, because you are unsure
If to you he can belong.
Relationships are journeys one embarks on.
The outcome sometimes your destination.
On the wrong lane the bus sometimes drops you.
To be content it’s best today’s blessing.
And tomorrow’s for itself leave.
But unabsorbed at times is a day’s blessing,
Because of confusion.
Of him, alone at home I think.
Tons to tell him I want.
I see him, and dumb become I.
For him to hear,
A trillion and one sweet things.
My words,
The sound of his voice distinguishes.
What, I ponder, do I await?
Scared I am. The answer.
I know risks go with life,
And without one, on further I go.
Should be strong I know.
Fragile is the heart.
Of loving I’m confused
Because I am scared.
Too much on my mind it seems.
Don’t know how to handle anything.
My way, nothing I want comes.
Two opportunities,
I know, are different.
Tight I should hold when one I have.
And with courage handle.
At the door, my burden place.
Maybe that could help.
Then maybe,
I can be a good friend.

(c) UZEZI EKERE. 17th AUGUST. 2001

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Interview with Lekan Balogun

  • This Interview was published in National Mirror in April.

My Friends Think I Must Be Crazy To Live As A Dramatist-Lekan Balogun

Like his contemporary, Wole Oguntokun, Lekan Balogun belongs to a new generation of Nigerian playwrights, prolific and focused, whose contributions to the growth of the Nigerian theatre is considered by critics to be invaluable and worthy of commendation. In this interview with UZEZI EKERE, he talks about his career as a dramatist and what lies ahead. Excerpts:

How long have you been involved with the theatre?
We are talking about fourteen years, and its been one long and adventurous one.

What has the journey been like for fourteen years?
It’s been very enormous really, because quite a lot of people do not know that I didn’t start as a playwright. They know me as a writer but I actually started as a stage actor, after a while I got into research, which I still do, and it is in the course of my research that my flair for writing sprout into the open.

Did you encounter challenges down the journey?
Basically, in all works I’ve done, except a few, I have had to start to do most of my work from zero level without having any support whatsoever, But because I have a very strong passion for what I am doing and the arts, I have never considered any work I want to do to be difficult or impossible. And as fate would have it, I’ve always been able to come across support of some sort. For someone like me to have been able to get to a level that is now well recognized, I think I can give myself a pass mark.

You said you started with acting?
Yes. I started when I was a student of English at the Federal College of Education, Abeokuta. That was in 19993. when I finished in 1996, I joined the then Centre of Cultural Studies, which is now Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos. I joined as an associated member, under the late Professor Bode Osonye. I was a member of his troupe, and I also belonged to other theatre organizations like that. It was actually at the centre that I was given my professional training because I had the opportunity of working with some of the best crop of actors and actresses in the field, dancers, singers and several of them. People like Tunji Sotimirin, Norbert Young, Ernest Obi, Jude Orhara and several other guys that are now outside the shores of the country. And for quite a lot of people that passed through Bode Osonye,, it was a total theatre thing, like you are an actor or singer, writer or others. For me being the most prominent of his students that took after him in terms of writing, I have been able to record quite a number of successes. I won NANTAP award, then Festival of Nigeria Plays 2002, with my entry ‘Moremi’. Even before then, some of my plays have been given recognition like in 2002 when I was adjudged the most promising playwright in University of Lagos. After that I have won other awards. ‘Oya’ was selected by the jury for the Univeristy of Jos Festival of Theatre in 2006. the same thing with ‘Beyond the Sunset’, the play was eventually used as the University of Lagos convocation play in 2006, and as a result of that play, it was taken again by the National Troupe to the National Theatre, a form of collaboration. There’s been a lot.

Is there any particular role you played that appeared the toughest for you?
Yes. I remember sometime in 1999 that I played ‘Odewale’ in The Gods Are Not to Blame’. Actually it was the first time in my acting career that I was given the lead role and it was very challenging. It took quite a lot from me. But I was able to record an outstanding performance, that a couple of people who came to see the play even mounted the stage after the performance to give me money. Very amazing. I have done several like that all over.

How many plays have you written?
I started writing ten years ago and today I have written close to thirty plays, and I have had the privilege of having close to 18 of them performed on the stage. In Lagos, Ibadan, Jos, Abuja, even outside Nigeria and I have five published works. The sixth will be coming out every soon.

What work play are you working on at present?
I’m working on the ‘Olive Branch’. It’s a play I’ve been working on in the last four years. It has transformed and has gone through several stages. I’m trying to look at using drama to preach peace. I’m someone that is grounded in the Yoruba culture. I try to bring certain traditional functions to fit into the concept of my play and that’s what we are working on and by June it should go on stage.

Which of your plays was the very first to be performed on stage?
It was ‘Onikoye’. It was performed at the National Theatre in 1999.

Did you write and direct the play?
No. I wrote it and I played one of the lead roles. I played the chanter. It’s something a lot of people don’t know I can do. Of all the plays hat I’ve written, I’ve only directed about two or three. I always giving them out to a director, trying to see their interpretation, whether it will be different from mine, or very close to it, or just what I have in mind. I so much love the idea of watching people give their own interpretation of what they think I have mind. It’s exciting to me, to see other people do it.

But you are directing the Olive Branch play?
Yes. I will work on that myself. I’m going to involve a kind of technique that people don’t do in our theatre and I wouldn’t want to say much about it. When you see the play, you will understand what I mean.

Which of your plays would you consider the most popular?
I think ‘Moremi’ is actually the most popular for the fact that it has won awards and has done the highest level of performance for the festival of Nigeria Plays organised by NANTAP and then having it done again by the students of University of Lagos. The one I think that has come that close is ‘OYA’ that has enjoyed enormous success in terms of cast strength and performance.

People actually associate your name with ‘OYA’. Like someone trying to name good plays will say ‘like Oya by Lekan Balogun’.
Yes. That’s because of the success the play has recorded. To quite a number of people, ‘Oya’ seem to kind of cloud the kind of image that ‘Moremi’ has. The play was enormous, and it has everything that you can call an African play, dialogue, poetry, dance, chant, music, everything. Coupled with the storyline, it was fantastic. For the first time, you see an African playwright bringing gods to the level of human beings who can have emotions, and gods too can fall in love and be jealous. It’s the concept that made it so popular. People still send messages that they want me to stage it again. But it’s extremely expensive to put up.

Does that mean you won’t stage it again?
I definitely will. Maybe one of these days, if somebody walks up to me with a million, a sort of sponsorship, I will do it.

Do you have your own theatre troupe?
Yes. But it’s not a troupe. It’s an organization called Renaissance Theatre Company. We have quite a number of talented young people. Some of them will be part of the ‘Olive Branch’ play, and you see most of them every time in my productions, apart from the fact that I always try to see new people in my plays. Anytime I give my work to a director, I tell them I want to new people. I’m not that kind of dramatist that will say I need established actors, because I believe there are a lot of vibrant young and talented artists out there that people need to see beyond the regular faces.

What impact generally do you think plays make in the society?
Quite a lot. From the ages people have always known that theatre, drama, plays are veritable tools for social commentary and very strong weapon for change, for education, for information, for re-orientation, anything. The enormous strength of plays as tools for social mobilization change can not be over emphasized.

Do you have a particular venue for your plays?
Everywhere. It depends on the particular mood and temperament of the play. I have done plays at the MUSON Centre, National Theatre, International Conference Centre Abuja, University school theatres. Everywhere. It also depends again on the demand of the plays. There’s a play I did ‘Birthday Present’. It was taken to the Refugees Camp in Ogun state to tell you that the plays go anywhere.

Can you judge the reaction of your audience to your plays?
I think that without actually blowing my trumpet, everyone of my plays has been accepted because I develop a style where I don’t play around with words. I try to make it very simple so that you can always go on with the dialogue, with the message and every time you realise that people seem to identify with it. for in stance, in 2004, I wrote ‘St Dominic’ to mark the 50th year of St Dominic Church in Nigeria, and it was greatly applauded, by both the parishioners and priest of the church to tell you the level at which my work is accepted. In fact, that play even got me a commissioned job. A Rotarian saw the play and I was commissioned to write a play on Rotary club because 2005 was the 100th year of Rotary club, and I wrote the play, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to stage it because the conditions they were giving was not that palatable to me, so I didn’t do it. maybe one day I will stage it as a charity show.

For someone who has been in the industry for fourteen years, you should be able to tell us the kind of challenges the industry is facing in Nigeria.
Very serious ones. You see, to put up a play is quite expensive except for quite a few number of people that have had the opportunity of having people sponsor them. And for some like Wole Oguntokun that, has been regular at MUSON centre, it’s once a while that we venture out. I think it’s because it has more to do with the way I write. I’m a kind of person that writes epic stories, and most times, I need quite a large cast to do them because of my pan africanist orientation. Even when I write some modern plays, you will always see my pan africanist in them and I try to bring it down to our environment and tell our own stories about ourselves. So basically, the challenges have to do with funding, then of course the home video environment. Quite a number of good stage hands have abandoned the stage for the big screen. Sometimes it’s ridiculous to rehearse a play for two months, and at the end of the day, if it’s not sponsored, you might go home with N5,000, compared to someone who will shoot a movie in one week and take good money home. But then, for some of us that are die hard theatre practitioners, we still want to go on. I produced a Yoruba movie recently. I wrote and produced it but I tell you, I didn’t find the fulfillment I get from stage.

How do you pay your huge cast then?
Luckily for me, most actors, the moment they read my scripts, they get the passion, they want to do it. I don’t know. I have tried asking myself why and haven’t gotten the answer yet. It’s something like that. Even when I tell the, I just want to do a reading that I’m still trying to find sponsors, they will tell me we should go on. And some of them make effort to get sponsors, and at the end they all enjoy themselves. Some even return the next day to ask if there’s any other work next. Like this recent audition, I wanted to do it a month from now, but some where like ‘let’s do it now, let have a feel of the script and from their response I think I want to do it now. I believe that I will get a lot of support for this play.

What help do you think the industry needs?
I think the industry needs a lot of support. Then the industry itself needs a lot of re-orientation for dramatists. Some dramatists think it is a kind of avenue to flaunt some very undesirable attitude. That’s why some people feel that people who go into this thing are riff raffs and the rest. I feel they need to be educated about what it’s all about. For example, if I don’t tell you, you can hardly know I’m a practitioner. I believe in whatever you do, you need some level of decency. And of course every other profession has its own hazard, but then we shouldn’t make ours look as if it is out of this world and beyond curable proportions. It’s just a matter of been wise in every thing we do and of course get the needed support; financial and moral, everything, to bring back the lost glory of the profession.

What amount of courage does someone need to remain in an industry that has such enormous challenges?
A kind of courage that makes them seem crazy to others, because of the faith they have in their work. A couple of my friends call me crazy. Even though things have not been that fine, I have been happy in it. it has to do with your level of commitment. That’s why you see that we have committed practitioners, and there those in it who just want to get some money into their pockets. Beyond that it’s pure commitment, and that’s what has kept me going.

So you do basically nothing but theatre?
That’s what I’m saying. Writing. I’ve written for the stage, television and radio. In the last ten years I’ve been able to pass through all media. And in those years I have picked four awards and eight recommendations or nominations, it says enough for me.

Do people really read plays?
People read plays of course. You will be amazed they do it a lot, else we won’t be publishing. I’ve published ‘Street Children’, ‘Tomorrow Today’, ‘The Rejected Stone’ and others. ‘Oya’ will be published soon.

Apart from drama, what else do you write?
I try my hands on poetry also. That is why you see that most of my lines are usually poetic. Then I do a lot of reading.

Where do you see yourself in another five years?
I see myself getting well established and moving beyond this level. I’ve been able to start some relationships with some foreign organizations. I want to believe in a year or two, I should be able to bring that to bear on my work and profession.

Sammy the Sage

I have a friend called Sage. When I met him in 2001, he was Sammy Hassan. He writes wonderful poetry and I am yet to see any one present a better poetry performance than him.
I experienced him at the book launch of ‘War in the Sky’ by Busola Elegbede, where he performed ‘The Weather Man’.
Sage definitely brought down the house.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Judging a book by its cover

This article is culled from The Saipan Tribune

By Rik and Janel Villegas

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” is an adage that stresses the importance of looking sharp so that people won't think you're dull. The saying also holds true for places and things, such as buildings.

Early one Saturday morning we drove our son, Daniel, to PauPau Beach to meet with some other teenagers so they could go on a hike. As we was leaving, we looked at what used to be the vibrant La Fiesta Mall and reminisced the times my family and we would go there to eat at Tony Roma's, visit stores, and listen to the musical group that provided live entertainment on weekends. Some will remember that La Fiesta used to be the only place on Saipan where kids and adults could play in the snow and have a snowball fight because snow was flown in from Japan once a year. It was once a lively shopping mall that entertained tourists and locals, but the rapidly deteriorating façade has masked any history of life that once existed.

Do people judge a building, a city, or a community by its external appearance? You bet they do, and some will not walk through the external façade to taste the food in a restaurant or shop at a store because of what they see.

It also can have the same affect for your employees going to work everyday. Rik was once recruited to be the president of an organization with almost 200 people. Morale was low among people, and it did not help that the interior and exterior of the buildings were worn and weathered. Some of the florescent lights did not work, water pressure was poor, and some toilets did not flush. Besides being an OSHA concern, it was a physical and emotional concern for everyone there.

Before making any management changes, the first order of business was to make some quick equipment changes by replacing the water pump and buying some ballasts and fluorescent tubes so that there was proper lighting. It noticeably made a difference in the physical surroundings and definitely made a difference psychologically so that other more positive changes could take place.

As we headed home from PauPau Beach, we noticed that the CHC hospital had a fresh coat of paint on what used to be a deteriorating façade. What a difference it made from the peeling paint and weathered look that it once had. We also noticed the well-manicured lawns, immaculate buildings, and cleanliness of McDonald's and the Coca-Cola bottling plant on Middle Road. However, these examples were contrasted with the hodgepodge buildings and chaotic look of the buildings just across the street from them.

It's not enough to have just a few buildings that look good, when we have a plethora of buildings, vacant lots, and beaches that are littered with trash, rundown, falling apart, and just an eye sore for tourists and those who care on the island. Beautify Saipan has made a big step to cleaning up the mess of others; however, when those others dispose of their trash faster than concerned people can pick up after them, it becomes frustrating. Taking care of the symptom doesn't cure the cause.

If you're a business owner, take a walk outside and look at your building, as a customer would see it. Is it inviting? Would you recommend people to visit your place based on the way it looks on the outside? If you have a lawn and shrubs, are they cut and manicured, or are they overgrown and out of control?

Now step inside and ask yourself if your place is organized, clean, and designed so customers can find things easily. Do you have placards and directions that are easy to read and understand? If you cater to tourists, are they written in a language that your customers can easily read?

Next, take a look at your staff and ask yourself the following questions: Are they neatly dressed and well groomed? Do they have friendly body language, and welcome each person that enters your building? If they smoke or chew, do you require them to do it only on breaks and not in the presence of customers?

As an aside, did you know that Walt Disney was a chain smoker, and died of lung cancer at an early age; yet he never allowed workers to smoke in front of guests at Disney Land because he knew it created a negative image. In other words, if you are the boss, don't take executive privileges just because you are the boss, but consider the views, feelings, and values of your customers before you light up.

Like it or not, people do “judge a book by its cover,” and the look of you building and employees will make a difference whether a person becomes a customer, or just someone who passes you by.