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Qudus A Onikeku

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African Dance and its Double part 2
by Qudus A Onikeku   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, January 06, 2008
Posted: Sunday, January 06, 2008

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Qudus A Onikeku

• African Dance and its Double part 1
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Understanding a city or a people, one doesn't go there just like every other tourist, not by looking at a map, taking pictures and moving around in a tour bus, moving around with the same old friends we left our homes with, by so doing nothing comes alive, all remains a look alike to the image of the city that we already got in our minds, that we already read from our false travel books, then we realize that at the end of the day, what do we know of this city or people?

Understanding a city or a people, one doesn't go there just like every other tourist, not by looking at a map, taking pictures and moving around in a tour bus, moving around with the same old friends we left our homes with, by so doing nothing comes alive, all remains a look alike to the image of the city that we already got in our minds, that we already read from our false travel books, then we realize that at the end of the day, what do we know of this city or people? in truth what do we learn about their world when we haven't taken the time to live with them, to feel what they feel, we didn't get anything new about them, but when an encounter is made based on ignorance, accepting that what we read is not assuredly what we will see, understanding that the only thing that can be written in a tour book are the visible things, none can explain anything profound than their own imagination and perception, just like this we should amaze our audience, we should tend to create like the same people who live in the same situations they live in, like a people who understands under what circumstance they exist before judging them, they must be left open-mouthed, we can't afford to take our hands off their attention and still being the same person they were before coming to the theatre, every performance must be something they can familiarize with but a new encounter for them, if not soccer and cinema will continue to dominate.

Its not that i am opposed to analysis, in actual fact i appreciate clarification and thoroughly understanding the reason behind an argument, i like to see where i am being led to and why i'm being led there, during this period of evolution or rather wind change in our dance forms, the few choreographers then behaves more like a vulgar opportunist, they came back with a complete copy of their various cavaliers and pasted it just as it was on us the younger generation, but we couldn't reject it from them or tell them how wrong they were for bringing in such junks for us, even though we wished, but for them, we were not matured enough to see the morrow and to let our voice be heard. The appearance of an Elephant is more than "I think I got a glimpse of something" when we see an elephant let's admit that we see a mighty creature, Europe has taught Africa a lot of things both good, bad and ugly, as much they have chopped a lot from Africa, so lets say I want to talk about the dance they've brought to us; Contemporary Dance, a teacher can only teach what he his cognizant of, he is going to teach with his own realities, so it is left to the student to apply his own initiatives and create his own phrases from his own creative instincts to match his capabilities and reality, most of this choreographers that came to initiate majority of Africans to contemporary dance failed to teach them how to sell their works in their own society, how to create pieces that mirrors the society they live in, they were making a copy of themselves out of Africans, they fail to realize that you don't give a vulnerable man money, you show him how to make money in his own way, so that you will be at rest tomorrow, with their selfish minds and interests they came like they've always been coming, they bribe their way and bought the artistes, I have never seen a place where one is being paid to attend a workshop, not just a little money, they paid dancers as much as they could earn in three months during two weeks, they entice us and take opportunity of our economic misfortune, they came and took away the best of our talents, get them brain washed, feed them with movement but never showed them how to move and when they are done with them, they sent them back to square one, and the senseless dancer himself that has gradually grown wings during his encounter with his foreign employer, can no longer integrate into the system he left behind behind, for surely those at home were not sleeping they've also find other ways of moving with time, his language can no longer match with the present day lingual franca and his innocent employer will admit no accusation.

Now that Africa is in fashion, now that our masquerade is dancing at the town centre, now that African nations have turned out to be in the list of "1st world nations" in terms of culture and arts, this doesn't imply that there is another birth of a new civilization, but the claws of the vultures will be on the then dark continent but now Continent of hope, as it had been before now. In the recent history of art, its look has been shifted from one civilization to the other and this is just the time for Africa to be opened to the world of contemporary arts, more foreign choreographers, directors, film makers and curators as the race has already began will hunt for more and more materials from Africa, more African creators will begin to set the pace but i suggest that we must also remember that our sun can still stop shinning and the heaven can still fall on us, so this is why we must be cruel on one another now in order for those creators that will soon be our representatives in the mainstream to go with a totally different reality and argument, rather than integrating existing ones into ours, when i say "CRUEL" i mean not cruel in the sense of blood and hatred, cruelty as in self criticism, inward check and balances, creating such piece that are difficult and cruel for myself first of all, general abolition of those pieces that comes so easily, accepting that some are actually called into this profession, while some were also called but after all not as a creator. We must belt up and be ready at all times for the world, going global but only with our local awareness, no more to self made choreographers, that name choreographer is not meant for any riffraff who give us craps, the title of a choreographer is given by a higher force and only to those who merits it, it is then an obligation to those crowned choreographers to use their title for the service of their subjects, only then will it remain theirs forever, if not they shall be dethroned and overthrown.

We must be clearly clear about our intentions, we must know what we want, if all we want is to tour the world, make fame amongst fellow artistes accompanied with wealth and power, good, we don't even have to say so, we only need to go on just the way we are, to continue to turn deaf ears to the whistles of those crying visionaries, to keep on creating pieces like snobs and philistines - wonderful pieces which will never transcend the wonderful world of arts, while some dance pieces will even be confused with the works of a painter or installation art and their aesthetics, at times, manages to dazzle the newly initiated audience, only by chance, without a single consciousness of the power and legislation they could arouse. This game, empiricism, chance and anarchy must come to an end, the dead choreographers must give way to the living, no more to dance pieces benefitting those that create them rather than the audience being of social service to the choreographer.

Mostly in the western region of Africa today, where we have some of the most clamored names in the African dance scene, forming a sort of local champions network, which gets great ecstasies seeing unprivileged dancers and young choreographers gather around them, arrogantly they continue to live and create under this same cliché of AM BLACK AND PROUD, pieces that subject-wise are just to benefit the creator as an "AFRICAN" Choreographer. in recent times there have been a handful of Hollywood film makers sprinting to get their share of the first world, their share of the on going modern scramble for the continent of hope, telling African stories in a mannerism that is very vulgar and intuitive, i wont hold them responsible for their cunning intervention, if the African film makers could not see the "SOS" state of their industries, if they've chosen to go on creating films that is so scared of telling fictional stories that brings their grotesque past to the non-fictional present, just as African choreographers are seeing nothing to create than beautiful energetic, good-for-nothing dance works, then the Heddy Maalems of today, the Jean Claude Galotas of today will continue to intervene in the sorry state of the dance scene of Africa, they've got the resources and the access to a larger audience who are quite tired of theirs and thirsty for something propositional, they will continue to make use of our raw materials that we have ignored, i as a common dancer just like other young dancers all over Africa will then have no other choice than to accept this last choice of being part of something "big" and not rot away with our so called choreographers.

Of what progression is it going to do us to forcefully include ourselves in a system that revolves around same circle, the French has laid down the rules for contemporary dance in Africa, and we also unconsciously jump into this ready made trap, the African and indian ocean dance encounters is not par hazard, this is not a sincere showcase of the works of Africans but a vulgar exhibition of Africans in very thin disguise, its quite clear that the french has got tired of their stiff necked system at which they revolve around, now they thought ones again, civilizing and francophizing the African nations will enhance their international cultural policy. There are different revolving systerm in the french art face, there are series of rings at which creators circulate around, this ring that is solely defined by the French ministry of culture, they decide who gets funds and tour and who don't, the African creators belong to another entire ring, when he has done well automatically his ring steps up, and this circles are so much mechanized in a way that can't be forcefully penetrated.

I speak extensively as a Nigerian, but might be valid for other African nations if the system seems similar, we will be in a great error if we try to imitate the French wise funny business system, Nigerian artistes has been systematically and largely known for their "in-accordance" with the governmental arm, we've been able to penetrate and become an integral part of the socio-political development of the nation, because we have often forgotten that the government does exist. Nollywood was not calved out of a parastatal or national council and for sure not out of Hollywood, there are officially 140 million habitant in this nation entity called Nigeria, there is a sufficient market that works for those who have something to propose and for sure there is a way out for those who strives, the media remains one of the most efficient way at which artistes has been able to tame their audience, not by crying out to the ministry of culture and waiting for a system that will encapslulates them from treating whatever issue they desire. The French should go on with their international cultural policy while we go on with our local strategy, its not that we will be against or raging another cold war against them, no, far from it, its a globalized world, then their system and market in place remains only but a network at which we also have the right to integrate, then we can refuse to be shown and exhibited but accept that we can be self made, show our works and not our African "bodies" to suite their ego.

Fela kuti and Youssou N'Dour can be a very perfect example of my theory, they weren't european made music maker, they were making music and succeeded before the western world heard their voices that already reign all over west Africa, so their encounter with europe was not another African coming, they were listened to and integrated as world outstanding figures because they had something to offer, what are we today's African artistes offering to the world than the same old stories that has been extensively influenced and standardized by the french policy, when our horse gets tired and our sun sets, we will become of no more use, when a new star rises. This is not only for Africans, even thousands of French creators also face this same confusion, where success is decided only by one's ability to get integrated into the political system that works, if not you shall keep trying until one day you break your nut at the right point, then comes success that is not so much far away from you after all, its just about doing what others did to get there, even if it was a mere fabrication of coca-cola while all the real works done earlier remains in the bin of ideas.

Culture, not being part of the international or national policies of Nigeria, then it is so clear that the priority of the government will be anything but culture and arts. At this present point of Nigeria's economic reform, the artistes still play a significant roll in this reform and adds lavishly to its GDP, this is one of the values of art in African terms, apart from art being an element for mirroring the society, apart from its inner value which is not quantifiable monetary-wise, there is also the market value which gives job opportunities to a whole lot of professionals, just as artistes could be useful for any work of life, so as all works of life could be useful for the art business. In Nigeria today, unlike the oil boom of the 70s that opened the larger market and arose a massive job opportunities strictly for professionals and entrepreneurs, the later boom of Nollywood in the late 90s and of the music industry in the very early period of this 21st century, opened a whole new light for the youth and young graduates who have turn out to be the sect that inherits a larger share of the economic crumbles of the 90s. If the music and the movie industries can flourish under this same condition of our national economic crises, or rather during a worst situation, that means social miracles can still happen for other art-forms to spring up in this "second republic".

Some will want to say "but MTV base Africa and Channel O or perhaps Africa magic are significant factors for the success of Hip Hop music in Africa or Nollywood" i will in turn prefer to say the reverse is the case, MTV base, Channel O, Africa Magic and all other specially dedicated television station for African movies and musics came into the scene as mere exploiters, they came in just as investors, they wouldn't have gotten interested in it if they haven't seen a very clear possibility of their own visibility through that identified channel. so if we don't begin to take ownership of our art in a "big time", taking it to what the masses refers to as "mainstream", if we still rely on the west for funds and tours, then they will continue to be the determinant factor of what African dance should look like, of who should be referred to as "real artiste" and how we operate our art using their own standards and realities. I'm not saying the moment we start taking art to the media or taking the stage to the screen, there will be an immediate revolution in our dance scene. actually, we begin to see dance reality shows and some other dance related garbage already littering the airs of Nigeria, South Africa and other countries of Africa, quite on the contrary, the dance industry will only be revolutionized from the moment we discover authentic professionals either practitioners or administrators who have the will, the ability and the vision, of course such people are rare, if they have the vision and the mechanized ability, perhaps they don't have the economic ability, the motivation is there present and it is then the duty of those amongst us who are matured enough to initiate such projects, those who have rub hands with those who got the funds, to lead the way in their discovery and create an atmosphere conducive for their existence at home, because if this conscious effort is not made, an unconscious effort will continue to be made by the mediocrities to drive the real owners of the stage abroad.

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