Instilling Cultural Values In Young Ones Through NTN’s Creative Station

Children Performing

Children Performing

THE National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) has again proved that it can package, sustain, promote and pass on to the youth or young ones the various Nigerian cultures for the sustenance and unity of the country. Part of the activities to achieve this laudable goal is its Children and Teens Creative Station organised for young people in the age bracket of five to 18. Introduced in 2009, as a way of developing the imaginative skills of children and teens, the yearly workshop fiesta celebrates and promotes Nigeria’s cultural heritage through dance, music and drama.

Last Sunday, while rounding off the August training session, the children and teens presented a superlative showpiece in dance and music, with a command performance of Akrifa, a paly written by Mike Anyanwu. The participants who were drawn from different backgrounds and ethnic groups presented diverse dances, including acrobatic (Nkpogiti), colourful jameba, thrilling egwomomo, royal maliki and body twisting bata.

With the aim of encouraging and nurturing talents in children and youths, who otherwise may not have the avenue to do so outside the formal school system, the 30-day fee-paying creative station was a worthy cultural event for young ones. There was improvement in this year’s programming, as it CREATIVE-2---Copyreceived support from parents, guardians and corporate oraganisations, which also enabled it move from a smaller hall, Cinema Hall I to a more spacious Cinema Hall II, while participation rose from 85 last year to140; an increase of about 65 per cent. With this development, child-centred organisations are expected to partner with organisers in the next edition of the yearly event, to give it the boost it deserves.

While welcoming guests, Director of Drama Josephine Igberaese said, “Last year, the children presented a play on the historical creation of Nigeria, but this year we shall explore Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, which spanned a period of 400 years.”

According to her, most of the slaves taken from Africa were from the West African sub-region, particularly Nigeria, adding that presently slavery has taken a new name to include human trafficking, child and forced labour, child marriage, kidnapping and caste system and others.

She continued, “It is our desire to bring to the consciousness of our children the issues they might face

PHOTOS: Soibifaa Dokubo

PHOTOS: Soibifaa Dokubo

as possible leaders of tomorrow. Interestingly, during our interactive sessions children, who before now have never heard of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, raised many questions. A teenager (Master Okwudili Ujubuonu) came to me with the quote by Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.” Please take a look at the world around you; this statement is as true today as when it was first said. I am happy that a child understands the importance of being perpetually in chains, which means they must find a way to break free from the chains or entanglements in their lives as adults.”

Igberaese also disclosed that the Creative Station has metamorphosed into a family, “From what I hear, the interactions among the children continued beyond the station, which is one of the objectives; that of breaking barriers and social class. I call them children without borders for this singular reason.

“Creative Station is not just a fun place, but where you come to learn and explore talents in an informal way. The edutainment or historical series is to look at some aspects of our history as Nigerians and blacks. Apart from this, the workshop is also designed to prepare the children for a future career in the theatre by exposing them to storytelling, creative writing, singing, dancing, acting, voice training, puppetry, creative writing, pantomime and improvisational skills.

“It is NTN’s own intervention in terms of productively engaging the children creatively during the long holiday. By engaging them creatively, they will not only take their minds off certain known vices during the long holiday, but will be able to polish their individual creative talents.”

Artistic Director/CEO of NTN, Mr. Akin Adejuwon, who expressed his elation that the project was getting the desired attention needed said Creative Station was glad to present Akrifa, which is an outcome of over a month of intensive preparation from script to exhibition by the young ones between ages 5 and 18.

He disclosed: “We really are charged with the mandate to raise children in the theatre and having been mandated to command, showcase and promote the best of Nigerian theatre in dance, drama and music, we find it exigent to pass on these knowledge to the children. We are particularly concerned to bringing up children in these areas. And you must know, it’s not a piece of cake when you have children of different background come together for the workshop.”

With finance as the main challenge of the troupe, which has not been made easy with changes in government, Adejuwon noted that failing to hold the sixth edition of the creative workshop would mean NTN had failed in one of its duties. “We have come to the realisation that we shall be failing in our duties if we do not allow this production to go on,” he noted.

On the fate of children that had participated in the past editions along with current ones, Adejuwon, said, “There is a limit to what National Troupe of Nigeria’s Children and Teens Creative Workshop (NTNCTW) can do with the children. However, what we have decided to do because of the circumstances and the wherewithal within our control is to make sure that within the period we have them in camp, we impact as much dramatic, musical and dance knowledge as possible to them, so that, in themselves, they will be able to decide what they want to do with such training and to how high a level they want to go.

“NTN could be likened to the national football team. We are supposed to discover the challenges, use them to promote the children to the world and what they can now do with that is what neither NTN nor anybody can say.

“I must confess, when I came in as Artistic Director/CEO, I was green because coming from the academics with such freedom of speech, expression and performance, I thought I could just transfer that to NTN, but it wasn’t so. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I am not regretting most of the things I had said and if placed on the scale of one to 100, I will score myself 60 per cent.”

Having awarded himself a pass mark, one would be led to think all is well, but the NTN boss said there are much ground yet to cover. “As much as I would say I have achieved quite a few of what I set out to do, I must say there is still so much to be achieved. For example, we have interacted and debated on the military project, but quite a number of the leaders have been changed twice. So, as we are nearing achieving some of the goals the leaders are changed, but we have not relented. On the other levels, I have achieved a lot, but the only thing left for me is the northern element. I would love to bring the representatives of the North to the core of the National Troupe and I am sure the situation is becoming much better because of the current president Muhammadu Buhari.”

While commending NTN for training the children within such a short period to come up with an unsurpassed presentation, CEO of Sweet Sensation Confectionery Limited, Mrs. Kehinde Kamson, said: “The children’s performances have rekindled hope in me that there is still hope in Nigeria. All we need to do is to help a child so that he or she can be what he or she wants to be in life. I am fulfilled to see that Nigerian children can demonstrate this level of entertainment.”

Art collector and business tycoon, Prince Omooba Yemisi Shyllon, who expressing delight at the superlative performances in dance, music and oratory stated that Nigeria is a great country with great resources, but we need to develop our human resources to develop in other areas of life.

“We have to develop in science and technology; we have so much to give the world in art. We should help the young ones to pick interest in our culture because our culture is our identity. We should utilise our art to develop and promote our culture,” he stressed.

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