Art, regardless of form, often represents the state of a people by capturing the social reality and identity prevalent at the time.
There are artistic works that speak of fear, hope, aspirations, sufferings, joy, and resistance of the time. But of all art forms, the impermanence and motility of performance art breathe life into stories in the way it fully imitates the real world, often taking scripts and amplifying them with actions, emotions and spoken word.
One could argue that performance art, while fundamentally being an entertainment form, probes rather than offer answers to life’s numerous questions and uncertainties.
Performance art takes from the insolvency of real life and translates into rousing, theatrical performances. For instance, ‘Naked’, a one-woman show featuring Kemi Lala Akindoju, asked an unanswered question: would the life of Kemi Lala’s character be different if she wasn’t sexually assaulted by an uncle? Would she have had the zeal and hunger to ‘blow’ or the energy to ‘hustle’?
And in such mood, over the course of four days — at different fringe locations — questions were asked but left unanswered during the Lagos Theatre Festival. These questions float in the minds of the audience like pecks of dust: you can see them, smell them but, ultimately, can’t touch them. This, too, is life: so many questions, chalked up to fate and ‘god’s will’, are left unanswered.
It is in this vein, then, that the statement ‘art imitates real life’ or ‘art is life’ acquires a validity and becomes a truism – both in a literal and figurative sense.
Now in its fifth year, the Lagos Theatre Festival charged and brought energy to the historical grounds of Freedom Park – where for over a hundred years many life questions were left dangling in the air, orphaned and desolate, abandoned by its owners who were probably eager to move on with their lives, to confront the realities of the day and possibilities of the future rather than dwell on the consequences of certain actions of the past.
In little pockets across the park, people gathered; watching and listening as actors delightfully performed, from the experimental to the progressive to the boundary-pushing.
Laughter rang through the ground at Nollywood Scoundrel while the pitiful screams of a betrayed wife in a sexless marriage in Panty-liners reverberated through the pillars.
Jealousy and fear of the unknown cluttered the mind in Overtones just as the eroticism of 3Some challenges our conservatism.
Chika Jones took time hostage, froze it and asked the question that speaks to the fears of boyhood and intercultural marriage in I learned to walk twice.
The brilliance of the festival was in its multiple area activations, featuring several simultaneous performances across different areas in Lagos – from Ikorodu to Ogba to Lagos Island.
It takes away the idea that art is a social privilege, a luxury that can only be afforded by certain classes. And, ultimately, makes it available for many and in so doing, ensured that life was breathed into and questions asked in different places across Lagos.
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