In describing an excitement, especially one caused by a creative or spiritual experience, one is not short of hyperbolic descriptions. I’ll save the hyperboles that fit the performance of Dike’s spoken word performance (#MadeInNigeria) at The Muson Centre yesterday, for later. It was — here I go, I can’t save myself — a creative triumph of an improbable proportion!
The night, as advertised, was about spoken word. In turns out, the night, as inadequately advertised, was more than spoken word.
I towed behind my friend as an usher led us to our seats. We got there late but were lucky to have a corner with a good view of the stage.
Dike was performing a monologue. Costumed in 70’s disco regalia — an over-fitted top that advertised his biceps, bell-bottom trousers better described as giant paddles, an aviator shades that reminded of Abacha and a head heavy with Afro, his voice blared through the hall. Behind him was a backdrop illustrating some of Nigeria’s cultural and political elements and which through perfunctory glance looked like a version of a Lemi Ghariokwu’s cover design of Fela Kuti’s album.
One of his monologues evoked the good old days when morality and sanity were relatively part of the Nigerian makeup. For those who lived through those days, these nostalgic evocations are easy references. But it is nearly incomprehensible for Nigerians in my age bracket to entertain the idea that Nigeria was once relatively prosperous, at least by socialist standards. Dike alluded to vestiges of a once economically flourishing country — the groundnut pyramids of old Northern Nigeria, the touristy scenery of old Maiduguri etc., and, as one still experiences these days in incidental encounters with older people — in beer parlors or danfos or marketplaces or grandma visitations, they reminisce about a past when the Naira shared shoulder level with dollars and pounds. Dike modulated his voice to mimic a mother in pains of the loss of her children and repeatedly stressed “Bring Back… “, undoubtedly riding on the popular hashtag about kidnapped northern school children. This was not poetry for sentimentality.
The performances were interspersed with old Nigerian music — some I know, some I don’t know, old advertising sound bite — “Who get this condom, I say na who get this rain coat?”. I can’t recall now but I think there was Sunny Okosun’s, Evi Edna Ogholi’s, Francis Agu’s etc.
Then Christy Essien Igbokwe’s “Seun Rere” cued in and Dike launched into some cool dance steps. One wondered what he was up to until he invited the audience into the most humorous episode of the night — a parody of a typical Nigerian mother. It’s best watched than any attempt to describe it. It was funny… because Nigerian mothers, in their melodramas, are funny!
Soldiers matched in to some music. Shoki dance got a feature. Same as a popular kegite chorus. Dike led a school protest and the soldiers, true to character, attacked and disbanded them with sticks. He launched into aluta chants, with a repeated soprano stress — “I want to elucidate…. ” The poem alluded to Nigeria’s glorious educational past and how the government has since invested in ruining it.
The evening thematically was set as a discourse to query the country’s existential problems and threats. Firebrand words were aimed at Nigeria’s moribund development and elites, the latter, especially worried him as he struggled to reconcile how they enjoyed first world conveniences which they deny their third world fellow citizens. Dike sermonized and satirized with the gusto and articulation of a political activist. His materials were suggestive of robust knowledge of Nigeria’s history and political skirmishes.
There were kids performers too. A girl recited the full stanzas of the Nigerian national anthem and a boy recited a poem. The boy’s articulation got in the way of my comprehension of whatever he was reciting. The young dude’s articulation and confidence is the stuff of a potential child voice-over artist.
The last performance was a panegyric for Herbert Macaulay, Nigeria’s father of nationalism. The late guy peered from the backdrop, watching Dike reeling his political party credentials. I wondered if future reprisals of the panegyric would feature hologram appearance of the dead man. That would be cool.
The show ended. The audience gave a rousing applause and a standing ovation. If it were an aluta-kind of audience, I suppose there would be chants of encore. Some things don’t happen among Nigeria’s middle class art enthusiasts.
Hyberbole. #MadeInNigeria was made for epic evocation of Nigeria’s history and moribund existence. Hyperbole. #MadeInNigeria is spoken word served raw to nudge consciences and to nurture a national awakening. Hyperbole. #MadeInNigeria is Dike in his creative finest employing words as vehicles of social awakening.