THE NATIONAL THEATRE AND THE SEARCH FOR A COLLECTIVE IDENTITY OF THE NIGERIAN NATION STATE
No Thumbnail Available
National Theatre Monograph Series: A Publication of the National Theatre, Nigeria
While the capacity of Nigerian art forms to promote national unity has been emphasized and acknowledged by scholars and critics, the part that The National Theatre of Nigeria specifically can play in this process has not received appropriate scholarly attention. Apart from newspaper articles, there is very little and no detailed study about the crucial role of The Nigerian National Theatre as space and place in promoting national unity. Hence, it is this gap in the knowledge production about the National Theatre that this study seeks to fill. The proposed study would be divided into seven (7) sections. The first section provides an overview of what the study is all about as well as the conversation into which it enters. The second section would be devoted to the conceptualization of the fundamental terminologies of the study. The study, for example, differentiates and at the same time establishes a confluence between the National Theatre as a structure, place, and space on one hand; and the National theatre as the performative acts of a nation on stage with an audience on the other. The need for this is to demonstrate how both the physical and imagined space are symbiotic and can together be exercises in nation building. The third section, offers a brief explication of what Henri Lefebvre’s theory of space is all about and its relevance to this critical intervention. The fourth section is a sort of background to the fundamental argument of the study; it underscores the urgent need for/of a collective identity in the face of national disintegration. But what nation in the face of disintegration is to be built-up? In what sense should Nigeria as a nation-state be understood? Is it in terms of the space it occupies in relation to boundary markers and cartographic placements or how the inhabitants of the space and placement see themselves? And if the latter is what is of utmost signification, how should the inhabitants see themselves? Answers to these questions dovetail into the fifth section entitled “The Vision Behind the National Theatre and the National Troupe of Nigeria.” It is curious that it is the same Section of the Law that sets-up the National Theatre that also established the National Troupe of Nigeria. Accordingly, this section of the study argues that the vision behind the setting-up or establishment of the National Theatre as space and place, and the National theatre as performative gesture in the same spatio-temporal articulation of the law is an enactment for a unitary/common purpose of national unity. Art as a performative gesture needs a space from which it could speak; and The Nigerian National Theatre as a structure is such a space. Conversely, space in isolation has no meaning without what inhabits or occupies it. It is, however, against the backdrop of this established vision as enunciated in section five that the sixth section entitled “The Role of the National Theatre in Nigeria’s Collective Identity” goes on to revisits in detail Henri Lefebvre’s theory of space to highlight “what has been” and “what should be” the role of The National Theatre. The seventh and final section is the “Conclusion,” which recaps and hammers on the arguments/findings of the study.
There is no gain saying that since its establishment and construction, the National Theatre as a structure has been submerged in one controversy or another. These controversies have ranged from its architectural design; to it being a transposition of a Western model, and therefore a symbol of the Eurocentric enslavement of the Nigerian nation-state; to it being too gigantic an edifice; to its fittingness taking into account the Nigerian socioeconomic and sociocultural realities; to its management structure; and to whether it should be privatized or not as well as to whether it should be out rightly sold. In an interview with Demas Nwoko (a designer and theatre architect), for instance, he submits that “When the Federal Government set up a 29-member committee in 1973 on the National Theatre, there were a few Theatre practitioners who were not happy with the plans to go round certain countries in search of designs or designers” (D. Nwoko, Interview, 25th October, 2021). According to him, “I should have been allowed to design the National Theatre as I was the only Nigerian Designer/Architect who made a bid for its design” (D. Nwoko, Interview, 25th October, 2021). Having built his studio and house from traditional materials by using clay and laterite found around the site of his studio and house, Nwoko strongly felt that the National Theatre should have been built as a truly Nigerian architectural model. Thus, beyond being an expression of a personal loss, what characterizes Demas Nwoko’s submission as that of other theatre practitioners in Nigeria is that being an embodiment of the sociocultural practice of the Nigerian nationstate, the National Theatre should have been designed and built by indigenous brains and hands.
National Theatre , , National Unity , Space and Knowledge Production , Place , Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::Aesthetic subjects
Oni, D. (2022). THE NATIONAL THEATRE AND THE SEARCH FOR A COLLECTIVE IDENTITY OF THE NIGERIAN NATION STATE. National Theatre Monograph Series: A Publication of the National Theatre, Nigeria