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Faces of Africa – Renaissance of Theatre in Nigeria Pt. 1

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“Movies will make you famous; television will make you rich; but theatre will make you good.”These words were uttered by Terrence Mann, a renowned theatre director. These words seem to resonate very well with one lady who is determined to ensure that the theatrical and visual arts industry in Nigeria regains its lost glory.

Nollywood has established Nigeria as a powerhouse in the production of films, it produces over 1000 films every year. However, the success of film has come at an expense of the theatre industry that was popular in the seventies, eighties and nineties.

Moremi the Musical, playing to a full house.

Bolanle Austen Peters is a theatre director championing a theatrical renaissance in Nigeria, in 2003; she set up Terra Kulture an organization that would help her in the journey towards creating a brand that would be appreciated by many theatre lovers in Nigeria and beyond. Terra Kulture is an all-round culture center comprising of a theatre auditorium, a restaurant, a library and an art gallery.

Bolanle Austen Peters, director of Moremi the Musical.

Bolanle is a self-taught theatre director; she trained as a lawyer but she soon realized that her passion was actually in culture and the visual arts.  The creative bug got the better of her and she decided to follow her passion.

“I looked for something that I enjoyed, and I found out that I really I have always loved the arts. As a child, literature, history, those are the things that really captured my attention,“ says Bolanle.

Terra Kulture  has lived up to its reputation by producing major musicals that have received critical acclaim in Nigeria. Some of the musicals that Terra Kulture has produced so far include, Fela and the Kalakuta queens (2018), Wakaa (2016), Saro the musical (2013).

Actors rehearsing for Moremi the musical.

Having noted a need to tell African stories, Bolanle and the Terra Kulture team are working on a musical called Moremi. This is a musical play based on a historical heroine from the Yoruba tribe of western Nigeria called Moremi Ajashoro. The story of Moremi is an iconic tale of wit and perseverance. Moremi was a queen of the Yoruba, She saved her people from the Igbo raiders who periodically would capture people from the Yoruba city of Ile Ife. Moremi took it upon herself to help salvage the situation and stop this savagery, she did by letting herself get captured by the Igbo people, learning their secrets and finally helping her people to defeat them using a bushel of fire.

A statue of Queen Moremi Ajashoro

According to Rotimi Adelegan an actor on the Moremi musical, Moremi is actually the story behind the famed Statue of Liberty at the New York Harbor. The Yoruba claim that the image was copied by the French who got the story from them.

For self-taught theatre director Bolanle Austen Peters, her quest to revolutionize the theatre industry in Nigeria is fast becoming a reality.

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