Call for Lagos cultural centre

 Mo Awomolo, an independent financial broker, would like to see a cultural centre for Lagos

 

The move to call for a Lagos cultural center is as a result of the need that arose for more arts activities in which the transmission, revival and preservation of Nigerian arts and culture will be carried out. A cultural center for Lagos should be considered as a tool to stimulate social awareness amongst Lagosians, break through the defense mechanisms and delusions of tribalism and facilitate future innovation and perceptions of Nigeria and Nigerians. To achieve the goal, we need a purpose built cultural center that provides an adequate provision of various exhibition spaces for transmission of culture; provide spaces that will attract visitors to the center for conferences, film shows, shopping and dining and provide a resource center for culturally creative activities and tourism information.

Culture transmission

Culture embraces all of the material and immaterial expression of a people as well as the processes with which all these expressions are communicated. A cultural center will perform the roles of traditional, institutional and communicative bodies responsible for culture transmission. Just as the people in Nigeria, the culture is positively multi-ethnic. The three large ethnic groups are Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and Igbo. The people still cherish their traditional languages, music, dance and literature. Nigerian culture gives a lot of importance in treating guests with utmost care and warmth. The hospitality of people represents this tradition. Like most African countries, Nigeria is recognized as rich in cultural heritage and historical value. We need to rediscover ourselves, for only a culturally and mentally liberated society has the capacity to make progress which is an all-inclusive concept with its social, political and economic aspects.

Cultural centers are not a new thing in Nigeria, but the utilization of its potential to achieve cultural transmission and exportation to an international level remains a thing of concern. A cultural Centre in Lagos, for Lagos and about Lagos will bridge the gap and celebrate the diversity of cultures present in the state. A Lagos cultural center could become a creative hotbed for the making of theatre, for new screenplays and television scripts.

In Nigeria, theatre is a reflection of life. Right from the pre-colonial, pre-literate days, it has been in existence and it is reflected in the people’s festivals, rituals, mythology and other forms of social engagements. However, exposure to education and other seemly more refined religious practices has significantly diminished the importance that was once attached to certain beliefs and notions. Today, the story has changed. Nigerian playwrights in the years before and immediately after independence wrote to correct erroneous notions about her people. New writing continues in this vein of promoting Nigerian culture.

Film & Music

In Nigeria today, creative arts is dominated by the film and music industry, but visual and performing arts are still trying to gain recognition. Nigeria needs to regain its international recognition as a theatre power house. The reason why Nigerian theatre practitioners didn’t create a Fela on Broadway is because the new writing scene in Nigeria is not given the exposure or the support it deserves. This begs the question “why” given the pool of talent in the Nigerian creative industry. One of the reasons is because there is no ideal venue for live drama performances.

A contemporary, world class, comfortable, and accessible culture center will keep Lagos buzzing 24/7. The New Idi-Araba, created within Lagos State is an area rich in cultural heritage and history. As a state, Lagos is a meeting point for people from all over Nigeria and is an excellent avenue for the exhibition, exposure, criticism and learning from each other. Alongside the production of new plays, the center will be an intimate venue to see leading national and international artists in an eclectic program mixing emerging new talent with established names.

Writers

This center would offer an invaluable world class resource to emerging writers by offering a training and outreach program such as: the innovative 11s scheme, the Young Writers’ Group (18s-25s) and a burgeoning series of Nuts and Bolts writing workshops designed to equip new writers with the basic tools of playwriting. The center will aim to develop and showcase the most promising new work for writers in theatre, TV and film. The lack of respect for the beliefs of others due to non-exposure to other cultures can be eradicated by the provision of appropriate and conducive environments for education, interaction and integration. Lagos as an urban center is a meeting point for various ethnicities therefore the exposure to and appreciation of a wider range of cultures is required. It extends to providing social and educational values for the members of the community as well as visitors to the area. Art should be accessible to all no matter their background. The facility will also educate people on the relevance of art to their lives and make them consumers as well as creators of art.

The proposal will not only consider the promotion, accommodation and transmission of culture, but will also look for ways to generate revenue, creating a self-sustaining mechanism. The uniqueness of the final design will serve as an attraction to people.

Theatre and concert hall

The proposed Cultural Center will have a number of components; the concert or theatre hall will be the main focus comprising of the stage for performances of new bold and original writings. Th main stage for shows by experienced and famous writers will seat 500 while the studio space, which will produce work by first time and experimental writing will seat 100. The center will also have rehearsal space/studio space for dance, music and theatre.

Support facilities would be part of the cultural center. A library where people can obtain literature and study materials on different cultures and a specialty restaurant providing indigenous dishes will be available in the center. The center will also include a tourists’ information center, bringing visitors to Nigeria in contact with the space and its programme. Apart from being a public recreation center, the cultural center will be an iconic building and can generate income by renting out conference halls, meeting rooms and exhibition spaces within it.

A dedicated gallery space will be used to hold exhibitions. We could lure artists to exhibit at the theatre by offering a conducive atmosphere similar to the artist's village in the National Theatre, Iganmu. We could also offer writers writing space where they can come and plug their laptops and work. This way we could create a hub for different artists to gather and share ideas.

We have chosen to start with a smaller space in order to keep maintenance costs down and maintain a conducive environment for our customers and associates. The emphasis is on this rather than the size so that we can create an attractive atmosphere that people will want to be part of. That is the way we can ensure a worldwide reputation as the place to be when visitors come to Lagos. We want to be the place where emerging superstars of today and tomorrow are discovered.

As a writing theatre we could seek funding from government, local and international foundations, and corporate sponsorship.

Past and future

The synthesis of the project will create an environment that will go beyond the cultural center and influence the way we think, eradicating tribalistic sentiment and social unrest. It will serve as a focus of reflection on our past and bring forth an awareness of the possibilities for the future.

We need to sell Nigeria to the world in the same way that the Latin American film-makers have sold Latin America with great success. A world class facility where ideas and collaborations can take place, will make Lagos a hub of activity similar to New York and London. A venue such as this could be the starting point for the launch of collectives who together can improve the quality of Nigerian art. This concept will have a huge social impact by providing an avenue for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to channel their creative energy into the arts by collaborating and learning from professional artists.

Arts and culture

Art patronage in the West is considered the norm. It is the height of sophistication. It is time for Nigerian entrepreneurs to do their bit in helping Nigerian arts and culture. The Bruce family developed Silverbird and the market needs more players in this space. Nigeria should maintain the powerhouse status that it deserves. The world class facility would help to broaden Nigeria’s reach in a global world. This would lead to a wider network for Nigerians making greater contacts in international business, as our arts and culture, if strategically disseminated, will have already made their prospective international clients aware of the diversity, creativity and artistic richness of Nigeria.

Cultural centre

The primary function of a Cultural Center to any community is the rendering of services for the exhibition of local culture and education on foreign ones. As culture is a reflection of the way of life of a people, a cultural center is a mirror, showing the varied interest of the local society. It serves as a cultural monument to the glory of a town. It is a place where the present and past are exhibited as the arts. Cultural centers, through its social function, encourage the development of the artist. Moral and aesthetic values are exemplified and it serves as a reminder of forgotten values and ideals. Through the cultural center, new ideas can be impacted unto people. Plays, lectures, seminars, exhibitions in close cooperation with other institutions can be organised and these are forms of education to both tourists and indigenes alike.

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
T: +44 20 7834 7676, F: +44 20 7973 0076, W: www.alaincharles.com

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