On the 25th of March, 2017, the Coal City hosted Dike Chukwumerije’s ‘Made in Nigeria’ show at Oaklands event center, Enugu.
Yours truly, being a lover of the Arts, got there by 4:06pm; the show was slated for 4pm. Although I anticipated African time, a part of me was so sure that this would be different. I mean, the show is about Nigeria’s 102 years and they wouldn’t make the mistake of “falling down the rabbit hole” that is African time malady.
Tsk, tsk, tsk, they did. The registration booth could have been better. Something tells me they didn’t expect a good turn out from Enugu residents like there had been in Lagos and Abuja. I’d paid for the Adult category and was told where to sit. I looked out to the VIP and was hugely disappointed, but at the same time relieved that I didn’t choose it. The only difference was their seats were the first two rows and covered in red.
The show didn’t start at 4 and more people of all ages and walks of life kept thronging in. I do not know what caused the delay because while we were seated, the technical/stage team was still rigging the stage curtains and its sounds were awful. Honestly, that was a huge turn off; no audience should be treated to such.
The stage mural was arty and captured the “102 years of Nigeria” in the subtheme. After much delay, the show kicked off by 5:12pm. By this time, the hall was nearly filled to capacity and the air-conditioning units favoured only those seated close to it.
Mic check, lights… Action! A young man on casual attire welcomes us to the show, then proceeds to introduce another young man who is dressed in Yoruba attire and is holding a hand bell. This young man’s energetic introduction of the show, quips about “Enugu okpa”, “alternative facts” about the origin of the word ‘Nigeria’ – all the while punctuating every sentence with a bell ring – appeases the irritated audience. Towards the end of his introduction, he switches to Yoruba language which is fine, but I bet almost everyone in the audience who didn’t understand Yoruba wished he didn’t. True, I knew there was no way he could have been insulting us, but a part of me wryly considered it.
The next young man came on stage and recited a poem. At first, those of us who hadn’t seen Dike Chukwumerije before thought it was he and I have to add, I was disappointed. The young man looked good but his rendition of the poem lacked punch which every poet seems to have, and I couldn’t help thinking “this guy is going to bore us”.
Then, a dark young man on a brodie helmet appears on stage and verbally titillates the crowd with his monologue of two part characters involving an old man and his son. The young man who takes on these roles is no other person but Dike Chukwumerije himself. In his first monologue, the young man asks his ageing father for his true age. Then, the old man attempts to trace his birth date through the haze of events that shaped the British colony presently called Nigeria.
Dike’s strong voice and “punch” made the delivery wonderful. One couldn’t help but use his or her imagination in framing the picture he evoked.
He took us through the travails of every Nigerian era and infused them with storylines which resonated with our daily struggles. Dike Chukwumerije’s use of monologue and mime was very effective. He had the emotions to back his poetry and his co-stars had the demeanor to make his emotions come to life.
During intermissions, which didn’t look like intermissions, his co-stars stayed true to form and entertained the audience with dance steps and music from the 70s and 80s. This created nostalgia amongst the elderly audience and part of the millennials. Some mouthed the lyrics of the songs, while others nodded with a sheepish smile on their face. The traditional Igbo dance was perfection; one could easily see that the dancers put in their all in the craft and it reminded me of how wonderful our cultural dance is.
Then came the part where Dike Chukwumerije gave a monologue on corruption in Nigeria. No form was left out and the audience was enraptured with our sins right in our face. Dike’s monologue cast a light on that which we want hidden and for a moment you could see shame on our faces. Although, to be honest, a part of me couldn’t help but think, “Well, your senator father was one of them”. But, I have to be fair to him because from the love, time and care put into the ‘Made in Nigeria’ show, one could see Dike Chukwumerije has a true passion for Nigeria, which really does matter. He created a non political didactic show that has no subtexts and has made us look inwards, made us question our choices.
The ‘Made in Nigeria’ costumes were also on point; from the hairstyles to the foot wears, the audience did not get confused as to which era they were projecting. Even the little romance anecdotes were infused and captured at the right moments, leaving the audience amused and all grins.
I would call the show a rollercoaster of pain and joy. Dike also rendered a beautiful eulogy of Herbert Macaulay who sadly, is slipping away from our national consciousness; a round of applause to those who have ensured the absence of history classes in our schools and the burial of the one Naira note.
Every show has its own on-stage glitch and ‘Made in Nigeria’ was not exempt. Dike Chukwumerije’s mic developed faults at some intervals and this drew a lot of groans from the audience; twice, the DJ didn’t cue in music and sound effect at the right time, but I have to say the cast were wonderful as they didn’t falter and carried on with their craft.
In all, the Made in Nigeria show in Enugu was poetry at its finest. It is a show worth seeing with family as it is education and entertainment packed in one show. I know when some people hear the word “poetry”; it invokes the thought of Shakespeare and the like. No! Made in Nigeria show was a different kind; it was art imitating life and life imitating art. Its form and language was very simple and no plot was lost in translation.
Ndi Enugu n’asi gi…Daalu.