Dike Chukwumerije's Made in Nigeria was a night of poetry, music, dance and drama that took its audience through the 102 years of Nigeria from amalgamation to independence.
The story of Nigeria is one that is rife with chaos and at the same time young men and women who have stood up to fight for a version of the (depressing) Nigeria dream; whether through their art, words or might.
Dike Chukwumerije's Made in Nigeria had its first showing in October 1, 2016. A three day event over the Independence Day weekend in Abuja that was well attended by a crowd similar to one that you'd find at a music concert.
In twenty spoken word/poetry pieces, Chukwumerije mapped the history of Nigeria, starting from the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914, through struggles for and eventual Independence, the ensuing civil war, the successive coups, the student protests of the 80s and 90s, and finally the dark days of insurgency and bomb-blasts.
Amidst the chaos, the auteur portrayed in words and dramatic reenactments, were real humans who lived and loved through it all. There was also a lot of song and dance provided by apt collaborators, The Krump Studios.
The Soldier's Wife, a poem about a soldier headed out to a coup he believes would save his nation from the corrupt leaders who would tear it apart, was accompanied by a stirring dance dramatisation. The seamless synergy of word and dance mesmerised the audience into silence, as we were drawn to the other side of a canvas that for a long time - from the first coup in '66 to the last ones in the late 90s - dominated the wall of our development as a modern nation.
Mothering Sunday evoked the fears and expectations of an average parent of a young person in contemporary Nigeria contemplating the cutthroat job market. "You will find a job, you will find a job," the mother chants over and over again, a regular prayer-before-meal turning to a rant against the much dreaded evil forces that would derail her child's bright future.
A story about Nigeria is incomplete without tales about the student protests and riots, starting from the '70s and well into the noughties. Students who spoke against a government that would steal their future only to become that same government in the future.
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In Aluta, Chukwumerije made great use of the varying octaves of his gravelly voice, especially a rather sharp falsetto: "I want to talk! I want to yarn! I want to pon-ti-fi-cate! I want to e-lu-ci-date."
A poem that cut across every Nigerian era was Correct People, a love story set in the sixties. A man from Kaduna meets his bride in Lagos, goes to Ibadan to seek her hand from her Igbo father only to be rejected. He returns to Kaduna and his gladly disowned by his father because love knows no boundaries, tribe or tongue.
A lawyer by training, Chukwumerije fell in love with poetry as a child. He honed his art over time, winning the Abuja Literary Society Spoken Word Slam in 2011 and the African Poet National Slam in 2012. He also penned a book, Urichindere, a coming-of-age story set in the tumultous time of the Abacha era. He still has a day job but his passion draws him out when it can.
Apart from Abuja, Made in Nigeria - a wholly self-funded production - was also shown in Lagos in December, where it drew equal raves reviews and on Valentine's Day weekend this year, Saturday February 11, Abuja residents who had missed the October show where given a second chance to see it. Guests included Femi Adesina, a special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari; Chidi Odinkalu and entertainer CHarlie Boy. It will be Enugu's turn to enjoy this superb opus on March 25.
See more photos from the event: