The Impact Of Nigerian National Theatre As A Vehicle For Cultural Promotion And Commercial Venture

Project and Seminar Material for Theatre Arts

The Impact Of Nigerian National Theatre As A Vehicle For Cultural Promotion And Commercial Venture


Abstract


The purpose of this research work is to explore the theatre as an art institution saddled with the responsibility of marketing a culture using the National Art Theatre, Lagos and Musoncentre as focus points. The study was conducted using a questionnaire, personal interview and direct observation methods. The data collected was analysed from answer options derived from questionnaire issues tabulated and interpreted using chi-square method to prove the hypothesis. Findings from the study revealed that cultural promotion is inevitable in the development of Nigeria, national theatre fosters national unity, there is a relationship between national theatre and cultural commercial venture and that national theatre enhances patrotism. The theatre has gone to the far ends of the earth and it should be a medium for show casing our rich cultural heritage. Producers should use theatre as a media to first and foremost promote unity among Nigerian communities as they have done in very few theatre to reiterate our oneness in spite of our cultural, religious or ethnic differences. Theatre owners should explore the lives of great African women who have made meaningful contributions to the success of the family and the country, and whose stories are both powerful and compelling to promote unity.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1. Background of the Study

A national theatre embodies the performing treasures of the nation‘s inheritance for a glorious cause. The theatre brings the best not just to its people but also to the world and further deals with artistic and creative imaginations. It then beholds on Government to encourage the theatre as a body that preserves and promotes the cultural values of the nation rather than see it as a commercial industry. It is to this effect that the Scottish National Theatre idea comes as an art/culture commissioning body and not just one mount of architectural edifice. To preserve a culture then, it must be taken care of and mostly by funding. This may have been implied by Stewart Steven in his closing remark at the English Equity Theatre Conference, when he says that ―if you want to destroy a people, the first thing you do is destroy its culture‖. A functioning and producing theatre is something that provides a heart to the nature of a nation. This is in terms of identity, focus and sometimes diverse opinions. It is to this effect that the Social Democratic Government of Sweden in the 1930s initiated the establishment of a nation-wide organization for a touring theatre. A theatre that packages the national identity. This theatre called Riksteatern is the Author α: Department of Theatre and Media Arts Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, Nigeria. e-mail: nuzomat@yahoo.com third theatre financed by government funds in Sweden. Riksteatern produces about 1,500 performances of (national) drama, music and dance a year. In addition, it has a special department that produces children‘s theatre called Ungariks. During the 1960s, riksteatern became an important moulder of public opinion through its performance. The National Theatre of Bulgaria Ivan Vazouis financed by Bulgaria‘s Ministry of Culture. Varying a spectrum of repertoire from classical drama to contemporary plays, the theatre stages about ten major productions yearlywith between 450 and 500 performances presented per season, the theatre company has made an extensive tour of Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America showcasing Bulgaria‘s identity. Recently with King Stag, it received most of the major awards at the Raduga Festival in St. Petersburg in Russia. In each of these cases cited, the country‘s image is marketed. This marketing in the opinion of this paper, is made possible due to a focused managerial body at play.

Africa has variety of Arts, craft and Religion which had contributed to the popularity of its society. From the investigations made by archaeologists and anthropologists into the life of the people over the years, Art and religion had played major roles in the development of the continent in the past and present life of the people.

The African masks which were used for religious and social purposes pioneered the European art. Picasso and other artists preferred it to artistic expression of the classical and Renaissance art. According to Smeets (1975) “our generation, in fact has only just discovered the magnificence of the so-called primitive cultures. In the Paris of the young Picasso and Breque, African masks and sculpture had the impact of thunder.”

In Nigeria some early artifacts which were collected by K.C. Murray and some excavations which revealed the Nok, Igboukwu and Ife artifacts to mention but a few gave insight into the rich heritage of Art objects, religion and cultural practices which made the society a dynamic socio-cultural religious entity.

The ancestors of the Nigerian ethnic groups bequeathed objects especially sculptural forms in wood, metal, ivory and terracotta. According to Eze (2008) “These materials were used by early sculptors using simple tools and hands to turn them into sculptural pieces.” Symbolism was the driving force which produced the art works that were used for utility, religious worship and the development of the ethnic groups.

Art, religion and the development of Nigerian ethnic group is not separated from each other. They complement each other and keep the traditional society going and alive.

Anyachonkeye (2006) states:Our people are guided by their ethos, the things they value and revere. They are firm believers in their cultural heritage the things that hold and bind them together. The norm and moral ethics cannot be extricated from their material and non-material culture-morals, religion, food habit, dialect, values system and others.

Many Nigerian traditional ethnic groups in effect practiced art and religion in order to communicate with their gods because of their belief in the human soul and spirit which are ever at work. Some of these gods were worshipped in shrines with art objects. This kept the societies intact and developed.


1.2. Statement of the Problem

Culture is the aggregate of concepts and values which characterize a community. This makes people and culture quite inseparable. It then follows that a people without culture are in themselves not in full existence (Obasanjo, 1977:6). Theatre is one institution which ensures this unity towards a greater development of a nation. One wonders then the rationale behind the neglect of the theatre, which propagates cultural values of a nation. Looking at Government‘s interest on culture and arts in general, Ohenhen (2004.21) argues that ―the decision of government to classify the culture ministry as a non-core ministry really culminated in the underfunding and under development of the ministry‖ and arts in general. With the increased abandonment of the theatre, it has become paramount that an art administrator who can co-ordinate theatre organisation effectively is engaged. Akomolafe (1981:427) notes this when he observes that the ―problem of administrative coordination within and among theatre demands great attention. It implies then that properly trained theatre administrative directors who will relief artistic directors of routine administrative duties‖ be engaged for an effective daily management of art institutions. To this In short, it has become apparent to laymen and professionals- and urgently so to both incipient and established arts organizations themselves-that the business of organizing, funding, managing and sustaining almost any given artistic enterprise requires executive leadership of a special kind. As a response to this ―special kind‖ of leadership, it becomes imperative that: The arts manager today must be a person of taste, sensitivity and erudition whose inclinations and education enable him to search out, recognize and develop the genius of artistic originality in whatever guise it may appear. Because the guise is likely to be unusual, if not startling, he must also posses a lion‘s share of courage to support and promote it. He must be a facilitator of fantasies, a mover and a shaker…. Administrative, financial and promotional know-how in the arts are wasted when not modified by such qualities (Reid 1983:22). Very tangent to the point stated above as it regards problem of theatre management in a developing country is lack of defined goals and objectives.

Often, theatre organizations from the beginning do not have clear objective(s) to aid effective management. It sounds logical that when an idea for theatre can be clearly articulated and understood, when the primary motivation for activating the idea is also clear, then an appropriate type of theatre organization must be found in which the concept may be produced in manner consonant with the goals at hand‖ Langley (1980:10). In a personal interview, Osofisan, a former General manager of the National Theatre sees policy problem as an excruciating management handicap when he laments thus: The first thing is that the government should make up its mind about what it wants to do with the place. Until that is done, you can‘t do much. If the government‘s philosophy is not really in favour of cultural expression, … then the decisions to be taken will be different. Talking in the abstract is okay but the concrete thing is: let‘s have a policy. Let‘s know what the policy is, whether the place is to showcase Nigerian culture, the best of Nigerian culture and all that, or it is meant to run as a commercial business. That is the thing. Langley sees a solution to this problem in a harmonious blend in the goals/objectives of both the theatre and that of the administrative executives when he observes that ―unless agreement about the philosophy and objectives behind a project is reached and especially well understood between the artistic and administrative elements, at least half the organization will labour under false or wrongly construed assumptions or under none at all‖ (1980:9). Langley sees good communication as key to a successful management and posits that in an organization, even though an idea may be a brain child of a particular person, it should ―be discussed and subscribed to by others who will play leading roles in the project‖. When hiring a managing director, Langley also advises that this is the point when either side defines or harmonizes his objective(s). Langley (1980:23) opines that the manager Should be cross-examined by both the institution and by himself as to whether his personality, experience and philosophy are in accord with the task at hand. Only if this is true will he be able to function as translator for goals and policies between the organization and the public and between factions within the organization itself. The growth of the organization lies not on the manager alone, but on the entire staff. The administrative staff should be a reflection of the overall aims and policies of the theatre organisation. Supportive personnel including administrators, stagehands, ushers and doormen, are not hired simply to follow orders. They are, like the artists, hired to support the ideas, goals and objectives of a troupe. When optimal output is not achieved, Akinboye J.O. et al (2002:95) identify fourteen malaises which include management technique that may be at work.


1.3 Objectives of the Study

  1. To determine whether national theatre is a vehicle for cultural, promotional and commercial venture.
  2. To know if there is a relationship between national theatre and cultural commercial venture.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. Is national theatre a vehicle for cultural, promotional and commercial venture?
  2. What relationship exists between national theatre and cultural commercial venture?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1
  • Ho: National theatre is not a vehicle for cultural, promotional and commercial venture.
  • Hi: National theatre is a vehicle for cultural, promotional and commercial venture.
Hypothesis 2
  • Ho: There is no significant relationship between national theatre and cultural commercial venture.
  • Hi: There is a significant relationship between national theatre and cultural commercial venture.

1.6 Significance of the Study

This paper therefore, tries to explore the theatre as an art institution saddled with the responsibility of marketing a culture using the National Art Theatre, Lagos and MUSON centre as focus points. Though the MUSON center is a private art centre, its management is a pointer in the opinion of this paper. First, we look at some important terms. Culture, as the totality of identity factors, natural endowments, not excluding people in whom and through whom a nation is presented, is harnessed, preserved and exported through distinct and defined institution(s). Developing country in the context of this paper denotes a country whose cultural institutions do not, to a reasonable extent, contribute to national development. It could be due to inability of the country to make the cultural institutions function or refusal of the institutions to optimally live up to designated tasks. Nigeria, as a country, is in this case classified as a developing country.


1.7 Scope of the Study

The study covers the impact of Nigeria national theatre as a vehicle for cultural promotional and commercial venture. Theatre is chosen here because it is not just drama, dance or music. It also embraces all arts that have to do with human experience. Soyinka (1997:13) re-echoes this fact when he posits that ―theatre, despite its many masks, is the unending rendition of the human experience, in totality, and its excitement lies indeed in its very unpredictability. Theatre is in a cultural sense, the coming together of human beings who have agreed in a place, a time, a story and who take roles and wear costumes in order to act for one another tales from and of existence‖ (Tansi, 1997:46).Theatre management becomes then, not just a blending touch, but a tool to grease and make the theatre achieve the desired objectives.


1.8 Limitations of the Study

The only limitation faced by the researcher in the course of carrying out this study was the delay in getting data from the various respondents. Most respondents were reluctant in filling questionnaires administered to them due to their busy schedules and nature of their work. The researcher found it difficult to collect responses from the various respondents, and this almost hampered the success of this study.


1.9 Definition of Terms

Theatre:

Is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage.

Culture:

A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

Commercial Venture:

An undertaking involving uncertainty as to the outcome, especially a risky or dangerous one: a mountain-climbing venture.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary of Findings

The objectives of the study were to

  1. To determine whether national theatre is a vehicle for cultural, promotional and commercial venture.
  2. To know if there is a relationship between national theatre and cultural commercial venture.

Findings from the study revealed that cultural promotion is inevitable in the development of Nigeria, national theatre fosters national unity, there is a relationship between national theatre and cultural commercial venture, national theatre is a vehicle for cultural promotional venture and that national theatre enhances patrotism.


5.2 Conclusion

From the foregoing, we can deduce that Nigerian theatre started well by promoting our rich cultural heritage but somewhere along the line deviated to accommodate financial gains. This became prominent when the viewers of home videos increased drastically thereby giving rise to competition among theatre producers who were ready to pay heavily to get stories that would move and increase sales.

As Gerbner and his team observes, most of what we know or think we know, we have never personally experienced. We know these things because of the stories we see and hear in the media.

This implies that the media (television) has a way of teaching us things we do not know and these things should be based on facts and the true teachings of our culture.

Theatre is a mass communication medium that can be used to bring about unity and promote our cultural heritage and this can be done by the kind of messages portrayed. By and large, Nigerian theatre have gone to the far ends of the earth and it should be a medium for show casing our rich cultural heritage. The unity of this nation can be enhanced through the packaging of theatre or movies which is being watched by Nigerians at home and abroad.

The cultural world view of Nigerians is grounded in fundamental beliefs and values which guide and shape life experiences. In spite of the ethnic differences, there are core values that transcend ethnic and regional boundaries.

These include: religiosity; extended family; tradition and rituals; community; respect for elders; decent dressing; tolerance; hospitality; peace and so on. These values must transcend our national boundary and theatre or movie is the right path that can help us achieve this aim.

The emphasis here is that culture is condensed human experience; a set of values, ideas and norms expressed in varying categories which is both rooted in history and tradition; dynamic and changing; past as well as future. Some cultural expressions are passed on from one generation to the other such as traditional dresses, food, and folktales while others are being transformed through encounters with other cultures and through technical developments such as music and dramatic arts as well as through the media, including theatre.


5.3 Recommendations

Following the trend of all that is going on in the theatre industry, I thereby make the following recommendations:

  1. The Nigerian theatre censors commission should scrutinise theatre before they are sent out for viewing by the larger audience.
  2. Script writers should always have at the back of their minds that Nigeria’s cultural heritage should be foremost on their minds when they are writing any script.
  3. Henceforth, village heads should be contacted to get actual story lines that would reflect their culture.
  4. Producers should use theatre as a medium to first and foremost promote unity among Nigerian communities as they have done in very few theatre to reiterate our oneness in spite of our cultural, religious or ethnic differences.
  5. The talents (actors and actresses) chosen should be compelled to dress and speak like real Nigerians.
  6. Theatre owners should explore the lives of great African women who have made meaningful contributions to the success of the family and the country, and whose stories are both powerful and compelling to promote unity.
  7. There should be an analysis and understanding of the Nigerian cultural life, cultural values and cultural needs and expectations of people.

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