Pantomimic drama brings cultural narrative of River's indigenes to life
People ought to consider whether they are ready for the culture shock, the masquerades, colourfully dressed royalties and rigorous dancing.
In "Seki", the acting by members of the community on the open, exposed stage displays a vigorous freedom, as well as a proud display of heritage and independence in their accepted norms of behaviour.
Seki holds its own in a very Royal Court way. In that, people ought to consider whether they are ready for the culture shock, the masquerades, colourfully dressed royalties and rigorous dancing.
Really, we should have expected nothing else from Yibo Koko and Bolanle Austin Peters as they collaborated on smashing sensibilities with this play.
The narrative stems from the vault of the oral tradition and predominantly the pantheons of the Ijaws. This play focuses on two fishermen who became stupefied by the weird, unusual, admix of mysterious sights and drumbeats of the gods. They, the protagonist, abandon their initial pursuit and mobilize the community to narrate their unique experience at sea and in the process present a parody of a re-enacment to the amazement of the locals.
Then the audience was treated to a colourful parade of masquerades, beautiful maidens, skillful drumming and intelligent acting.
It is critical to state that as a pantomimic dramatized dance, the narration by the fishermen borrows exclusively from comic spirit in that, the fishermen in recounting their experience at sea, had conflicting perspectives. Laughter is evoke through deliberate exaggeration, stupidity, skewed expressions and body language.
However, I do not agree with Yibo Koko on tracing the American Tap dance to the Lower Niger Delta area of Nigeria with Seki. Americans never claimed ownership of tap dancing rather it all started with the African slaves working on plantations.
The early slave trade in America resulted in a rhythmic collision of cultures. In which, slaveholders already fearful of revolt, began to panic when it was discovered that Africans could communicate with each other in code through the use of drums and other native instruments. Africans held on to their traditional rhythms by transferring them to their feet. The skill of tapping out complex rhythmic passages was widely developed, and a subtle, intricate and vital physical code of expression was born.
By the mid-nineteenth century, African Americans had combined their footwork with Irish and British clogging steps to create a style called "Buck and Wing," which would eventually become Modern Tap Dance.
Not to digress into history so much, the play, "Seki" involves a dance drama originally created in 1998 as Owu-Amapu-Ti in Atlanta, Georgia. The play is a collaborative rhythmic agreement of dance patterns of different ceremonial dance groups predominantly from the Okirika, Kalabari, Bonny and Ikwerre ethnic groups in the Lower Niger Delta Area of Rivers State, Nigeria.
In one breath, Seki seeks to promote virtues and values sacrosanct to a people of peaceful and hospitable disposition but misrepresented as volatile and irritable.
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