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Ovunda Ihunwo’s “we Are Here, We Are Here” In Performance - Literature - Nairaland

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Ovunda Ihunwo’s “we Are Here, We Are Here” In Performance by PTVNEWS: 12:18am On Aug 09, 2021
By Edward E. Imo

Set against the backdrop of the post–Covid-19 pandemic in a developing civilization, Ovunda’s “We Are Here, We Are Here” stands out as a theatrical experiment that harps on the indigenous African antidote to the pandemic beyond observing all its preventive protocols. This was a special presentation on the 2021 edition of World Theatre Day held on the 27th March 2021 with the theme “Building Sustainable Communities.”

In this presentation, Ovunda adopts the Brechtian technique of “a -play- within a- play” whereby a theatre troupe is rehearsing a play that borders on love and nature and in the process, the director of the play who also goes by the name DIRECTOR, manifests some symptoms of the dreaded Covid-19 virus. Some days later, the actors receive the news of the death of their director and expectedly, they are thrown into some psychological trauma which, in turn, dampens their rehearsal spirit and excitement. In their state of bereavement and confusion, an elderly man, whom we later identify as Elder Nyekazi, a cultural and traditional activist, enters to commiserate with them. Beyond consoling the actors, Nyekazi educates them on the proficiency and effectiveness of traditional African herbs and health practices. He also charges them to always use their artistry to profess their true African identity as well as extol the rich African cultural heritage. At first, the actors receive Nyekazi’s admonitions with some scepticism but upon further reflection, it dawns on them that Nyekazi’s words are the necessary tonic for them to imbibe the African consciousness while trying to get over the death of their director.

Motivated by Nyekazi’s wise counsel, the actors go-ahead to stage the long rehearsed play and after a scintillating performance, they take a bow and as they make to leave the stage, Director enters. In their fear and panic that they have seen a ghost, the actors make to run but were refrained by Director who convinces them that he did not die anymore because Elder Nyekazi revived him through herbal teas and spices. The play ends on this happy note as Director reiterates the need to adopt traditional African remedies to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

Ovunda’s “We Are Here We Are Here” is a full blast artistic statement that amplifies the need for Africans to return to their aboriginal value system that is premised on love, unity and peaceful coexistence. In this performance, Ovunda adopts the eclectic style where Jerzy Growtosky’s Poor Theatre, Vsevolod Meyerhold’s Biomechanics, Bertolt Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt and Richard Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk are fused in some form of “artistic collagism” quite reminiscent of African total theatre experience. Music is used judiciously to accentuate mood as well as convey the emotional dispositions of the characters, costumes are highly suggestive and impressionistic characteristic of experimental performances, the language flourishes between the poetic and the prosaic while characters are more of existential beings without personal history or biography except for Elder Nyekazi whom we identify as a cultural and traditional activist of the Ikwerre extraction. True to the avant-garde performance tradition, characters metamorphose from tables to chairs, forest to love gardens and then back to human beings. Similarly locations and time blend intermittently which are typical of the expressionist drama of August Strindberg.

Amidst the excellent adoption of the theatrical experimental approach geared towards the African total theatre orientation, “We Are Here, We Are Here” offer us a strong message of hope. Hope for an Africa that is detribalized. Hope for an Africa that is capable of surmounting the numerous threat of high mortality by the flu pandemic, an Africa that is blessed and fortified by nature against epidemics. An intelligible Africa that is bound by love, mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, unity of purpose and hungry for rapid development using her God-given resources.

The experimental theatre approach has been Ovunda Ihunwo’s forte since his formative years as a theatre director. This performance is therefore one of his numerous experimental theatre outings. His ingenuity and passion for theatre practice have fetched uncountable awards and accolades including being conferred with the prestigious recognition as a Fellow of Theatre Arts (FTA) by the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP). It would be almost impossible not to doff your cap for Ovunda Ihunwo after savouring his latest theatrical recipe- “We Are Here, We Are Here”.

Edward E. Imo PhD, fta
(Theatre Critic and Reviewer)

Re: Ovunda Ihunwo’s “we Are Here, We Are Here” In Performance by Expresswriter: 2:26pm On Aug 09, 2021
This is amazing.

I am someone who loves the art and a writer as well.

Thank you for sharing this Dr. Imo.

How can someone in Port Harcourt get a Theatre Director to stage his play?

I can be reached on bobmanuelhamilton@gmail.com

Thank you.

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