Monday, 25 May 2009
School children in a performance
BY GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR
LATE in the night. The Children’s Arts Development Initiative (CHAIN) office in mainland part of Lagos is quiet. There are three people in the office, and everybody is busy doing one thing or the other. A lady is seated in a swivel chair, peering at a computer screen. She moves a mouse, occasionally; clicking the button of the computer, which sits on the table in her front. She’s been working on the computer for close to two hours.
In another room, there are whistling sounds, noise perhaps, of four young ladies, making frantic sequence to beat the time. They are arranging leaflets and fliers, announcing the forthcoming event of their organisation, CHAIN.
The time is 10pm, and the lady is still working very hard. She calls one of the ladies in the office with her. Patiently, they look at the figures on the screen and are convinced that everything is indeed okay, nothing has actually been altered or changed.
And slowly, for the first time in over two hours that Pamela Udoka leaves her job to discuss the children’s festival holding tomorrow at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
“Children theatre is a passion to me,” she says.
“But I won’t allow it clash with my office work,” she jokes, letting out her customary sandpapered cackle.
Since 2007, CHAIN has been involved in projects that are aimed at changing the face of children theatre in the country. And for 2009, the organisation is celebrating twins.
“The Mamuzee twins are already in on this and have promised to throw the weight of their Twins Association to ensure a higher level of success and make it the event that it should be,” Pamela muses.
The witty lady, whose name, many associates have added dance to because of her dexterity as afleet-footed artiste (Pamela Dance), says , “CHAIN is a duly registered and steadily growing children’s theatre organisation in the arts and entertainment sector. It is engaged in enriching childhood and empowering children through the discovery, development and exhibition of their innate creative abilities.”
She adds, “it is a children’s theatre organisation engaged in enriching childhood and empowering children through the discovery, development and exhibition of their innate creative abilities.”
Why CHAIN, you ask?
She looks up and smiles, “a chain is as strong as its weakest link.” She continues, “economy and technology have eroded skills and core values our children learn. In CHAIN, we apply creative dramatics to build children’s confidence, and also, mould their characters.”
Pamela says, “our organisation also aims at expanding imagination and inculcating self-worth in children. Above all, develop their leadership skills.”
According to Pamela, “we are not a run-off- the-mill, here today, gone tomorrow organisation. We are a growing brand with a steadily growing track record.”
She says, “this event held last year with students of Queen’s College performing. For 2009, the drama will be perfomed by Meadow Hall Schools, Lekki, and lined-up are two shows (11 am and 2pm) at the Shell Hall, Muson Centre.”
WHEN she was a young girl, Pamela would stay up late to read story books. It wasn’t until years later, when she grew up that she knew how those story books had clearly worked in her life. She says, “beyond fables, writing for children has always intrigued me.”
In a white T-shirt and a jeans trouser, Pamela talks on as she drives along the busy Ojuelegba Road. She says, “though I’m focused on life as a dance artiste, helping children grow has interested me.”
According to her, “in The Rejected Blessing, telling the story of the cultural practice of killing twins to children through drama would make it easier for them to understand the circumstances of such practices and, at the same time, contribute to their knowledge.”
She sings, “in this drama, children traverse the Nigerian landscape, engage and learn our diverse cultures and values, historical facts, traditional practices and artistic manifestation.”
Since the not for profit organisation started, it has celebrated children during the yuletide and every event that concerns them. CHAIN Christmas Fiesta 2007 featured six schools, all performing I Dream A Christmas on stage for two days at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
In 2008, there was Children’s Day Celebration, where students of Queen’s College, Lagos performed The Rejected Blessing.
There was a command performance of the play at the CHAIN Independence Day Celebration in October 2008. The perfomance was at the Agip Hall, MUSON Centre.
The CHAIN Christmas Drama Fiesta 2008 featured students of Jeno Grammar School, Surulere, Lagos.
PAMELA, who was Fate Foundation Business Plan Competition winner in 2005 and also, Chair Centre Best Aspiring Female Entrepreneur (Fate Foundation) the same year,
was the Coordinator of the National Troupe of Nigeria’s Children’s Theatre Workshop between 1991and 1997.
But more than that, she had directed and coordinated a lot of drama productions. In 2002, she did Clash of the Ants, which was a collaboration with Pampers Private School, Alaka, Surulere.
In May 2005, she directed The Last Safari to celebrate 50 years of Corona Schools in Nigeria, where she worked with 76 children on stage. “It was quite a challenging experience,” she says.
The lady, who holds a B.A (Hons) in Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan and M Sc. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Lagos and another Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing, was the coordinator, Children’s Carnival Abuja for Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart at 50 and Artistic Director, 2008, Lagos Children’s Carnival.
The turning point in her children theatre career was in 2007, when her play, The Rejected Blessing, made the initial list of 10 in the Nigeria Literature Prize sponsored by Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited.
CHAIN has in its board, distinguished Nigerians who are seasoned professionals in their various fields of endeavor. Gamaliel O. Onosode, OFR, an internationally renowned industrialist and business guru, is chairman. Other members are Pamela Udoka, president/artistic director; Prof. Duro Oni, professor of Creative Arts University of Lagos; Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, executive director, Corona Schools Trust Council; Longley Evru, marketing and PR consultant; Ms. Nkechi Obi, sports marketing consultant; Mike Anyanwu, culture administrator and barrister at law and Dr. Esohe Molokwu.