By Lillian Agbeyegbe
Christmas! The season for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Depending on where you are in the United States, you may not know it though. True, the Christmas tree is hardly ever missing. Neither is Santa Claus. But the manger scene? The angels? The three wise men? They are often missing. And you are more likely to hear the politically correct “Happy Holidays” than “Merry Christmas.”
Nigerians in the US are among those who are baffled by this concept of Christmas without Christ. So, on December 5, 2009, a group of Nigerian and other Africans staged a musical drama “African Christmas” at the Fort Worth Arts Community Center, in Dallas, Texas.
According to the project initiator, Mrs. Belemas Ipaye, “the thought of having an African Christmas was inspired by a gift of artwork, from a friend…It was a small nativity set carved out in coconut shell… all the characters were Africans dressed in traditional African attires. One of the magi (wise men) was presenting a tube of yam to the Infant King.” This year, she shared her vision with a group of friends, and “African Christmas” a non-profit organization, custodians of the “African Christmas” celebration was born.
The production opens with the song, “Give me an African Christmas”. Then prophets appear who foretell the coming of a Savior as is in the books of Isaiah and Micah. The story then begins to unfold in African community- girls, including Mary going to the river with water pots on their heads, artisans including Joseph conducting business around the village, traders at the market place and children playing at the village square. Mary is visited by an angel, and soon there is village gossip about a seemingly pregnant yet-to-be-married Mary! Joseph is also visited by an angel; he reconciles with Mary (although their break-up was not shown) and shortly after then must leave town for the upcoming census exercise. They find shelter at the inn of a “Baba Yard” and the Savior is born! A Kalabari song, ‘Oriyite’, summons the village to this august occasion. A town crier announces the birth of the Savior in Yoruba first, before translating the announcement in English. The three wise men appear in Yoruba and Kalabari traditional outfits and villagers break out in dancing as they celebrate. Choreographer, Wale Laja-Akintayo, weaves Yoruba, Efik, and contemporary dances steps into the dance sequences, and then goes on to do a solo ‘bata’ dance sequence as homage is paid to the new born King.
Director, Babs Ipaye, a 2009 Musical Theatre graduate of the Texas Christian University (TCU) said he was glad to use his training in theatre arts to help his mother realize a dream. He acknowledged that it was challenging to put the production with over thirty cast members together, primarily because of conflicting schedules that made it difficult to get everyone together for rehearsals. But he is pleased with the production and prayed that God uses the production for His glory.
The event was a free event, but called for donations to the Clinton Foundation to benefit AIDS Orphans in African. Chairman of the African Christmas, Dr. Michael Fadeyi, says future productions may raise donations for other issues of concern for the African continent such as malaria and tuberculosis, with the funding channeled through various Foundations.
Many of the cast members, including my 20-month old daughter, Toritse Omagbemi, who was the baby I carried on my back, as villagers responded to the announcement of the town crier, were making their stage debut in this production. Our prayers are that as this production becomes an Annual Event, it will play a distinguishing role of keeping the birth of Christ as part of the Christmas celebration in an American City.
Agbeyegbe is a Nigerian artiste in Texas (www.toritse.blogspot.com)
BY OMOLIGHO UDENTA
HE was trying to cross the express road. He looked left and then right and then left again and started to push this heavily laden wheelbarrow across the road.
It was full of an assortment of drinks. He made it safely across half of the road but had to stop midway because the road had this high, wide median and there was no way the wheelbarrow was going to be able to go over it with the drinks still in it.
I wondered what he was going to do. There was no way he could lift the wheelbarrow over because it was too heavy for him to do alone; instead he started to offload the drinks, pack by pack onto the median.
He then carried the wheelbarrow over to the other side of the road, went back to collect the drinks and reloaded the wheelbarrow after which he crossed to the other side of the road.
The way he went about it all showed he’d done this quite a few times. I wondered if he’d tried other ways of getting things across the road.
Looking around I saw an overhead bridge, which he couldn’t use because of the wheelbarrow and its load. It wouldn’t be easy to make it up all those steps.
But about 200 metres ahead of where he’d crossed there was a break in the median which he could have used.
I guess he didn’t choose that option because he’d have to push the barrow all that way and in the hot sun too. He’d found what was for him the best option and so he’d stuck with it.
Christmas is here again and I do hope we all have a good one. What I wonder is whether we’ll try anything different this year or any year.
If you were to ask most people what they did for Christmas their responses might not be very different. Most would go to church, and chicken and rice would feature heavily in most agendas.
Though people around the world celebrate Christmas in different ways, it would seem, the most popular traditions are those coming from the Americans and British. They usually give gifts and Santa Claus features heavily.
Most of us have found a way, our way, to celebrate Christmas (and other holidays, I might add) and we tend to stick with it for years and years.
Our children grow and take away the lessons they learned from us to their own homes. They generally continue their family’s traditional way of celebrating Christmas.
Christmas is generally considered to be a time for giving and giving is the act of generosity.
When we give we nourish the love in our relationships and build our spirit. People should give without expecting anything back in return. There are many ways to give.
We give with our encouraging words, by really listening to people, by paying attention and giving of our time and of course through the usual material giving too.
It has been said that ‘giving materially, emotionally and physically is the glue that holds people together and is a way to renew our love for one another, create lasting cherished memories, deepen relationships and create psychological health and happiness for ourselves!’
No one knows for sure how long he’ll be around here but we all know that certain seasons will come and go over and over again.
We all hope to be here for and experience many Christmases, New Years, birthdays. How we choose to celebrate it will be different for each of us but I hope some aspects will remain the same. Let us each have a happy, merry, different, more giving Christmas.
BY REBECCA AKINMOLAYAN
THIS is very busy week especially for the Christians. Let’s look at how you can keep yourself health and sane this period.
As mentioned last week, be prepared for the unexpected including the miscellaneous because celebrations are supposed to be fun.
Don’t take on too much. You cannot be at every function, get-together or party you are invited to; neither can you host all your friends, school-mates or colleagues at the office. Learn how to say no.
Send your love. This is the right season to show your angelic side. Invite a non-member of the family or an orphan to dinner; go to concerts; give out your old clothes to charity; send meals to some disabled ones or the less-privileged on your street anonymously, give gifts to a widow or to someone who is grieving over the loss of someone while others are celebrating.
If you are the boss everyone fears in the office, smile for your staff this season, give them cards or send them texts. They will appreciate it and respect you more abi that is what you want. If you are the busy parent or the uncle no one sees throughout the year, remember you used the whole year to ‘gather’, take advantage of the holidays to spend time with your family this season. It will ease tension and cool tempers.
Do something unusual. As in, shake body small. Book a night with your friends at a restaurant, cinema or somewhere special. Must you go to the beach every year, how about having a candle-lit dinner with your family? Aside the conventional rice and salad, add something interesting and spicy.
Monitor your eating and drinking. Overindulging in large quantities of food, eating too many different dishes within a short span of time (after rushing a plate of hot jollof rice, you ask of iyan and vegetable soup and then finish up with coleslaw or pepper soup, haba). Drinking excess fizzy drinks or alcohol is an open IV to running stomach, will affect your health and will make the festive season irritable.
Put a check on the kids too; this is the time they eat what they like most freely. Ration their sweets and their fizzy drinks to one per meal or better still, serve them juice.
The Mushin makeover
(Strictly for the young)
BY TOSYN BUCKNOR
WHAT were you doing last weekend? What were you doing on Saturday, December 12? You could have been at a wedding, maybe a book reading or an exhibition. But, about 5000 young adults chose to spend that day at Mushin, to paint, to clean, and to give back!
The Mushin Makeover, organised by Gemstone 2025, was designed to raise as many volunteers as possible, who would beautify streets in Mushin for one day, thereby making a positive and visible change in one’s society.
Forget the PR speak for a second, and let’s focus on what happened on the day itself!
First of all, may I mention that the Nigerian young person has so much energy and passion that when it is channelled positively, anything can be achieved? I saw 30 minutes work done in five minutes!
But first, from the very beginning, always a good place to start!
The buildings and streets painted were mainly on Agege Motor Road, Olateju Road, Olanibi/Ojekunle street, Ladipo Street, Isolo Road, Palm Avenue / Fafolu Street, and Ogunmokun road.
There were registration points at various centres, and people had access to brushes, paint, and sometimes, gloves and facemasks. (If it had been pre-Halloween, my gloves would have found a re-use!).
So many youth groups lent their hand and their teams to the cause, like Rise Networks, and s.h.a.r.e, and so many celebrities took time out to hang out, and actually work! (For you know they could have been there and not done anything!).
We spotted Kenny Saint Brown, Frank Edoho, Kunle Snatcha of the Rooftop M.C’s, Banky W, Kel, Sound Sultan, Kelechi Amadi Obi, Dj Jimmy Jatt, DJ Gosperella, and more!
In case you were wondering if, as untrained painters, we did more harm than good, fear not! Professional painters were on hand to handle jobs we couldn’t. We kept busy doing the small, but still important work, of beautifying Mushin!
GEMSTONE 2025, seeks to make unique stars and heroes in Nigeria, right at Mushin, and they also want us to know this is just the beginning. More areas will be visited, and more work will be done! Please check www.gemstone2025.org for regular updates
Pity the collective age of the people in charge is over 31, they would probably have been up for a Future Award nomination!
Speaking of the Future... It’s back! And the nominees in various categories have been announced!
You can also check the site out, www.thefuturenigeria.com for more information.
Some of the nominees include Wande Coal, Banky W, Rooftop M.C’s, M.I and Darey, for Musician of the Year! Lala Akindoju a fantastic stage actress, Ali Nuhu, Omoni Oboli, and Gideon Okeke are some of the nominees for Actor of the Year, and IK Osakioduwa, Toyosi Akerele, Tolu Ogunlesi, Cobhams Asuquo and more, for Young Person of the Year. Other categories include Best Use of Advocacy, Best Use of Technology, and Journalist of the Year.
Please check www.thefuturenigeria.org for more information on all categories, and to also vote for and support your favourites!
Merry Christmas in advance, and would love to know your New Year resolutions if you are making any!