The House of Odùduwà, led by His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife, will present the third edition of its acclaimed production, ‘Moremi, the Musical’ in December. However, this forthcoming edition has been spiced up and is being referred to as ‘Reloaded’ by the promoters. At a recent interaction with select journalists in Lagos, Oba Ogunwusi shared why he is passionate about culture, empowerment of the girl-child and the future of the production amongst others. Excerpts
First experience watching Moremi the musical
I was very touched. I was almost in tears because it’s a very, very touching story. I looked to my left, everybody was shedding tears. I looked to my right, I saw people shedding tears, and I realised that people were touched by the selflessness; the strength of a woman. They were impressed by what a woman did to save a race, and that stuck in my head. It got me motivated to speak more for the weaker sex. In fact, I don’t like to call them the weaker sex. Women are the stronger sex because everything they do is very timed.
They are stronger than us; the men and that is the truth. I decided to give more effort to women empowerment and leadership. The Moremi story, by being the custodian and progenitor of the entire Yoruba race as the Arole Oduduwa, I decided that I will give it my all. To ensure leadership and empowerment for women. So, we’ll use a story like this; in the form of theatre; movies; manpower training and development, to encourage the girl-child. To let them know what is called the strength of a woman from a very tender age.
We need to sensitise society. You give a woman anything; they reproduce it if they are happy. If they are not satisfied, they destroy it for you. Moremi is a story that will continue to resonate. To me, it has become a movement; not theatre. And it’s a powerful movement. That is why we are reloading it.
Places where Moremi has shown?
The play has been staged in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the US, Canada and they are desperately willing for us to bring it back but we are mastering it. We want to let people know that something good can come out of Nigeria. That is what we are doing. Charity begins at home, and that is the reason why we still want to keep it here. All those very influential foreigners from Cuba and Brazil where we have been to, they would come and see what we have.
Significance of Moremi’s story in today’s world
I just told you that what a man can do, a woman can do better. Till date, anywhere in the world, the world looks down on women, in the workplace, home, they call them all sort of names. They belong to a particular room or what have you and it shouldn’t be. They are powerful; look at female animals. We can debate the power and the strength of a woman but look at nature. Female animals are stronger, have more strength in everything. They reproduce; they hunt, they do all sorts of things. As little as the chicken is, the cock is just lazy, roaming everywhere. The female protects the children, hustle for the children, and that’s how it is in the human world.
So, the story of Moremi is unique. She volunteered because the whole world was turning against a nation. There is nothing like the Yoruba nation then, it was Ife people. It was Moremi’s story that made them spread to become Yoruba. Without Moremi, there can never be a Yoruba race, and we spread as far as Cuba, Brazil, all over the world.
It was a challenging situation, but she volunteered. She surprised everybody, and that is the story. Women are always very committed to anything they do. That’s who they are, and that is the story of Moremi.
The choice of Moremi among other heroines
She was the pioneer, she was the heroine. Other women came after her. There was nothing like Yoruba race before Moremi decided to volunteer, so she was the pioneer. There are a lot of courageous women, but they came after Moremi. She was the first in history, the others followed.
Reason for the Reloaded version?
When I travel abroad, I realised that foreigners are used in our contemporary music. Still, anytime we play traditional music, they are always delighted. The Yoruba will say “ they don’t know your worth at home” so the reason we are looking into that area is to have a marketable export. Exportable product because eventually, it will become a made in Nigeria product; Proudly Nigerian and we will take it all over the world. If you saw ‘Lion King’, the soundtrack was in South African languages. We are projecting what belongs to us and for the world to accept us for whom we are, it’s vital to bring our tradition into it. This time around, the reloaded version has been refined to blend tradition and modernity
The long term plan
Like I said earlier, the long term plan is to become a movement to encourage the girl -child. They are the most oppressed in society now. The plights of the girl child is a significant issue. Still, when I see women doing well in corporate Nigeria, I’m always very proud because it starts with training the girl-child. So, we have to start now.
Musical drama as a useful tool for marketing culture
From our experience last year, Moremi did that. It was very successful, we want to keep the brand, we want to keep the goodwill because a lot of people came out to watch it. When we stopped, they were asking for more. We had to bring it to April although people can’t move around, so we had a success story there.
Theatre is not very strongly funded in Nigeria, and it requires long term planning. It is capital intensive compared to movies, but an essential initiative for us. We are looking to birth a movement, and have been committed to it fully.
Art as a source of revenue
The principal wealth of the world is in antiquities and paintings amongst others. In the West, art pieces are bankable. Bankers will come and value it for you the same way they will evaluate your house. We haven’t reached that level yet in Nigeria. Look at the Dan Vinci picture, do you know how much it will sell for? That’s why I’m passionate about bringing back our art, culture and heritage. We have the Gallery of Moremi for art exhibitions.
In Nigeria, people just buy artworks to hang on their walls or as a gift, but it does have a meaning. There’s a story behind everything. It is the story behind each artwork that is critical. Yes, art can improve our economy, and I do think it’s one of the way forward for us. It’s bigger than any other sector and is called the treasure of the world. Across the world, wealthy people, when they are old, and about to die, they take their money to universities to build galleries and put all their art collections there. They build museums and put all their collections there. Art is all about imagination and conceptualisation, so it’s tied to the growth of any economy. It will better for us to start using it as a tool to take us to another level in terms of economic enhancement.