NEWS UPDATE – Not to be published before Monday 30th of June, 2014
Among the hundreds of brilliant heads across discipline, Oluwadamilola Apotieri-Abdulai, (@damilola_a) one of Nigeria’s bright minds would be added a star to his crown for the landmark achievement by graduating as the first Nigerian to study in the field of Applied Drama, not only from Drama for Life, University of Witwatersrand South Africa but Worldwide.
Applied Drama, offered by Drama for Life, a postgraduate division of the Wits School of Arts is an umbrella term for the use of drama practice in a specific social, educational, health or environment context. It is most often undertaken in spaces “not usually defined as theatre buildings, with participants who may or may not be skilled in theatre arts and to audiences who have a vested interest in the issue taken up by the process or are members of the community addressed by the intervention.”
Damilola who already has 2 degrees in the field of Theatre Arts from Lagos State University (LASU) and Redeemer’s University is a theatre maker, developmental playwright, ARTivist, Actor, Director, producer, media consultant and the theorist of the Theatre For Advocacy methodology.
Simply put, unlike mainstream theatre which is based on performance between an actor(s) or performer(s), An Applied drama practice is a combination of Psychology, Sociology and Social work running interventions with community of people who are in need of liberation in spaces such as education, health, communities, governance, politics, environmental sustainability, and so on. With the applied drama practitioner taking participants through a process of internal liberation with various applied drama skills and techniques, the participants discover means of liberation for themselves. In other words, while mainstream theatre is performance based, applied drama is process based.
The closet relationship Applied Drama has with mainstream theatre can be linked to Augusto Boals Forum theatre technique where the participants (applied drama does not have audience) becomes the spect-ACTOR with the hope of finding a reasonable solution to a problem he is part of as a form of rehearsal for self-liberation. E.g. a victim of (any form of) abuse using the Forum theatre to rehearse how she/he will liberate herself/himself from the oppressor (government, boss etc.).
With this, only people who are trained in an academic institution in Applied drama field can practise because of the technicalities and the issue of holding the space due to traumatic issues that the participants would be witnessing unlike mainstream theatre where anybody can practice. As Damilola has been recorded as the first Nigerian to study in the field of Applied Drama, no Nigerian nor West African as at today has studied Drama Therapy, another field under applied drama. In fact, there are only less than 30 registered drama therapists on the African soil more than half of these are South Africans.
With this skills and further practice in the field of Applied Drama, Damilola Apotieri is able to work in communities that are going through different forms of abuse, social challenges and traumatic experience and run intervention for them.
Damilola Apotieri, who from the age of 9 has been involved in social work says he went ahead to obtain an additional B.A with Honours and Masters degree in the field of Applied Drama at Wits because he understands that Nigeria is in dare need of someone in the practise. He says, “Although my discipline is new to the Nigerian community, I am committed to helping Nigeria get through these hard times of security and social challenges. A lot of people are left traumatized after each bomb blast or social set back we experience in Nigeria. People need to be healed and my training as an applied dramatist is the right tool to take people through their healing. I am able to facilitate learning across fields with my training on critical pedagogy and Drama in Education”
During the #BringBackOurGirls early activism, Damilola developed an Art Based approach as a form of activism which he used in South Africa. This recorded a whole lot of success and applauds from participants who experienced a totally new method of activism which engage the participants even on the street.
Damilola confirmed that he has applied to write his PhD thesis on “how Applied Drama technique such as playback theatre can help heal victims of terrorist attack in Nigeria”. Damilola was recognised by the president of the International Playback Theatre Society as the first Nigerian to ever do a playback performance in Nigeria. This he did in November 2013, while opening the performance of his 2nd play “ACCURSED… story of children affected and infected with HIV/AIDS”.
THE JOURNEY TO BECOME NIGERIA’S FIRST APPLIED DRAMA PRACTITIONER.
Damilola Apotieri-Abdulai or Apotieri as he is fondly called is one of the under 30’s Nigerian with a Passion for National Development. He is described by many to be Creative, Enterprising, Self-Motivation, Diplomatic, Patriotic and Ambitious and he believes so much in creating a room for change by living his life to express the kind of change he wish to see in the Nigerian society. Building an early career in Media and theatre, Damilola is an excellent communicator, confident in dealing with people from all walks of life. Ambitious and focused whilst appreciating the need to remain flexible and adaptable to new environment.
Damilola’s passion is deeply rooted in using Theatre, Media and other Art Based approaches for Human Rights and Social Development. This made him change his childhood ambition of been a lawyer to his present discipline as an Art Educator and Theatre Maker. Losing his father at the age of 9 can be counted as a blessing as Damilola who was born with a silver spoon lost his supposed silver spoon after the death of his Air-Force father but discovered his passion and purpose in life at that age.
He started first, as the youngest T.V producer and programme host in Nigeria with his television programme “Leaders of Tomorrow” on AIT, an idea he developed at the age of 9years. Having faced several challenges putting up his show on air, Damilola felt he was not the only child that needed to be on air as a television host. This prompted him to start an organisation known as Nation Builders Nigeria (Now Media Advocacy and Development Initiative – www.madinitiativeng.org).
Pushed by his creative ability, Damilola who as at age 9 was already a child right activist with endorsement by UNICEF Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and British Council Nigeria, among other organisation felt he could do his activism in another way, so he chose media and theatre activism.
At first, while running his television programme, Damilola started his acting career with soap-operas by Wale Adenuga production. His first feature on TV soaps was the first edition of This Life, with the likes of Sola Fosudo and Joke Muyiwa. This won him more scripts on Papa Ajasco, Super Story and home video productions with Korede films like Ile Olorogun among others. Whist still doing film production, Damilola knew what he wanted was not just fame but to be relevant in the field of theatre for social change, this made him study Theatre Arts at Lagos State University where he majored in acting and then Redeemer’s University where he majored in directing.
Although Damilola traces his acting and playwriting career to as early as age 4 and 7 respectively, he has always known that he would use the skills to change life and develop the society at a later stage in life. Today, Damilola’s plays are centred on addressing issues of oppression especially child focus. He challenges societal and cultural norms and he has greatly been influenced by the writings of dramatist and theorists like Femi Osofisan, Ola Rotimi, Wole Soyinka, Augusto Boal and majorly 3 of his lecturers in Redeemer’s University, Late Bunmi Julius-Adeoye, Dr. Sola Adeyemi and Eunice Uwadinma-Idemudia.
Whist actively involved in child activism, Damilola consulted for the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, states ministry of women affairs, NTA, DAAR Communication, Dove Media Group, ABC television among others before his 18th birthday.
He has grown to be an excellent and experienced Event Moderator and EmmCee, Dramatist, Playwright, Scholar, Media Content Creator, Consultant for major organisations and also convener of major summits, performances, workshops and conferences for young people in Nigeria. He is a former member of the Nigerian Children’s Parliament, United Nations Young General Assembly, UNICEF Speak Africa Project (South Africa), British Council Belongings Project and other international organisation.
He is also the first recipient of the Redeemer’s University Chancellors Award for Student with Creativity and Innovation. A developmental playwright with special writing on issues about young people and national development and his plays are stage annually in collaboration with major developmental organisations to thousands of live audience in major cities in Nigeria and unnumbered viewers through national television broadcast.
He is a trainer in the area of Presentation, Programme Development, Production and Documentary. He has also featured as special presenter and anchor on programmes such as Kaakaki, Legal Matters, Music Box, Leaders of Tomorrow, on AIT and A.M Express and other special self-initiated international day commemoration programmes on NTA and AIT. He is on his way to be a Media/Theatre Icon to be reckoned with in the World Media.
MADinitiative, a social enterprise He founded at the age of 9 is the main host of the first and only media summit for young people in Nigeria – The National Children and Young People’s Media Summit. His activities include community engagement, good governance and education through theatre and art based approach. He created his own Art Based methodologies which has recorded great success stories as a result of my activities. More can be read on www.madinitiativeng.org.
Today, Damilola has added another star to his crown by been the first Nigerian to study and graduate in the field of Applied Drama. Congratulations.