Poetry for a National Cause: The ‘Made in Nigeria’ Show That Stole Hearts and Heads

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It was rousing. It was loud. It was nostalgic and it was not shy about its message. The ‘Made in Nigeria’ poetry show spoke to the heart and left more than a few people reflecting on its themes of national identity, peace and love and what it means for Nigeria.

A string of twenty poems dramatised with breathless ease by Nigerian lawyer, spoken word and performing poetry artist, Dike Chukwumerije, the Made in Nigeria show took its audience on a decades-long Nigerian journey from the mid-colonial period of the 1940s till the advent of democratic rule in 1999. The show explores themes unique to each decade –the politics of liberation of the 40s and 50s; the early optimism of the 60s that was eventually punctuated by the civil war. The poetic journey later transited into the rise of the military, economic exploitation, identity politics and political corruption in the 70s and 80s, and the student activism, grinding poverty and the demise of autocratic rule in the 90s.

The show also explored some of the fine subtleties that make life in Nigeria unique –  how we cook and play; how our mothers pray for us even when it may appear awkward, and how we use passive-aggressive language to express love and affection. In one of the well-received lines of the production, Dike, mirroring a lover asks, “Did you miss me?” He quickly retorts “Abegi!” That’s surely an expression an average Nigerian can relate with. There is a longing for some of the simpler things found in everyday Nigerian life – kobos, good neighbourhoods, watching a great national football team on the television and ‘Tales by Moonlight’.

The MTN Foundation powered the event as part of its Arts and Culture line of events, where the company sponsors a slate of shows highlighting authentically Nigerian stories. In the last quarter of the year alone, the Foundation has sponsored such critically acclaimed shows as Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, Legends the Musical, Life in My City Art Festival in Enugu, Our Son The Minister and Oba Esugbayi.

Speaking after the event, the Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma said that the show’s theme “talks about love, peace and unity. Nigeria is a great country. It is a message of progress and development and we fully support initiatives like this.”

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