Dancing around the globe

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[This piece was first published in The Nation on Thursday, 2nd of August, 2007]

He is a university don. But his first love is dancing. Dr. Rasaki Ojo Bakare has established his image on the Nigerian cultural scene. He is the prized first Nigeria scholar of dance to bag a doctorate degree in dance. Just before he led the Nigerian cultural entourage to the United Kingdom as part of the campaign for hosting the Commonwealth Games, he spoke exclusively with Group Editor (Arts and Culture) of The Nation newspaper of Nigeria Solomon Tai Adetoye

Dr. Rasaki Ojo Bakare is a playwright, a choreographer, a play director and instrumentalist. He has taught at the University of Calabar, Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Obafemi Awolowo University at Ile-Ife, University of Uyo where he was the Head of Department of Theatre Arts and is currently at the University of Abuja. He practically lives dance. All his adult life there is no time Dancerasaki, as he called, he has always been involved in one form of performance all the other.

When the retired General Yakubu Gowon-led bid committee for the Commonwealth needed a man to put together a cultural package to showcase Nigeria’s cultural heritage to the decision makers in the United Kingdom a few weeks ago, Dr. Rasaki Ojo Bakare was picked. For anyone who knows him, it was not a surprising choice. In the words of cultural icon and former Nigerian ambassador to Ethiopia Chief Segun Olusola, “Dr. Ojo Rasaki Bakare is a widely-travelled and experienced scholar, dancer of repute.”

Charming, highly intelligent and yet very humble, Bakare was educated at his native Aramoko in Ekiti State. After primary and secondary education, he started learning under the late Hubert Ogunde whom he joined at the age of 16, Chief Jimoh Aliu and a host of other Yoruba travelling theatre outfits of that time. Later, he gained admission to the College of Education, Ikere Ekiti and also worked for Ondo State Arts Council, Ondo State Radio and Television as a freelance artiste.

In his own words, “After leaving college, I proceeded to the University of Calabar, Cross Rivers State where I had my Bachelors of Arts in Theatre Arts, specialising in Dance and Choreography. I also bagged a Masters degree in African Theatre with concentration on Playwriting and Directing. I moved on to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where I taught for five years and later obtained my Ph.D in Dance and Choreography.”

Bakare, Ojo Rasaki taught, Dance and Theatre in University of Calabar (1991-92); Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1992-97), Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (1997-2000), University of Uyo, Uyo (2000 – 2003). He was also the Choreographer and Technical Adviser to National Troupe of Gambia between 1994 and 1996. Currently, he is a Senior Lecturer in Department of Theatre Arts, University of Abuja. He is also the Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Ojo Bakare Productions, Afculture Theatre Consultants, and Demmy Stage Lights, Sounds and Visuals.

Right from his early days, Bakare has been writing and producing plays. He has written over 20 plays, but for now, five are published. They include This Land Must Sacrifice, Drums of War, Once Upon a Tower, Adamma, and Rogbodiyan. Knowing fully well that the basic principle of the ivory tower is publish or perish, he has published about 20 academic articles in journals and books. In the course of his career, this restless dancer has directed/choreographed over ninety full-length productions as a career scholar-artiste between 1990 and 2004. He is also involved in community services of different types as a Consultant Choreographer/Theatre Trainer, Abuja Arts Council; Consultant Choreographer, Koroso International Dance Troupe, Kano; Consultant Theatre Trainer/Choreographer, Anambra State (Now Enugu State) Arts Council, Enugu; Consultant Choreographer, Cross River State Cultural Board; Consultant Dance Trainer/ Choreographer, Plateau State Arts Council; Consultant Dance Trainer/ Choreographer, Ekiti State Arts Council; Playwright/Director Jagunmolu (Command Performance for the Inauguration of Olusegun Obasanjo as President, Federal Republic of Nigeria); Director of Dance and Music, Instances Project Sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. (Mac.Arthur Foundation, U.S.A.) directed by Jenkeri Okwori and coordinated by Professor BolanleAwe; Artistic Director, Opening and closing ceremonies, 14th National Sports festival, Abuja 2004 to mention just a few.

The son of an Imam who converted to Christianity, Bakare has been a rebel from his youth. The man disowned him for six years. His father never wanted him to pursue a career in theatre arts but he insisted on it. His marriage to an Urhobo woman was also seen as a manifestation of his rebellious spirit by his folks.

From his earlier plays like This Land Must Sacrifice, he picks on topical issues which he presents in the radical tradition of playwrights like Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Th’iongo. He does not hesitate to go against the authorities. His is of the agit-prop tradition, that age old sub-genre of theatre that is described as agitation propaganda.

His messages are meant to ignite the masses and call the leaders to order. Ever current, he studies political development of various countries in the world.

An anti-establishment rebel, he however rubs shoulders with the powers that be as one can observe from the different projects he executes for the government and government agencies. What can be responsible for this? It is simply that like the biblical lit candle he is too talented to be ignored.

Bakare, in his forties definitely has many more to contribute. His focus and dedication keep him going all the time. Many thought he would stay back at the University of Uyo to receive associate professorship but he moved on to University of Abuja in 2003.

An impulsive writer, Bakare waits for the spirit to move him and he writes without creating a certain pattern. Married to a fellow theatre arts teacher, Bakare would always name among his role models Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi and Femi Osofisan.

Now back from the bid trip to the United Kingdom, Bakare is busy with his other pursuits – always many at any point in time.

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