There’s nothing humans like more than free stuff and N20 to see a couple of art works is pretty much the same as a freebie.
Yes I wrote N20 and I was just as shocked as some of you might be when I was told that was the fee to enter one of the exhibition halls at the National Theatre.
Say hello to my grumpy looking friend
If you’re looking for the main site for the performing arts, The National Theatre is the place to be. It was built in the shape of a military hat when Nigeria was to host the Festival of African Culture (FESTAC) in 1977.
Located in Iganmu, covering about 23,000 sqm and standing 31m tall, it was originally built to promote, present & preserve available arts & culture in the country. It has a main hall which apparently has the capacity of seating 5000 people, 2 cinema halls, a conference/banquet hall, an exhibition hall, a VIP lounge and a roof garden.
Unfortunately I was able to see only one of the exhibition halls and the universal studio of arts. Even though the theatre claims to close at 5, they closed earlier and told us we couldn’t get into the main exhibition halls. Can someone please tell them they can’t open and close as they please?
The exhibition featured paintings, busts and ‘beadings’ which reflected past leaders (from traditional rulers to presidents). It was a shame not a lot of people were there to see it. When we got there, it was just my friend and I. Also for this particular exhibition hall, I wasn’t allowed to take my bag in and pictures are apparently not allowed. LOL.
It wasn’t a huge exhibition but I thought it was really good as there was some historical value to it.
Next up, was the ‘Universal Studio’. Unlike it’s American counterpart, this is where artists come to practice their craft, be it painting, molding, iron work etc. You also have university students who come there for their I.T. It was a beautiful sight to behold, watching people master their craft albeit in not so good conditions. It was drizzling when we made our way down there and I felt their section could be better managed. I suppose there’s something poetic about painting while the heavens open up.
We watched them for a while and after that it was time to go. We wandered around for a little bit and spotted a little garden/park with a sitting area which contains a statue of the former Minister of Tourism. I liked it because one can just sit there and just enjoy being outdoors.
We also saw some sort of make shift eating area which reminded me of a typical mammy market that you might find at a Nigerian camp or barracks.
The National Theatre has a lot of potential if harnessed properly. Shows like those done at Broadway Theatres could be held here, it could be a hub for creative minds and also be a grooming spot for the young ones interested in the arts.
I would suggest a renovation to fix bits and pieces and also cleaning up the surroundings to make it more appealing. Most importantly, Nigeria needs to improve its maintenance culture. It is not enough for them to renovate the place, but to also keep it that way.
The National Theatre was built for a reason and it must continue to fulfill that purpose not laid to waste and used sparingly. This will also stop it from being used as a shortcut to Apapa and other places when trying to avoid traffic.
A lot of us have definitely passed it on our daily commute from the mainland to the island. Why not stop by and take a look when you get the chance.