WAKAA ! LOLA BOLANLE’S NIGERIAN MUSICAL
WAKAA! Nigeria’s first home-grown musical will be in London for one week only in July!
If you want the chance to see this fantastic ‘Naija’ musical for free, download our PanAfrican Journey app and answer our two minute survey!
Read about the story of this visionary woman, Bolanle Austen Peters, here, interviewed by Michael Chilokoa.
WAKAA! The tale of how Nigeria’s 1st home-grown musical made its way from Lagos to London’s West End, courtesy of a unique visionary.
To be the first often means to be a leader, visionary and brave. All words which fit in well with the story of Bolanle Austen Peters founder of TerraKulture the influential arts production company.
Bolanle Austen Peters is one such individual. She is that rare breed of business savvy, art connoisseur and the 2004 founder of Lagos based arts production company TerraKulture. This multi-faceted organisation is behind Wakaa, the first ever home-grown Nigerian musical to showcase on London’s West End.
The story of Wakaa’s journey from the gritty streets of Lagos to the glamour of the West End, begins in a sleepy university town steeped in Yoruba folkore. Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, the young Bolanle was surrounded by intellectuals and books. In her own words she enjoyed an idyllic childhood, brought up in a loving home, where she was taught to live in harmony with nature.
Bolanle quickly became obsessed with reading, embarking on a quest to find out what lurks inside a writer’s mind. Her obsession for learning fuelled her studies and soon Bolanle sat exams for the International Baccalaureate, O-level and Nigerian Common Entrance exam. She also excelled at sports, her favourites being handball, hockey and basketball, but the arts remained her number one passion.
Yet, surprisingly, when entering her twenties this renaissance woman would opt for that most clichéd of Nigerians career paths – Law. The formidable Bolanle Austen Peters gained her masters at LSE, embarked on a career spanning twenty years, taking in stints at United Nations Health Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], Nigerian law firms, oil companies etc. As a legal professional, her work meant various postings around the world from Geneva to Ethiopia, Namibia to London. Wherever she went she made a point to visit their cultural hotspots. Her passion for the arts moulded in her childhood never went away.
These trips would prove pivotal once the turning point came. After 20 years of law, she decided she wanted to create jobs rather than be an employee, the years spent working for development agencies had sparked the urge for her to develop her own ideas in her own backyard…and so TerraKulture was born.
Hers first foray was into the visual arts, which resulted in Bolanle opening only one of two auction houses in Lagos, then followed a restaurant, then the theatre project. After the glory days of the 70s and 80s, the theatre scene in Lagos went into decline during the 90s and TerraKulture could only manage limited success. The eureka moment came after seeing ‘Fela’ on Broadway and seeing that even for Nigerian staged stories, embedding music into the production would increase the audiences. She created ‘Saro’ a musical about contemporary Nigeria with Lagos as the focal point. The success was phenomenal; new space was required; a 700 seater at least was required
and to Bolanle’s equal pleasure, the audience was cross generational. The enthusiastic response to ‘Saro’ came from grandparents, parents and children.
With success came requests from corporate companies to host events and provide sponsorship. This laid the way for the most ambitious project yet, ‘Wakaa!’ is the story of a group of friends who make a wager after graduation and uses satire to examine such themes as mass youth unemployment and the games people play to get ahead in life. At its heart is a love story and the two hour spectacle cleverly incorporates comedy, live music and dance to tell it’s tale.
Wakaa! is the culmination of years of hard work which has seen TerraKulture become the centre of a thriving hub of a revitalised Lagos theatre scene, not only attracting in new audiences but developing and launching a new hotbed of stars both on the stage and behind the scenes. Names such as Chris Ubani, A’rese Emokape, Ade laoye and Jolomi Amuka are well on their way to becoming household names in Nigeria.
It is however not just about Nigeria even though it is all about Nigeria. A major part of the TerraKulture mission statement is to showcase a different side of Nigeria, a side totally at odds with, the usual stereotypical negative headlines of corruption, dictatorships and military coups. It’s why the West End shows in the UK are an important step. Coming to London will hold no fears to Bolanle. Her cast will not be intimidated, more invigorated than anything else to show what they can do. So expect a stellar performance from a cast and crew eager to show off their slept on talents.
So what does if there is the future hold and for Bolanle and TerraKulture. My question is a testing one – is there anything left in the engine after such a long and arduous journey? There is a slight pause before she calmly explains to me over the phone, the plot for her soon to be released film starring Danny Glover titled ‘93 Days’ which tells the dramatic story of how Nigeria was able to beat back the Ebola crisis relying on its own resourcefulness.
It seems the power to envision dreams and turn them into reality is what keeps Bolanle Austen Peters’ engine powered up and moving into full blast with each successive and successful production. London’s West End can welcome a new African talent onto its prestigious stages.