Stories and song celebrate the British-Nigerian heritage

Group performing. Pic: Mia Soares

The culture and heritage of the British Nigerian community was explored with a story telling workshop with song, instruments, and dance last Saturday.

The IROKO Theatre Company, based in Stratford, is funded by the Heritage Fund and aims to celebrate and raise awareness of British Nigerian heritage and culture through performance, poetry, and more.

Alex Oma-Pius, the artistic director of IROKO, who was leading the workshop, told Eastlondonlines that heritage can come in many shapes and forms: “There is tangible and intangible heritage. We sing, we dance, stories we tell and share. Those are aspects of culture and heritage…we use storytelling [today] to explore the heritage of Nigeria and British Nigeria.”

IROKO’s main aim through this group experience workshop which included chants and music, was to connect people through stories, performances, and tales. They also performed dances and songs with drums and an agogô, as well as telling stories about hope and unity.

Alex Oma-Pius. Pic: Mia Soares

Oma-Pius told ELL: “I discovered that at times people don’t actually understand the culture that is right in front of them…the whole idea [of this workshop] is mainly to demonstrate how you use oral storytelling to give light to heritage and our nationality…in terms of why expression is important is because we have a common nonverbal way of communicating, like our facial expression, hand gestures, communicating with our eyes, that’s expression, and is a form of storytelling and theatre…to empower and inspire [people] to explore their own heritage and how they could use storytelling techniques to raise awareness of their own heritage.”

IROKO also uses this theme of hope as a vehicle to delve into real life issues such as the environment, enacting a story called The Drought.

The group performing The Drought Pix: Mia Soares

Oma-Pius told ELL that The Drought could be looked at as a reflection of what is going on enviromentally in the world: “The Drought is about our environmental problem…We’re cutting down everything and we are destroying our world. It’s a symbolic reflection of what we are doing to our home.”

Oma-Pius told ELL: “A lot is happening right now around the world. People are getting fed up, people are tired with all the nastiness [in the world]. You turn on the TV, you turn on the radio, you open the newspaper, there’s despair everywhere. But we must not give up. That is why I choose hope…with storytelling, there is no fourth wall!”

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