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It’s all drama for Kunle

Last update - Thursday, August 27, 2009, 13:01 By Catherine Reilly

Catherine Reilly speaks to Kunle Animashaun, founder of Camino De Orula Productions, who is using the theatre to explore important issues for Africans

‘Making drama for me is something that I consider a social act,” says Kunle Anima-shaun, founder of theatre company Camino De Orula Prod-uctions. “Any play that a theatre artist puts on stage must be valued from the way it affects the lives of the people who see it, especially the message it preaches or the social issues it queries.”
From Abeokuta in the western part of Nigeria, Animashaun has been living in Ireland for seven years – but his involvement in theatre spans over two decades.
“I remember vividly one of my productions in 1998 in Nigeria was a play titled Shango De Ima by Pepe Carril,” says Anima-shaun, a theatre arts graduate from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in Nigeria. “It was a Cuban adaptation of the epic story of the great African god. Wale Adebayo, who starred in the internationally acclaimed film version of the Shango myth, played the lead role in my production.”
In Ireland, the Nigerian has been involved in the theatre business since 2003 and decided to establish his own company two years ago, “because I saw the need to have a genuine representation of African culture in Irish society”.
His work is full of challenges – or problems, as some call them. “Funding is one of our major impediments,” he says. “Another difficulty is lack of support for immigrant actors. But by and large, we are getting by, especially considering the achievements that we’ve had in the business.
“One of our recent productions on an Irish stage is Wedlock of the Gods by Zulu Sofola at the Projects Arts Centre in August 2007,” he continues. “With this production we showcased African culture in all its bucolic ambience and simple aesthetics. We tried to explore the issue of culture as an identity and also give people who are not from Africa the opportunity to enjoy and understand African culture from close proximity.”
He intends focusing on this task – that is, exposing issues connected with Irish society’s diversity.
“Our next production promises to be entertaining. It’s my own version of a play called The King Must Dance Naked. Right now I am in discussions with some of the best of the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood, which is reputed to be the third largest film industry in the world. We are presently working on the possibility of producing a film that. though it may not be set in Ireland, will have an angle that leans towards Ireland for effect.”
Speaking of Ireland, if Animashaun had to write a narrative about this weather-beaten isle, what would he say?
“What do I think about Ireland?” he muses. “I really appreciate the many opportunities that I’ve had in this country, and people are great too. There are so many places in Ireland brimming with culture, literature and history and I love that.
“Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges, but I’ve trained myself over time to always look at the bright side of things. At the end of the day, it’s my happiness and that of my family that matters. I am confident and proud of my children.”
They call themselves “Niger-ian-Irish”, he adds, returning to the topic of identity in a vastly changed Ireland.
As a theatre artist, Anima-shaun says he tries as much as possible to highlight sensitive issues within both Irish and immigrant communities. “This is because I do not want to alienate any audience, white or black, in my production,” he says. “I think it’s the wisest thing to do. The alternative for me would only amount to acrimony.”
Nonetheless, he adds, as people need an easy explanation for unemployment, housing and health service problems there is the tendency for some in Ireland “to use anti-immigrant rhetoric to achieve dubious political gains”.

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