Sunday 12 October 2014

How Afolayan's October-1 premiere excavated rare museum pieces

By Tajdeen Sowole
At the premiere of a Kunle Afoloyan film titled October 1, objects of great museum values were the flavours that spiced the event. More importantly, the sources of the objects have exposed inadequacy of government’s culture in preserving historical materials.

 Organised by Terra Kulture in collaboration with Golden Effects, the premiere, which held three days ahead of Nigeria's 54th Independence was really significant for the mood of the national anniversary celebration.  From the entrance of the Expo Centre, Eko Hotel and Suites lobby - venue of the premiere - to the hall beside the cinema space, props used in the movie were on display, exhaling a museum ambience into the air as audience trickled in.
 As it took about one and half hours behind the scheduled time for the gate of the cinema doors to open, the props in the art exhibition section of October 1 premiere really engaged eagerly waiting first public audience of the film.

From the art exhibition section of October 1, an old radio-music box used in the film.

  Currently showing at cinemas across Nigeria, the periodic film is set in the eve of Nigeria's 1960 independence from British colonial rule. It highlights the challenge of solving recurring murder of women in Akote, a commercial town in the Nigeria's Western Region. The plot, basically, focuses on the investigative police officer, Dan Waziri’s efforts in unraveling the murder cases. As Waziri, a northerner, arrives Akote, courtesy of an urgent posting from the colonial government, he soon realises that the town would be a hard nut to crack, even for a super cop. Reason: insecurity heightens as murders are on the increase.

For such a periodic setting, the remarkable effort of Golden Effects in sourcing adequate props, particularly cars and domestic tools as well as office equipments and domestic objects deserves commendation. More laudable for the Afolayan-led crew is the fact that Nigeria's museum of antiquities, are scanty of rich historical objects. In fact, there are no specialised museums of antiquities, in the real sense aside the War Museum at Enugu. About 30 or more museums across Nigeria are of artefacts only.

From the Art Director, Pat Nebo's touch of details to the Wardrobe Manager or Costumier, Deola Sagoe's works in periodic designs, it appears October 1 has confirmed that in the sea of mediocrity, which most Nollywood movies swim, there are still few works that offer respite in excellence. And just in case the drama contents of the film and the actors' performances take much of the attention, the need to highlight quiet and equally important details must have led to the exhibition of the museum pieces. On exhibit outside the Expo Centre viewing hall were a 1957 brown Mercedes Benz as clean as straight from its Germany auto manufacturer; a 1960s white Rolls Royce, glittering, perhaps from refurbishment; and a green 280, 1970s model Benz. Although the train that brought Detective Waziri from the Northern Region to Aketo could not be moved from the Railway Station, Ebute Meta, Lagos Island to Eko Hotel for the exhibition section of the premiere, an installation of replica tells a good behind-the-scene story. 

A 280 Benz, 1970s model on display during the film’s premiere.

On display inside the exhibition space were 1950s to 60s non-electronic typewriter, television, rediffusion, bicycle, shotgun, helmet, and much older wall clock, among others. However, artistic touches in aging technique were applied in few objects. For example, a remodel box, aged in earth colour was touched for the purpose of the film's periodic setting by Nebo’s team.

And in completing the periodic setting at the premiere, Nebo and his team recreated a police post and sprinkled police officers who dressed in Sagoe-designed colonial uniforms inside the exhibition hall. The exhibition section of October 1 premiere re-enacted a movie set in installations and performance art, sub-consciously stealing from or encroaching visual arts terrain.

Given the lack of preservation of objects of colonial era in any Nigerian museum, how and where did Afolayan's Golden Effects source the props? "We got some here in Nigeria, others abroad," Afolayan stated during a chat few days ago. The cars, specifically, he disclosed "were sorted in Nigeria from individuals, not government establishments." Afolayan recalled that his experience when shooting one of his previous films, The Figurine: Araromire, has shown the lack of antiquities at the national museums. "I was at the museums to search for a material when we were shooting The Figurine, and nothing really to pick.” So, for October 1, the challenge continued. Even as small as police tools like handcuffs and old shotguns are, it was difficult for the crew to get them from police. "We had to get the gun and handcuffs elsewhere because the police were not responding to our proposal." 

CEO, Terra Kulture, Bolanle Austen-Peters (left) Mrs Abimbola Fashola at the premiere
In the future, when the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) decides to have museums of antiquities, particularly, the one focusing colonial era Nigeria, Afolayan's October 1 offers hope that similar objects of the period, could be loaned from individuals as Golden Effect has done.    

And as a Presidential Museum was muted by the Federal Government two years ago, it will be of rich contents to see the official auto mobiles (or the types) used by Nigeria's first and only Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, Nnamidi Azikiwe, Aguiyi Ironsi and others. For the tragic death of General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, his official car would not have been archived as it is today, so suggests lack of preservation culture of successive governments.

At the cost of over N320 million naira, October 1, has enjoyed goodwill from, Lagos State Government, privileged individuals and corporate groups who shared Afolayan's passion of perfection. Shortly before the motion pictures started unfolding on the premiere screen, the producer/actor told audience that the supports of Governor of Lagos State Babatunde Raji Fashola; Chief Michaal Adeojo chairman, Elizade Motors; Bolanle Austen Peters, CEO, Terra Kulture; Guinness Nigeria and Sovereign Trust among others were of great help in making the film a reality.  "I am overwhelmed right now,” he enthused. “I thanked the Gov, Babatunde Fashola and Lagos State Government. Chief Adeojo has been of great help, right from the time I flew with him in his private jet to Ilara Mokin. After shooting the film, I was privileged to meet a great woman, Mrs Bolanle Austin-Peters." 

For Terra Kulture, it has been a consistent commitment right from the Intercontinental Hotel Exclusive Private Screening sponsored by Hayden Petroleum Limited and Partnership Investment Company PLC over a month ago.

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