Performer, dancer, and choreographer Emmanuel Abiodun Aderele of Nigeria is a visiting artist at Osun’s Village & African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor in Liberty City. He was interviewed about his experience here in the Nigerian Tribune. The interview by Wale Olapade is reprinted below.
How long have you been an artist?
My homage goes to my great ancestors that made this dream come through for me. I have been an artist right from when I was a little boy. When I was a child, I love drawing on my books; I enjoyed drum and dance. During this time, I attended spiritual ceremonies with my parents. Since then, I have learned the act of creativity in my own little world as a renowned performing artist, choreographer and a sacred visual artist. This is my 22 years of being an artist doing what the Orisa has sent me to do, in this beautiful world.
For me being an artist, I was inspired by my mother and my late sister, Mrs. Adekemi Lilian Jacobs (nee Aderele). Both of them have always been supportive ofmy life. They would say to me,” Prince, believe in yourself and follow your dreams. With this advice, I have believed in myself and followed my dreams. America, here I am, “Dreams do come true, ase.”
How were you introduced to the Osun’s Village and African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor in Miami, Florida?
Long story, as the Yoruba proverb says, Iwa rere leso omo eniyan; meaning good character is the life of a good person. I was introduced to the Osun’s Village and African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor through my godfather and the Executive Director of the art corridor, Chief Nathaniel B. Styles Olosun. This was in 1997 when Chief Styles visited Nigeria and came to the Museum Centre in Lagos where I was performing with my dance troupe (Edun Dance Company). Subsequently, we lost contact and in 2007, Chief Styles came back to Nigeria to introduce the project to the Ataoja of Osogbo, late Oba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi II, in Osun State and we met again. That day marked another reunion with Chief Styles and I was introduced to the project and since then, my involvement and travel to the USA, as an international visiting artist, has been great experience.
How long have you been in the US?
I have been in the USA for a year as an official international visiting artist at the Osun’s Village and African Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor.
What have been your experiences there?
I have experienced a great deal in the United States. I am at present in the United States as an International Visiting Artist and Choreographer at the Osun’s Village, Miami, Florida, a project of Community Builders Holistic Development Corporation, whose mission is to establish international artist and community exchange programmes that facilitate international trade and global understanding and reinforce the significance of ancient traditional cultures. My artwork illustrates sacred historical events, stories and folktales. The inspiration for my work stems from my culture, which is rich with stories about the good and not so the good, kindness and selfishness, fate and determination, timeliness and tardiness, and many other lessons of life.
I strive to connect those educational and universal lessons to daily life. I have dedicated my artwork to promoting messages that revive and uplift communities. Global burdens boldly address social justice. I have gained a lot with my recent stay in the United States! I have met numerous artists expressing their creativity through different mediums. The interaction with other artists during performances, exhibitions and solo shows has had a tremendous influence on works created during my stay in the United States.
Artist Setups, organised by the South Florida Artists Association, where various artists come together and share their experiences, have also proven to be very rewarding for me because I was the youngest among all of the artists and the only African. Thanks to the great ancestors, I was warmly received. I have been pleased to share my talents and experiences with others during my stay in the USA.
I met international performing artists such as Tito Puente Jr., performing with him as a special guest artist at the DOCMIAMI International Film Festival. We shared the stage with the renowned Afro-Cuban musician and actress, Olga Guillot, who passed away two weeks after the event. It was a great pleasure for me to have met and performed with legends such as these. The music Tito played, the songs Olga sang, and the complexion of their skins reinforced the fact that our common West African ancestral heritage has been preserved. This was a very emotional experience for me, which moved the audience to their feet as well.
Many of those in the Diaspora from the Caribbean countries were brought from Africa during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The culture and traditions this predominant population bought with them are still alive and active today.
I recently collaborated with the Afro-Cuban master drummer and drum builder, Ezequiel Luis Torres in Miami. Ezequiel is originally from Havana, Cuba and recently won the 2010 National Heritage Fellowship Award, which was organised by the National Endowment for the Arts.
When I met Ezequiel, it was like meeting a lost brother. For me, it was a great joy to share my talent with my fellow brothers who have strived to preserve their West African culture, customs and traditions. Recently, I received a Life Time Achievement Award from the Miami Dade County Celebrating: Community builders, HDC Fork Heritage and Cultural Day, a proclamation and the key to Miami Dade County. All thanks to Chief Styles Olosun for making this journey possible for me and our ancestors reconnecting.
What would you like to share Nigerians?
Once again, this journey has been a great experience for me. What I would like to say to my fellow artists is, be true to yourself; believe in your dreams and work towards them. What I found out was that most of the artists are looking forward to come to the United States and run away. At the end of the day, they all end up working in areas that have nothing to do with their traditional arts and the talents, hence the gifts are gone and forgotten. Don’t think of running away when you get to the US, because if you do, you block the chances for others to come and everything is totally blocked in the future.
Projects such as the Osun’s Village and African-Caribbean Cultural Arts Corridor help to demonstrate the value of our culture and how it is appreciated internationally. Yes, culture is business. As the Yoruba proverb says, “Ibi ti ori bama gbe ni de, ki ese wa ma sina ibe, ase.”
How do you think the government could improve on promotion of cultural tourism?
What I would like to tell the government is, “Osun’s Village and African Caribbean Cultural Art Corridor Miami Florida are great projects to invest in. The mission is to establish international artist and community exchange programmes that will facilitate international trade and global understanding and to reinforce the significance of ancient traditional cultures throughout the world. I must tell you, my promotion of cultural tourism in Nigeria, shot me into limelight, internationally.
It is also important that our leaders should stop mismanaging and looting of public funds and invest in infrastructural and capacity development so that the future generation would have something to talk about. They should invest in promoting good memories of our traditions to be passed onto future generations also empower the youth so that they would be proud to say; we are Nigerians.