November 3rd Performances at Longfield Hall

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In a week’s time I shall be performing my new piece Afonja’s Minstrel at Longfield Hall – a venue located between Brixton and Camberwell and also near Loughborough Junction. I was prompted to create the work, because there were several issues I wanted to address.

On the social media news platforms that deal specifically with news and lifestyle matters pertaining to folks of Nigerian heritage, there is usually a lot of banter exchanged that reinforces stereotypical notions about folks of particular ethnicities. For better or worse, the name of Afonja has been used as a euphemism for qualities that some folks would like to associate with folks of Yoruba extraction.

Afonja was a warrior prince who led a revolution in the Oyo Empire of the Yorubas, against the traditional ruler of his day. In my research about the events leading up to the mutiny, I discovered that the ruler was widely regarded by his subjects as unjust in many choices he made. He decided to send Afonja to fight a war against a notoriously impregnable domain, hoping that Afonja would either lose his life in the ensuing battle, or would have to commit the equivalent of hara kiri in the event of surviving and losing the war.

Afonja received intelligence reports about the king’s intentions and turned the tables on the monarch, by refusing to fight the battle and eventually sending him a calabash (for his head). The king was said to have placed an irrevocable curse on Afonja. Further down the line, Afonja and his descendants lost control of their domain (Ilorin), which has remained out of their control ever since.

This episode in Yoruba history is used mischievously in some circles to suggest that Afonja was disloyal and treacherous. It is also claimed that his actions were illustrative of the characteristics of all folks of Yoruba heritage. My piece aims to unpick some of the misconceived ideas that are peddled around online. It is a piece of singing theatre that draws inspiration from African music genres, French Troubadour songs and many other sources. It is being presented in two performances (3pm and 7.30pm) at Longfield Hall, 50 Knatchbull Road, London SE5 9QY. Tickets will be available on the door at Longfield Hall before the shows, but they can also be purchased in advance in the link below: