The National Pop-Up Theatre Lagos


12 - 18 December 2013, Federal Government Printing Press Lagos, Nigeria

Performances, Exhibitions, Lectures, Talks, Workshops, Party

A collaborative art project initiated and curated by Constanze Fischbeck/Daniel Kötter and the Goethe-Institut Lagos

with curatorial and artistic contributions by Segun Adefila, Ayodele Arigbabu, Jelili Atiku, Koku Konu, Emeka Ogboh/VAN Lagos Mudi Yahaya and many others

curatorial text:

The story of this project "The Pop-Up Theatre of Nigeria" started more than 45 years ago, more than 8000 km away from Lagos in a Black Sea coastal town called Varna in the socialist country of Bulgaria.

According to socialist ideas about theatre and social gatherings, the government was looking for a built structure that could host sports events, concerts, conferences and theatre stagings. The architects came up with a unique and innovative idea: Being one of the first buildings in the world, constructed purely out of hyperbolic paraboloid forms (instead of straight lines and rectangles), the "Palace for Sports and Culture Varna" amongst other features hosted the world's first revolving stage that would turn the amphitheatre with a central stage into a circular arena.

Ten years later, the Nigerian military government was looking for an architecture that could host the biggest event in African culture to date: the FESTAC 1977. The Nigerian delegation looked for a model of an appropriate building and found The Palace for Sports and Culture in Varna. The Bulgarian engineers were contracted to build a replica of the Bulgarian building in Lagos. Back then it was the capital of Nigeria.

While the interior design was identically copied, a few changes were made to the original building: Additional halls were added to host exhibitions, ceremonies and smaller theatre events, the National emblem was attached to the highest point of the crown and the building was given a different name: "The Palace for Sports and Culture Varna" became "The National Theatre of Nigeria".

While the National Theatre as architecture was perfectly tailored to host a Pan-African festival, the main hall was too large for the needs of the Nigerian society, only. 36 years after its architecture had travelled from Bulgaria to Nigeria, and almost 20 years after the main hall had fallen into disrepair, ,"The National Theatre of Nigeria" went on a journey again on the 6th of December 2013: this time however, without the ballast of brick and concrete but in the virtual and light form of an idea: The flexible, spontaneous theatre, for a day, popping up in various public spaces in Lagos before finding its temporary home for a week in the former Federal Government Press, Broad Street, Lagos Island.

For one week "The Pop-up Theatre of Nigeria" will host exhibitions, performances, films, talks and discussions in an open space that everyone can contribute to, a number of Nigerian artists, theoreticians, workers and passers-by will be invited to form the idea of a "National" Theatre without having to rely on and maintain an oversized architectural shell.

In preparation for this event, German artists Constanze Fischbeck and Daniel Kötter conducted a series of staged conversations between artists and theoreticians in the Federal Government Press building in June 2013. "The discoursive theatre of Nigeria" will be presented as a 3-channel video installation.

On Monday 9th December 2013, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, former General Manager of the National Theatre of Nigeria, was officially assigned the temporary permanent Director of the Pop-up theatre of Nigeria by the Director of the Ministry of Culture Mr. Ayahay Idum.

From 12th of December 2013 the space will be formally opened to the public as a space in progress, as a space for all the art disciplines, for discourse, social gatherings and for food... in short as a THEATRE.

After the closing discussion on 18th December 2013, The Pop-up Theatre of Nigeria will live on in various places in Lagos, in Nigeria, in the world and in the virtual space: It will pop-up on numerous occasions in Lagos, whenever Nigerians are celebrating their creative minds, it will pop-up in the forum Freies Theater in the German town Düsseldorf and as collateral event of the Venice architecture Biennal. A catalogue will be produced commemorating the journey of Nigeria's National theatre from being an architecture towards being an idea, and finally a website, designed by visual artist Mudi Yahaya, will display a growing archive of the real and unreal, the past, present and utopian Nigerian theatre for the Arts.

Photos by Constanze Fischbeck, Jere Ikongio, Daniel Kötter