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Mawuyon: Completeness of Artfulness on Stage in London, Lagos and beyond

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Mawuyon, new Egun minstrel unveiled at Ephphatha 2016
Mawuyon, new Beninoise-Ghanaian-Nigerian minstrel unveiled at Ephphatha

At dawn on Nigeria’s 56th Independence Day, Mawuyon launched her singing self publicly at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. Her headgear spread colourfully like the plumage of a peacock. She was on the stage of Ephphatha, an inter-denominational crusade hosted in its 17th edition by the Celestial Church of Christ.

She sang better than a peacock and most other birds you’ve heard. Mawuyon sang ‘Ephphatha’ and got over 5,000 worshippers up on their feet, gazing into heaven and singing teary eyed these lyrics…

Mixed Verse
Efata, iwo orun si
Mase ti mo o
Ilekun orun si
Ephphatha, be ye open
And never ever close again
That we may walk on the highway of liberty to Royal Grace

Egun Verse
Bee ye henhon sudo gbeto
Ye henhon su Bo so ze ohongan dran
Ogbeto ye henhon su do to zinvu me
O dandan ena dawha Na alogo
Alogo olon tan whe mi Ile din wa
Uwhe zon mi do ke also data Bo do
Hunhon! Ephphata
Olon Hunhon!

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CCC Ephphatha Crusade at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos
Praying heavenward to ‘Ephphatha’ by Mawuyon at the National Stadium   

Trapped, I am trapped
Seems like there is nowhere to go
Waiting for the finality of Judgement
To tell of the wrong that’s in my right
But I know I’m weak
And can’t do all by myself
I look up to the source of light and liberty
Compassion looked down at my trap
Calling in a voice that breaks bounds and locks
Saying Ephphatha!

She had the crowd with her 100%. Her fervour and colour they savoured.

“Here is the narrative behind the song” Mawuyon told HAMILTONSTYLE exclusively. “Every human being on earth at some point in time would feel trapped. Picture this: A man is locked up in a septic tank and the key is thrown away. No escape! No air! No help! Just him, groping in the dark… He must look towards heaven and pray fervently for ‘Ephphatha’ meaning ‘Be opened’ (Mark 7:34) because that’s just about all he can do.” She also sang

Mawuyon is the new babe on the stage. She is Egun – Beninoise. She is Ghanaian. She is Nigerian. Her DNA, acting and singing gifts are a fusion of interesting African cultures.

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Mawuyon as 'Mama Ke' in 'Wakaa: The Musical'
Mawuyon as ‘Mama Ke’ in ‘Wakaa: The Musical’
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Mawuyon with actor Bimbo Manuel, left
Mawuyon with actor Bimbo Manuel, left

Smack in the middle of Summer, Mawuyon played Mama Ke in ‘Wakaa: The Musical in London’ – a Bolanle Austen-Peters production – in Shaw Theatre, West London. The play itself was a masterpiece and its characters a master cast. But every time ‘Mama Ke’ appeared on stage, Mawuyon’s mastery of the role was pure artistry. She had everyone rooting – clapping and screaming for an encore – the result of two decades of theatre practice.

Mama Ke, is an influential not so-lettered Iya Oja (Head, Market Association) whose passion for service is strong. Though she is semi-literate Mama Ke’s spoken English is better termed a bomb-shelling, yet she was the play’s witty, creative and quintessential public speaker that brought comic relief into a serious message.

An enthusiastic Austen-Peters even exclaimed: “Mawuyon! You were so hot out there; they love your character – they love you. Ki lo fun won je? (Did you cast a spell on them?) They are so crazy about you; they can’t wait for you to come back on stage.” Somehow, Mawuyon’s role interpretation and performance has always been electrifying when she sings or acts on stage.

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Mawuyon dancing in 'Saro: The Musical'
Mawuyon, bald in ‘Saro: The Musical’

GOING BALD TO SUIT CHARACTER CAST

In Saro: The Musical, another Bolanle Austen-Peters production, Mawuyon played the character Mama Don Show; a role she got while she was trying to help invited dancers to do the omo ghetto galala dance properly. She was actually supposed to just sing in the musical. She eventually did sing and got in addition a role as an actress. She was the one-scene-character that raised the roof of Shell Hall, MUSON in Onikan, Lagos and stole the heart of audience.

Mama Don Show is the head of a league of notorious street urchins, but gifted with a super dancing prowess. Mawuyon, put all of herself into delivering the character. She even shaved her hair off completely.

“Yes! I went bald to drive home the point that I was indeed passionate about my career as an actress. My producer screamed with joy: “You are a crazy lady, Mawuyon” the actress said.

Her decision to go bald to suit the character touched the entire cast and crew, but to the passion-driven Mawuyon, she was just being responsive to her role and responsible to her calling to the theatre. Her faultless delivery of Mama Don Show in Saro: The Musical earned her the Mama Ke role in Wakaa: The Musical.

Asked how she got pulled into all of this, Mawuyon Ogun went down memory lane for HAMILTONSTYLE. Excerpts…

How did it all start for you?

It all started from the Celestial Church of Christ, Ayilara Parish, Surulere, Lagos during a church service. A certain young man, Segun Oladosu, had spotted my raw talent as a singer in the choir. He had invited his friend, Muyiwa Osinaike – an astounding dancer and choreographer till date – to church that fateful day. Segun and Muyiwa belonged to the same troupe. However, Muyiwa said in Yoruba “Eleyi o lejo” meaning “This one can’t dance.”

And that ended it?

No o. Segun disagreed. Eventually I was accepted for a dance test. I proved Muyiwa wrong so much that he fell in love with my dance movements. After some weeks of training and rehearsals, Muyiwa sought my father’s consent for me to be married to the theatre. I was confirmed to be not only a good singer but also a potential dance artiste.

When was this?

It was in 1992. Muyiwa taught me the art of dance. Opportunities came my way even as his dance student. I danced in a First Bank TV commercial to mark their 100 years in Nigeria. I danced in Stella Monye’s evergreen musical video, Ofofo. I became a little star in our estate because I had become a known face on TV. Then suddenly, my turning point came!

How did that happen?

Felix Okolo, a popular theatre director came to watch me and other dancers in our troupe while we rehearsed under the tutelage of Muyiwa Osinaike. Felix Okolo took a swipe at us: “You are all bloody dancers. What you all will be paid as a troupe after all this stress will not even be close to what RMD (Richard Mofe Damijo) will collect as artiste fee because you scramble about like theatre rats.” That struck me hard. I needed proper art education. So in 1996 I got into The Polytechnic Ibadan where I eventually graduated with a Higher National Diploma in Music Technology.

Really, and how much did that help you?

A whole lot. It was the booster to my natural abilities. While in secondary school, I won laurels including the Hubert Ogunde prize for my outstanding singing ability. Just about the time I got into Poly Ibadan, fate sought me out. Felix Okolo was packaging a stage play; a German-Nigerian art exchange. I was penciled down as one of the dance artistes on the project at the beginning. But God changed that arrangement. The lead character who doubled as the narrator suddenly began to goof and she showed all the signs of being badly cast. One rehearsal day, she admitted she couldn’t manage the heavy dialogue. It  and opted out. It was a shocker because production was really close. I was backstage eating Ewa Aganhin (Togolese bean meal).

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Mawuyon Ogun
Mawuyon: Artfully yours 

In the midst of the confusion, I told the stage manager I actually knew the lines and before the guy could say jack, I was already saying the lines of the lead character. He took me to the director. I delivered all the lines verbatim to the utmost shock of Felix Okolo. He re-cast me immediately for the role and added even more lines to the already heavy dialogue eventually. I enjoyed 90 minutes of perfectly delivered lines and that is no small feat. Of course the project toured 10 Nigerian universities and it opened my eyes to the special benefits of being a stage queen. I acted, sang and danced thus bringing out the completeness of my artfulness.

Mawuyon Ogun may be new to many audiences because she took her time to turn her gifts into well honed skills before launching out. But now that she has finally launched as a consummate thespian, singer and musicologist with a rich mix of African cultures in her DNA, Mawuyon is obviously a refreshing stage, church and roadshow brand that is set to blaze newer and more exciting trails from Lagos to London and beyond.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Her head gear is so unique.She was focused and I love the way she took up the challenge Felix okolo threw her way.Challenges are to shapen us to be better. Daddy KH, like what I learnt from you,”only me can make me a better me”.She took control of her life. Nice one

  2. Yeahhh I have heard her sing, she has got a sonorous voice, she is definitely goin to be great. Watch out for star Mawuyon……

  3. SHE IS GREAT. Mawuyon Ogun is a wonderful creation of God with talents you can’t begin to imagine. She’s truly an ART; the one-touch woman – Team Mawuyon

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