Dr Taofiq Oaide Nasir, an Associate Professor of Theatre Technology and Performance Studies at the Federal University, Oye, Ekiti State (FUOYE), is Africa’s first doctorate degree holder in Dramatic Therapy. In this interview with ADEWALE OSHODI, he speaks on his specialisation, and how dramatic theraphy can help stabilise Nigerians’ minds in this tough period. EXCERPTS:
YOU are Africa’s first PhD holder in Dramatic Therapy, how did you discover this line of academic endeavour?
The field of applied drama, under which drama therapy falls, is not new in several advanced countries. Since my undergraduate days, I have always been interested in the therapeutic area of theatre. Unfortunately, the area was hardly taught in those days. After my Masters’ degree, I saw an opportunity to go after my dream and explore the therapeutic use of theatre. So I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to focus on any area except the therapeutic area.
Fortunately for me, I got a lecturing job at Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo, where I started teaching Theatre for Development (TfD), which is also an aspect of Applied Drama. Four years later, I crossed to the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye in Ogun State.
It was at OOU that I was really able to actualise my passion. Again, I was teaching Theatre for Development (TfD) among other courses allocated to me. It was also at OOU that I was able to fester my nest using drama as therapy. I actually started the practice in Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta and the Nigerian Prisons, Igbeba, Ijebu-Ode in 2006, though I didn’t get to start interaction with the patients/inmates till 2007. This is because being specialised lock-up institutions, the authorities are wary of allowing the patients/inmates to interact with total strangers. As a result of this, I was forced to adopt the migratory approach of TfD, wherein the performances were rehearsed and enacted without inputs from the patients/inmates who are the recipients of the drama package as against the homestead approach where they will form an integral part of the players. During the question and answer session which is usually found in TfD performances, the authorities of the institutions understood my point and granted my request to interact with the patients and inmates for future practice. Since 2007 till date, I have been in the practice at both the Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Abeokuta and in the Federal Prison at Igbeba in Ijebu-Ode. This is in addition to using theatre to educate people in the villages and communities about topical issues such as dangers of Lassa fever, Hepatitis B, Ebola virus, COVID-19, etc.
Since no one had done this academic research in Africa before, how did you find a supervisor and how easy was it finding references for your project?
Actually, I must say I was very lucky to find someone like Professor Lanre Bamidele to supervise me. He is a man of many parts. Therefore, under his tutelage and astute supervision, I was able to do a thorough job. Getting literature was not easy and I must give kudos to my friends abroad for the sipport.
What does drama therapy entail?
Succinctly put, drama therapy is the systematic and intentional use of drama and theatre processes to achieve therapeutic goals which could be of symptoms relief, personal or societal growth or even emotional and physical integration. It’s a health and human service profession that is capable of addressing the needs of citizens be they young or old. In advanced countries, it is used in the assessment and treatment of individuals, couples, families, juvenile delinquents and people in lock up institutions. It could be administered on people suffering from all kinds of ailments such as mental illness, drug abuse, schizophrenia, trauma, emotional problems, among others.
Let me take you back to when you worked with patients at the Psychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, what was the experience like, especially using drama to calm mentally-unstable patients?
I did a lot of work at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, and this is why I really appreciate the management of the hospital for realising the importance of drama as therapy in the lives of patients. I actually started in the Occupational Therapy (OT) Department, where I engaged patients in dramatic games. I also made use of Jonathan Fox’s playback theatre; David Read Johnson’s developmental transformation, and relied heavily on Robert Landy’s role method. All this culminated into the writing and productions of two full length drama in 2009 and 2012 titled “Turbulent Waters” and “The Crashed Web.”
Now, the truth is that Nigerians are going through a lot due to fuel scarcity, cash crunch, among others, which have increased the cost of living. As a drama therapist, how can Nigerians keep their minds sane at this period in time?
You are right, the current situation in the country is deplorable and can degenerate to psychological trauma if urgent steps are not taken.
I’m sure if one visits psychiatric homes and general hospitals today, one will notice an upsurge of patients suffering one form of psychological disorder or the other occasioned by the current situation. As a Dramatherapist, these patients’ conditions, after diagnosis, might just be what dramatherapy session(s) should take care of. With the current situation in the country, dramatherapy is urgently in need now as a therapeutic tool to assuage the psychological carbuncle facing the masses.
However, I must point out that practice of dramatherapy goes far beyond acting or watching plays to lighten the mind. Expertise and professionalism should come into play to avoid the process being counter-productive. As a dramatherapist, I sometimes engage in such pro bono because it’s another trauma itself to insist on financial gratification from a client whose business is taking a downward trend or whose money is in the bank and doesn’t know when or how to retrieve it.
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