Posting Date: October 24, 2012
Nigerian professor visits Kennesaw State
Chief Laolu Ogunniyi shares art and culture with students
By Shira Kerce
Margaret Olugbemisola (from left), Karen Robinson
Chief Ogunniyi, Sandra Bird, Areo Adebowale
and Carol Thompson at the High Museum
Chief Ogunniyi taping the Woodruff murals at the
Clark Atlanta Art Gallery
Photos by Sandra Bird
Many Kennesaw State University College of the Arts students recently had the unique opportunity to broaden their learning horizons when their classes were visited by Nigerian professor and honorary chief Laolu Ogunniyi. Ogunniyi, who has taught courses at Lead City University and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, is also a television director, writer, producer, screenwriter, playwright and CEO of LOTO Productions (Longevity through Operational Arts and Theatrical Organization).
Ogunniyi’s visit to KSU was hosted by the KSU Center for Africa and African Diaspora Studies, and its interim director Nurudeen Akinyemi called upon Sandra Bird, professor of art education, and Karen Robinson, professor of theatre & performance studies, to work with Ogunniyi and help facilitate his visit.
Ogunniyi was able to visit Department of Theatre and Performance Studies courses, including Robinson’s African Performance in Diaspora course. Ogunniyi communicated to the students the importance of home and understanding one’s roots, while also sharing with them some aspects of traditional Nigerian performance and music. “Chief Ogunniyi shared his beliefs about the power of performance through theater, television and film to build bridges between cultures in our global world,” Robinson explains. “He strongly believes in the power of performance to restore and revive the Nigerian soul and Nigerian patriotism.”
While visiting the greater Atlanta area, Ogunniyi also had the opportunity to connect with members of the Nigerian diaspora community that lives in Georgia. Ogunniyi is currently working on a project titled "Home Winds and Diaspora" (HOWAD), a play based on his observations and interactions with Nigerians and Nigerian organizations in Georgia. As a part of his research for this project, Ogunniyi visited St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna, meeting with and interviewing members of the African choir who regularly perform traditional Nigerian songs.
Ogunniyi and Bird also visited several art exhibits with African, Nigerian and African American collections, including the African Art Collections at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory, the Hale Woodruff murals at the Clark Atlanta Art Gallery, an exhibition exploring African American themes at Spellman College Gallery and the African Art Collection at the High Museum. Ogunniyi intends to continue his research and return to the Atlanta area next spring, and the people he met and connections he made during this visit “have opened the door for future research opportunities,” explains Bird.
Both Robinson and Bird agree that Ogunniyi's visit was a great opportunity not only for his own research purposes, but also for students to benefit from his perspective on the power of performance. “My students gained a renewed sense of the importance of home, language and love of country as Americans because they heard Ogunniyi speak so passionately about these topics from his own culture's point of view,” Robinson explains. “We should constantly help our students to see the world through others' eyes,” Bird adds, “and any opportunity to integrate international faculty and artists is a top priority in our programs.”