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By Omoye Uzamere

omoye uzamereIn 2009, I moved to Lagos and didn’t have any family or friends here.

My friend from Port Harcourt, Diwari who was living in the UK introduced me to her childhood friend in Lagos, Bisola. Bisola and I became fast friends and one day, she invited me to Taruwa.

What is Taruwa? I asked. They said it means gathering in Hausa. A ‘gathering of what, though?’ I was soon to find out.

It was a small gathering of people from all walks of life – bankers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, engineers, who were also writers, actors, musicians, poets, producers or dancers. There were also the full-on creatives, as I like to call them.

Everyone mixed in such a healthy way. The 9-5ers didn’t feel out of place amongst the creative and the full-ons had no superior airs. Everyone belonged.

If you performed badly or were besieged by wracked nerves, people would still encourage you and in the course of the years, I saw Taruwa become the place where artistes came to hone their skills, learn confidence and practice their stagecraft.

That’s because the audience isn’t really an audience as much as it is a family. Everyone isn’t just sitting down, expecting you to wow them; we want you to do well and we’ll help you achieve that, even if you want us to clap twice at every 8th bar and say “Ye ye oh oh oh”.

There’s a Speak session where we talk and debate if we need to, about any current situation – from Linda Ikeji’s big man acquaintance’s money in her account (sic) to Buhari’s policies or lack thereof, to even some crazy things we all did as teenagers and other pop culture trending topics.

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The MCs, @oluwabibs and @lanregreg are the most spontaneous and hilarious pair ever! Quote me anywhere. They create humour out of the most mundane thought, thing, memory or situation. I think they deserve their own stand-up show.

Then the performances – open mic style!

The people are so real. No one takes themselves too seriously – just attend the Christmas edition and experience improved theatre at its best.

In 11 years, Taruwa has produced or contributed to the rise of pillars of the industry and powerhouse performers. If you wanted a roll call of people who have passed through Taruwa, some of whom still refer to it as home, you would hear names like Sound Sultan, MI., Bez, Djinee, Timi Dakolo, Omawunmi, Femi Leye, Aramide, Ruby and poets like Wana, Titilope, Efe Paul and several seasoned performers. Special mention and butterfly props to Sound Sultan, Adekunle Gold, Ufuoma McDermott, OC Ukeje, A’rese, Nonso Bassey, Akah Nnani and Charles Novia, who has shown his support through the years.

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Oluwabibs, one of the hilarious hosts, always says that she has no social life, but for the monthly rendezvous. The other host, Larry J, dated and proposed to his wife at Taruwa – they now have two beautiful kids. Femi Leye met his wife there. There have been meet-ups, hook-ups and break-ups at Taruwa, but beautiful memories have been made as well.

If there was a soundtrack to my life or a feature about the timeline of my life, there could be a Taruwa in every paragraph. I have made and built some of the most remarkable friendships of my life, done some of the most memorable projects of my career through people I have met at Taruwa.

I felt I had deviated in part from my Arts and Culture brief, so insisted on writing about a movement in the Arts and Culture scene, but I fear I will not do this justice enough without talking to people who have been involved in the movement. While that is pending, I will chuck this down to one Port Harcourt Girl’s experience of something so real, it takes me home.

taruwa omoye uzamere

So this is a shout out to the team that makes it possible. @thegbagyichild who created Taruwa and is usually in the audience, but calling the shots with a whisper or wink. She says that it’s as much for her as anyone else who enjoys it and my, does she enjoy it! You’d find her watching a performer with rapt attention, like a child watching Christmas lights or dancing to the music like she has to log in her calories, and singing along. This one is a true fan.

@chiefartvocate who is the Creative Director. She’s often in the background, making sure that things happened right and on-time. She’s a real fan of the arts and very gracious at Taruwa, but I’ll tell the would-be performers a secret, she’s the one you need to impress if you want to perform. And then, @harryitie the media guru and happy guy! I have never seen him ruffled. He is the make-it-happen person and such a team player! And it’s all been possible because of @bogobirihouse, the home that has housed Taruwa year in, year out. I think Taruwa outside Bogobiri would have to be given another name.

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To everyone who has contributed to this Movement, as I call it, whether by attending or performing once or consistently, by tweeting, talking about it or inviting a friend – Lord knows it takes a village – Congratulations! We’ve coloured the arts and culture landscape of Nigeria and that is no small feat.

Experience Taruwa through the pictures below:

taruwa    taruwa taruwa taruwa omoye uzamere taruwa omoye uzamere

Read also: #ActingOutLife: Hierarchy

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