With TAFTA, we’re here to impact lives, transfer knowledge, says Austen-Peters

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  • Graduates first trainees for the creative industry

By Benjamin Olisah

TALENT abounds in Nigeria. The creative industry is an example of this. However, more work is needed to hone this abundance of talent into skilful professionals to lift the industry to a higher level. It is in an effort achieve this vision that the founder of Terra Kulture Arts and Studios Limited, an art and cultural centre in Lagos, Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters, entered into collaboration with Mastercard Foundation to train Nigerian young talents in the first edition of Terra Academy For The Arts (TAFTA). The maiden and epoch-making graduation ceremony for the first cohorts of the academy took place on Friday, February 10, 2023 at Terra Theatre Arena, Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.

TAFTA offers training, professional and entrepreneurship courses for young talents at no cost at all. The courses, which were conducted for some months, both online and offline, cut across animation, scriptwriting, sound design, stage lighting, art business and entrepreneurship prepare the cohorts for life in the creative industry where they begin to make their own mark.

The event had dignitaries such as the Minister for Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, founder and Managing-Director of LinkedIn, Mr. Kayode Olusope, the General Manager of Terra Kulture, Mr. Joseph Umoibom, Chairman, Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), Chief Kayode Aderinokun, culture communicator, Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, Nollywood stars, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, popular actors, Akah Nnani and Deyemi Okanlawon, President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Olasupo Ayokunle, President of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Lagos, Duro Oni, award-winning filmmaker, Mr. Femi Odugbemi, the cohorts and their family members, among others.

Speaking on the motive behind the initiative, the founder and award-winning theatre producer, Mrs. Austen-Peters, said the programme was borne out of the desire to train young talents in different fields in the creative department in order for them to harness their potential, make for themselves means of livelihood and lift the Nigerian creative industry to a greater height.

Prof. Duro Oni (left); Mr. Femi Odugbemi; TAFTA founder, Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters; Chief Kayode Aderinokun and Mr. Jahman Anikulapo at the maiden graduating event of TAFTA in Lagos

““The dream of TAFTA is a story of possibilities,” she said. “It was during the pandemic when industries were shutting down, and few were harder hit than the creative industry, that we realized how important it is for us to use our creativity to create wealth. As Terra Kulture, we trained hundreds of talents each year who have become superstars in their respective fields, an opportunity we wanted to extend to the greater public. TAFTA was established as a gateway to impacting the lives of young Nigerians. The training we provide allows our graduates to build their entrepreneurial skillsets, ensuring that they are capable of providing for themselves and their families. I am very delighted that what was thought impossible has been made possible. My sincere congratulations to our graduates today who have taken the next steps to transform their lives.”

“TAFTA is an online school that is created to educate the young people, to teach them certain skills we use in movies and on stage,” she explained, “I am delighted because it is something that has been in the oven for so long, and to see that it has finally come to fruition, to see the lives we are impacting, to see the knowledge that has been transferred is just so unbelievable. And I am grateful to all my team members and also to the students who were tenacious and extremely hardworking to complete their courses.

“Filmmakers face a lot of issues from budgeting and location. But what we decided to do here is to take the theatre aspects of filmmaking and focus on them, because some talents lack adequate knowledge in those aspects. We deal in lighting, scriptwriting, sound, animation. In addition, we teach them entrepreneurship to understand how to do business and make profit from whatever it is they have learnt.”

Also speaking on the expansion of the platform to other parts of Nigeria, Austen-Peters noted that the academy already has presence in some states such as Kano and Ogun, while hoping that it would spread further soon. She advised the graduates to make judicious use of the training and mentorship, nothing, “They should not wait for anyone to give them opportunities, but to use the skills they have acquired to create wealth for themselves.”

Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed and TAFTA founder, Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters

in his keynote address, the Minister for Information and Culture, Mohammed, praised the organisers of TAFTA for coming up with the platform to harness judiciously the potential of young talents, which he believes would rub-off in the entertainment industry. He also noted that the federal government is in full support of any platform that promotes culture and talents, noting that his ministry would give TAFTA the needed support to grow more than it is currently.

According to him, “Nigeria’s creative industry is the new crude oil. Today, Nigeria has taken the world by storm and found itself in the global space, be it through music, movies, fashion, literature, or theatre. As Nigeria’s population comprises a 70% youth demographic, many of whom are unemployed or underemployed, TAFTA could not have come at a more auspicious time. I can say with conviction that TAFTA is contributing its quota to the efforts to solve the unemployment crisis in Nigeria. I also want to congratulate the graduates and admonish them to make the best use of this rare opportunity afforded to them. TAFTA continues to be a partner of progress and its efforts are impressive and highly commendable. The ministry looks forward to exploring greater means of partnerships with TAFTA to extend their invaluable training across the length and breadth of Nigeria.”

“I must commend the wise thoughts of Mrs. Austen-Peters and her team for coming up with something as wonderful as this. Art, as we all know, is an inevitable aspect of society that helps to tell our stories the way they should in order to uphold morals, shun vices, clampdown on evils, among other pertinent functions. It is my joy therefore that such a great thing as this is happening today. I have no doubt therefore that TAFTA will soon become a household home in the Nigerian creative space due to its dedicated and precise efforts to bring to light talents of young Nigerians from the nooks and crannies of our country.”

Theatre scholar, Prof. Duro Oni and filmmaker, Mr. Femi Odugbemi commended TAFTA and Mastercard Foundation for their kindness in coming up with the training platform, and urged the academy’s graduates to live to a level of excellence in order to achieve the expectations of their benefactors and to also lend credence to the outstanding inputs of Terra Kulture in the Nigerian creative industry.

The presence of Nollywood actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde was a surprise package for the graduates who erupted with joy at her entry. She congratulated the students and tasked them for the remarkable skills the training will help them achieve in their lives. According to her, even though the initiative was free, the time and stress spent by the graduates should make them realise that they put in efforts to acquire the skills they have got. She admonished them to be meticulous and relentless in the pursuit of their dreams.

Nollywood star, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde addressing the trainees

“If you want to go far in life, you must be meticulous,” Jalade-Ekeinde advised the youngsters. “You cannot afford to be a mediocre. You are perfectionists, because you are cut-out for what you have studied. What you have achieved is not entirely free, because you gave your time, your energy and you chose to come for it because you have the vision. You may not understand how far the Nigerian creative industry has gone. But from this minute, you will start to explore.

“We actors are happy that you are doing this because we want talented individuals to bring out the best in us. And I can see many of them in you already. God bless you. And I must tell you that the world is waiting for you to enjoy your talents. There is money in the creative industry, but what you must have is professionalism and vision. See you at the top.”

Nollywood actor, Deyemi Okanlawon, gave a brief history of his journey into stardom in the industry, and advised the graduates to make judicious use of the opportunity that has been given to them by becoming excellent and professional creatives. Also, Nollywood actor, Deyemi Okanlawon, while giving a brief history of his journey into stardom, advised the graduands to make judicious use of the opportunity that has been given to them by becoming excellent and professional creatives in order to lift the entertainment and creative industries forward. Similarly, another Nollywood actor who doubled as master of ceremony, Mr. Akah Nnani, told them that graduation was just a stepping stone to success, noting that they could only repay the efforts of their trainers if they go on to become outstanding talents. He expressed the hoped that one day they would bring glory to themselves and the Nigerian creative industry.

While expressing happiness at the training and how it would enhance their prospects in the creative industry, a fashion designer and recipient of the training, Mr. Olusegun Medayedupin, said he became part of the training because he had been a fan of lighting and felt that the addition of lighting to his clothing collection would bring out the best in what he does and enable him to attain great heights.

The trainees…eagerly waiting for validation

The academy has urged interested candidates located in Lagos, Ogun, and Kano states to submit their application for the free programme on their website www.terraacademyforarts.com and follow on Instagram@TAFTA. Requiring only a senior secondary school qualification, the primarily e-learning-based courses will impart relevant skills needed to succeed as professionals in the creative industry.

Terra Academy for the Arts was launched in 2021 with the mission to upskill 65,000 underserved Nigerian youths through innovative creative education and practical training strategically designed by handpicked experts in the creative industry. The initial programme runs for six weeks, with an additional two-week practical workshop designed to ensure the hands-on application of the course materials. Notable alumni from the academy include best known for his role as Michael in Netflix’s hit series Far From Home, Moshood Fattah, theatre performer and Miss Nigeria Universe 2014, Queen Celestine and actor, dancer, and fitness instructor, Bunmi Olunloyo.

In 2022, TAFTA expanded its offerings with the announcement of the opening of six physical learning centres for the benefit of students who lacked access to the internet, electricity, or compatible devices. The academy also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Screenwriters Guild of Nigeria (SWGN) to strengthen the support offered to students by easing the admission process into the professional guild.

Terra Kulture Arts and Studios Limited (formerly Terra Kulture Limited – The Nigerian Cultural Centre – is an educational and recreational organization set up in 2003 to promote the richness and diversity of Nigerian languages, arts, and culture. Terra Kulture has organized over 200 art exhibitions, 150+ plays, book readings, and language classes for thousands. Its sister company, Bolanle Austen-Peters (BAP) Productions has taken Nigerian plays to three different continents and has directed and produced award-winning movies that can be found on Netflix and Amazon.

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