The velvety voices of the ocean winds floated my thoughts away into the fourth stage, the transitional gulf, the chthonic matrix from where comes every molecule of creativity. My thoughts breathed: in..out..in.. After a refreshing internment for a bowl of fish soup and a few bottles of…. once upon a night on the Bar Beach, my big toe together with its 9 colleagues emerged to stroll down to the much hyped Silverbird galleria nearby. We live in a supposed post-modern era where media moguls: the self-appointed captains of our consciousness spread superficialities in..out..in. I began to walk to the rhythm: in..out. I discovered an ending with ‘in’ mapping with the right foot affirmed a right thought and ‘out’… Good a thing to resurrect mainstream cinema although stand-alone cinemas like Marhaba, El-Dorado are still vibrant in the Northern part of the country. The Silverbird cinema illustrates the beautiful generosity of the Bruce family’s progressive interest in conquering entertainment in Nigeria after night clubbing, beauty pageantry, concerts etc. I thought of the popular Roxy cinema in Apapa that has now become a Redeem Church, the Metro cinema in Ikorodu and Plaza cinema in Onikan that have all become useless Holy Ghost theatres. When these churches, I guess, start to log in my friendly and accessible Jide Asumah and Willie Bruce with too-good-to-be-true money, alleluia fellowships and movies would feed in the same trough. Then we shall know its time for Silverbird to join its ancestors. At times my breath proceeded like the wings of a bird or roll out like Bruce Lee in kungFu, at times it assumed the colours of silver or a fossilized brass tulip. In.in.. I leapt over a federal pothole, out…and landed on a Tinubu road.
I thought about the late Odeon, and Agege Pen cinemas; and in Ibadan: the late Queens and the Scala cinema on whose soil another building not cinema is unfortunately growing; how the whole of Lagos, in the early eighties, ended up in the two cinehalls of the National Theatre during its 3pm martinis. And I thought about, in..out..in, how this creation of Silverbird bids a respectful farewell to its ancestors and the hordes of deceased cinema houses scattered round the country. May their souls rest… Why did cinema die? Was it lack of consumers, management malaria or money? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit one: almost two billion naira, according to holy rumour, changed itself into where I was about to set my own foot on. The kind of vehicles seated outside revealed the urgency to recoup this huge investment.
Brightly greeting the uniformed security men as I passed, an Olumo rock-chested bouncer accosted me, ‘yees?’ he queried in a way designed to intimidate. Those who trust in their physical strength become in time bodyguards to those who trust in their mental power, Psalm 200 says. That night I trusted something else: the sting that had become my breath. ‘Hello’, I replied softly and most breezily. The thick stench of my patron beer-Guys Under Liquor Demand Extra Round (GULDER) – faxed just the exact message to him. Unperturbed, I carried on to the topmost floor using the escalators as the non-human signboard explained.
The galleria is structurally daring but it is abstract; within its low-rise context, it dominates the Ahmadu Bello skyline but does not participate in it. Rather it sets a vague agenda for the skyline. Ramps, stairs, and corridors wind through the building connecting principal spaces. Though not of spatial complexity, there is little coordination between the exterior and the interior. Surfaces jump at you, not only because of their vivid hues or repetitive wall panels but also because of their harsh and relentless objectivity. A twin enantiomatic staircase articulated in the inner courtyard give the place a neo-modernist bent. Conceptually, I was told that the building was a result of a collaboration between South Africa and Nigeria, SA architects composing the architectural thinking, Nigerian engineers erecting the structure. I looked at ways in which the spaces were managed for a refreshing local aesthetic appeal, I was disappointed. Reliable source revealed that the architectural philosophy was an option for a tropical flavour. But how this was achieved was by mosaics of tropical jungle on the domes of the two atriums. We still conceive local arts as ancient, frozen, as cultural dances, paintings and eyo festivals, not something capable of being integrated into a modern agenda. I speak of the kind of modernisation that out of all in the spectrum of arts and architecture only Dakova, Zizi, Labanella and other key players in the fashion arts are getting right.
International appeal is not westernization, it comes from what is local to any part of the world but imaginatively modernised, brilliantly fused, and creatively stylised to boot; something that provides a contextual sweep away from predictable patterns and in profound ways, usher in a new sensation within a universal narrative. A building that offers a titillating experience to cinephiles inside and outside Africa. A building that local and foreign musicians and models would come for advertisements. A luscious tourist attraction. A stimulant to travel. A building that truly presents a tropical architectural wonder to the Doxiadis and Rem Koolhaases of this world yet of modest budget. A true tropical flavour may rather exploit the natural ventilation of the nearby ocean and lagoon winds night time cooling and daylight heat gain process with the fabric, the structure and the skin controlling the internal climate. The atrium can be the engine of ventilation serving as a thermal chimney, taking air from the vast mall and exhausting it at the top. Instead the galleria chooses to be refrigerated “untropically”.
There are 5 cineplexes in the galleria capable of showing simultaneously, different movies. With over 200 intimate seats, each cineplex is a cosily air-conditioned comfort with good visual and acoustic privacy. I settled for the last show of the day: Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow. This apocalyptic thriller which I prefer to title Nature’s Terrorism have something in common with other blockbusters in currency: The Passion Of The Christ, Troy and Fahrenheit 9/11: they hammer truth into the ears of global power and greed. I hope Mr Bin Laden, George Bush, their defence chiefs and diplomats have seen these films. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit numbe
r two: I spent N2000 for the movie ticket, and to aid the digestion of the film, N300 for a bag of popcorn and N150 for a bottle not a keg of drinking water. To add acid to injury, I even said a painful ‘keep the change’ on top.
I, Damola, not minding the dollarised Okonjo-Iweala cost of the movies, would continue to “go to the movies” – a phrase that has now entered our flirting verses- because 95% of the audience are expatriate faces. The same sea of strange faces I see all over in exquisite restaurants and clubs. I decided to be a statement irreducible to language, a signification, a Rosa Parks’ refusal to stand up. I decided to self-consciously write myself against this alarming expatriate encroachment.
After the show, the hall broke into numerous voices, I strolled back to my rendezvous with midnight on the beach but with less in..in..out..out razzmatazz stepping since the liquor had subsided. And there they were: the expatriate faces with tents already built in their trousers, picking up the ayanas (night ladies living on the outskirts of woman dignity) to continue elsewhere their out..in..out yeye entertainment. Knowing the impact of such on the society, I grieved and felt humiliated at this debasement. It sustains the impression that all females are “pornication”. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I grieved. What is worse, these girls carrying soprano bosoms are sweetly pretty. One would think that such beauty would arm them with sufficient dose of self-esteem which would restrain them from descending so low come what may. Expatriates my foot. in..in..in.out.in..out
Damola Awoyokun lives at email@example.com