Black on Campus: Taiwo Okunola Afolabi

 

Meet Taiwo Okunola Afolabi, a talented young man completing his PhD in Applied Theatre at UVic. He chose UVic because he found the school’s program to be unique and was drawn by world-renowned scholars in the field: Monica Prendergast, Juliana Saxton, and his supervisor, Warwick Dobson.

Taiwo’s passion for theatre was shaped by his upbringing. He had several opportunities in church and high school to participate in drama, and he found that this was a way to relay information to his peers and build community.

 

During his undergraduate studies in Nigeria, he used theatre to spark debates on HIV/AIDs and hygiene. He continues to recognize that socially engaged art forms can spark conversations and highlight important local and international issues.

“By bringing [issues] from a conventional to an unconventional space,” remarks Taiwo, “[we are able] to reach out and understand other people’s stories.”

Taiwo’s research focuses on forced migration, displacement and mobility, and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“It’s been an exciting journey,” he says as he recalls the ways in which he’s discovered himself while interacting with diverse peoples. By binding imagination with the experiences of others, Taiwo has built more empathy in the world and believes that is the one of the biggest gifts theatre can give its audience.

 

 

Currently, Taiwo’s work is in competition for the Ellen Stewart International Award. Taiwo describes Ellen as a theatre genius and is honoured to be one of 11 finalists worldwide. The award recognizes theatre work that is designed to promote social change. Regardless of whether he wins, Taiwo hopes people will see his work as art that transcends boundaries and borders and engage in it intimately. More about the award and voting details can be found on the Ellen Stewart Award site.

On the topic of Black History Month, Taiwo thinks that it is phenomenal, but hopes that people make efforts to recognize the present-day struggles of black people because “every day, people are writing history.”

 

Taiwo believes that continuous acknowledgement of every story means that unheard voices will be heard, and unknown and invisible people will be seen. Taiwo sees himself as a global citizen and believes in the word of God. As a result, he defines himself as who he is inside before defining himself by race. This has had a positive effect on his life and removed any limits he may have perceived otherwise.

In the near future, Taiwo will be showcasing a season two of the Onion Theatre Project’s show Journeys of Arriving, Belonging and Becoming. The show is funded by the BC Arts Council and has been worked on with a community planner and Alt Spaces Society.  It will be showcased at the City Hall in Victoria and Saanich for newly arrived youth. It’s an intergenerational project focused on bringing people together.

Life is very exciting for Taiwo! If you see him on campus, don’t hesitate to say hello!

 

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Black on Campus is a feature series that hopes to highlight and recognize people of colour on UVic’s campus during Black History Month.