Jerry Adesewo on Swedish Festivals, Shared Experience and Nigerian Theatre Practices

Published on 18 May 2022

There’s a great buzz in the hotel as I sit down at a table with Jerry Adesewo from Arojah Royal Theatre and ASSITEJ Nigeria. Jerry is a producer and artistic director who founded Arojah Royal Theatre based in Abuja, Nigeria. He has also worked in media, covering shows and acting as the national media director for the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Art Practitioners, as well as being the Regional Coordinator for North Central Nigeria for ASSITEJ Nigeria and on the board of the International Inclusive Arts Network (IIAN) and the 2021/22 fellow for IETM, the international performing arts network.

He tells me that he’s excited to be back in Sweden because his first time attending a festival based around Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) was in Sweden. “Returning to Sweden for me is like a returning welcome because this is where it all started.”

“It was Sweden that indoctrinated me into the world of Theatre for Young Audiences,” he jokes. “I was writing for a newspaper and I was selected to come to Sweden by the Swedish Institute for what they called Media Tour, which was meant for reporters and journalists who cover children, education, and art. So I was selected from Nigeria and along with some other people, I think it was about 10 or so, and we came to Sweden.”

“Being at this festival is about inspiration, it’s about connection”

His expectations of the festival are very high because he has seen what Swedish festivals can do. “I got invited to Bibu before COVID, but I couldn’t make it… so for me, my expectations are very high. The only thing is that I won’t be able to stay the whole length, and that’s a bit painful, but it’s also understandable. So I don’t expect anything short of the best from this festival.”

“I have seen the Biennial, and I know that despite the disruption that the pandemic has caused, I expect that this is a new beginning,” he states. And indeed, everyone is excited to be back for the first in-person festival and artistic gathering since 2019.

“Returning to Sweden for me is like a returning welcome because this is where it all started”

When asked about his festival highlights, he says he is “very open-minded” when it comes to shows. “I see whatever is possible to see because for me, being at this festival is about inspiration, it’s about connection,” he tells me. “It’s about shared experiences, which in turn will make everyone that has come here with an open mind better than before.”

Jerry hopes that the future of Nigerian theatre will see it restored to past glory and beyond. He is particularly proud of his own contributions to the modern-day renaissance of Nigerian theatre that is currently happening – “in all modesty, in the short time we have worked, especially in the city of Abuja where we are based, Arojah theatre has been a major catalyst for the revitalisation of the theatre culture, for the stimulation of the arts scene.”

The most important thing, according to Jerry, is that there are dedicated spaces for theatre in Nigeria. This will allow them to specialise in different disciplines and give them a space to provide theatre year-round and will cultivate an attitude towards mentorship that will foster the talents of Nigerian theatre-makers and encourage them to stay in the country to continue that tradition.

Jerry can be found at @jerryadesewo on twitter and @jadesewo1 on instagram. The Arojah Royal Theatre can be found at www.arojahtheatre.com.