If you have ever had ‘The Taruwa Experience’, then you’d know why we LOVE Lydia Idakula-Sobogun. If you have never experienced, Taruwa, then it is with immense pleasure that we introduce Lydia to you. Lydia is the progenitor of Taruwa – a hub for lovers of art and diverse expressions of it. At Taruwa, you enjoy laughter, good music, poetry and visual arts. Taruwa is that place where you kick back your shoes and just enjoy being. All that is because one woman conceptualized it and birthed it. Taruwa has been the ‘gestation’ site for a lot of popular and mainstream artistes like award winning rapper, M.I Abaga as well as soul musician, Bez Idakula – who is incidentally, Lydia’s baby brother.
Lydia speaks to BellaNaija on her background, what inspired her to start Taruwa and her goals for Taruwa and its parent company, Gbayichild Entertainment. She has created a safe space for the recognition of fresh talent and she is expanding the frontiers of exposure for Taruwa. We’re very excited to see what she has in store for us as the years go by and we hope you enjoy this interview.
Tell us about yourself
I’m the second of four children. I grew up in a very arty environment. My father played the guitar and my mum played the bass guitar. We were like the Von Trapp family; we used to sing in church and at family functions – much to my mother’s pleasure and our utter dismay.
We had fun at home, always acting one thing or the other or simulating one music concert or the other. We all ended up in the creative arts (well… somehow) my older sister Eunice works a 9-5 but she makes beautiful cakes and has a good eye for interior design. My younger brother Bez… well, you know Bez. Our last Anyidakula studied Mass Com. and is also into some music. My mum still bakes till today. She has baked everything from the coat of arms to a hospital and ambulance (and threw in some Tetracyclin & Ampicilin just for show) she’s amazing.
I went to Corona primary school in Jos, then Baptist High School, also in Jos. Baptist was a very musical school – people like MI & EKelly & Aramide were my juniors in school. Shifi of Styl Plus was my senior *laughs* I studied Law in the university of Jos and then went to Law school in Lagos and was called to the Bar. I like to call myself a defunct lawyer. After service, joblessness kind of pushed me to register Gbagyichild Entertainment because that was what I was passionate about anyways.
How would you describe your personality?
I would say that I am an art lover. I love building relationships and I love family very much, I am very close to mine. I am stubborn, and the word ‘dogged’ has been used to describe several times. When I want to do something I don’t let anything stand in my way or discourage me. It may take a while, but I will do it. I won’t say anything negative about me.
Why did you start Taruwa?
I started Taruwa because I felt like there was a need for a stage to express. There were not a lot of stages where upcoming artistes could hone their skills in front of an audience. I also wanted a place for established artistes to have an intimate audience they could get honest feed back from and banter with.
What does Taruwa mean? And what do you do at these gatherings?
Taruwa is a Hausa word, which means ‘Gathering’. It holds last Tuesday of every month at Bogobiri house, which is on Maitama Sule, off Awolowo road in Ikoyi. On a typical Taruwa evening you will find expressions in spoken word, music. Sometimes, there is live painting and dance.
What’s the target audience for Taruwa?
Taruwa targets the art lover. It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you’re from or what you do. If you love arts you’re one of us and are welcome at Taruwa. And if you don’t love arts (which I cannot imagine) come to us, and we will show you why you should.
Tell us a bit about Gbagyichild entertainment
Gbagyichild Entertainment is a company I founded and have run for almost 7 years now. The name is derived from the Gbagyi tribe found in some northern states of Nigeria. I am Gbagyi from Karu, Nasarawa State and I’ve always had a deep love and longing to put my tribe and people on the map. The name is literal. I am a Gbagyi Child.
Everything we do at Gbayichild is art related. We have organised different types of events. Exhibits, workshops, showcases and festivals. We also consult on other people’s events. Organisations we’ve worked with include the British Council, SPAN (Society for the Performing Arts in Nigeria) Bogobiri House, Life House and Individuals like Charles Novia.
We publish the Taruwa arts and culture magazine that is going online sometime this quarter. Besides Taruwa, which is a monthly event, we convene the annual Taruwa Festival and also work on the SPAN Festival.
We also do theatre productions. We started during the Taruwa festival with the production of Bobo Omotayo’s book, London Life Lagos Living and re-staged it again in December of 2013 in collaboration with Bobo. It was so successful that we had to add an extra show!
This year, we’re working on some internet and TV productions. Because we see a lot of talented artistes we also tend to be called a lot for suggestions, referrals and bookings so we’re also working on building a management agency and hopefully we can grow some of these artistes. We’re very big on collaborations so this year, we’re collaborating with some organisations on some projects. We’ll be sure to keep you informed.
How did you start Taruwa?
It started on the 21st of August 2007 at Bogobiri and we moved from venue to venue for a bit and came back to Bogobiri after they had their event venue built. My brother Bez and Deborah Johnson Nwaohiri managed it when I left Lagos for about two years. I would come in from time to time to see how it was going. We generally used word of mouth to get information out, and then Facebook. We learnt to keep our overheads low and took it a day at a time.
Did you have funding?
I did not have funding. I just used what I had and I started from where I was.
Can you share some of the challenges you experienced starting a new venture in a society that isn’t really ‘artsy’
I wouldn’t say our society is not artsy. I think that everyone has a drop of ‘artsiness’ in them. They might not know it, probably because they’ve never really made themselves available for artsy stuff/events. We kicked Taruwa off with a few people (7, on the first day). Everyone in attendance always went out and told somebody else about the amazing fun we were having, and before we knew it, the numbers grew until it became a community. Now, we can boldly say, do not be fooled by the suits and ties, everyone indeed has a drop of art in them, they just need the ambiance and right crowd. The only challenge I would say is funding but like I said, I started with what I had.
Can you share some of Taruwa’s success stories?
Being here for almost 7 years I think is success of its own. There are a lot of gatherings that started and couldn’t continue. I also see the fact that evolved into a magazine and now a festival as a very successful story. We also have been a part of a lot of Nigerian artiste’s stories and that for me is truly humbling.
Was there any time you thought of giving it all up?
I’ve never thought of quitting. I am a firm believer of the fact that if I have an idea, it may take a while but it will come to fruition, plus I know that my purpose is to effect change through the arts and He who called me has always equipped me. One of my biggest miracles is in the team I work with. Usually when we have projects, we call in several people to work with and they are always a blessing, but I cannot do what I do without Bee Azubike and Grace Ekpiken. God blessed me with these amazing women and I am grateful for them.
Where can one go to get recent information on Taruwa? Your website isn’t recently updated. Can you share some of the challenges you have in that regard and how you hope to solve it and provide information to the public?
We have the Taruwa Page and the Gbagyichild Entertainment group on FaceBook. Those pages are regularly updated with every event and project we work on. We also have the festival website www.taruwafestival.org and the gbagyichild site www.gbagyichild.com which are now ready for the public.
Like I said earlier. We’re working on the Taruwa Magazine online where you will have information about not only ours but other art events going on in the country.
How would you describe ‘The Taruwa Experience’ to someone who has never been?
I have my own thoughts but it’s always beautiful to hear the different descriptions people have of the Taruwa experience. I have some testimonials I’d like to share.
“Taruwa is the birthplace of expression of true art. As commercial artistes, our art requires 10% talent & 90% business. Taruwa gives us a balance, 100% talent. We need this balance to stay sane, Taruwa is our therapy.” – Djinee
“What inspires me about Taruwa is being with artistes who want to use their gifts to change Nigeria. Everytime I come, it reminds me of what I love so much about Nigeria” – Sheila Dykstra
“Taruwa is like going home for Christmas and hanging with your favourite cousins.” – Imoh Umoren
“One of the things I value about Taruwa is the family atmosphere. It doesn’t matter what type of artiste you are or from what sector of the corporate industry, everyone who comes through the doors can be comfortable… Talent is celebrated, upstarts are encouraged and expression thrives. However, it is not the art alone, but the subtle social construction that resonates with Me.” – Omoye Uzamere
In the end I’d simply say, “Don’t wait for the gist, Taruwa is best experienced”
What are the different sectors of performance arts that Taruwa aims to showcase?
Theatre. Music. Spoken word. Dance. Fashion. Literature. The festival is a larger stage and so showcases more than the regular Taruwa.
Would you say that Taruwa has carved a niche for itself?
Definitely. Taruwa has become like a family with its own following.
How do you balance work and family life?
It’s very simple really. My priorities are very clear. My family comes first. I believe that if you’re going to have a family and children, you should be on hand to raise them properly. I believe that the family is the smallest and most important unit of every society and if family fails, society will fail. We do not pay enough attention to our families.
Most of the decisions I make compliment my priorities, beliefs and philosophies. I depend on God greatly for grace to make my day-to-day decisions. I have flexible work hours and I can do a lot of my work from my computer. These are very deliberate choices. Also, I have a very supportive family. My husband is like the greatest man alive who gives me the best gift everyday by letting me be myself. My brother Bez is like my no 1 supporter, I run most of my crazy ideas by him and he’s never doubted me once! My mum, sister and other brother will leave Abuja and come to Lagos for my events. We call ourselves the mobile cheerleaders. It’s an amazing blessing.
Describe a typical day in your life
I don’t really have typical days. Most days I work or have meetings till I have to pick up my daughter from school. I hardly schedule anything outside of home after that unless it is important, I have some evenings out by myself, and sometimes I catch a movie with friends. I spend most weekends chilling with my family and my brother & his wife. I love to cook and when I’m less busy you’ll catch me baking. When we’re planning an event or the festival however, this schedule flies out the nearest window.
What do you hope to achieve with Taruwa in the next 5 years?
I have been thinking of touring with Taruwa. I’d like to see that happen. I also want to grow the festival and see more collaboration. We also have a workshop series in the pipeline and of course, the online magazine. In 5 years I’d like to look back on all these plans and smile.
Just for fun questions
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what would you like to have with you the most?
How many items am I allowed? Music, drinking water, Lip-gloss, Soap, Suya, Potatoes, nutri-c and someone to talk to. Preferably, my 4.5 year old. She’s a real conversationalist. Oh, and some tissue paper would be nice…
If you were a colour what would you be?
Kai (lemme think…), Gold… or a rich dark Purple
What are your pet peeves?
Toilets that smell like toilet, People who shout on the phone, especially in quiet places, People who take advantage of others’ weaknesses
How would you define your style?
Comfortable, non-existent really.
Who are your favourite designers?
I’m not really a fashion/designers person; I will wear anything nice & comfortable that fits. I don’t like high heels, watches or excessive jewelry. I’m a jean and top girl but I do believe Bvlgari & Salvatore Ferragamo make perfumes just for me.
Watches or Shoes?
Music & Books
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I love sweet stuff. I have a sweet tooth, It’s terrible.
If you had a super power what would it be?
One interesting thing nobody knows about you
When I fall in love with a song (which is often) I have to listen to it over and over again, sometimes over a hundred times to get it out of my system. This sounds like OCD but I’m normal. Please believe me.
We believe you Lydia! Thank you for such a lovely interview and the BellaNaija team wishes you the best, going forward. See you at the next Taruwa.;)
Photo Credits: Landscape Photography | Eniola Abumere | Dimbo Atiya | Afam – Diary of a Mad Man