On Baptism and Theatre Arts Students

The sun was barely below the horizon on the 12th of September when the baptism ritual that is peculiar to Theatre Arts students began. Unlike the religious (Christian) kind, this one was anything but religious. The only similarity was the use of water and even the water was used the same way.

The eager and fresh faces of the new Theatre Arts students were gathered together around 4 pm, after their matriculation. The exercise was supposed to test their mettle and push the boundaries of discipline. It would also leave an imprint on their souls and determine how well or how horribly they are received.

These students were made to march around the Faculty of Arts annex that contained their department, while chanting theatrical songs that mocked other departments and elevated theirs.
“…philosophers too dey suffer
psychologists too dey kolo
historians too dey tell story
Theatre set me free.”

This was after they must have filled various containers with water that would be used for their baptism. Afterwards, they were made to walk backwards through a built pretend-door that was supposed to serve as their entrance into the world of theatre.

Then, the atmosphere became heavy with anticipation, as the students mirrored the gathering gloom of the evening. The series of vigorous exercises, each movement more demanding than the last had exhausted the students, yet they had to stand tall. The seniors, who served as their instructors, stern-faced and unyielding, had led them through grueling routines, yet it wasn’t over.

As the first buckets of water were thrown at the new students from the height above the art theatre, the cold caught the students by surprise. Different seniors threw buckets of water at the students, yet they were told not to utter any words of complaint. Some seniors, recalling the experiences of their gruelling baptism, took out the pain they felt all those years ago on the new students.

While some students maintained an air of indifference, as if they had already conquered their inner demons, others couldn’t conceal their defiance, and they were faced with an additional drenching for their unwillingness to submit. For the former set of students, it was a rite of passage they had been forewarned about, and they bore it with stoic resolve. As for the latter, they had bitter complaints to utter about the exercise.

In response to how the experience was, an anonymous fresher of Theatre Arts says, “A lot of us didn’t like it, although some did. I feel we’re new to this and this baptism just proves how much to expect during initiation”.

Another new student, Oluwaniyi Ifeoluwa, in his opinion, says, “The experience is odd. However, it’s just our culture here and we have to follow it religiously”.

Amid the physical exertion, haunting prayers were said. “You will suffer!” The prayer leader invoked and the students had to respond with loud amens, else they would be punished with more cold water.

When asked his response to this prayer, Ojo Shedrach, replies by saying, “I chose Theatre Arts, so I was prepared to “suffer”. To me, I think it’s just one of the sacrifices we have to pay to succeed”.

However, after the ridicules they were subjected to, the new students, drenched and weary, found their voices. They formed a circle, united in song and dance, and they lifted the weight of their baptism terrors. Some of their seniors joined them to dance away the weariness of the day and the anticipated weariness of their full initiation into the spirit of Thespis. Laughter and camaraderie replaced the initial gloom, and this gave a testament to the power of shared experiences.

Yet, as the festivities unfolded, some questions remain unanswered; was this baptism truly about discipline, or were these young artists merely being made to suffer for the sake of tradition? Were they nurturing passion or merely subjecting students to unnecessary hardship?

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