Nigerian-British Playwright tackles Immigration, Deportations and the Windrush Scandal, in Ilé La W

January 13, 2024
2 mins read

Nigerian-British Playwright tackles Immigration, Deportations and the Windrush Scandal in Ilé La W

By Arts Desk

Monday, March 4, 2019.

Caught in the web of the government’s hostile environment, four characters’ lives are interrupted when they could not produce a valid ID in an immigration spot-check. Whether they are actual targets or collateral damage is irrelevant. They were held without answers as they await the verification of their legal status. The ensuing tension will unravel them and lay bare the realities of always being ‘the Other’ in the country they see as home.

How do you then belong to a place that doesn’t recognise you?

This emotive question, which hangs over the heads of many ethnic minority people who call the UK home, is the central theme tackled by Tolu Agbelusi’s debut play Ilé La Wà. The play taps into the recent Windrush Scandal and the underlying anti-immigration stance during the Brexit campaign. These issues have reawakened conversations about race, identity and belonging in today’s Britain.

Ms Agbelusi (pictured below) says when she wrote Ilé La Wà, she was contemplating how society decides who gets to belong.

“It feels very much about the Windrush Scandal, but that’s a new face for the consequences of our government leading the charge to say some of us don’t belong,” she says.  “Government-sanctioned go home vans, institutional racism, threatened deportation of children who’ve lived here most of their lives, and the mental toll of feeling you don’t belong at home, were just a few of my preoccupations”.

Ilé La Wà, which means ‘We Are Home’ in Yoruba – a West African and African diasporic language – is based on real stories from interviews, workshops and media accounts. It is a defiant affirmation that says ‘nobody gets to tell me where I belong’.

Ilé La Wà is also a product of ‘Home Is…’, a poetry and visual arts project curated by Ms Agbelusi, in which she explores the impact of physical and emotional displacement on people’s concepts of home. Supported by the Arts Counci Englandl and Counterpoint Arts, Ms Agbelusi interviewed about 30 people across London, Manchester and Liverpool about their experiences of home. Working with a group of poets, many of those narratives became poems, which were the basis for the play, in addition to collaborations with illustrators, a dancer and an animator, which culminated in a two-week exhibition at Richmix London, in 2016.

The theme of home is very close to the playwright’s heart. She is British and she is also Nigerian. She was born in Nigeria but moved to the UK at age 13, and has since lived on a few other continents. As a lawyer who currently works in civil liberties and as a writer who teaches all ages, she is constantly engaging with how our actual or perceived identities shape our experiences.

When she isn’t figuring out what it means to not be Nigerian enough anymore, and to never have been sufficiently British in the first place, Ms Agbelusi is being commissioned as a poet by the BBC and the Southbank Centre, amongst others. She has also been a guest lecturer to students at University of London’s Birbeck College and King’s College. Ms Agbelusi also runs Home Sessions, a seasonal poetry and development course for BAME writers

Directed by Anni Domingo Ilé La Wà, starts a 6 city regional tour at the Proteus theatre in Basingstoke, April 10, 2019.

The cast includes Antonia Layiwola, Mamito Kukwikila, Winston Sarpong and Tolu Agbelusi.

Key dates:

Ilé La Wà @ Proteus Basingstoke RG21 3DH

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Ilé La Wà @ New Theatre Royal Portsmouth

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ilé La Wà @ Arts at Stowe Buckingham

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Ilé La Wà @ Lowry Salford

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Ilé La Wà @ Streatham Space London

Friday & Saturday, May 17 – 18, 2019

Ilé La Wà @ Curve Leicester

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Preview YouTube video Exploring Home

Exploring Home

Preview YouTube video #HomeIs 2016 at a glance

#HomeIs 2016 at a glance

Preview YouTube video Are You British? Is This Home?

Are You British? Is This Home?

#HomeIs 2016 at a glan

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