While we are over a hundred and fifty million populace with an array of degrading tags to our name ranging from; country with one of the poorest economies, most corrupt nation in Africa etc, our creative diversity and artistic dexterity as a people has continued to redeem us from abashment, and has earned us a place in the shelf of universal honours.
From music to movies and creative arts, Nigeria continues to amass notable mentions in the global community and most recently is the well-deserved recognition garnered by Lagos-based children dance group: Dream Catchers.
International pop star Rihanna had gotten wind of one out of their numerous dance clips, after British supermodel; Naomi Campbell shared the video. In admiration of their talent and the infectious joy they exude, Rihanna also posted the video on her Instagram.
The clip soon caught the attention of the worlds second richest rapper Diddy who posted the video on his Instagram page and twenty-four hours later, Rihanna went on to declare her unrestrained love and admiration for the kids. “I love YOU guys! I speak on behalf of the entire social media when I say this… you really brought a pure joy to our spirits just by seeing how happy you are when you dance! You personally made my day! Keep up the great work kids”, she professed.
The story of how Dream Catchers has gone from dancing on the streets of Ikorodu – a suburb in Lagos, Nigeria to becoming a global sensation and fave of international pop star; Rihanna isn’t, however, a bloomy one, and needful to point is that; layered behind the infectious happy energy they exude is pain, fear and struggles that are far-reaching.
“Dancing represents hope for each and every one of us. All the kids have different stories but one thing that brings them all together is dance”, says Seyi Oluyole – founder of Dream Catchers dance group.
Oluyole is 26-year old United States returnee who believes that every child deserves an opportunity to succeed irrespective of their background. Her strong humanitarian convictions are what led her to birth the Dream Catchers which she describes as a dance team for underprivileged kids.
Some four years ago, Seyi who was at the time a college student in the U.S made the seemingly ridiculous decision of retreating to Nigeria in pursuit of her philanthropic yearnings – an idea that was severely frowned upon and regarded as unthoughtful by friends and family members alike. But for Seyi, forfeiting her assumed normal life to embark on this daring journey is a quest for inner peace. “Some of my family members thought I was crazy, some friends also advised me not mess my life or put my life on hold for these kids. But I kept on telling them that if I don’t go, I’ll feel like I settled because I don’t feel fulfilled. Every day I just felt miserable”, she disclosed.
Fours years in, Seyi now assumes the role of a parent to no less than 10 underprivileged kids within the inner communities of Ikorodu. For most of these kids, the harsh reality of life had conditioned them to either steal or engage in menial labour in a bid to survive as their biological parents are unable to provide. “Before when I was in my former house, I was always walking about. I couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t go to school. Before I eat or do something else, I help someone to clean the gutter so I can have maybe fifty or hundred naira to buy food”, said Shola, a 14-year old member of the group.
From paying tuitions to feeding, accommodation, clothing, medical bills and offering moral/spiritual support, Seyi is saddled with the responsibility of being a beacon of hope to these kids, using dance as a tool for expression and correction. Seyi explained; “For most of them, they were told that they can’t become anything good so just going for few events and people clap for them, boosts their confidence and makes them feel better. What I usually do is that when they begin to get into trouble, I tell them they won’t dance anymore and that causes them to adjust because they really love dancing”.
The kids have developed an unshaken belief in Seyi and this holds a downside that becomes somewhat emotionally draining. She recounts their experience at the Lagos Grows Talent competition (an empowerment initiative by the Lagos State Government under the umbrella of the annual One Lagos Fiesta) as the most challenging phase of their journey so far. After gloriously conquering within their zones, the group made it to the finals but sadly failed to emerge winners of the competition. “Because of the love we got from Ikorodu, the kids were so sure that we were going to win. Things were going so good. But when they announced that we didn’t win, all of them were in tears and it made me feel terrible because I had promised them that good things were going to happen. It felt like I failed them”.
After many years of dancing and attempting to earn the attention of Nigerians, the universe finally decided to smile on them. “It was just another day in our lives. Our Instagram views had reduced so I decided that we were going to post a video every day. So I just told the girls to pose in front of a bus and dance. Later I started getting a lot of notifications. I checked and saw that Naomi Campbell had reposted our video. I had to confirm if it was the real Naomi Campbell. The Rihanna one came as a big shock because I really love Rihanna. I screamed so bad that I started crying. Even P. Diddy, I didn’t see it coming”, she explained.
While the repost from these bigshots have caused their Instagram following to increase by over two hundred percent and continue to serve as a source of motivation and encouragement, not so much has really changed about their reality. “I have become more security conscious because we are still where we are living. Before they’ll come and hold us and think Rihanna gave 60 million naira because of the video”, Seyi cited.
The journey has so far been a sprint of faith and jog of uncertainty as the 26-year old makes end meet from screenwriting and sometimes manages to gather funds off show performances et al. “Sometimes we skip meals when there’s no money and I use the dance to distract them. Maybe when there’s no lunch, I’ll just say guys let’s go and rehearse and by the time we know it, it’s already dark so I’ll be like oh it’s too late for you guys to have lunch, so let’s just have dinner”.
The challenges have however not broken her spirit as Seyi’s long-term goal is to set up a proper home and accommodate as many kids as possible.
Watch Seyi Oluyole’s compelling interview with NET below.
You can contact Seyi Oluyole and the Dream Catchers with the following contact details.
Ⓒ Copyright NET News Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Please use sharing tools. Do not cut, copy or lift any content from this website without our consent.