Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has expressed his support for popular Afrobeat artist, Davido, amid controversy over a video clip featuring men dressed as praying mallams dancing in front of a mosque.
The video, which was promoting a song ahead of its official release, sparked criticism from some members of the Muslim community who deemed it offensive.
It was earlier gathered that Northern muslim youths burned down the singer’s banner following the offensive video.
In response to the calls for an apology to the Muslim community by Senator Sheu Sani and other aggrieved individuals, Soyinka released a letter titled “Davido Video” on Tuesday. He dismissed the notion that dancing in front of a mosque is an act of provocation, asserting that it is an “affirmation of the unified sensibility of the spiritual in human.”
“No apology is required, none should be offered. Let us stop battening down our heads in the mush of contrived contrition – we know where contrition, apology, and restitution remain clamorous in the cause of closure and above all – justice.”
Soyinka asserted that artists should have the right to deploy dance in religious settings, referring to it as a “universal heritage.” He highlighted that this practice is particularly relevant in Islam, where a plot of land can be transformed into a sacral space for believers to gather and worship.
While Soyinka admitted that he had not seen the specific video clip in question, he stressed that dancing in front of a mosque should not be automatically interpreted as an act of offense. Instead, he believes it should be seen as an expression of “spiritual unity.”
“I have not seen the clip, but I insist on the right of the artiste to deploy dance in a religious setting as a fundamental given. Such deployment is universal heritage, most especially applicable in the case of Islam where a plot of land, even without the physical structure, can be turned, in the twinkling of an eye, into a sacral space for believers to gather and worship in between mundane pursuits.
“Dancing in front of a mosque cannot therefore, on its own, be read as an act of provocation or offence but as an affirmation of the unified sensibility of the spiritual in human. Let us learn to read it that way. Those who persist in taking offence to bed and serving it up as breakfast should exercise their right of boycotting Davido’s products – no one quarrels with that right. However, it is not a cause for negative and incitive excitation.”
Soyinka urged those who take offense to exercise their right to boycott Davido’s products, but discouraged negative and incitive reactions. He emphasized that it is crucial for society to focus on genuine provocations, such as the tragic lynching of Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a student at Shehu Shagari College of Education, and the unjust treatment and imprisonment of atheists like Mubarak Bala.
“It was not Davido’s music that lynched Deborah Yakubu and continues to frustrate the cause of justice. Nor has it contributed to the arbitrary detention of religious dissenters – call them atheists or whatever – such as Mubarak Bala, now languishing in prison for his 38th month. These are the provocations where every citizen should exercise the capacity for revulsion”.