Daniel Kötter

The National Pop-up Theatre Lagos

art event



"The National Pop-Up Theatre Lagos" 12 - 18 December 2013, Federal Government Printing Press Lagos, Nigeria 

Performances, Exhibitions, Lectures, Talks, Workshops, Party

A collaborative art project initiated and curated by Constanze Fischbeck/Daniel Kötter and the Goethe-Institut Lagos
with curatorial and artistic contributions by Segun Adefila, Ayodele Arigbabu, Jelili Atiku, Koku Konu, Emeka Ogboh/VAN Lagos Mudi Yahaya and many others                                                                   



The story of this project "The Pop-Up Theatre of Nigeria" started more than 45 years ago, more than 8000 km away from Lagos in a Black Sea coastal town called Varna in the socialist country of Bulgaria.

According to communist ideas about theatre and social gatherings, the government was looking for a built structure that could host sports events, concerts, conferences and theatre stagings. The architects came up with a unique and innovative idea: Being one of the first buildings in the world, constructed purely out of hyperbolic paraboloid forms (instead of straight lines and rectangles), the "Palace for Sports and Culture Varna" amongst other features hosted the world's first revolving stage that would turn the amphitheatre with a central stage into a circular arena.

Ten years later, the Nigerian military government was looking for an architecture that could host the biggest event in African culture to date: the FESTAC 1977. The Nigerian delegation looked for a model of an appropriate building and found The Palace for Sports and Culture in Varna. The Bulgarian engineers were contracted to build a replica of the Bulgarian building in Lagos. Back then it was the capital of Nigeria.

While the interior design was identically copied, a few changes were made to the original building: Additional halls were added to host exhibitions, ceremonies and smaller theatre events, the National emblem was attached to the highest point of the crown and the building was given a different name: "The Palace for Sports and Culture Varna" became "The National Theatre of Nigeria".

While the National Theatre as architecture was perfectly tailored to host a Pan-African festival, the main hall was too large for the needs of the Nigerian society, only. 36 years after its architecture had travelled from Bulgaria to Nigeria, and almost 20 years after the main hall had fallen into disrepair, ,"The National Theatre of Nigeria" went on a journey again on the 6th of December 2013: this time however, without the ballast of brick and concrete but in the virtual and light form of an idea: The flexible, spontaneous theatre, for a day, popping up in various public spaces in Lagos before finding its temporary home for a week in the former Federal Government Press, Broad Street, Lagos Island.

For one week "The Pop-up Theatre of Nigeria" will host exhibitions, performances, films, talks and discussions in an open space that everyone can contribute to, a number of Nigerian artists, theoreticians, workers and passers-by will be invited to form the idea of a "National" Theatre without having to rely on and maintain an oversized architectural shell.

In preparation for this event, German artists Constanze Fischbeck and Daniel Kötter conducted a series of staged conversations between artists and theoreticians in the Federal Government Press building in June 2013. "The discoursive theatre of Nigeria" will be presented as a 3-channel video installation.

On Monday 9th December 2013, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, former General Manager of the National Theatre of Nigeria, was officially assigned the temporary permanent Director of the Pop-up theatre of Nigeria by the Director of the Ministry of Culture Mr. Ayahay Idum.

From 12th of December 2013 the space will be formally opened to the public as a space in progress, as a space for all the art disciplines, for discourse, social gatherings and for food... in short as a THEATRE.

After the closing discussion on 18th December 2013, The Pop-up Theatre of Nigeria will live on in various places in Lagos, in Nigeria, in the world and in the virtual space: It will pop-up on numerous occasions in Lagos, whenever Nigerians are celebrating their creative minds, it will pop-up in the forum Freies Theater in the German town Düsseldorf and as collateral event of the Venice architecture Biennal. A catalogue will be produced commemorating the journey of Nigeria's National theatre from being an architecture towards being an idea, and finally a website, designed by visual artist Mudi Yahaya, will display a growing archive of the real and unreal, the past, present and utopian Nigerian theatre for the Arts.




Ongoing exhibitions during the opening times:


Pop Up Parade, 6th december 2013

by Crown Troupe of Africa

Constanze Fischbeck, Jeremiah Ikongio, Daniel Kötter

Documentation of the actions



Pop Up Press Conference, 9th December 2013

Federal Government Press

featuring: Marc-Andre Schmachtel, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, Mudi Yahaya



Constanze Fischbeck, Daniel Kötter

The copy and blow up theatre

Guess where it is - Game

National Theatre of Nigeria  OR  Palace of Sports and Culture Varna/Bulgaria



Mudi Yahaya

The Pop-up Theatre of Nigeria

Website, archive, installations, activities



Ndidi Dike

Depository Memory and Time

Ndidi uses some of the materials within the Printing Press to create a sculptural installation that will engage the audience in participation and dialogue on the issue of archive and memory. It is a durational and performative sculpture that will evolve and  grow throughout the duration of the Pop-up theatre week.


Ayodele Arigbabu and Hunter & Gatherer (Manuel Shvartzberg, Fabian Faltin)

Possible Futures of the National Theatre of Nigeria


Koku Konu, Ade Sokunbi, Dapo Akitunde, Yemi Morafa

Mapping the Printing Press


Ayodele Arigbabu, Noah´s Ark


Notional broadcast featuring motion comic by Ayodele Arigbabu and notional ads by Noah's Ark


Constanze Fischbeck, Daniel Kötter

The discursive Theatre of Nigeria


The Nigerian intelligentsia, being deprived from the National Theatre, its supposedly major representational venue, is reappropriating alternative spaces to reflect on the need for space and identity, being it national or artistic, local or global. Talking about the links between nation and identity, space and art is usually reserved for political discourse. But the discourse itself can as well become an art form, a theatrical event.

In june 2013 german theatre and video artists Constanze Fischbeck and Daniel Kötter conducted a series of nine staged conversations between artists and theoreticians in the Federal Government Press building. "The discoursive theatre of Nigeria" is dicourse, film and theatre performance at once: „Cause we already performed.“


Jelili Atiku

Obaranikosi (In the red #16)

Installation, video documentation of the performance

The performance will take place at Makoko and it will explore loss of memories and alignment in relation to the broader theme of human violence. It is Series #16 of Jelili Atiku’s In The Red is performance project, which began in 2008. The project portrays the consequential effects of the realities - a psychological speculation of actions and reactions of war and violence. With symbolic contents, it makes a metaphorical statement of the human impulses behind these ugly natures.

In The Red uses red as a symbol of life, suffering, danger and violence. The project beliefs that by making a metaphorical statement and symbolize the calamitous events in our world; and by question, picture, express outrage in face of sufferings; it would be clearer that humanity in our modern hither and thither in destruction and extinction. Therefore, using and wrap-human body with linen red cloth and white in these performances is mnemonic of victims of violence, dispute, crisis and war in our world.


Deji Ajose

The City and the Body

Photography workshop presentation in progress

The Workshop, which started on the 4 December 2013, focuses on human body as it is in daily contact with complexes of activities in Lagos. The workshop highlights the trends and consequences of urbanization in Lagos, through the medium of photography. The workshop is being facilitated by Deji Ajose along with illustrated talks by international acclaimed artists such as Uche James Iroha, Dimple B. Shah, Daniel Ploeger, and Jelili Atiku. For two weeks, the participants will explore the burst and diversity of the ever challenging energies, creativity and stimulating multicultural living of Lagos; they will also explore the influx of the phenomenon of urban development in relation to the cogent and plausible effect and relationship between the human body and the various elements of developmental processes within the Lagos metropolis.

The workshop brings art and conceptual photography to the front burners; and help in furthering the position of photography as art form. The attempt here is to show that photography is not only portraiture and social event as it is presently practiced in Nigeria but also a tool for expression of ideas and a means of viable social change.



Emeka Ogboh

Ghost of the Machines

Ghost of the Machines is a sound intervention based on the former use of the pop-up theatre space as a printing press. By reinstalling the original sounds of the printing machines, the installation reenacts the performance of the machines that used to exist here. 

Using sound as the building blocks for the mental reconstruction of the site, audiences will experience what used to be. The soundscape in the absence of the actual machines will question the idea of reality and truth, asking the audience to believe what they see or what they hear.


Emeka Ogboh, VAN Lagos

Death of Theatre

“Death of the theatre” is a video installation piece of the footage of the national theatre stage. The intervention involves the virtual relocation of the ‘stage’ from the national theatre, to the printing press. The installation piece is transformed into a video sculpture by the shadows formed when the audience visiting the space moves between the projection and the wall. The audience is encouraged to interact with the piece, by creating shadows that will cast on the stage. The movement of the casted shadows builds into a performance/intervention on the virtual stage.

The installation plays on the inaccessibility of the National theatre Stage, and seeks to give the audience access to a stage that they would not have ordinarily had. Accordingly, what you see here is not the National Theatre stage, but the original prototype from Varna, Bulgaria.


Christian Ekpo/ Workers of the Printing Press

The National Sitting sacks

A flexible way of sitting and gathering. The sacks are stuffed with waste paper material by workers of the paper recycling company situated in the adjacent premises of the Pop-up Theatre.