Fashion is a lifestyle to me, while arts, is a gift from God -SARAH BOULOS - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Friday, 5 May 2017

Fashion is a lifestyle to me, while arts, is a gift from God -SARAH BOULOS

(The lady in the centre of performing arts in Nigeria)

From being a director to being a mother, and then a supporter of charity, it has been a roller coaster of events, adventure and then romance with arts for half French and half Lebanese Sarah Boulos. She is also the Founder of The Society of the Performing Arts of Nigeria, a society known for spectacular world of art events, music, dance, drama and great fun.

Sarah Boulos who for many years was a former Director of Logistics at SCOA Nigeria Plc, has enlarged the coast of arts in the country, grooming performers along with teachers of arts, showcasing talent. Though she lives in the eye of society, she however believes that these days, she lives according to the vision that God gave her concerning the arts. She shares this dream with us in this interview with Paul Ukpabio.

You left the corporate world where you were a director years back, to go into performing arts. What has arts been to you?

It has been a God given vision. The Society of the Performing Arts of Nigeria has been on as a non profit foundation labeled as a charity. We have been educating people for free. We have also been raising different groups of people to handle and present their own art productions. We have been educating people in dance, music and drama. We have been able to create jobs in the last years, new companies that were not there before, and we have built people who have also gone ahead to make success of their lives. We have graduated young people. 

What motivated your interest in teaching dance, music and drama to young people?

Actually the interest came about when I noticed the growing trend of more and more people coming out into the unemployment market. These have been people who have gone to university, but had not studied what they would have loved to have studied. They come out and do not get the kind of jobs that they want. So they graduated from university not having learnt what will make them be useful to their present day society. What we did and still do is to form them and adapt them to the community and society so that they can be hired. We are providing jobs at the end of the day. The drama academy provides short-programmes that make them become teachers in drama. The dance academy is a tedious programme that can make them go on and open their own dance studio and later come back and continue training to follow up their vision.

How did your family react to your dance and drama dream?

It took a long time for them to accept. But now I am at home. But when you are doing something for God, even when you are not there with your children, God takes care of them and protects them. Before, I used to be out, out and out. But now it is not so. Now I finish my job and I go home. Now I spend time with my family, and when I do that, I am always overwhelmed with joy. 

How was it, when you started?

It was very hard, it was not easy. Everything I did was not easy, everything was hard. And even till now, it is hard. I needed to remain consistent, persistent, I didn't give up. That is what I advice people to do too, because that is the only way that they will be able to make a living out of their gift. You must believe in your gift after which, you must trust God. That is what it takes. You have to make this catch your attention, if you want to make it in life. That is what I did, and that is why I didn't give up. 

Ballet still remains new in Nigeria, from your experience, are Nigerians accepting this kind of dance? 

Actually, Nigerians are very educative; they understand values and appreciate dance and ballet. Nigerians love ballet, they are educative and literate, they read about ballet and they have noticed that it helps develop children even when they may not end up being professional dancers, the dance steps help develop intelligence between body movement and cognitive development. Any form of art helps you to grow, to develop areas of the brain that most people don't think of.

Do you teach for free?

No, when people come to SPAN, the cost is minimal. And we charge per hour for teaching children but very minimal.  However, we have school community services; we go to schools and teach free. The people that we have trained, go out there upon graduation and even charge less, they actually make it affordable for more people. And they are doing well.

How long do the courses take?

The courses take two years, after which the graduating students are presented certificates. If they want to get the Diploma, they have to go through a four year programme. It is a rigorous programme of seven hours a day or five hours every three days for music. This is open to everybody including secondary school students whose parents give consent, we invite them to join and go through audition as a preliminary step in getting into the academy.

What role does talent play in all these, or is it all about training?

No, definitely, you have to have some kind of talent or gift, to be able to be trained.Where did you pick up this initiative?
It was a God given vision, everything goes back to God, he gave me this vision, asked me to do this for Him, and I did it. I was in Nigeria, I had been studying the bible at that period, and I asked Him for a gift to enable me to serve Him better, and He then gave me this gift. He gave me this gift. He gave me, music, dance and drama. He gave me the purpose for building something for Nigeria.

Tell us about your education background?

I majored in Biology and I studied Public Health. I have done Ballet for fifteen years. I studied Public Health at the Houston Baptist University, in the United State of America. However, I did not grow up in the USA, I grew up, in Boukina Faso. It was my husband's job that took us to America, where we stayed for some years before returning to Nigeria. It was then that this vision came to me. I actually learnt Ballet in school at France. 

Why Ballet, and how did you come about it?

It was my mother who told me to go and learn ballet. For me, that was it. I was age 15 then. I trained consistently on it, to master it.  

Do you have any success story to show for the academy, apart from those you have graduated and who have started their own businesses?

Yes, we have quite a lot of success to show. We have the popular Maltina Dance Hall, Street Dance Guinness, Celebrity Takes two, we have dance shows that have open now. We have a past student, who received an award in America. But because there is no funding from the Nigerian government in this regard, we could not take anybody for Championships abroad. So they are very good in what they do, and we are continuing in our culture of bringing out Champions, who will start companies, train more people and feed families.

Do you see dance, drama and music, growing here, and are Nigerians developing interest in it?

It is growing everyday. There was the Saro Musical Concert in Lagos which would not have taken place if the dancers were not trained through SPAN. Some of them and even the solo dancer Peter James was trained at SPAN. As regards Nigerians developing interest in it, I believe yes, because more importantly, it is providing jobs for them. This, provides job opportunities, and gives them the chance to use the gift that they love, enabling it to grow. Anything can grow in Nigeria, once you provide a platform. 

This did not develop when I was a student in the arts. It did not develop when I was studying ballet, dance and drama. It developed when God gave me vision to accomplish it at thirty years old. It did not develop when I was a child. As a child, I was just very attracted to the arts, but this all happened, when God said I was ready for it, that I was able to do it. 

You seem somewhat religious

I am not only religious, I am spiritual as well. I believe in Jesus Christ of Nazareth and it is Jesus that has transformed my life and changed me. I met Jesus in year 2000, but prior to then, I was raised as a Catholic. Though I was a Christian since I was born, but since I met Jesus, He has been very powerful in my life and has totally transformed me.

When you talk about arts, so much energy and enthusiasm that oozes out of you. What keeps you going?

(Laughs) My Jesus! Honestly, there's no leader or one who does great things by himself or herself, so the glory must go back to God. When you have discipline and character, what keeps you going, is a bigger force, holding you, carrying you every day, and telling you, its okay, that you are going to make it. I have no intention of ever saying that I do it by myself. I never did. It was a gift to me, and I am nurturing, cherishing and honouring it. 

What gives you joy?

My family gives me joy, the people around me gives me joy, and the knowledge, the deep understanding that I am serving God. This joy is not describe-able. This keeps me going. I know that there is a battle out there, but there is also that inside of me that tells me to love people, love the society that I am in, keep going, never give up.

What about your nationality? 

I am half French, half Lebanese. My mother was French and my father Lebanese.

How big is SPAN?

It is a community with membership of over 300 people. We have kept growing and teaching more people, with a ripple effect further down the line. And we are not all based in Lagos. Some of us are based in Calabar, Port Harcourt, Abuja and so on. A lot of us are into the teaching of dance, drama and music, while others are into productions. Sometimes too we meet dung productions, we meet when we gather for a dance battle too. It’s always really very exciting.

What is the future of SPAN?

I see a place and time where every Nigerian will be able to come in and watch the show, or take part in the network: A place where people all over the world come here to gather as the gateway of Africa, to produce and present productions. I see a place where creativity is everywhere, and people coming together to learn and create more, I see a place where music, dance, drama, photography, documentary and journalism will thrive together and inspire others to think and know that life is not only about making money or trying to put your brother down, but about laughter, creativity and an opportunity to tell someone even your child that you love him or her. So we are building a huge theatre, it will be the first state of the art theatre in the whole of West Africa. Only comparable to what you see in A South Africa and European countries. The architect and boulders are one of the best in the world. And it will provide jobs.

As an artist, what is your favourite colour?

My colour is earth; it is the colour of Africa. The soil of Africa, Every time I see our proposed building, I see the soil, the origin of Africa, the soil of Africa which is reddish orange.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion to me is a lifestyle. Fashion makes impact in my life and my fashion, makes impact in other people's lives. I patronize designers because it helped them to further more carry on the work of creativity. And I love to wear works of many Nigerian designers. 

Having lived in Nigeria over the years, have you been able to embrace Nigerian foods?

Yes, I do love Nigerian foods. I eat most, though pepper is too hot for me. I love yam though, plantain, especially when eaten without pepper. I love most food from Northern Nigeria because they are not spiced with much pepper. I should know because I have travelled to many parts of Nigeria. And I have been to many parts of West Africa.

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