The journey starts a little later than planned from my hotel on GRA, Ikeja Lagos. My taxi driver Ade arrives fashionably late and doesn’t apologize. I’m meant to get it. He ushers me into his Toyota Camri taxi.
“I am going to Orange Academy in Maryland,” I tell him.
“Those crazy kids?”
“Why crazy kids?”
“It is a common knowledge in Lagos that young people who go to the Orange Academy are nuts. Some are doctors who’d rather be creative people. They refer to themselves as the Orange Minds. Isn’t that weird?”
“That’s interesting,” I say.
“One of my cousins attended the school last year after law school and she now works for a digital ad agency.”
“As what?” I pull out my notepad making a quick note about the Nigerian spirit: enterprising, creative and very restless. Just like New York, but without all the gadgets.
“She works as a storyteller for different large brands. I don’t really know what that means – it’s sounds totally bizarre to me.”
“I like that!” I say as I look up the Orange Academy website. I love the THIS ONE THING theme: everything at Orange Academy revolves around THIS ONE THING. People telling compelling stories that can change the world for good. Personal stories. Commercial stories. Cultural stories. Social stories.
I look at the dashboard. It is 6 to 10.
“Are we nearly there? I’m meant to meet Kenny and the students at 10.
“Oh we’re not late,” says Ade breezily. “It’s just a few streets further up. About 20 minutes.”
Then as we get closer to Maryland, we get stuck in even more traffic. Ade seems unperturbed and turns on the radio.
It’s 11 by the time I get to the Orange Academy. A uniformed man greets me with a warm smile. “Welcome to Orange Academy!” The gallery outside the building showcases the past students’ work: mock ads, photos, social invention art pieces… but they all feature some form of storytelling.
Inside, I am ushered up a flight of stairs into the ‘Shrine’ a special place where only the ‘gods’ can enter. Kenny and Chisom, the duo that runs this amazing college, have been waiting for me.
“I’m Kenny, and this is Chisom. The students call us Pinky and the Brain.”
“So, where do we start?” I ask. “Can I meet the students?”
We are now inside a large storytelling arena called ‘THE WARROOM.’ Large tables in the middle. Red chairs surrounding the table. And lots of students.
‘Hello Orange Minds! Our guest today is from the Netherlands, and is going to share with us what we share in common,” says Kenny.
“Yes, that’s so correct,” I instantly respond. “I hear that this is an amazing storytelling school.” It already feels like home. I’m home. Thirsty young people with a passion to tell stories that can change their world.
That’s Orange Academy. And it’s the first of its kind in Africa.
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