Nollywood, Example Of Feasible Local Initiatives And Self-Reliability Among Africans

01.December.2010 · Posted in African countries

NollywoodThis is an extract from the research, “UNDERDEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA: My Hands Are Clean”. Except for the footnotes and the images, this extract (Nollywood Film Industry (Nigeria) As An Example Of Feasible Local Initiatives And Self-Reliability Among Africans) is exactly the way it was presented in the research, (page 200). A sub-heading under the discussion: “CONCLUDING” (page 189)

“…To further show that the above submissions can be feasible, I will cite one example where it has clearly been demonstrated; the Nigerian cinematographic industry, also known as Nollywood. I’m citing it because it is a local initiative and it has contributed greatly to local economic development, both within Nigeria and in some other parts of Africa. I’m going to break it down and connect it to some of the analyses in this research.

By being a local initiative, it already means that the local Africans are the driving forces behind the project and therefore strictly correspond to this whole argument, ‘that development should be about the local people, their ability to satisfy their needs, using both their human and natural endowments to achieve their goal’.

The word “Nollywood Phenomenon” is no longer new at the international media. What this should remind the African people is that they have been able to create a phenomenon industry through their own effort. From Ghana to South Africa, Kenya, Uganda; the small initiative by some local Nigerians/Africans has sent a global message that “the African people can do it on their own, after all”, thereby confirming the intuition of Thomas Sankara and other African thinkers who have repeated stressed that the African people should believe in themselves and their ability to change their own situations.

I am not ignorant of the widespread criticism that Nollywood films are poorly made compared to the films made in America, Europe or Indian. Even so, to take such criticisms as the most important issue about Nollywood (in its less than 20 years of existence) will be a blind-man approach, if not a purposeful attempt to corrupt a good reasoning. Believe it or not, Nollywood has achieved great successes and it has equally triggered some realistic debates, both on wealth creation and the possibility of self-reliance in African creativities.

Carefully examine the accompanying footnotes, I intentionally cited them in abundant. You might find them helpful about this discussion.

In fact, one can even make a fine comparison between the Nigerian oil and the Nollywood industry.

While the Nigerian oil has often led to the disrepute of the Nigerian people, in terms of promoting corruption and violence in the Nigerian system, so that the oil can easily be exploited for the interest of few people, Nollywood has greatly displayed the values and dignity, not only of the Nigerian people but the Africans in general. I know some people might not accept this, but it is true. Before the inception of Nollywood, there were hardly African films, which were genuinely based on the African people and their way of life; their own convictions and views on certain issues, as they relate to the history and values of a people.

Yes, there were few films made in Africa, of which the storylines were often squeezed out to appeal those who are financing them from Europe and America, and by extension meeting the so-called international standard and beyond the reach of many Africans. So it must be pointed out that those types of films never really encouraged many low-income Africans to go to the market and buy a video cassette player and a TV set. It means that those films did not create much market opportunities for the local Africans who traded on TV sets and video cassette players. Of course, the films were never made for ordinary Africans, except for the few local elites and the Western audience who were rich enough to afford them.

I’m even tempted me to add: “of what use is the African films if the African people are not considered as part of the audience?” It also means that an African student in the Diaspora who wants to research a story on Africa will most probably rely on the one-sided stories, like those on HIV endemic in Malawi and in South Africa, as though the African continent were a colony of disease and the dying people.

Some other films that have made wave across the world, in the name of Africa were (and) like the “Blood Diamond” in Sierra Leone and “Hotel Rwanda”, based on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. But come on people; the angle of these stories does not seem to educate and encourage the African people to be confident and believe in themselves? Instead, they are somewhat in conformity with the views of Samuel Backer, Hegel and so on (see Philosophical Propaganda and Indoctrination, as earlier discussed). These are the stories which make heroes out of the Europeans and the Americans in their interventions in Africa, and in a way trying to show the world that Africans cannot do without such domineering interventions.

So, what do you think a growing African child is expected to learn from the above stories apart from seeing himself as belonging to a defeated people; a people who must either be rescued by Western military machineries and political manoeuvrings or they will never survive on their own, in their own land? It is therefore worthy of note that these stories were told this way because they were never meant to serve the good of the African society, to promote the dignity and values of the African people.

In a certain sense, the angle of the above stories can even be natural. How can the Europeans go to Africa and begin to sing the praises of the African people? It will be counterproductive, because that is not the European mission in Africa, at least within the logic of reasoning. See (NGOs And Local Development) as was earlier discussed.

It’s true that Nollywood films are not as sophisticated as the Europeans’ and the American films, yet the African people are intelligent enough to identify themselves in the stories. This is not a miracle; it is in fact the core of the argument.

The African people are able to see their traditions, their believes, their cultures, the corruption in local politics, the economic reality in their countries, the rich and poor in their society; the family drama: a man and his wife who are facing the normal shortcomings of life, how they are trying to resolve their problems based on the African understanding of life; how they have failed or succeeded because of XY, all explained in a way that the local people can understand them.

Through these local films, African children in one part of the continent (even as far as those in European countries, Asian, the Caribbean and in the United States) are now able to see their fellow children in other parts of Africa, their fun and fantasies. How they are growing up under their parental care and love. The Africans in the villages are able to see the lifestyles in the cities and vice-versa. So, the local African filmmakers, apart from any other thing are equally creating a true urban and rural consciousness among the African people.

Since most of the stories are often based on real events and the condition of life in African cities and rural areas, a young man in a rural Africa will most probably think twice before migrating to the city in search of job. In this way, a social problem is also been solved instead of advertising it for the purpose of showing the incapacity of the African people.

It should also be taken into account that even the quality of these films, as many international films critics has often complained about will equally come with time. Quite apart from that, those who now condemning this African initiative would not have created an alternative by now if Africans did not take up the challenge. I would even say that this process should be left for the local Africans and the market forces to decide, instead of making it looks as if the African people will always need to be told what to accept or reject.

This is especially because the positive side in this African initiative cannot be over emphasised. The local people have been able to create a formidable economic outfit (running into several millions of dollars) without relying on the economic theories and hypotheses from the West. That is already a success. They have given themselves employment and are laying out the background of skill acquisition for the generations of Africans to come.

They have equally been able to promote the familial atmosphere in African homes, by uniting the Africa families in front of their TV sets as they watch a movie they can fully identify with. In this way, the process of a true local initiative can fully synchronise with the local people in a harmony of progress.

The point I’m trying to make with the Nollywood situation is that the answer to most of the social/economic problems facing Africa today is within the reach of the African people. So there is no need for them to wait for the Europeans or Americans to tell them what to do, they should know what to do and do it in their own way. After all, if the founders of the Nollywood film industry have not relied on themselves and believed in their creative powers, their industry would never have existed in the first place…”

Ewanfoh Obehi Peter, Photo from the documentary, “Nollywood Abroad” 2008

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