Nigerian Pop Culture and Nollywood

There are some bona fide scenarios that Nollywood movies are yet to explore. These traits are uniquely ours and yet they haven’t been included in home-videos (as we call them). There are many that when seen by a Nigerian (even those that have disowned it and happen to be at large in the Diaspora or elsewhere) anywhere will remind them of home (warts and all) and yet they’re not commonplace in the movies. On the other hand if the sector eventually catches on then these scenarios could become belaboured (like certain themes in recent times) and then viewers could get tired. I’m not an expert on the latest films out of Nollywood, but there are some scenes in Hollywood movies, indie movies etc that lets you know that there’s a kernel of truth contained, after all art does imitate life and constant repetition in various forms cannot be too skewed from the facts, me thinks!

One of the more entertaining traits that Lagosians display is one of mass hysteria i.e. motorists driving (walking or whatever) in a particular direction and the next thing cars upfront start reversing. Nobody bothers to find out the reason but immediately everyone joins the party! They get really impatient when you don’t comply quickly enough with the mass action. This is made worse when it’s a stampede of people, everyone starts running in the same general direction with others, even if that wasn’t their original direction. Usually no one knows why but the overall reasoning is that it must be dangerous or something bad must have happened. Since everybody prefers their demise to be peaceful rather than violent…they take to their heels! Everybody wants to go to heaven but would rather not die to get there either, at least not yet.

Another sight that’s common on Lagos streets is a convergence of onlookers. At the slightest provocation, crowds can emerge and make a show of any occurrence on the busy streets. It could be the scene of an accident, display of wondrous marketing proportions by popular brands, or more enterprising individuals, it could also be the sighting of a celebrity. People that obviously don’t have anywhere to go or be, gather to feed their eyes. If they did, precious time wouldn’t be wasted watching something that’s of no concern or value, especially if the unpredictable traffic conditions that could develop at any time on Lagos streets were considered.

There’s another common trait we also exhibit, peacemaker and advocacy. If an argument or fight breaks out, bystanders are often eager to interfere and don’t even bother to wait for an invitation to arbitrate and resolve the issue. The referee could be a total stranger that hasn’t a clue about the relationship between the individuals involved and the cause of the debate. Sometimes, opinions aren’t even sought but busy bodies often decide to intervene. Some for the fodder they can collect and pass on in more entertaining ways in the days ahead. This scenario plays out countless times over the course of the day all over the city.

The industry has certainly evolved over the past decade and the quality of acting, directing, equipment, storytelling etc has only increased. The obvious stories of yesteryears that kept viewers glued to the screen are gradually making way for more challenging methods of storytelling and enactment in the industry. The influx of new blood into the industry (i.e. Nollywood outsiders with the requisite training) has also played a major role and destabilised the status quo. Including some of our more common and unique traits will only add to the entertainment value and make for greater impact on the international community when presented at various film festivals across the globe. Popular culture in cinema and other art forms is one of the more subtle means of cultural promotion without overtly showing your cards…everyone knows this for a fact. It’s time Nollywood realised this, acted on it and thus took its duty of promoting the heart of the Nigerian people more seriously.

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  1. This is just ONE aspect of the Nigerian life Nollywood is yet to capture, Seyi. But it does excellently in the reflection of babalawo, disappearing/appearing spirits and a terrible wardrobe malfunction in most of its female leads/actresses. In addition, I’m yet to see a proper Nigerian wedding take place in any home video with a lot of guests, food/drinks, matching aso ebi , the works. I guess the emphasis is always on the cars, big houses, most times unbelievable plots and crappy dialogue.

    • @Idolor: Lol! You’re right about the wardrobe malfunction, hairstyles and other inconsistencies…they always crack me up too! It’s much improved though and can only get better so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Well I guess the mansions, cars et al must be depicted so that foreigners will know that ‘Africa’ is not only about disease, starvation and corpses! Nollywood is getting some things right and like I said it can only get better1

      Thank you for the contribution. I look forward to more from you.

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