Nollywood is Nigeria's film industry and currently the third largest in the world after Hollywood (U.S.) and Bollywood (India). Movies are created with small budgets and in a short amount of time, and despite the quality issues of many of them, they have become a mainstay of the average Nigerian, and proven popular across the African continent and the Caribbean. Nollywood continues to gain recognition and one of its most well known stars Genevieve Nnaji, recently received mention on the Oprah Winfrey Show, a program watched my millions across the world. Good or bad, Nollywood has allowed ordinary Nigerians to influence lives beyond the shores of Nigeria.
Despite these attributes, TIME Magazine opted to create a questionable pictorial essay on Nollywood entitled, The Stars of Nigeria's Movie Biz. Shot by Pieter Hugo, the pictures were taken from the book Nollywood and the images are creating quite a stir.
"are staged representations of Nigerian film sets, featuring local actors who recreate themes and characters from Nollywood films: young men in military fatigues; witch doctors, healers and saints; hunters with their kill; prostitutes in their rooms. The result is a series of surreal tableaux rooted in local symbolic imagery. Accompanying the photographs are texts by Chris Abani, whose short fiction piece captures the chaos of the filmmaking process, and an essay by Zina Saro-Wiwa on Nollywood’s explosive growth and what it means to Nigerians. Presented in a simple and restrained format, Hugo’s gorgeous photographs reveal a little-known phenomenon to a wider audience."MY HUMBLE THOUGHTS
I am by no means an 'artist', but I understand the need to create content that connects with the end user and holds their attention. The pictures above, though set up to present an unusual perspective of a thriving industry, are problematic, to say the least. In my opinion, many of the images can actually be interpreted as demeaning the very industry and people supposedly being celebrated. The only picture I find remotely interesting is this one -
"These pictures are only a confirmation of [a] Western stereotypical view of Africa, always stressing the bizarre and ugly parts of us as barbarians. This is not a true representation of Nollywood. The photos are skewed to undermine the position of Nollywood in the world's film industry.... On this, they fail!" - Mr. Jacob DankasaMr. Dankasa's comments were mirrored by others engaged in the discussion and I definitely share his opinion. The need to resort to the characterization of Africans as part of the dark and mysterious continent is one I do not prescribe to regardless of whether that act was meant as satire or intended to challenge viewers. And, the fact that well respected Nigerian, Chris Abani, and a relative of the murdered Ken Saro-Wiwa cosigned on the project by participating in it, does not mean that the depictions of Nollywood, and in essence Nigerians, were not disturbing. Furthermore, although the images were reportedly 'recreated' by the actors themselves does not change things as that only raises issues of how certain Africans (in this case, Nigerians) see and value themselves, an issue that has been discussed in some manner or another ad nauseam by this writer. Here again is another reason why Nigerians, like everyone else, must be proactive in telling their own stories without allowing others, who clearly do not know them, to define who they are for a mass audience.
Nevertheless, I definitely understand the need to push the envelope, after all that desire has led to some of the most creative masterpieces and accomplishments of all time. However, with these pictures, I struggle to develop an appreciation of them and/or what they represent and believe that they unnecessarily relied on biases that will only confirm certain stereotypes for Hugo's mainly Western audience. And, although many others like friend, fellow blogger and photographer Gatto Giallo tried to help me understand (he reminded me, writing, "just photographer's tricks based on Nollywood myths ..."), I leave it to those so inclined to enjoy the pictures. Or not.
Please visit Nigerian media and model maven Linda Ikeji's blog for an entertaining discussion of this pictorial.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Economics of Nollywood: Price (written by guest writer, Oz)
- The Nigerian Psyche
- Persistent Psychological Paralysis
- The Significance of Persistent Psychological Paralysis
- Who will fight for Nigeria?