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ISSN : ISSN: 2516-2713 (Online)
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The Nigerian cinema has already been the subject of many publications, treating the many themes treated by that cinema, its locations and impact. This issue of JAFDIS is another first, focusing on individual African films, analysed separately or in a comparative way to assess their impact on viewers and their societies. We wanted to offer scholars a unique opportunity to discover four individual and very different films, representing the various phases of the young, new African cinema from 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2013. These productions emanate from Igboland, Yorubaland and Northern Nigeria respectively - covering the three main culture groups of that vast country - but also from Lesotho, testimonies to various languages and cultures. The six contributors are in post in various countries – Nigeria and Lesotho, Britain and Germany, and come from various academic fields – Theatre Arts, Languages and African Studies. The films they consider take, head on, some of the issues affecting the whole continent still attached to its beliefs and traditions but in the throes of prolonged political turmoil and deeply affected by migration and diasporic experiences. Storylines echo the dilemma of populations struggling to reconcile their past and the effect of a rapid globalisation. The last study focuses on Kannywood, the film production from Northern Nigeria, to consider the particular challenges facing the film production in that region and its interaction with Islam.
Adopting a content analysis method in its analytical discourse and argument, Gloria Ernest-Samuel’s bold and timely study brings to the fore one of the current issues dominating the African landscape, which found their way on Nollywood screens since the return of the country to civilian governments in 1999, that of unjust leadership and its impact on human rights and the citizenry. She selected the Mac Collins Chidebe’s movie, The Tyrant (1998), as a case study, a choice which rightly represents the film production from Southern Nigeria as a unified voice, denouncing societal evils and claiming that tyranny and unjust leadership in Africa, particularly as witnessed in military and unjust democratic administrations, must be opposed.
Tosin Kooshima Tume, arguing that the Nigerian film industry, more popularly known as Nollywood, is replete with movies which depict the African traditional religion as evil and backward, seeks to highlight the value of Ifa divination in a presentation of Tunde Kelani’s Agogo Eewo (2002), one of the very few films focusing squarely on the wisdom of Yoruba folklore. Tunde Kelani, one of the most appreciated filmmakers in Nigeria today, takes audiences back to the Nigerian past, offering them an opportunity to discover some of Ifa’s narratives, while the author projects the Ifa Corpus as offering solutions to the federation’s various socio-cultural, economic and political calamities.
Françoise Ugochukwu bridges the gap between tradition and modernity in the Nigerian cinema through an analysis of Nollywood’s didactic heritage in Chineze Anyaene’s film Ije the Journey (2010), a 35mm film on the theme of rape and domestic violence in the context of migration, filmed in Jos (Nigeria) and Los Angeles (USA). Ije the Journey belongs to what has been termed the “new Nollywood.” Yet the subject of this film – rape and domestic violence, connects it to the Nollywoodian tradition, that of productions known for their well-rooted educational and moral stance. Built on the binary structure of the folktale and deeply rooted in the Igbo culture, Ije combines the use of flashbacks and voice-over, the power of music and a powerful use of languages to raise its public’s awareness of the endemic violence due to cultural and religious differences within the federation and of the challenges posed by migration, using rape as a focus.
Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim’s contribution focuses on the film production from the northern part of Nigeria, known as Kannywood, reminding readers of its anteriority to Nollywood and replacing it in the context of Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, which brought an unprecedented change to the socio-political and religious sphere of the northern region. While mentioning several recent films from the northern Nigerian production, produced within the last two years, the author examines some of the possible reasons behind the challenges faced by that production, comparing it with that of Nollywood, its southern equivalent. According to him, Kannywood remains a footnote in the realm of Nigerian films, struggling with broken marketing strategies, shoddy English subtitles and controversies surrounding socio-cultural and ethnoreligious issues linked to the implementation of the Islamic Shari’ah law by twelve of its nineteen Northern States, including Kano, between 2000 and 2001. Ibrahim end his contribution with a call for a renewal within Kannywood for the full potential of these poorly known productions to be harnessed.
Limakatso Pepenene and Ntsele Radebe’s contribution presents Andrew Mudge’s The Forgotten Kingdom (2013), which has won three Awards at the 10th Africa Movie Academy Award, and which exploits the relationship between geographical and human environments of urban and rural spaces in Lesotho and South Africa to depict the social realities of the people occupying these spaces. The aesthetics of The Forgotten Kingdom are inextricably linked to the “Othering” of the geographically distant and culturally exotic “Other” as the subject of discovery, and their presentation in this volume is a valuable addition to the study of the three other films, as it straddles tradition, landscape, migration and modernity, this time entirely within the African continent. Institutions scrutinized in the film are marriage and bride price, AIDS, traditional healing as well as initiation school. The paper argues that Mudge uses decontextualisation, ambiguity, misrepresentation, exoticism and culture-negating discursive strategies to construct meanings that, on the whole, confer a miserable state of existence and a sense of hopelessness to the “geographical, cultural and exotic other”, in this context, the Basotho of Lesotho.
The films presented here give but a glimpse of the huge African production, which introduces its audiences to a world of cultures and languages proudly brought to the fore and displayed for all to see. It is our hope that more individual African films will be presented and analyzed in the years to come, with a view to fully appreciate the rich variety and highly social relevance of the cinema from that continent.
The book review ending the volume, focusing on the plight of women left at home in West Africa by migrant husbands, reports a new approach on the subject of diaspora and a forgotten side of migration, which would definitely merit inspiring a film.