Cultural Hybridization, Feminism and Nigeria’s Nollywood: A Postmodernist Analysis of Scars of Womanhood, Yesterday and Reloaded
Joseph Agofure IDOGHO
Department of Theatre & Media Arts
Federal University, Oye Ekiti
Ekiti State, Nigeria
Postmodernism as a 21st Century critical theory has become prevalence in every facet of human endeavour that it is often misconstrue in practice. Subsequently, critics and scholars alike hardly agree on a common definition of the concept, but only conceptualize it. This paper therefore x-rays postmodernism as a critical theory and experiential tenet that has influence modern day thought in all implication; particularly the Nigeria Nollywood. The paper adopts qualitative research in its data gathering and analysis. The paper, through its case study of selected Nigerian films: Scars of Womanhood, Yesterday and Reloaded examines the inadvertent and innocuous influences of postmodernism on Film production technique and the Nigeria society generally. The paper further identify the basic features of postmodernism and its application in Filmmaking and as well as the characteristics of postmodernism on Nollywood and its implication on societal consumer behaviour. The finding of this study thus reveals thatpostmodernism; cultural hybridization and feminist dialogue as critical theory and movement seems to be more prevalent in the Nollywood than any other facet of our society. The paper thus concludes that not only has Nollywood influenced by postmodernism with specific emphasis on feminist discourse and cultural hybridization; Nollywood also focuses on promoting globalization and meta-narrative of culture which also are an aspect of postmodernism movement and thus should be applauded for this course.
Key Words: Cultural Hybridization, Feminism, Nollywood and Postmodernism
Looking at the world history in the rear mirror, we know that sharp transformations have occurred every few hundred years in the Western culture. Sometimes, we call these occurrences, “paradigm shifts.” In popular language, it means that we cross a “divide.” Following the crossing of the divide, culture and society work hard to rearrange themselves, including basic values, the worldview, social structures, arts, and institutions. After some decades, there is a “new world.” The people born in the new world cannot imagine the world of their grandparents and ancestors. Thus, we are currently living through such a transformation in this 21st Century, specifically. As Allan put it, “We have left the former paradigm, but have not arrived fully at a new paradigm. This period in “the desert” is a period of liminality; the very term, “post-modern” indicates this in-betweenness” (31).
Since World War II, particularly, there has been a radical transformation in communication, knowledge and energy technologies in the industrialized world. While the means of production have continuously become more efficient, the question has arisen whether society will be the master or servant of the available instruments. In fact, the technology of contemporary society is thus mesmerizing and fascinating, not so much in its own right, but because it seems to offer some privileged representational shorthand for grasping a network of power and control even more difficult for our minds and imagination to grasp, namely, the whole decentred global network of the third stage of capitalism itself. It is therefore in terms of that enormous and threatening, yet only dimly perceivable other reality that the postmodern sublime can only be adequately theorized and understood (Jameson 71).
The multinational, multicultural and decentred communications network of print media, satellite TV and computers has superficially made the world a global village, but at the same time, it has increased our awareness that to understand the contents of what is being communicated, to separate the essential from junk information surpasses the abilities of any individual. This has resulted in a profound feeling of disorientation. Subsequently, the change in economics as well as in world-views has brought forth new kinds of literature, art, architecture and philosophy. Obviously, it was felt that something different from the "modern" age had developed, and that a new word, postmodernism is needed to describe it.
Postmodernism implies a supposed break with modernism, just as modernism broke with tradition. Modernism was “a manifesto of human self-confidence and self-congratulation; postmodernism is a confession of modesty, if not despair” (Guinness 32). There is no truth, only truths. Principles are replaced by preferences. Instead of grand reason, we have only reasons. There is no privileged civilization or culture or belief, only a multiplicity of cultures and beliefs. The grand narrative of human progress of modernity has been transformed into the numerous small stories of peoples and cultures. The sense of universal knowledge and objectivity that the present generation grew up with is under heavy critique. While people of the older generation, who grew up under the last decades of modernity, are in many ways left with a feeling of confusion and uncertainty. We are in a terra incognita, a world we have not lived in before. We have been shipwrecked, cast onto a shoreline for which we have had no preparation. According to Darrel Guider, we now sit on a new, desert island under such strange trees as:
multiplication of endless choice loss of a shared experience and a fragmentation of meaning disappearance of natural community decentering of the self so that many feel adrift, without identity life lived around surfaces and images transient relationships personal spirituality without the necessity of organized religion anger and resentment that the dominant story has been replaced or compromised (56).
Some of the influences of postmodernism in the cultural context, according to Oslav Skjevesland, include:
Pluralism as the dominant ideology: A highly differentiated society grew out of modernity and its specialized and complex structures. The post-modern society has made pluralism its creed: Make room for a manifold rainbow culture, let lose the many actors on the scene. This also applies to the church.
Relativism and deconstruction: Postmodernism has no structural centre. The cultural core that binds together society has been weakened. That is how and why the great narrative has been replaced by the many small and privatized stories. Within the church this corresponds with a growing doctrinal and ethical pluralism, even though the divergent groups claim that they are faithful to the same Bible. How do we find criteria for reaching conclusions?
Subjectivity and the development of the self: Among the post-modern generation of younger leaders there is a strong desire for self-realization: My work in a church context must relate to my own life story. I want freedom to form my own life and set my own priorities. The leitmotif in my autobiography is to be true to myself and to find myself. How should the church relate to and accommodate this thinking?
A psycho-culture within which well-being, health and therapy become key ingredients. We search for the good life. We want to gain wholeness in our own life, find a harmony which integrates the self and gives good feelings – rather than categories like sin/grace and guilt/salvation (46-48).
Basic Premises of Postmodernism:
As an intellectual movement, postmodernism was borne as a challenge to several modernist themes that were first articulated during the enlightenment. “These include scientific positivism, the inevitability of human progress, and the potential of human reason to address any essential truth of physical and social conditions and thereby make them amenable to rational control” (Boyne & Rattansi 90).
The primary tenets of the postmodern movement include:
- an elevation of text and language as the fundamental phenomena of existence;
- the application of literary analysis to all phenomena;
- a questioning of reality and representation;
- a critique of meta-narratives;
- an argument against method and evaluation;
- a focus upon power relations and hegemony; and
- a general critique of Western institutions and knowledge (Kuznar 78).
Kuznar labels anyone whose thinking includes most or all of these elements as postmodernist. Importantly, the term, postmodernism, refers to: “broad ranges of artists, academic critics, philosophers, and social scientists” (Kuznar 2). The anthropologist, Spiro Melford opines that postmodernism has its origins, as an “eclectic social movement originating in aesthetics, architecture and philosophy” (Bishop 16). In architecture and art, fields which are distinguished as the oldest claimants to the name, postmodernism “originated in the reaction against abstraction in painting and the International Style in architecture” (Callinicos 101). However, postmodern thinking arguably began “in the nineteenth century with Nietzsche’s assertions regarding truth, language, and society, which opened the door for all later postmodern and late modern critiques about the foundations of knowledge” (Kuznar 78). Nietzsche had asserted that truth was simply:
a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms – in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are (Nietzsche 46-47).
According to Kuznar, postmodernists “trace this scepticism about truth and the resulting relativism it engenders from Nietzsche to Max Weber and Sigmund Freud, and finally to Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and other contemporary postmodernists” (78).
Postmodernism and Theatre Studies
Postmodernism, as earlier mentioned in this paper, is a term which describes the postmodernist movement in the arts, its set of cultural tendencies and associated cultural movements. It is in general the era that follows Modernism. It frequently serves as an ambiguous overarching term for sceptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism. It is often associated with deconstruction and post-structuralism because its usage as a term gained significant popularity at the same time as 20th century post-structural thought.
Thus, postmodernism is essentially a centralized movement that named itself based on socio-political theory, although the term is now used in a wider sense to refer to activities from the 20th century onwards, which exhibits awareness of and reinterprets the modern. Also, postmodernists theatre artistes rebel against traditional reading of texts, arguing that theatre productions may have variety of “authors” including directors and even individual audience members creates his or her own unique reading experience from a performance.
Deconstructionism, on the other hand, is a postmodernism movement concerned with philosophy, literary criticism, and textual analysis that was developed by Jacques Derrida. The notion of a "deconstructive" approach implies,
an analysis that questions the already evident deconstruction of a text in terms of presuppositions, ideological underpinnings, hierarchical values, and frames of reference. A deconstructive approach further depends on the techniques of close reading without reference to cultural, ideological, moral opinions or information derived from an authority over the text such as the author (18).
At the same time, Derrida implies that the world follows the grammar of a text undergoing its own deconstruction. His method frequently involves recognizing and spelling out the different, yet similar interpretations of the meaning of a given text and the problematic implications of binary oppositions within the meaning of a text.
Deconstructionism is characterized by the intentional fragmentation, distortion, and dislocation of the text. Thus, developing a new individual conceptualization of it, and trying to represent onstage the issues embedded in the text. When a classical drama is deconstructed in this way, it may serve simply as the scenario for a production. The postmodernists hold the view that realism, antirealism, and form are no longer central to the theatre; and that the artists had moved beyond being concerned with representing either reality or abstraction and realism, so that their works cannot be easily classified. Furthermore, the distinction between “high art” and “popular art” can no longer be clearly defined: postmodernists mix popular concerns and techniques with those of high art.
An important concept in postmodernism's view of language is the idea of "play" text. In the context of postmodernism, play means changing the framework, which connects ideas, and thus allows the trooping, or turning, of a metaphor or word from one context to another, or from one frame of reference to another. Since, in postmodern thought, the "text" is a series of "markings" whose meaning is imputed by the reader, and not by the author, this play is the means by which the reader constructs or interprets the text, and the means by which the author gains a presence in the reader's mind. Play then involves invoking words in a manner, which undermines their authority, by mocking their assumptions or style, or by layers of misdirection as to the intention of the author. Roland Barthes argued this concept, and coined it, Death of the Author; this allows for 'freedom of the reader.' Barthes is well known for having stated that, “it is language that speaks, not the author” (143). Another key concept is the view that people are, essentially, blank-slated linguistically, and that social acclamation, cultural factors, habituation and images are the primary ways of shaping the structure of how people speak. This view of writing is criticized by Barthes, who regarded it as needlessly difficult and obscure, and a violation of the implicit contract of lucidity between author and reader: “that an author has something to communicate, and shall choose words which transmit the idea as transparently as possible to the reader” (149). The works of Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre, Samuel Beckett’s Absurdist Theatreand Jean Sartre’s Existentialist Theatre, could be classify as postmodern theatre.
In a similar vein, some works of Ola Rotimi, with reference to Hopes of the Living Dead, Man Talk Woman Talk, and Holding Talks; some of Wole Soyinka’s works, Femi Osofisan’s works and many other Nigerian and African writers, could be adjudged postmodernist, given the background that, “postmodernism signiﬁes not only the extreme practice of modernism, it also involves diverse attempts to break away from the modernist form, which had, inevitably, become in their turn conventional” (Orr 621). Postmodernists inscribe literary conventions ranging from liberal humanism to post-structuralism and at the same time strongly contest them in view of a critical deconstructive re-evaluation. Indeed, “postmodernism has succeeded in highlighting the intricate relationship between formal autonomy and the historical/political context in which it is embedded, though only by offering provisionally and contextually determined answers” (Ogunsanwo 43).
In postmodernist literature, drama and theatre inclusive, there is no sequence except the reader’s/audience’s sequence, no identities or events except those involved in reading/watching the text/performance. So, postmodernism describes “a mood or condition of radical indeterminacy, and a tone of self-conscious, parodic scepticism towards previous certainties in personal, intellectual and political life” (Brook 175). In the same vein, Boehmer sees postmodernism as, “signifying interest in the provisional and fragmentary aspects of signiﬁcation; its concern is said to be with the constructed nature of identity” (86). In fact, postmodern critical approaches cross in their concern with marginality and ambiguity; disintegrating binaries and all things are parodied, mimicked and borrowed. Corroborating the assertion of Boehmer, Ashcroft, Grifﬁths and Tifﬁn declare that, “there is an intertextual link between postmodernist and post- colonial texts” (122). To Sanchez, “postmodernist ﬁction privileges postmodern playfulness and magic realism, and it can be used for political purpose” (48).
Cultural Hybridization and Postmodernism
The idea of hybridity originated in 19th Century science. It was soon applied to the humanities in the frame of postmodern theory and proved very rich both in its ideological and aesthetic derivations. To understand its present-day applications, it is useful to trace its origins in the field of biology when it referred exclusively to “an offspring of two animals or plants of different races, breeds, varieties, species or genera.”
The extension of its meaning for use in the social field is found in the second entry listed in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, which reads: “a person produced by the blending of two diverse cultures or traditions.” Although the mixing of peoples of different origins is as old as the history of humanity, the term acquired recent relevance in connection with the expansion of imperial policies after the Industrial Revolution. It is at this point that the mixing of peoples became very quick and widespread and that the issue of racism became critical. As Pieterse, in “Theory, Culture and Society” says, “… it is not mixing that is new but the scope and speed of mixing” (231).
Postmodern and postcolonial theorists, very critical of the imperial ways, question the racist assumptions which sustained the imperial ideology. In this context the term hybridity starts to acquire political significance. Although the word, “race,” may on a first uncritical approach refer to a way to identify physically different peoples, no scientific study has been able to ascertain the concept of different races. Rather than the actual existence of remarkable differences between peoples, what led to the idea of identification of races was the impulse to classify born out of the development of the biological sciences in the 19th century and together with this the imperial need to justify policies of inferiorization of the other. The white man erected himself as the paradigm against which other cultures considered inferior were to be judged. This fact justified imperial intervention in foreign lands: the white man had the knowledge, the intelligence and the power to “help” backward races. The moment that the Western way of life became exemplary, ethnocentric views became dominant. This is how, as Bauman ascertains, “it became commonsensical to believe that, West was superior to East, white to black, civilized to crude, cultured to uneducated, sane to insane, healthy to sick, man to woman, normal to criminal, more to less, riches to austerity, high productivity to low productivity, high culture to low culture” (120). This reaction to cultural diversity in the colonial encounter led to division and oppression and can still today be identified as part of current ideology in certain political and social circles for which the first terms in the pairs of opposites in this quotation sustain supremacy.
However, this is not the only possible answer to diversity. The encounter with the other can also result in the celebration of difference. Being different does not necessarily entail that one is better or superior to the other. According to some theorists,
the discriminatory and the celebratory reaction to difference result from diverse conceptions of identity. While the first position results from a conception of identity and culture as essentialist (the presence of a homogeneous, immutable, ultimate essence that defines culture), the more liberal attitude is the issue of a conception of culture as a never static process, as a heterogeneous combination of discursive practices (Bauman 194-195).
An essentialist conception of culture leads to the erection of social, cultural and racial barriers; while the acceptance of mobility in a hybrid context allows for tolerance of blending and crossings. No scientific division of cultures and peoples can be sustained. Such barriers are arbitrary ideological formations: metaphors, discursively constructed. Brah provides us with a comprehensive definition of such borders:
Borders: Arbitrary dividing lines that are simultaneously social, cultural and psychic; territories to be patrolled against those whom they construct as outsiders, aliens, the Others: forms of demarcation where the very act of prohibition inscribes transgression; zones where fear of the Other is fear of the self; places where claims to ownership – claims to “mine”, “yours” and “theirs” – are staked out, contested, defended, and fought over (198).
Thus, “hybridity becomes a key concept within postmodernism as a political statement that comes to problematize boundaries” (Pieterse 220). The concept is subversive against the background of an alleged essential purity since hybridity implies “flexibility, openness, adaptation, ambiguity, contradiction and irony” (Stoddard 338). These are the traits that identify postmodern art.
Postmodern literatures and films are hybrid in their mixture of heterogeneous elements of content and form. The identification of heterogeneous elements in the semantics of postmodern fiction forms part of common critical practice and offers little difficulty since this trait is recurrent. However, the analysis of elements of form is probably more arduous but also more profitable since this is no doubt the terrain where we can identify the poeticality of a text. At the same time, the effect of devices of form on the readers is less obvious and probably more influential precisely because of the covertness of the devices. By breaking with expectations and assumptions that sustain ideological constructs, art can become subversive of ingrained cultural frames of mind and then produce a liberating effect.
How can we identify hybridity in the form of literature or films? If we accept that the artwork is a genre that responds to the logic of linearity, hybridity or heterogeneity can be identified in the juxtaposition of analogical choices such as in the breaking of the laws of contiguity (temporal, spatial and logical) and the disruption of coherence in the use of language and generic structure. Equally, the subversion of the realist contract also contributes to hybridity by activating simultaneously in the reader’s mind the expected realist frame with its normative mandate and the alternative postmodern construction. In Ola Rotimi’s Hopes of the Living Dead, for instance, we discover many semiotic gestures: aspects of form and general organization of discourse that go beyond the narrator’s use of language for semantic purposes. The disruption of grammar, such as, the avoidance of syntactic regulation and internal coherence, the breaking of rules for structural and logical organization of discourse, or the presence of silences or gaps constitute powerful, semiotic modes of expression.
Postmodernism and Film
Postmodernist film attempts to articulate postmodernism: its ideas, themes and methods through the medium of film. It attempts “to subvert the mainstream conventions of narrative structure, characterization and destroys (or, at least, toys with) the audience's suspension of disbelief” (Alemany-Galway 39). Typically, “such films also break down the cultural divide between high and low art and often upend typical portrayals of gender, race, class, genre, and time with the goal of creating something different from traditional narrative expression” (Hayward 27).
Postmodernist film like postmodernism itself is a reaction to modernist cinema and its tendencies. According to Hayward, modernist cinema “explored and exposed the formal concerns of the medium by placing them at the forefront of consciousness. Modernist cinema questions and made visible the meaning-production practices of film” (19). The auteur theory and idea of an author producing a work from his singular vision guided the concerns of modernist film. In other words, “to investigate the transparency of the image is modernist but to undermine its reference to reality is to engage with the aesthetics of postmodernism” (Alemany-Galway 29). The modernist film has more faith in the author, the individual, and the accessibility of reality itself than the postmodernist film.
Postmodernism is in many ways interested in the liminal space that would be typically ignored by more modernist or traditionally narrative offerings. The idea is that the meaning is often generated most productively through the spaces and transitions and collisions between words and moments and images. Henri Bergson writes in his book, Creative Evolution, that, “the obscurity is cleared up; the contradiction vanishes, as soon as we place ourselves along the transition, in order to distinguish states in it by making cross cuts therein in thoughts” (84). The reason is that there is more in the transition than the series of states, that is to say, the possible cuts – more in the movement than the series of position, the possible stops. The thrust of the argument here is that the spaces between the words or the cuts in a film create just as much meaning as the words or scenes themselves. Thus, postmodernism in film can loosely be used to describe a film in which the audience's suspension of disbelief is destroyed, or at the very least toyed with, in order to free the audience's appreciation of the work, and the creator's means with which to express it. The cornerstones of conventional narrative structure and characterization are changed and even turned on their head in order to create a work whose internal logic forms its means of expression.
Though a popular movement in theatre, particularly with Bertolt Brecht's epic theatre and Verfremdungseffekt, post modernist film did not break into the mainstream until the advent of the French New Wave in the 1950s and 60's, with such films as Jean-Luc Godard's À Bout de Souffle. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's 1928 surrealist short Un Chien Andalou could be argued as a post modernist film, however, its extreme deconstruction of structure and character make its meaning almost entirely arbitrary, and thus to still convey some desired meaning postmodernist films still maintain some conventional elements in order for the audience to grasp them. Two such examples are Jane Campion's Two Friends, in which the story of two school girls is showed in episodic segments arranged in reverse order; and Karel Reisz's The French Lieutenant's Woman, in which the story being played out on the screen is mirrored in the private lives of the actors playing it, which we also see. By making small but significant changes to the conventions of cinema, the artificiality of the experience and the world presented is emphasized in the audience's mind, in order to remove them from the conventional emotional bonds they have to the subject matter, and to give them a new view of it.
Postmodernism applied to film according to Susan Hayward has four main concepts:
Simulation: taking what has been made, and reusing it. Through pastiche: intentionally replicated style: Through parody: drawing irony from styles to make new styles.
Pre-fabrication: similar to simulation, draws even closer to already existing and noticeable scenes, and simply reuses them, in narrative, dialogue, etc.
Intertextuality: similar to prefabrication, it’s a text that draws upon other texts. The clearest example is the blatant remake.
Bricolage: building a film like a collage of different film styles and genres (Hayward 303).
The postmodernist film typically has three key characteristics that separate it from modernist cinema or traditional narrative film, as Mary Alemany-Galway observes:
The pastiche of many genres and styles. Essentially, this means that postmodern films are comfortable with mixing together many disparate kinds of film (styles, etc.) and ways of film-making together into the same movie.
A self-reflexivity of technique that highlights the construction and relation of the image to other images in media and not to any kind of external reality. This is done by highlighting the constructed nature of the image in ways that directly reference its production and also by explicit intertextuality that incorporates or references other media and texts. The deconstruction and fragmentation of linear time as well is also commonly employed to highlight the constructed nature of what appears on screen.
An undoing and collapse of the distinction between high and low art styles and techniques and texts. This is also an extension of the tendency towards pastiche and mixing. It typically extends to a mixing of techniques that traditionally come with value judgments as to their worth and place in culture and the creative and artistic spheres.
Lastly, contradictions among technique, values, styles, methods, and so on are important to postmodernism and are many cases irreconcilable. Any theory of postmodern film would have to be comfortable with the possible paradox of such ideas and their articulation (Alemany-Galway 34).
Postmodernism and Feminist Discourse
From a negative term that described a slackening of creative energies, "postmodern" has developed into a positive affirmation of the values of a plurality of different intercultural and intracultural orientations and ways of life. In the public area of economics, postmodernism implies diversification, adaptation to special conditions and pluralisation of forms of organisation. In the personal area of human relations, feminism has swept away preconceptions of gender roles; deviant forms of sexual relationships have become accepted not only out of permissiveness but out of the conviction that they can result in successful lives. In architecture, the sparse and clear functionality of the "Bauhaus" has been followed by baroque sandstone porticos in front of hyper-technical glass-and-steel buildings and paintings on lush marble walls that look like blown-up comic strips, like those by Roy Lichtenstein. Postmodern buildings as well as texts and social structures toy with ambiguity and ambivalent plurality; they provoke and tolerate the tension between different meanings and interpretations.
Brenda K. Marshall observes that postmodernism and feminism do, in general, have a number of common elements:
As a theory of resistance, postmodernism owes a great deal to [...] feminist theory and practice. [...] the theory and practice [...] of feminists have highlighted a refocusing on history, which I suggest is a first principle of the postmodern moment. [...] Such theories have also brought to the fore the relationship between [...] gender difference and questions of authority and power which are integral to the postmodern moment (Marshall 10).
Consequently, Nancy Fraser and Linda J. Nicholson describe the goals of postmodern feminism in philosophy as follows:
It would replace unitary notions of woman and feminine gender identity with plural and complexly constructed conceptions of social identity, treating gender as one relevant strand among others, attending also to class, race, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation (Fraser & Nicholson 34).
Jane Flax postulates similar goals:
Feminist theories, like other forms of postmodernism, encourage us to tolerate and interpret ambivalence, ambiguity, and multiplicity as well as to expose the roots of our needs for imposing order and structure no matter how arbitrary and oppressive these needs may be. If we do our work well, reality will appear even more unstable, complex, and disorderly than it does now (Flax 56-57).
Brenda K. Marshall further posits that postmodernism as a critical theory affects virtually every facet of life, which have in turn manifest human endeavour the media inclusive:
Postmodernism is about language. About how it controls, how it determines meaning, and how we try to exert control through language. [...] It's about race, class, gender, erotic identity and practice, nationality, age, ethnicity. It's about difference. It's about power and powerlessness, about empowerment, and about all the stages in between and beyond and unthought-of of. [...] Postmodernism is about history. [...] History in the postmodern moment becomes histories and questions. It asks: Whose history gets told? in whose name? for what purpose? Postmodernism is about histories not told, retold, untold. History as it never was. Histories forgotten, hidden, invisible, considered unimportant, changed, eradicated (Marshall 4).
It is therefore against the foregoing positions and opinions that this paper examines the pertinence influence of postmodernism on Nigeria home video films, Nollywood films, with particular emphasis on feminism: women emancipation, cultural hybridization, assertions and production techniques, with reference to Scars of Womanhood, Yesterday and Reloaded.
Nollywood and the Nigeria Society
Film is a popular genre endowed with the ability to transform, superimpose, socialize and create a new social order in the receiving ground. Farinde averred that, “films shapes society and help orientate the people while also entertaining them” (285). He based his argument on the cultivation theory, which hinged on Gerbner’s cultivation hypothesis. The cultivation-potential of film is too powerful as a medium; hence, the British brought it to Africa as a tool for propaganda and brainwashing in their colonies, Nigeria inclusive. Films, since conception and inception, have served different purposes in various countries and situation including propaganda, civilization, super-imposing cultures deemed superior, documenting a people’s experience, history, norms and values among others.
In Nigeria, the case is not different. Indigenous films prior to independence and the period immediately after the colonial imperialism served to challenge Western cultures and promote Nigerian culture and ideals. However, it takes another phase and course in the 90s. The idea of filmmaking changed from providing mere entertainment, but promoting a culture that is truly ours and projecting our values and aspiration as a people, and as well serving as a means of livelihood – job creation and professionalism. Thanks to the Nigerian movie industry. The era when the Western world believed that Africans, particularly Nigerians, are apes who live on trees is speedily phasing out if not completely obliterated. This perhaps is a result of the exquisite and opulent houses showcased in the films, contrary to the belief that Nigerians are crude and primitive. The movies have shown full-fledged human beings presented on screen and capable of facing the challenges of life, like their Western counterparts.
Nigeria is indeed an endowed nation with creative minds. Nigerians have continued to defy the norms of harsh economic realities, showing resilience and indomitable spirit in their quest to survive. The movies have provided employment opportunities for the ever teeming Nigerian population thereby channelling prospective citizens’ energy into worthwhile and productive ventures. Who knows what would have happened to the movie star today, if the Nigerian movie industry had not existed? Suffice to mention, at this juncture, “that the Nigeria movie popularly known as Nollywood is the movie producing body in Nigeria by Nigerian production teams for Nigerian people” (Farinde 287). No doubt it tends to promote Nigeria’s culture and asserts her values.
Nollywood: Women Empowerment, Cultural Hybridization and Preservation
In spite of the socio-economic contributions and positive features of the industry to Nigeria, it is also replete with negative tendencies. Over the years, beginning with the 1992 hit, Living in Bondage, the Nollywood has projected Nigeria as a ritualistic society, where sacrifices involving human beings are rampant. Nigeria women are poorly costumed projecting them as whores and people with low or no self-esteem at some points. Contrary to this projection, Nigerian women are indeed epitome of chastity and their bodies, which are their pride, are covered with beautify apparel to cover their nakedness: reminiscence of postmodern films.
In fact, arguments have cropped up over the role of Nollywood in Nigeria regarding value construction. Some sections of the audience(s) are of the opinion that Nigerian films portray reality while others argue to the opposite. Nollywood films are admixture of both. Though, not all Nollywood films have portrayed Nigeria and Nigerians negatively, a majority however tilts towards negativity making the positive films insignificant. Animasaun thus avers that, “while some have worked towards promoting positive values, others have not” (395).
The Nigeria movie industry has brought women and the female course to limelight in Nigeria society. For instance, the numbers of women who have taken to filmmaking is enormous. Today, women and other concerned parties have been educated on the consequences of female genital mutilation through films like Scars of Womanhood and Yesterday. In Scars of Womanhood, the religious women in a traditional Kalabari in Rivers State go through in the course of circumcision are the focus with a warning for the society about the health hazards associated with the practice. The lesson in Yesterday is extended towards showing the pains widows suffer in certain communities in Delta State. In Reloaded, Omoze is portrayed as a new brand Nigerian woman who will not settle for intimidation and victimization even from her husband. The movies generally centre on women liberation and gender equality.
Aside women empowerment, various ailments ravaging our society like HIV/Aids, cancer, kidney diseases, cholera, malaria amongst others, have been explored through the film medium. Some films have served to enlighten the public on the causes, prevention, management and cure of these ailments. This is commendable prior to this time people living with the HIV/AIDS virus were segregated and decimated against. Thanks to the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) that embarked on vigorous campaigns in the media, including the film medium. The discrimination is now at the barest minimum if not completely eradicated.
The cause of women has been in focus since the beginning of this century in Nollywood. There are several instances when the film has feature women taking men profession “the Nigeria mentality” and excelling in them; that is, medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, amongst others. Most films have also featured women taking active roles in the decision-making in their societies, most especially in politics and administrative roles. Films today have also featured the reverse in gender disparity in the Nigerian society; we now see families having preferences for female children other than male children, which is the norm among Nigerians. More girls are now being sent to school than the boys. The slogan: “if you educate a female child, you educate a nation,” and “when you educate a male child you educate an individual,” seem to pervade the air in the society.
Films have featured women as important and integral members of the Nigerian society: different from playing second fiddle to which African traditions had restricted women. The films feature how women have been empowered in other cultures of the world and how they can be empowered in the Nigerian society. Through films, the Nigerian society now see women as a people with strong will, capable of transforming the society to a better place, and could perform if given the opportunity. The profile of Nigerian cultures that are explored in films with a view of showcasing and preserving our cultures is overwhelming.
Arising from our earlier expatiation of cultural hybridization, apparently the films have over and over again featured both the aspect of our indigenous culture and foreign cultures in films. In fact there is hardly any Nigeria movie you watch without identifying the strings of admixture culture, reminiscent of postmodernism in it. The culture feature ranges from the buildings, the cities, village huts, the environment, costumes, artefacts, utensils, traditions, norms and values, aspirations, different cultures, rites of passage amongst the gamut of others. Language, being a vital aspect of culture, cannot be left out too. Today, some Nigerian films are featured in Nigeria and are subtitled in English language for the purpose of wide coverage. At other times, some films are featured in English language and subtitled in Nigerian languages. As it were, Nigerian cultures that are featured in films that tend to preserve Nigeria identity includes:
- Unilineal descent groups: There is a strong emphasis on lineal continuity which could be traced either matrilineal or patrilineal. It is important that lineages must not die out. Therefore to die without an heir is considered a serious misfortune;
- Large ethno linguistic units: Through films the different ethnic groups in Nigeria is featured to both national and international audience(s) consumption;
- Prestige and acquisitive culture patterns: There is strong emphasis on achievement as failure is derided while achievement is applauded;
- A long tradition of urban and intra urban communities;
- An established complex political institutions prior to colonialism;
- The culture of creativity: This has found expression in masterpieces of artworks;
- The culture of hard work and achievement;
- The Nigeria belief systems: The different religion beliefs in Nigerian society have been fully explored in Nigeria movie; and
- The culture for respect for elders, tolerance, transparency, honesty and hospitality.
Interestingly too, a few films have educated Nigerians on their history, films like Battle of Musanga and King Jaja have provided historical formal education. Thus, the place of Nollywood in repositioning women, women empowerment and cultural restoration and preservation cannot be over emphasis in Nigeria society today. Nollywood has granted females recognition, in the Nigerian society by championing their course, highlighting their plights and aspirations and possibly recognizing their place in the society by comparing and contrasting them with the place of women in the Western world. All of these gears towards the crusade of gender equality in Nigerian society. Apparently, our culture, tradition and history has been documented through films as a way of educating Nigerians especially the younger generations about our values system. Suffice to mention that out culture today is almost non-existence as Western culture is now preferred to indigenous culture, typical of postmodern society.
Other aspects where postmodernism manifests in Nigerian movies are being eclectic in terms of idea(s) and techniques, as well as African narrative styles and Western concepts of filmmaking. In fact, the blend of culture in Nigerian movies, in aspects of costumes, properties, themes/ideas, concepts, lighting, languages, etc. could be regarded as postmodernist concept or influences.
This paper has attempted a discourse of postmodernism in a broader frame of reference; though not holistically, but with emphasis on theatre, media/film and cultural studies with particular reference to the Nigeria society. It is not holistic in the sense that the researcher understands the fact that postmodernism is such a broad concept that cannot be discussed extensively under the present context, but could best be discuss and understood in fragments put together as an anthology: just as fragmentation and eclectic are some of its basic characteristics. Thus, the paper discusses postmodernism as a critical theory and movement within the purview of theatre studies and allied discipline (Postmodernism and Media Studies). It, therefore, concludes that postmodernism as a concept has been popularly embraced universally irrespective of the sphere of life (every facet of human endeavour) and culture, Nigeria inclusive. Thus, the assertion that postmodernism has been an alien concept to Africans should be disregarded, because postmodernist features/characteristics as highlighted in this study thrive in abundance in Africa, Nigeria inclusive.
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