Accentuating the Nigerian Video Films as an Instrument for Resuscitation of Cultural Values: Select Nigerian Video Films as Case Study
Bifatife Olufemi ADESEYE, PhD
Department of Theatre and Media Arts
Federal University, Oye-Ekiti
Ekiti State, Nigeria
GSM: +234-811-202-5755 +234-803-471-5723
Oghenemudiaga Praise AKPUGHE
Department of Theatre Arts & Mass Communication
University of Benin
Benin, Edo State, Nigeria
To a large extent in this modern time, many customs, traditional practices as well as cultural values that were once celebrated are fast going into extinction. As a result of this, a large percentage of Nigerians know very little or nothing about their cultural values. What we see in our modern day entertainment industry is a far cry from our Nigerian cultural heritage; rather, it is a duplication of western influence on our culture. Amidst all these, there are some Nigerian video films that are still outstanding in creating and projecting the Nigerian cultural values. This paper therefore accentuates the Nigerian video as a tool for the resuscitation of our cultural values as well as an instrument for sustainable development and national integration. Select Nigerian video film were used a reference point, materials were also gathered from literary sources such as textbooks as well as internet materials. The study discovers that most of our Nigerian movies are full of western features especially some of our cultural movies. It is therefore recommended that the Nigerian filmmakers should intensify effort to exploring and exploiting our cultural values in their movies for effective sustainability of our culture as well as educating our growing Nigerian citizens about their cultural values.
From its inception in Nigeria (the early 70s) video films was meant to be a medium through which the society can experience culture. Despite the stipulation of the National Film and Video Censors Board, video films in Nigeria, especially the current and upgraded ones, contain more of foreign contents and messages over our way of life. Some video film producers consider our life style to be old fashioned and archaic, while its foreign contents feature a high level of hybridization; an infusion of Western and Nigerian cultures which do not necessarily compliment the culture of its viewers in Nigeria. Rather, they expose us to a way of life and values at variance to our culture. This raises major concerns over our ways of life and values that would be transmitted to the next generation of Nigerian youths who constitute the majority of television and video film viewers, and are at the risk of losing their culture and values. If this is allowed to continue in the nearest future, our youths may end up practicing borrowed life styles of foreigners thus disregarding their own cultural practices and values. However, some Nigerian filmmakers have chosen to redress this imbalance in our society by using indigenous cultural materials in such films as Ikoka, Ebube and Ma mi respectively.
Preserving the cultural ethics and ethos of a people contributes a great deal to the growth and development of such people. This is why Cruz-Saco postulates that “sustainable development cannot occur without the integration of the social, economic, political and cultural spheres of life” (7). MacBride et al also assert that, “media (movies) are cultural instruments which supply the cultural fare, and shape the cultural experience of many people in the world” (page?). According to Barclays Ayakoroma, the need for the media to contribute its quota to harness the development of culture through local content motivated the National institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), one of the few organizations facilitating interaction between the media and the cultural sector in Nigeria to initiate “Quarterly Media Workshops for Arts Writers and Editors,” an idea which resulted from the need of the country to address its political, social, and cultural issues through television contents (1).
This study therefore seeks to appraise the cultural relevance and contents of three selected Nigerian video films, namely, Ikoka, produced and directed by Peddie Okao in 2007 (Edo based), Maa Mi, produced and directed by Tunde Kelani in 2012 (Yoruba/contemporary based) and Ebube produced by Nnabuike Inzudu and directed by TChidi Chikere (contemporary based). These video films were purposively selected to enable a comparative evaluation of the cultural relevance and contents in some Nigerian home videos.
Different scholars of varied disciplines have tried to view the term ‘Culture’ in consonance with their disciplines. Culture is about behaviour patterns associated with particular groups of people’s way of life, According to Nida, “culture is a learned behaviour: which is socially acquired, that is the material and non-material traits which are passed on from one generation to another” (25). People and culture cannot he separated from one another. Culture stands for the aggregate values and concepts which characterize a society. It then follows that people who lack culture or are ignorant of their past experience either written or unwritten are themselves not in full existence. Culture is the product of ecology and is greatly influenced by the environment. Hence, it encompasses all the material and non material expressions of a people, as well as the processes with which these expressions are communicated. These expressions consist of our literature, music, arts, customs, social institutions and other intellectual expressions of the society. According to Harunah: Culture is the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenges of living in their environment, which gives order and meaning to their social economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organization thus distinguishing them as a people from their neighbours (32).
Culture comprises material, institutional, philosophical and creative aspects. The material aspect has to do with artefacts in its broadest form (namely, tools. clothing, food, medicine, utensils, housing, etc.); the institutional deal with the political, social, legal and economic structures mid spiritual objectives: the creative concerns a people’s literature (oral and written) as well as their visual and performing arts which are normally moulded by as well as help to mould other aspects or culture. Culture also connotes how we live our lives in relation to our society that is, our mode of dressing marriage, religion, festivals, child naming, etc., and our economy, politics and technology through which a distributive identity of that society is established. Olaide submits that what many Nigerians refer to as our culture are traces of achievement of our forefathers at various levels and stages of their development mid the cumulative knowledge of these various achievements (6).
Culture can then be found in our political institutions, our ancient traditions, our literature, our languages and even in our moral values. The moral value of a particular group of people is an embodiment of flick culture. Morality varies horn place to place. ‘What moves human beings are still their desires and motives? People of the same culture or community are bound to share a common language and also certain moral values.
Video Film as Tools for Resuscitating Cultural Values
Cultural/Moral impact of Video Films
Traditional African societies were controlled by norms whose enforcement (sanctions) worked to maintain order in society. Aseka attests that, “African communities are linked by shared moral values that are fundamental features of African identity and culture” (6). African societies share fundamental values that guide day-to-day life. Blake sees traditional African values as, “a composite set of principles and to extent knowledge and beliefs that are held in high esteem embedded in African societies, and that are deemed worthy of being regarded as the guidelines for human behaviour in interpersonal, group and inter-group communications and relationships” (22). Values are an integral part of African societies. Social relationships were determined by specific values guiding behaviour. For instance, traditional African societies believe in the sacredness of life. Human life belongs to the maker therefore it should not be taken away. There are exceptions to this notion however such as in war and rituals. Most of these values have been affected by change. For this reason, Gyekye insists there are many: Cultural values and practices of traditional Africa (that) can be considered positive features of the culture and can be accommodated in the scheme of African modernity, even if they must undergo some refinement and pruning to become fully harmonious with the spirit of modem culture and to function satisfactorily within that culture (as cited by Lassiter page?).
Modernization has greatly impacted on the value system. As a result, deviance from these standards is no longer sanctioned. Ali Mazrui makes a case against poor developmental progress and mediocrity in the African continent, and blames it on the relegation of African values (page?). Also, there is the inability of the elite to harness the potentials of Western education and African values for optimal performance. Aliu decries how African elites “failed to match their western education with their African values in both their intellectual development and continent’s progress” (34). He identifies the African university as a vehicle of western influence on African culture. Values are peculiar to culture and determine to a great extent the belief of the people. Thus, the National Film and Video Censors Board severely criticized Nigerian video films for placing too much emphasis on occultism, violence, sex, pornography and blood sacrifices, claiming that they could have adverse effect on the Nigerian society; which is a fact. Video films are supposed to be channels for corrective measures, change and reformation for good.
The film, Ma mi, shows how a single parent, single-handedly raised a child into a responsible adult. Even when his mother passed away, he did not depart from the good training he had as a growing child even in a foreign land. The Holy Scripture also in support of moral values postulates, ‘train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22: 6, NIV). The film also shows that Dare’s mother did not compromise her body for money even when she was told by the market master that it was the only way she could retain her shop in the market. Instead she stood her grounds and fought back. Ma mi, here described a true cultured woman with moral ethics as postulated by the Yoruba culture. Going by records we know that it is through culture that man has been able to survive in his environment since creation. Man is constantly trying to conquer the problems circumstances pose through inherent moral values. When adults who are expected to be custodian of culture and values fail to pass on these cultural practices and values from time to time, the responsibility now falls in the hands of playwrights and movie makers to carry on these teachings with their works.
According to Bullivant, “Culture is a survival programme whereby man in society copes with the environment in which he lives and solves the problems it poses” (in Okome 56). No wonder Acholonu posits that, “the difference between man and animal is cultural values. Man is always striving to improve himself and the weapon through which he improves himself is culture” (26). Therefore, we ask: “How then can one know and understand his culture especially in an era like ours where the average African is being westernized?” The answer is through the works of playwright (drama) and video films, culture can be written or presented for people to see and learn.
Seeing movies remains one of the activities of humans whether young or old, and stories as the basic of all movies are relatively linked with culture. Also, the theatre which gave birth to movies and culture are inseparable bedfellows. Film helps in reviving the culture of the people through dramatic enactments. The researcher used word resuscitation here due to the peculiar nature of the Nigerian situation. The Nigerian culture seems to have been discarded as a result of colonial influence. The effort of this study, therefore, is to highlight the Nigerian cultural values and practices and such revival can only be done through propagation via films.
Some movie makers have achieved this by showing the rich cultural heritage of our people through the kind of movies they have produced. They looked back into their archival past with the aim of finding the rich culture, philosophy, poetry, dignity, in fact values that the colonialists had destroyed. It was this kind of cultural renaissance that gave birth to films such as Ikoka, Ma mi, Things Fall Apart, Worlds Apart and Igodo.
In same vein, the film, Ikoka, displays the rich ancient Benin culture. It is unethical to dethrone a king as such matters are left to the gods to decide. The film also shows that marriage in the Benin tradition is a sacred institution. Once a woman is married, she leaves her past behind and stick solely to her husband and no other man. This attribute is displayed in the film, Ikoka, by queen Ide before her marriage to the Oba.
Queen: After today, I will not come near you again because I will be married to my husband and to him I will give the pleasures of my body.
In the film, Ma mi, Dare’s mother constantly advised him, and on one occasion she told him to always extend favours to other people who are in need, so that they can benefit from it, each time he receives a favour. It is this same philosophy that prompted him to donate 5 million naira to an orphanage home.
The film, Ebube, did not place much emphasis on culture but values which are inherent in every culture. It is no news anymore that in modern times, the duty of bringing up the child is now left in the hands of house helps, as seen in Ebube, some parents are more interested in their jobs than they are in their families. The wife hardly has time for the husband and at night when he tries to make advances, she gets upset and sometimes leaves the room for him. Ebube displayed how some parents have destroyed their homes because of lack of proper cultural orientation.
These types of films are a display of the very rich cultural heritage of the Nigerian nation. As the movie industry disseminates this cultural information, it projects the quality of culture and moral value of the society. When talking about educating to enrich, it means the promotion of a better life, socially, economically, politically and even spiritually. The promotion of culture through the movies also brings about development in traditional practices and culture. Areas that are usually affected include language, dance, dress, literature, arts and crafts, etc. This display, in form of promotion and propagation of cultural practices, provides for a better future. This is because information invariably sparks off economic activities that enhance other people’s life, social activities that promote unity and peace and other positive cultural practices.
Ogungbesan Ayodele’s position suggests that every writer in the media including movie script writers must try to remain faithful to his art, even if the price is to go down unremembered (54); thus, echoing the words of Sartre Myles, who argues that even at the cost of totally renouncing art, a writer must be committed to the social problems of the moment (68). The writer is a member of society; his sensibility is conditioned by the social and political happenings around him. These issues should therefore be reflected and presented in his work but they must be implicit. Indeed Chinua Achebe’s conception of the role of the artist in Africa is not different from that of his fellow writers. According to Achebe, the writer cannot be excluded from the task of re-education and moving his community forward ((page?). In fact, he should march right in front for he is after all as Ezekiel Mphalele says in his African Image, “the sensitive point in his community....” (page?).
Similarly, Dennis McQuail highlights the principals of the social responsibility theory of the media which include that media should accept and fulfil the following obligations to the society:
- That through professional standards of informativeness, truth, accuracy, objectivity and balance, these obligations (of the media) can be met.
- That media should regulate itself within the framework of law and established institution to be able to carry out its responsibilities.
- That whatever might lead to crime, violence civil disorder to offence to minority groups should be avoided by the media.
- That the media should reflect its society’s plurality, given access to various points of views and grant all the right to reply (117-118).
Based on principle (a) the society has the right to expect high standard of performance from the media. Intervention can also only be justified to secure public good. Accountability of media professionals should be to the society, employers and the market.
In a nutshell, video film in Nigeria should be a channel for cultural exaltation, for eradicating some vices and for educating and training the viewers, in order to be the citizen they ought to be and for the development and growth of the nation (Nwosu, Onwukwe & Okugo 15). If the film maker and producer are living in a society that is morally devastated and demands action. According to Ogungbesan, because the writer is a “Military living in a world that is moral devastated and which demands action” (98). It is the duty of the writer to throw as many moral bombs as possible to reflect the moral change that befits a society.
Effectiveness of Cultural Icons
According to Bello, there are considerable problems in conceptualizing culture per se and administrating it, especially in the Third World nations of the contemporary world ((page?). This problem of comprehension, Bello says in many cases responsible for the limited progress achieved in cultural promotion which, more often than not, in many places, does not go further than occasional exhibitions in spite of criticisms from the enlightened sections of the population. To illustrate this, we will consider a broad definition of culture. The first is the standard and popular definition of culture as, the way of life of a people. This being so general, it usually ends up also meaning everything, at all times, everywhere and as such usually nothing at any particular time in any specific place. However, it portrays the essential meaning of culture as the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenge of living in their environment.
It proceeds to enumerate its characteristics icon as follow; that culture comprises material, institutional, philosophical and creative aspects. The material aspect has to do with artefacts in its broadest form, namely, tools, clothing, food, medicine, utensils, housing, etc. The institutional deals with the political, social, legal and economic structures erected to help achieve material and spiritual objectives; while the philosophical is concerned with ideas, beliefs and values (Umukoro 35).
To summarize this discussion it will be worth-while to keep in mind the fact that cultural activity, being a manifestation of man’s mental and manual capabilities at specific stages in his social and historical evolution serves to distinguish him from other animals as well as from each other. It is the sum total of man’s (mental and manual) creative abilities which is expressed in his capability to subject and transform his natural environment as he organize his social existence through, a set or series of institutions, regulations and values. To talk of culture as a way of life is to assess and comprehend how a people create and recreate their lives in both the material, and non-material sense of social order.
As the cumulative effort of different generations in the history of different societies, culture is an index of creativity in terms of what man has been able to develop. Culture and development, in this sense, are synonymous. Culture represents development of specific people in specific societies which is usually approximated with “civilization.” Culture is thus man’s ability to build on selected historical legacies as well as innovate and invent in the face of new challenges.
Individual attitudes such as beliefs, ideals, values, dressing are greatly influenced by the culture in which they belong. The films, Ikoka and Ma mi reflect the culture and the importance of the philosophy of the society that produces it. Tunde Kelani and Peddi Okao are filmmakers whose works are celebrated because they employ culture in story-telling, costume, set design, music, props, gestures, expression and the use of language. However, Ebube dwelt more on values, mores and family issues in the modern era as they affect a home than it emphasizes on culture. Hence, in the films under study, cultural symbols are emphasized more in Ikoka and Ma mi.
Cultural Symbols in Ikoka and Ma mi
The Titles of the Movies: The titles, Ikoka and Ma mi imply the projection of culture. While Ikoka is the name of a town in the ancient Bini kingdom, Ma mi means, My Mother, which signifies the supreme nature of motherhood. Both titles are drawn from cultural backgrounds which portray the cultural essence of the films.
Dressing/Costumes: The costumes of modern Ikoka in Ikoka and Ma mi are seemingly alike, though their cultural backgrounds differ. This may be traced back to the fact that the Binis migrated from the Yorubas. However, the rich Bini costumes is evident in their use of decorated beads, colourful blouse on wrapper to match as worn by the women celebrating, while the men of Ikoka wore simple cheap clothes. This (costumes) is used to show that the women of Ikoka are affluent than the men of Ikoka as well as men being subjects to their wives.
The king is heavily decorated with expensive attires on red background colour, the chiefs put on white attire in the ceremonial gathering and white or red buluku (skirt-like attire worn by men) depending on the occasion. In Ma mi, although Dare lived his adult hood abroad, on coming home, he still wore more of Yoruba native attires. This is used to show his respect for culture. Both films display rich cultural costumes meaning that dressing is an important cultural identity.
Language: The languages used in both films were Bini, Yoruba and English language, respectively. However the use proverb which is an important cultural element is adopted in both films. Proverbs are words with deeper meanings rooted in wisdom. It use for admonitions and warnings.
Names of Characters: The names of the characters in both movies symbolize culture. Names, such as, lye Oba (Queen mother), Oba (King) Idova, Oba Oware and Ehenoha, in Ikoka indicate royalty. In the vein, names, such as, Oko mi (my husband) and Ma mi (my mother) indicate love. Names are believed to have effects to life whether good or bad.
Songs: Songs are very important cultural identity. Songs are like oral literature; stories and moral values are embedded in songs and it connotes strong cultural identify. Both films had songs rooted in cultural enlightenment.
Settings: The setting of Ikoka expresses the ancient nature of the story line. The use of thatch and mud houses, tradition palace, artefacts, sculptural pieces which the Binis are very well known for, is an indication of an era before the emergence of Western civilization. The setting in Ma mi is however a combination of Yoruba and an infiltrated Western culture owing to the fact that the film is set in modern Yoruba land. This is espoused in the use of cars, radio stations, interviews, etc., thus, suggesting a blend of old and new cultural values in the wake of a society.
Death rites – Life after Death and Protection: The Binis believe in life after death as well as reincarnation, and this is evident in Ikoka. When the lye Oba (King’s Mother) died, emissaries were sent from Ikoka, the home land of the lye Oba town to pay homage to her and to partake in the performance of her rite of passage. Also, when the Oba laid a curse on Ikoka, he exempted the women because of his beloved mother (lye Oba), who may want to come back through Ikoka (reincarnation) to join the living again. It is believed in the Yoruba culture that the dead protects the living. This is seen in Ma mi, when Dare went to his mother’s grave side to pray for protection before going for the football tournament.
Oral Literature: Oral literature, which is the hallmark of the African culture is elicited in Ikoka. Oral literature is an effective means of passing the ideals, values and history of their ancestors an community from one generation down to another generation. It teaches the young people of the histories of their ancestors, thus helping them to improve their self awareness as well as know their identity. This is a cultural icon in the Benin culture, and it is seen in Ikoka, when Iriosa a drunk in the modern Ikoka declared that the problems and solution of Ikoka are in his hands; a story his great grand-father told him which he verified from the gods. It is the story Ekweweye told, that revealed the problems and solution of the modern Ikoka. This shows the importance of oral literature.
Power of Monarch: Monarch is a strong cultural element in the Benin culture. The words of the Oba are held with high respect and fear. Monarchs in the Benin Kingdom are ordained by the god; hence they are in the protection of the gods. A blessing or curse pronounced by the Oba is made to come to pass as seen in the case of Ikoka where the King exempted the women from the curse he laid because of his beloved mother who may want to come through Ikoka in her nest life. Thus curse remained as the king pronounced it until Ikoka is forgiven.
Age: Old age is an important element of culture in Nigerian and Africa at large. It is synonymous with wisdom, experience and history that can be used to guide the young people, and this is evident both in Ikoka and Ma mi. In Ikoka, it is the Odion-Were the oldest man in the elders council that drew the attention of the elders to the fact that there is a problem in Ikoka that requires immediate solution. This is credited to old age, wisdom and wealth of experience. Also, in Ma mi, Dare’s grew up a wise and responsible adult because of the admonitions and the experience his mother shared with him, showing the importance of old to a culture.
Cola nut and Palm Wine: Cola nut and Palm wine are very important cultural element in the Nigerian culture. These Items are used to offer prayers of blessings in marriages, festivities, family meetings, social gatherings etc. this fact is also established in Ikoka and Ma mi, respectively.
Values: Values which are ethical conducts is richly evident in Ikoka, Ma mi and Ebube. Depicting the high regard for cultural way of life as it affects the way the people reason and do things; thus emphasizing on the right and civil responsibility of a people.
Conclusively, it is evident that the films Ikoka, Ma mi and Ebube communicated a message of cultural and moral values. The goals of these producers are to use film to teach about culture and values, and to make sure that their messages are properly understood. A movie is expected to make a man change his attitude and consequently, his culture. Hence, Saint Gbilekaa pointed out that:
Drama (video film) can entertain, in fact must entertain, but it is only the dull brain washed artist who is contented merely with entertainment. The primary virtue of literature (video film) seems to me lie in its subversive potentials, that explosive changes hidden behind the façade of entertainment and which must be tapped controlled and made to explode for the use of our people for mankind (27).
Thus, when a people are made to adopt a new social order through video films, then it can be said that the film has been positively utilized in advancing the culture of the people.
Based on findings, and from the conclusion drawn, the following are suggested recommendations:
- Nigerian video filmmakers should intensify efforts to explore and exploit their own cultural resources rather than import the western culture. They should not be obsessed with commercial tendency to the extent that they will be selling mere emotion or sensation. They should always bear in mind that they have social obligations to their societies.
- Nigeria is presently overloaded with high level of corruption in the so-called democratic dispensation; this should find their ways into dramatic presentations, not only to sensitize the people, but also to dissuade or warn those involved of the likely consequences.
- Filmmakers should endeavour to turn out productions that would jolt the audience form their slumber so as to be sensitively appreciative of their culture and customs. They should desist from presenting deceitful scenes, which portray Nigerians as being either materialistic or animalistic. The film genre can be judiciously maximized to its optimum by filmmakers, if they endeavour to painstakingly have insightful research into the unadulterated aspects of the Nigerian culture and customs, which will likely be of immense value to socio-economic and political growth, and development of African continent in this era of globalization.
- Nigerian film producers and writers should concentrate on themes that can help advance the yearnings of the society they write for.
- The Nigerian movie industry should also carry out the crusade of cultural rejuvenation rather than the erotic and occult scenes they mostly propagate.
- Finally, Nigerian film producers should strive to indicate using film technology, arts and culture in order not to cause artistic disaster for their audiences. ‘It would be shameful if Africans cannot produce “films for Africans, with Africans by Africans” (Mgbejume 41).
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