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BADE-AFUYE, Toyin Beatrice: The Impact of Costume and Make-Up in Yoruba Video Films

The Impact of Costume and Make-Up in Yoruba Video Films

Toyin Beatrice BADE-AFUYE

Department of Theatre and Media Arts

Ekiti State University

Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State


GSM: +234-806-320-9459; +234-805-778-6371


Costume and make-up play important roles in differentiating the actors from one another. The focus of every costumier and make-artiste is to make sure appearance of actor in a film arrest the attention of its viewers for effective communication. Adopting a descriptive method, this paper examines the basic functions of costume and make-up and its impact in Yoruba films using Efunsetan Aniwura, an epic film and Jenifa, a contemporary film as a case study to reveal the roles of costumes and make-up used in creating mood and establishing a character. The paper further reveals that costume is an important aspect of film which narrates story about each character within the production with the aim of projecting the mise-en-scene of a performance to add value, aesthetic and colour to the role of the actors. More so, it has been observed that design and appearance of all the aesthetic elements are mostly the creative idea of a costume designer whose job entails the manipulation of designs for each of the characters, to project specific information about the era, occupation, time, mood, status, religion and political environment of the performance. Therefore, common errors identified in the aforementioned films will be addressed while solutions will be proffered. The paper concludes that appropriate application of costumes and make-up for Yoruba films is very important and cannot be jettisoned.



The film industry has recorded significant successes and developments, which have enhanced the entertainment industry. Especially, that has been a source of entertainment from the angle of different costumes used in various films. The theatre profession is a field with many parts like it is a tree with branches. The branches are referred to as the arts of the theatre and they include; playwriting, directing, acting, set design, costuming, properties, make-up and lighting. In this study, our attention is to focus on the impact of costume and make-up in production of Yoruba films.

Costume is an interpretative tool in film making that enhances the actor’s appearance during a performance. The use of costume is dictated by the directorial concept. Choices of costumes are usually to add aesthetic value to the actor’s role. The role of the costume designer is to design costumes for characters. Usually, the costumes are designed to denote character’s occupation, mood, status, religion and political traits. When costumes are designed, designers bear in mind the aesthetic pleasure that the audience would derive from the costume worn by actors. This is because costume tells the audience everything about the character. And film promotes the culture of a nation and its people. It is also the cultural ambassadors of the society in which they are produced to proclaim the past and the present life of a particular area.

                       In the same view, costume is an integral aspect in Yoruba video film, because costume is an important element of the theatre that further tells the story in the play. Costume gives vital information, it is a silent interpreter of what may not appear in the dialogue of a play, which contributes to the beauty of the film. One very major element aspects in film making is costume. However, experts cannot but wonder the level at which costumes are abused. It becomes staggering when questions such as: how real is the costume used in a particular scene related to what happened? For example a woman in mourning looking gorgeously dressed. How reflective is the use of costumes in mostly, the Yoruba films? The motif of this study is to examine the effective usage of costume in Nigerian Yoruba video films.

The person responsible for creating costumes for performance is the costume designer who must develop visual and creative ideas that will beautify the performance be it stage performance, home video, festivals, occasions and carnivals. The designer ensures the manipulation of fabrics that will project some specific information about the performers to make them pleasant to the eyes. Costumes, in the theatre, is a storytelling tool – communicating details of each character’s personality and status to the audience. They help actors leave their (own) personalities behind and become new as well as believable characters on screen or stage. Of all the visual elements for performance, costumes are the most personal because they are actually worn by the performers. Closely related to costumes are make-up, hairstyles, and masks. Costumes have suggested a number of things about the wearer’s position or status, occupation, gender, occasion, special events and carnivals. When a director thinks about how to make a performance meaningful, one of the arts of the theatre he considers is the costume for performers. This is because costumes and performers are therefore perceived as one because they merge into a single image for performance. In fact, Eghagha comments that: Costumes add to the stage presence of the actors by enriching his physical personality. Without the appropriate and relevant costume, an actor could be flat or convey the wrong message to the audience. The colour combination of costumes ought to reflect the mood of the play and this would help in the interpretation (74).

The quotation above gives a clear picture that costumes apparels are used to impress an audience and to help the performer to impersonate a character. It gives vital information that may not appear in the dialogue of a play. This, simply means costume can tell a story and personality of a character even when the character did not render any lines. Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh views costumes as: The items of clothing, accessories and ornamentation worn by the actor or actress for the purpose of defining character and establishing the circumstances of the character’s existence, by situating him/her in time and space (130).

To corroborate Utoh’s submission, Douglas observes that, costume includes “all the accessories he(the performer) carries as part of his character, all the items relayed to his hair, dressing, and everything associated with his face, body, make-up including mask if they are substitute for facial make-up” (9).

Costumes are sometimes used in films to suggest the historical period in which the events in the films happened. Costumes in film direct attention on the actors. For example: In Efunsetan Aniwura, Iyalode is gorgeously dressed with Sanyan, Etu and Alaari (19th century Yoruba attires that belong to the nobels). These attires portray to the viewers that Iyalode is a wealthy woman. The beads accessories on her also indicate that she is a chief in Ibadan land. The make-up in both Efunsetan Aniwura and Jenifa have revealed what each character represents. The make-up helps in role characterization in film with the help of cosmetic application. For example: Iyalode’s slaves were looking unkempt with the kind of hairdo on their heads and also they faces are rough, this is as a result of suffering they have encountered from Iyalode. The make-up of this slaves have created realism situation in the film. In the film Jenifa, Funke Akindele’s kind of make-up on her first day in the University depicts to the viewers that this candidate must be from the village because everyone that comes across her must look at her twice to see the drawings on her eye brow, the dot on her forehead and the flamboyant powder she applied on her face.

Oscar Brockett posits that make-up helps establish the age, state of health and race of an actor (388). It may also suggest profession, basic altitudes and self regard. It aids expressiveness when it emphasizes facial features to make them more visible to the audience. We have indicated in the paper that make-up and costume are very important elements in film. They help us to establish the economy, social and occupational status of the actors, which may either indicate the historical period of the film, which make the viewer understand the characters.

Synopsis of Jenifa

Jenifa is a contemporary Yoruba film that utilizes the local and modern settings together to make the film entertaining, informative and educative. The film revolves around a local lady Sulia, a village lady who is widely recognized in Ayetoro village where is popularly called Sulia kan Ayetoro kan meaning (One Sulia, One Ayetoro). She got admitted to University of Lagos and to boast of her pride as the most popular girl in the village of Ayetoro.

On her first day one on campus, she carry ‘Ghana Must Go’ bag, dressed in pyjamas and cowboy boot causing many looked at her manner of dressing. She meets Bekky, a lady she accommodated during the O’Level examination period in Ayetoro. Bekky later introduced Sulia to her other friends. At first they could not cope with her, but later she was tutored to be a high class lady. She now jumps from one man to another all in the name of making money and becoming and big girl without minding the consequences. In the end she was diagnose of having HIV/AIDS which was regrettable problem for her and her family.


Synopsis of Efunsetan Aniwura

Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura, a powerful woman, rich and influential female chief in Ibadan. Her only child and daughter died during child labour. She blames God for her tragedy and transfer the anger to her slaves and everybody in Ibadan. She became wicked, cruel, callous and bitter that she tells her slaves never to get pregnant that failure to adhere to this instruction will lead to death. It took great courage of Ibadan warriors led by Latoosa to conquer Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura.

Costume Usage Jenifa in Relation to Genre and Style of the Production

The genre of Jenifa is satire, using promiscuity as concept. From the beginning of the film to the end, we could see traces of societal decadence in costumes, lines and songs. The style of the production is realism which the basis and originality of the film. The costumier of this film did a good job by making sure that she does not deviate from the costumes that matched with the concept and production style. The costumier made clear contracts between the city (Lagos) and the village setting (Ayetoro). The campus characters are attractively dressed in alter necks, miniskirts and body revealing costumes to lure and seduce men that are rich to have dates with them. The costume and make-up application in the film is a major boost to characterization which each character portrayed. And all this are the creativity of both costumier and make-up artist. No wonder, Oyesoro expresses that: In Nigeria, our performing artists, both traditional and modern have a large reservoir of creative resources to draw from and they have maintained dynamic contact in this rich past while at the same time assimilating into their works, influences, experiences and other cultural features of modern day realities (33).

The above statement means that costume design process is drawn from creativity and this help to project a desired goal. Therefore, the essence and impact of costume on a play or film is important because it creates artistic communication that adds to beauty of film. Obideji states that: “Costumes does not serve merely as clothing for actors and actresses, but must also be functional and meaningful” (77). From the above assertion we have been able to place the film on a good angle of aesthetics in which costume usage in Jenifa is well emphasized from beginning of the film to the end with various occurrences.

Comparative Analysis of the Use of Costume in Efunsetan Aniwura and Jenifa

Meyer opines a prosperous way of life is depicted in the films by the abundance of exclusive mansions, flashy cars, and expensive outfits (cited in Agber 57). This can be found in our two case studies, Efunsetan Aniwura and Jenifa. In Efunsetan Aniwura, Iyalode’s kind of costumes are materials prominent among the Yoruba people that are wealthy in the 19th century. In each of the scenes it could be observed that she changes from one type of colourful, beautiful and expensive costume to portray how influential she is in Ibadan. Also in Jenifa, the use of costume and make-up really gives a clear picture about the characters in the film. Jenifa being a contemporary film addresses some contemporary issues like: sexual immorality, money laundry, waywardness and many issues that are prominent in cities today. All these are well represented with costume through the characters playing these roles. Therefore, the film, Jenifa has satirized these different social vices.

For example the big girls on campus like Shakira and friends, Gbogbo Big Girl and so on. Also, the rich in this film are well portrayed with the kind of costume they displayed. This is to create awareness for us that film producers have made it an important aspect in the work that costume and make-up are part of what tells their story. In epic film costume and make-up are used to tell viewers about the period of play. In the films, there are lot of problems in the use of costume and make-up. Sometimes, it does not correspond to the period of that film. Example is the scene of Abenilori (The Killer) in Efunsetan Aniwura. The kind of material given to him by the costumier was not in vogue then. It is a modern material of 20th century, and this film is set in 19th century it could have been better if the costumier had costumed him with adire (batik). Most of the events in Efunsetan Aniwura are monthly events and in some aspect of the film the slave’s still have the same beautiful hairdo instead of them to have unkempt hairdo. More so, the make-up artist ought to have differentiate the slaves with tribal marks like Pele, Gombo and Abaja this could have indicate that the slaves were brought to Iyalode’s abode from different towns.


In both films Jenifa and Efunsetan Aniwura, we have summed up that the impact of costume and make-up in a film is an important artistic embellishment that could tell everything about the characters in that film. Costume and make-up in these films have help establish and provide information about the time and location in the film. It is also apparent that costume and make-up is important in enhancement of characters and projection of their roles. This will enhance the quality of the film more and make it acceptable to audience. Therefore, there is need for proper training for those who want to venture into costuming and make-up for film production. Costumiers should not ask their cast to bring costumes themselves or best ensure that the costumes they bring have not been used over and over again in previous films. There is also need for more research on costumes. Finally, it is our submission that producers should pay more attention to costume and make-up in making a film real for believing.





Works Cited

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Brockett, Oscar G. & Ball, Robert J. The Essential Theatre. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1983: 388.

Eghagha, Hope. Aesthetics of Spectacle, Action and the Notion of Artistic Truth.” The Performer: Ilorin Journal of the Performing Arts, 4, 2002.

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Oyesoro, Segun. “Cultural Fusion or Unity in Diversity: The Theatre in Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy.” The Performer: Ilorin Journal of Performing Arts, 1(1), 1999.

Utoh, Tracie. “Promoting Minority Cultures through Costume and Make-Up: Sam Ukala’s Break a Boil in Production.” InAustin Ovigue Asagba (Ed.), Theatre and Minority Rights: Perspectives in the Niger Delta. Ibadan: Kraft books Ltd, 2009: 129-141


Shots from Efunsetan Aniwura and Jenifa