Thoughts on Nollywood and Cultural Re-Orientation
Law Ikay EZEH Jr.
NICO Training School
National Theatre Annex
Since the advent of Nollywood which presumably began in 1992 with the production and release of Kenneth Nnebue’s film, Living in Bondage, hundreds of thousands of films have been churned out under the umbrella of Nollywood. The films have portrayed the saying in the Arts that, “everything is possible and nothing is impossible.” Majority of the viewers believe that Nollywood has done well; if it is not in the area of re-branding the nation’s image; re-inventing cultural diplomacy, contributing to politics, growing the economy and providing entertainment for millions of viewers all over the globe, it is in the area of re-orienting the people culturally. Thoughtfully speaking, culture defined as, “the interplay of man and his environment for the mutual survival of both,” has been well represented, propagated and promoted in some of the films, while it has been portrayed in bad light in others. This paper is of the opinion that Nollywood still has a lot of work to do, first, in the area of cultural orientation before moving on to re-orienting the people. In fact, in some people’s opinion, Nollywood has not even started. This is because there is no specificity in this direction. The paper believes more films that portray the people’s culture should be produced and specifically used to diffuse the nation’s culture globally, and more importantly, Nollywood should partner with the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), particularly, and other culture organisations to effectively re-orientate the people culturally.
That Nollywood is a happenstance is no longer news. Every scholar who has been part of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA) and other Nollywood related academic conferences knows this fact. It is the product of a chance taken by Kenneth Nnebue, a business man, who decided to use the DVDs he imported into Nigeria to make movies because of downturn in business. This has evolved into an industry that is second only to Bollywood in terms of the number of films produced yearly.
The Nollywood screen drama industry has been acclaimed as a veritable revenue earner at the national, corporate and individual levels, making about 1.72 trillion naira (US$10 billion) in 2013. The Nigerian Ministry of Labour also admits that the industry is the second-largest employer of skilled and semi-skilled labour in the country, after agriculture (Duruaku 1).
That is as good as it is. Nollywood is not the only industry that just happened like that; there are many like Nollywood. What is really disturbing is that the industry’s managers seem to want the industry to continue to be a happenstance. They seem to like it the way it is, so long as it yields multimillions in money; so long as they smile to the bank; so long as the powers that be romance with them, caressing their over-bloated ego; so long as the actors and actresses are happy being pointed at on the streets and are given special attention at events. This, industry experts say, is the reason ‘orient’ is relegated to the background. According to Ifo Eruka, a stakeholder in the industry, “Nollywood and its managers have never thought of culture as an aspect they can use to make a difference, make impact on the economic, social and political lifestyles of Nigerians.”
That is not how it should be. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines happenstance as, “chance, especially when it results in something good” (681). In the case of Nollywood, has it resulted in something good? Yes! Majority would readily answer. Their excitement is understandable. They get entertained, and for the mostly bored ones who do not have much to do, but sit in front of the television every day, tuned on to African Magic, where Nollywood films spew out unending, Nollywood is the best thing that ever happened. However, for those who know what the nation should benefit from this huge industry, the answer: ‘No.’
Nollywood has not done well in terms of representing, promoting, propagating and developing Nigerian culture. Rating it in percentage terms, twenty percent would be appropriate. Even this rating is not justified because it is influenced by its fairly good production and wide popularity. The truth is that it has not shown much of Nigerian culture in terms of its costume, setting, language and the physical and emotional interactions of its artistes. Worse is that it borrows foreign culture in all it does and superimposes this onNigerian culture. That is, when it shows the little it does of Nigerian culture. “I do not see them as making any effort to showcase Nigerian culture to the extent that other cultures will borrow from them” (Interview with Okeowo).
Again, in terms of specificity, the industry has not got a pass mark. The industry does not have a specific direction. One would have expected the industry to pick, at least, an aspect of Nigerian life it wants to sell to the world. That is the reason one witnesses the ridiculous, the ludicrous and the bizarre. A Master of Ceremony at a book launch ridiculed the industry when he was able to use all the alphabets from A to Z to coin ‘Love’ titles. What he was saying indirectly was that one just needs to close his or her eyes and the title of a film is formed. This has made for loss of interest in the films by some watchers. It is even more disturbing to hear illiterate groundnut sellers criticise Nollywood. Most of them say what they do not like about Nollywood films is that the moment the films start, one already knows the direction the film is going to go; how it is going to end. This is true; one even knows how a film would end from listening to the theme song.
The industry’s participants, most of them charlatans, see the industry as a way out of the pervading economic quagmire in the country. Just like they went for oil, they went into the film industry in droves. This is another reason for this lack of direction. Money bags who do not know the ABC of film production hijacked the industry. Today, they are the ones who direct the proceedings, suggest titles for films and even select the actors and actresses for their films. This has not only affected the specificity that is being discussed, it has also affected the technical and artistic quality of the films.
As solution to this, experts have advised that these moneybags only produce, marketers concentrate on marketing and professionals do the auditioning, casting, directing and acting. Duruaku suggests,
engagement schemes that should include digitalization, emerging media interactivity, creative adaptation, character animating, learning space application, folklore and history storage, design glitz, science fantasy and dedicated scripting (1).
These, he said, would ensure Nollywood’s competitiveness for tomorrow’s audience. Duruaku’s suggestion is apt, considering the fact that dedicated scripting, for instance, will definitely make the industry’s practitioners to aim a particular thing. That ‘thing’ for the purposes of this paper is cultural re-orientation.
Definition of Terms
At a glance, one would wonder at the choice of thoughts as it is used in the title of this paper. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines ‘thoughts’ as, “person’s mind and all the ideas that they have in it when they are thinking” (1555); while the New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language defines ‘thought’ as, “the act or process of using the mind actively and deliberately” (1307).
Being in the culture sector, ideas run in the researcher’s mind all the time, the ideas of the possibilities that exist between Nollywood and culture; the relationship that, if working well, would make culture regulate Nollywood productions while Nollywood would work hard at reviving, promoting, propagating and preserving the people’s culture. Note must be taken here of the phrase, ‘if working well.’ Having been thinking and using his mind actively as it concerns this relationship, the researcher’s mind says the relationship is not working well, and this has resulted in all sorts of films being produced, as desired by the producers cum moneybags. This gives so much work to the censorship board because instead of culture being revived, promoted, propagated and preserved, culture is wrongly presented. This throws up a situation where it is the ugly aspects of the people’s culture that is showcased to the outside world. Strange as it is, these ugly aspects are borrowed cultures, borrowed from the same people who now use it to stigmatize Nigeria and Nigerians.
A friend once asked for the meaning of corruption in Igbo language. The researcher worked hard at finding an Igbo word for corruption. All the words that were thought of did not add up to really mean corruption as it is meant in English language. No word means the same as it. Today, they say it is in the character of the average Nigerian to be corrupt. These are the themes Nollywood use to represent Nigerian culture. Again, in a class, the researcher asked the students to think deeply and see if they would recall if anyone taught them how to kiss. No one recalled having been taught how to kiss. It is the television and Nollywood celebrates this. It is also a borrowed culture, which is inflicted on Nigerians. However, today, according to the western press, Africans are the most promiscuous of all nations. One cannot blame them because these are what Nigerians sell as their culture both in life and in the movies. Thus, the relationship between Nollywood and culture, the absence of this relationship and the benefits that would have been derived or denied are ideas that perturb the researcher’s mind, thoughtfully though.
Culture has been defined differently by various scholars. It is easily defined as the totality of ways of life of a particular people. That definition, though correct, is what the researcher calls the lazy man’s definition of culture. The researcher took that position because it really does not tell the layman anything about culture. The definition does not explain culture. For the sake of argument, genetics, which is said not to be culture, is also a way of life because it is part of life and living. Does this make genetics an aspect of culture? Even where it is agreed that culture is complex and has no definite boundaries, which makes it difficult to know what to accept as culture and what not to accept as culture, scholars from different generations have put down their definitions of culture or what they thought culture should be. This makes the situation more difficult, and one has to agree with Raymond Williams when he asserts that, “culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in English language” (137). Among the many definitions, there is the broad definition that, “culture is a unique human product that is produced when humans modify nature” (Loubser 75). This is close to the definition by Chukwumerije, who defined culture as, “the interplay of man and his environment for the mutual survival of both” (16). These definitions posit culture as all the activities of man in attempt to get the best of his environment.
Edward B. Tylor however defined culture as, “that complex whole which includes law, custom, knowledge, art moral, belief and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (1). This paper accepts this definition as more encompassing and more explanatory. It enumerates some elements which make up culture (the list is not exhaustive); and goes on to add any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. This simply means culture entails all that humans do, how they do them; all that they say, how they say them; how humans feel, think, learn, teach, and what they consider beautiful and ugly; good and bad.
As mentioned earlier on, culture has also been defined as, “a complex tool one needs to acquire to survive in a society”. That, too, is true because according to Albert Camus, “without culture and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle” (http://madisonian.net/2006/12/20/defining-culture/). What this definition implies is that without culture human beings are as good as animals. It is actually the acquisition of culture that distinguishes humans from animals. That is the reason there are certain things animals do publicly but humans must not do; for example, sexual intercourse. It is, therefore, these elements of culture and the cultural behavioral tendencies that are in the main Nigerian that Nollywood should showcase.
In a conference in Zaria, while discussing culture and the researcher mentioned Nigerian culture, there were protracted reactions. Most of the scholars present said there was nothing like Nigerian culture. They were right in their own rights because cultural diffusion has made it difficult to know the boundaries between different countries’ cultures. After all, that is one of the reasons culture is said to be difficult to define, situation where there are no clear cut boundaries on some of what can be called American culture and Nigerian culture. For example, a bracket of both enjoys popular culture and their dress culture is same. Be that as it may, if people talk about American culture, English culture, Korean culture, Japanese culture, Chinese culture, Australian culture, why would there be no Nigerian culture? The problem is that, Nigerians, in borrowing from other cultures stopped at nothing. They jettisoned their culture and absorbed all other cultures. Nigerians took in everything, while other nations borrowed from other cultures and added up to theirs to make both cultural and scientific progress. By the time the conference was informed that Nigerian, nay African, culture included (still includes) respect for elders and constituted authority, wisdom, knowledge, hard work, honesty, truth, fear of God, integrity, humility, craftsmanship, accountability, transparency, being one’s brother’s keepers which the nation’s forebears were known for, it was not only agreed that Nigerians had a culture of their own, it was also obvious it was jettisoned for cultures from outside these shores. Though Nigeria still has a distinct culture that one can call her own, it is obvious that colonization and westernization with their attendant education and religion achieved their aim in Nigeria. Ezeh reiterates that,
there is still a Nigerian culture, just as there is an American culture, a British culture, an Australian culture, an Indian culture, a Chinese culture, to mention a few. If one agrees that the culture of a people is the totality of their ways of life, then, there will be no contesting the fact that each country of people have their distinct culture. again, if we one argues that there is no Nigerian culture, one can as well argue that there is no Chinese culture, a culture that does not just obviously exist but is vividly seen to exist and is known to distinguish them from other people (101).
In most African countries, the introduction of western education was to teach the indigenous people their language so that the process of domination and colonization can be facilitated. Kelber avers that, “more often than not, colonial masters in antiquity – and throughout world history – promoted, shaped, and employed literacy as an instrument of imperial domination, even of oppression” (135). Draper corroborates Kelber when he asserts that, “colonial intrusion was accompanied by an officially sanctioned attempt to convert the indigenous people to a largely Protestant form of Christianity, a religion of the book” (3).
There is no way one would dominate a people who did not understand the language of the colonialists. Religion was also very important in the domination process because the indigenous people must be made to believe there is reward for any good done and punishment for every evil done. It was a perfected spiritual disarming because the colonialists knew the only way to tame the indigenous people was to put fear in them. The people fell for this trick because they were a religious people, a people that religion underpinned all they did and said; how they felt, thought, learnt and taught. Most times, these are not what Nollywood propagate. The religious inclination of the producers, directors, actors and actresses dictate what they transmit, and today, it is the vogue to be ‘born again.’ If one is not born again, one is of this world, a sinner. That is the ploy the colonialists used to destroy African culture, saying African culture is satanic, barbaric and macabre, just to make the indigenous people jettison their culture. That, exactly, is what is happening. Most films produced by Nollywood are either condemning African Traditional Religion (ATR) or promoting Christianity. In all the films where ATR and Christianity contest for spiritual supremacy, Christianity always comes top. It is a way of corroborating the colonialists that ATR is satanic and evil.
Nollywood and the indigenous people are not alone in this disregard for culture. The government of Nigeria that should know better about the immense benefits of culture has not been able to put culture to good economic, political and social uses. Effiong Johnson in his lecture delivered at the 5th Annual Public/Convocation Lecture of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), on Friday, 15th August, 2014 did not only corroborate Ojewuyi, but also asked questions,
if life’s meaning hinge on culture which expresses itself in social, political, economic aesthetic, religion, organizational and identity dimensions of Nigerian people as convincingly known and engraved in the cultural policy; if order in a multi-ethnic state such as ours comes from culture, and the totality of life of the Nigerian citizenry spins on the anvil of culture, why then should culture miss in the apex priority of developmental pursuit? Could it be a product of ignorance of the impetus of culture? Could it be gross insensitivity over culture’s quintessentially in a people’s milieu? Could it be a sadistic agenda aimed at a systematic stifling of a people’s core essence into suffocation? On and on, we could go on in search of a reason for the apparent infamy over a people’s means of life… (8).
Everyone is asking questions on why culture has not occupied its pole position in the national scheme of things. They are wondering why government has not deemed it fit to use culture for developmental purposes. The cultural policy which is supposed to be the document to guide cultural practices in the country is disappointing to, even those, who sat on the committee that drafted it. Adelugba has this to say about the Cultural Policy for Nigeria as,
not saying much... mere government regulations for culture... a mere presentation on paper works to silence critics. The document has no real provision, position or ideology. What we have in the book today has excluded 85% of what our committee has presented... 95% of what we have there are vague statements that are not what our committee recommended... I sat on those committees and I must tell you that most of our ideas (then) were thrown out. May be because they were afraid...or something (cited in Johnson 9).
It is not surprising therefore that Nollywood has towed the line of government, not giving culture priority in their films. This follows a saying in Igboland that, “if the teacher smashes the blackboard, the students will consequently scramble for the chalks”. The blame is more on the teacher who smashed the black. Another proverb says, “if water has poured away, and the pot is not broken, no damage has been done.” The belief is that damage can only be done if the pot is broken, and water cannot be fetched anymore. Nollywood can retrace its steps and use the nation’s culture to achieve development in economy, politics and education by simply propagating it.
It is pertinent to look at orientation, the vehicle by which indigenous culture is going to be to be re-introduced. This will help to re-invent national identity and also portray the citizenry as a people with a history, with a way of life. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines orientation as, “the act of directing your aims towards a particular thing” (1038); while the New International Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language says it is, “to adjust according to the first purpose or recognized facts or truth; to adapt one’s self mentally to a situation” (890). Orientation has also been known to have been defined as the state of being oriented. In ordinary parlance one is said to have a good orientation when one is well brought up to have focus in life; when one is yet to be culturally adulterated. Re-orientation means the act of orienting one who had been oriented before but veered of the defined path. Going by this definition, therefore, orientation comes before re-orientation. The process of re-introducing culture into the national scheme of things is what this paper calls cultural re-orientation, and the paper believes Nollywood has not been able to use the hold it has on its millions of viewers, all over the world, to do this. This paper is therefore calling on Nollywood to direct its resources and energy in this direction. That should be the primary aim of Nollywood. Giving these definitions and explanations, the task of Nollywood as it concerns cultural re-orientation is arduous. It is arduous because they are meant to redirect a people who already have chosen a direction or have been made to follow a direction.
Discussion – Nollywood, Culture and Re-orientation
Having introduced this topic thus, it is pertinent to delve into the thoughts of the paper as they concern Nollywood and cultural re-orientation. The focus will not be whether Nollywood has reoriented Nigerians, because it believed it has not. Rather, it will be more on whether it has made efforts to re-orientate Nigerians. The general belief is that there has been no specificity in terms of the manner in which Nollywood promotes, propagates and preserves Nigerian culture, that is, if it is doing that at all. Nollywood would not succeed in doing this unless the producers, directors, actors and actresses begin to promote Nigeria culture in their movies. How do they achieve this?
The solution proffered here may be simple but that is what Hollywood and Bollywood did and have continued to do. No matter which definition of culture is taken, it is obvious that Nigerians have a way of life, a culture that is unique to them. This is true, and it is a way of life that, today, is tinged with elements of the intrusion of westernisation. This is to say that the way of life of Nigerians is influenced by other cultures. These have done the country more bad than good. Something drastic, an action most probably, has to be done to re-orientate Nigerians. Nigeria has her unique religion, law, belief, arts, culinary, custom and knowledge that can be sold to the world and to Nigerians too, through Nollywood. This, Nollywood can do in a natural and seamless manner. That is the basis of this paper’s belief that Nollywood, being a widely accepted means of communication loved by Nigerians, can be used to re-orientate them. If Nollywood produces 40 films a week and are watched by 2 million people worldwide, most of the viewers Nigerians (italics mine), there is no doubt that Nollywood can perform this arduous task, seamlessly.
There is a saying that you are addressed the way you are dressed. Watching most Indian films, one does not need a native doctor to tell him where the films come from. Their dress style says it all. The same thing goes for American, Chinese and British films.. It is easy to distinguish American films from British films by just looking at the type of suits or shirts the men wear. If, per chance, a Chinese or Indian actor or actress wears a foreign dress, his or her mannerism will leave no doubt as to where he or she comes from. With Nollywood, it is different, in most of the movies, the dress styles are borrowed. There is no way one can associate Nollywood films with Nigeria from the clothes worn by the actors and actresses; not even by their mannerisms because they work hard at copying foreign artistes in their mannerisms, gesticulations, styles of dressing, walking and talking, etc. Nigerian local prints like the Ankara, Adire, Aso-Oke, George, Buba and Sokoto, Babaringa, Akwete, etc. can be promoted in Nollywood films to the envy of the western world, instead of copying the show bum and cleavages that showcase in their films. This will help promote Nigerian culture.
From the speech and mannerism in Chinese, American, British and Indian films, one does not need to ask where the films are coming from. It is easy to identify the films as belonging to a particular culture. It is different with Nollywood. The actors and actresses work hard at speaking the English language more than the owners of the language. One wonders why Nollywood does not concentrate its efforts in doing films in indigenous languages, and simply sub-title them in English. This will complement what the Yoruba and Hausa producers are doing in their films and it will help propagate these languages and of course, in doing this, sell Nigerian culture.
The African mud wall and thatch roof architecture, for example, can be projected, specifically emphasizing its ability to make the interior of the house cool on a hot day, and the same interior warm on cold nights. Rather, it is the out-of-this-world houses that Nollywood use as the setting for their stories. These houses say nothing of Nigerian culture. If there is anything else they do outside selling western culture, it is the fact that they show that Nigeria has lost her way culturally and she is making no effort to retrace her steps.
African culinary can also be promoted by Nollywood through the movies. If people all over the world, including Nollywood actors, can go to Chinese restaurants to eat with chopsticks, why won’t Nollywood teach the world to eat Nigerian local food with their hands washed? When an Israeli friend visited the researcher and they had to eat fried plantain, she used her hands. While the researcher was still pondering over this act of the Israeli friend of his; in the morning, she used her hands to eat bread and omelette. She said that is the culture of her indigenous people. She said the belief is that the food went the right way eaten with the hands; better still if the hands are not washed with soap. The researcher has not watched an Israeli film before but going by the lady’s behaviour, it is obvious this would be aspects of their culture that their films showcase. Why are there no Nigerian restaurants all over the world, ones that are as popular as the Chinese and Japanese restaurants are? Why are Nigerian dishes like pounded yam, abacha, tuwo, amala, kilishi and different soup types not popularised like the sushi, salad, burger, scones, muffins and curry soup? The simple reason is that Nigerians are not proud to be Nigerians; they are not proudly Nigerians. They do not have pride in their country. Some people have said it is as a result of frustration and anger at government for failing the citizenry in all spheres of life. Their argument is that these artistes are not willing to do the work of government, which includes orientation and re-orientation, while government officials smile to the bank. Thus, they do their thing as it suits them; so long they also smile to the bank. Whatever the argument is, it is a discussion for another day.
The big question is how does one get Nigerians to be proudly Nigerians? How does one get Nigerians to showcase their culture at every given opportunity? This is where re-orientation comes in, and there is no better avenue to use to achieve this than the mass media. Today, the mass media of choice is the Nollywood because of the appeal it has and it is arguably the most watched channel on whichever television station it is shown. Duruaku in his abstract for SONTA 2015 conference agrees as much, “the industry must re-invent itself and find ways of sustaining its appeal in the global entertainment market” (1). How does the industry re-invent itself? How does it find ways to sustain itself? Re-inventing must be purposeful and their productions must be targeted at achieving something. The re-inventing is simply injecting culture in their productions, and the essence of the re-inventing would be cultural re-orientation of the people. The mission is re-orientation because the citizenry had been orientated before but veered off the cultural track for many years. This is the only way the industry will remain relevant in the nearest future. It is the injection of culture into the productions that would sustain the industry. That will be the new interface between the people and the industry. It will no longer be situation where films are churned out weekly, just to entertain people and for the industry’s stakeholders to make money but a situation where the industry sets out to do something, not just for itself but for the nation. This can be achieved.
First, to achieve this, Nollywood need to put its acts together by producing films that are worth the DVDs on which they are recorded. Situation where films are made without properly thinking out the themes must be stopped, if the re-orientation talked about must be achieved. A film like, Sister Gabriella, should never have been produced. It is a film about a young girl named Gabriella, who does nothing, but exhibit senselessness in all she does, insults and fights everyone who dares oppose or challenge her position on any issue. Her rudeness and unruliness know no bounds, as she insults her father, brothers and even villagers. Her being taken to the Convent by her mother’s sister, who happens to be the Mother Superior of the Convent, did not change her. She continues with this behaviour to the end of the film. The question that comes quickly to the mind is; what is the essence of the film? What is Nollywood selling in this film? Is it one of those ‘films for film’s sake’? What message is the film transmitting? There are many other films like that, churned out week in, week out. They serve no purpose but to spoil the good name and image some people have worked hard to establish. It is even more gobsmacking that Nollywood known stars like Queen Nwokoye and Nkem Owoh acted in the film.
Professionals must be involved 150% in the script writing, auditioning, production, directing and the actual acting of these films. The industry must cease to be an all comers affair. Professionals must not deface their image by being part of films like, ‘ister Gabriella. Otherwise, there will be no difference between the professionals and the charlatans. The marketers must be contented with their marketing and the profits made thereof, and not be the ones dictating the actors to act what part in a film. The film industry is one of the areas of endeavour where the dictum ‘he who pays the piper, dictates the tune’ does not really work. This advice must be taken seriously if the industry is to make any head way in terms of good productions and of course, using the productions to carry out the much talked about re-orientation. That is when Nollywood’s players can direct their aims at particular things; re-orientation being one of these things.
The script writers must change their focus, and do more stories that tell young Nigerians what is used to be, how it used to be and how it used to be done. This will go a long way in transmitting culture. The government of New Foundland and Labrador in a 2006 report describing how culture is transmitted wrote,
the processes involved in the continuation of this traditional knowledge constitute one of the most interesting aspects of our living heritage. Each member of the community possesses a piece of the shared knowledge. Crucial knowledge is passed on during community activities, frequently without any conscious attention to the process. A young person helps her mother make a Labrador Tea-Doll or a pease pudding and in the process learns how to do these things herself. Young people accompany their elders as they carry on their traditional activities and in so doing learn the skills and lore of woodcutting, berry-picking or setting traps (www.tcr.gov.nl.ca/tcr).
These ideas and techniques abound in Nigerian culture. Activities like picking melon, pounding yam is a mortar, making palm oil, grinding corn on stone, collecting grasses used for thatch roofs, palm wine tapping, stories depicting hard work, honesty, transparency, respect, wisdom, fear of God, etc. can be made regular features of Nollywood films, so that the younger ones can learn from it. Nollywood can bring these ideas and techniques to film and the same result achieved. The intangible cultural heritage, which constitutes a major part the nation’s culture, should be made the subject matter of their films. UNESCO defines intangible cultural heritage as,
the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity... (www.unesco.org/services).
If all these elements as listed in the above definition and others such as law, religion, belief, custom, art etc are inculcated in Nollywood films, culture would be transmitted naturally and seamlessly. This does not only transmit culture, it also makes sure that these aspects of the people’s culture do not go into extinction. This way, re-orientation can be achieved.
Promoting and propagating these aspects of the nation’s intangible cultural heritage can influence UNESCO to inscribe them as some of the ones to be safeguarded and protected. Shooting films at festivals and carnivals sites can also expose the younger ones to these sites, and of course, it could attract UNESCO to add them to the list of world heritage sites. These are sites that must be protected because not only do they transmit culture, they are also culture that is transmitted.
As discussed earlier in this paper, Nollywood can sell Nigerian languages by producing films in local languages and subtitling them in English. This will work well in teaching the Diaspora indigenous language, especially the young ones born abroad who have not had and would not have the opportunity to visit Nigeria. This is one of the projects the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) has been involved in for many years now. Every year all NICO offices all over the country organize indigenous language classes where people come to learn indigenous languages of interest. This, this paper must say, is working out well but NICO needs government’s financial backing to make the programme more effective and the impact more far reaching. Unfortunately, government does not see culture as viable financially. Therefore continuing the programme and with other programmes have been made an uphill task as government has not shown commitment on its part. This is the reason Johnson asks: “if order in a multi-ethnic state such as ours comes from culture, and the totality of life of the Nigerian citizenry spins on the anvil of culture, why then should culture miss in the apex priority of developmental pursuit?” (8).
Ojewuyi corroborates this when he says,
what seems clear is that the drafters of the mission statement of Nigerian Ministry were mere creating a Ministry of Tourism as the only “economically” justifiable platform in cultural affairs. A pure agenda for the development of Nigerian culture and talents is missing (11).
Nollywood would do well to partner with the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) on cultural re-orientation. There will be a perfect synergy between the two; NICO on one hand, whose work is cultural orientation, and Nollywood, on the other hand, tapping from NICO’s wealth of cultural knowledge to re-orientate the people using its wide reach. This marriage will definitely work out well because orientation is what NICO does in the main, promoting and executing programmes that showcase the nation’s culture. Nollywood’s reach and acceptance will do the propagation.
There is no doubt that everyone agrees that culture is very instrumental to the progress of any nation, and that nations that have made use of their culture have benefitted not only economically, but also politically, socially, educationally and this paper dares say, psychologically too. Haiti has successfully used wild flowers that grow in that country as a pivot around which she build a pivot her carnival of flowers. She has used the proceeds from this carnival to pay off huge sums of her external debt.
It is has also been established that Nollywood as an industry has not considered specificity in its activities. Thus, it has produced films of all sorts (some of the films have no meaning and some, still, have repeated themes), the producers and actors smile to the bank and it has successfully entertained and enlightened its viewers worldwide but it has not done anything in terms of cultural re-orientation of Nigerians. It has also been seen that for Nollywood to achieve specificity in its production, it must re-invent itself and reposition for the future.
For Nollywood, re-inventing itself is very vital; otherwise it would lose its followership. Today, where they are may be alright; the films they produce may be engaging and entertaining. This may not be the case in the near future when the viewers may demand something unique from it, something they will learn from, knowledge different from what they have always been taught, stories different from those which they had been fed. If it must do these, it must look in the direction of culture because that is the hottest selling product today. When Obafemi says, “in Nigeria, with the experience of colonialism and imperialism, there is a need for a conscious project of civilisation-retrieval, re-orientation and re-positioning through cultural rebirth and renaissance” (25), he seems to be addressing Nollywood, asking it to reposition itself in the attempt to re-orientate Nigerians. Nollywood must use culture to impact on the people if it must live till tomorrow, and if it succeeds in doing this, cultural re-orientation would have been achieved.
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