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UGWUISHI, Theresa Chiemezie: Nollywood and Cultural Re-Orientation

Nollywood and Cultural Re-Orientation

Theresa Chiemezie UGWUISHI

Performing Arts Unit

National Council for Arts & Culture

Enugu Zonal Office, Enugu


GSM: +234-806-691-4969


In recent years, concerned Nigerians have made clarion calls for national re-branding. Today, it falls on the shoulders of theatre artists to re-brand Nigeria. This paper intends to re-examine the concept of culture and its importance in the lives of a people, while discussing Nollywood key players as our cultural ambassadors. Before the advent of Nollywood, as a film industry, stage acting by the travelling theatre companies was in vogue. Culture, on the other hand, is the sum total of a people’s ways of life, made manifest in their material objects (house, tools, weapons) and non-material objects (philosophies, festivals, social institutions). Cultural re-orientation could be national or international. This paper emphasizes the place of the South-East zone, while other areas will be cited occasionally for comparative reasons. Methodology used includes library research, oral interviews and the internet.


Nigeria’s cultural diplomacy has been a major issue in the national cultural sector; hence, effort is geared toward a reformation of the Nollywood industry to bring out the best in and out of Nigerians. The aim of this paper is not to find faults with anyone or any sector; but to “use the eyes with which the elders see things” and re-examine the relationship between Nollywood and our cultures so as to ascertain the extent to which they have gone and what is yet to be done. Although the theme of this conference borders on national cultural diplomacy, the presenter focuses on the South-East zone for a more comprehensive work. However, references are made of other geo-political zones of the federation as the need arises. For clarity purpose, the paper is sub divided into four sections. The first one discuses the advent of Nollywood in Nigerian theater history and the critics and criticism of Nollywood; the second section discusses the concept of culture – its definitions, forms, and values; the third section is a discourse on cultural re-orientation and why Nollywood stands best as a medium for cultural re-orientation; while the final section concludes the paper. Having made these introductions let us proceed.

The Advent of Nollywood in Nigerian Theatre History

The history of Nollywood dates back to the 1980s. Prior to this period, play productions had always been there. This had witnessed four developmental stages: the pre-colonial, the colonial, the independence, and the post-independence periods.

The Pre-Colonial Era (18th Century): The pre-colonial period witnessed a natural Nigeria booming with rich theatrical activities peculiar to each group. Their features were mostly folk songs, music, dances, folktales, epic, ballad and, most of all, masquerade performances. Their acting spaces were palace courts entertainment sessions, village arenas, market squares and individual compounds. J.A. Adedeji gives an example of a court entertainment troupe when he notes that in 1826, the Alaafin of Oyo invited Hugh Clapper and Richard Lander to see a performance by the travelling theatre troupe which at that time was waiting on the king’s pleasure (221).

The Colonial Period (18th Century - 1959): During the colonial period, theatrical activities took a binary form – the Western and the traditional. This is because the colonial masters saw nothing theatrical in our indigenous performances. They, therefore, entertained themselves using the cinema. The audiences were the colonial colleagues, wives, and a few black employees. These cinema shows went on in their residential homes and the cinema halls erected in Lagos. According to records, the first theatre, “THE ACADEMY,” was opened on 24th October, 1866; while the Glover Memorial Hall was built in Lagos in 1899. By 1873, theatre troupes were already founded in Lagos
(Ogunbiyi 18). Eminent Nigerians also started theatre business during this period, for instance, Hubert Ogunde. His theatre is known as the first professional theatre company, with the production of his “Tiger’s Empire” by the African Music Research Party on 4th March, 1946; but his first opera was produced earlier in 1944 (Clark 295).

Many other travelling theatre troupes were also established during the period under review. Drama and theatre courses were introduced in Ibadan in 1957, and the students of the University College, under the leadership of Mr. Geoffrey Axworthy, also formed a theatre troupe in Ibadan in the 1950s. In the South-East, Cyprian Ekwensi wrote “Ikolo, the Wrestler” in 1947. While discussing Onitsha Market Literature, Yemi Ogunbiyi states that,

essentially, Onitsha market literature are pamphlets, novelettes, playlets and stories written by members, of an emergent literate class of traders, artisans and working-class persons for a mass literate audience… (25).

The Independence Period (1959-1970s): This period ushered in television in Nigeria. The first television station was known as West Nigerian Television (WNTV). This was built in Ibadan while in Enugu, Ogui Road, precisely, the second Nigeria television station was established at the eve of Independence. According to Uchenna Odo, “the second Nigerian Television station was born at mid-night of 30th September, 1960. It was called the ENBS or ENTV” (Oral interview). Remarkably, these television stations brought with them television dramas. In the West, such productions were done by the amateur groups until in 1960 when Wole Soyinka launched the first professional theatre group, ”The 1960 Masks” and “… the first drama presentation on Nigerian Television was broadcast in August 1960” (Olusola 372).

Coming to the Eastern Nigerian Television station, the firs actor was Mr. A. E. Ukonu, who also established a television programme, Ukonu Club. According to Odo’s account, “Mr. Ukonu is the first to use Nigerian stars in show business. His drama programme was one of the early programmes in the television industry, followed by Ichoku (a mimicry of the Whiteman and his use of illiterate interpreters), then The Masquerade, or Zebrudaya Okorigwe nwa Ogbo, alias 4.30 (Oral interview with Uchenna).

Let it be noted that since drama programmes were also regular features on WNTV, Ukonu may not have been the first to use star actors for “shows,” as stated by Uchenna Odo above. Again, there is no specific date to back it up. Soyinka must have done this before Ukonu. Apart from the television dramas, theatre troupes also existed in Enugu. For instance, Ogunbiyi records that, “John Ekwere, in 1960, revived his Ogui Players, which was later called, The Eastern Nigerian Theatre Group.”  

The year, 1960, marked a theatrical revolution among Nigerians. The citizens were recovering from the colonial fists that had hitherto gripped them, and having gained their independence, drama flourished from two perspectives as a people obsessed by the air of freedom and turns to make a caricature of the colonial masters and his employees; and as a people who lacked freedom of self-expression and having gained that freedom, aspires to cling back to their long degraded cultures. Such were the regular features of the then TV dramas as exemplified in Ichoku. According to Olusola, TV drama received quite a boost in 1965, with the long week of African Festival of TV Drama, scheduled to mark the Nigerian Independence that year” (379). Nigerian dramatists were obsessed with the zeal to prove to the whites what they can do. The first movie was produced by Soyinka in 1963; while, in 1964, he founded the “Drama Association of Nigeria.” This flame never died down until the civil war bridged it, for it to resurrect again in the 1970s. In 1977, Nigeria hosted FESTAC; while in 1978, Nigeria was acknowledged as the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC).

Notably, it is from the television drama that Nollywood sprouted. According to Odo’s account, “when these participants at TV drama saw that drama can give money, they went their ways and started writing and producing instead of cueing and waiting to be paid by NTA” (Oral interview). The developments in the industry affirm that position. There is no arguing the fact that Nollywood is generating huge revenue to the nation’s economy.

However, from the explanations above, it is obvious that what is today known as Nollywood has been there. It existed in various regions; but their amalgamation into one national body and adoption of the name, Nollywood dates back to 1980. According to records, “the establishment of Nollywood goes back to history with Jimi Odumosu’s film, The Evil Encounter in 1980, … however, the release of Living in Bondage in 1992 by Kenneth Nnebue of NEK Video Links in the Eastern city of Onitsha, started the revolution and set the stage for Nollywood, as it is known today” (Amadi 1).

Critics and Criticism on Nollywood

As stated earlier, cultural diplomacy of Nigeria has been the bone of contention among Nigerian elites. And “all eyes are on Nollywood” in order “to bell this cat.” Those who have shared their opinions on this issue include: Hyginus Ekwuazi, Ayo Akinwale, Barclays Ayakoroma, Ferdinand Anikwe, Pete Edochie, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Stan K. Amadi, and Mercy Akayank, among others. Some of them believe that Nollywood has represented Nigeria well; while others object to this fact. Among those who feel it is well with Nollywood productions are Ayakoroma, who, according to Ayo Akinwale’s account, congratulates the producers and actors of Nollywood, noting that, “these videos are promoting the social, political, economic and cultural developments of Nigeria;” further adding that, “they transmit and reflect Nigerian Culture which is a reflection of our social identity (9). Anikwe, while sharing his opinion on this issue, also said:

The truth is that in recent times Nollywood is about the best organized group that have put across Nigerian culture beyond our national boundary. They have been able to articulate most of our positive and even negative aspects of our culture and they have streamlined that for world consumption…. So Nollywood has been a perfect representation of our cultural behaviour and cultural practice all over Nigeria and even beyond. The only thing that have identified with the exploit of Nollywood is the old FESTAC (Oral interview).

On the side of those who feel disappointed about Nollywood productions, Akinwale is of the opinion that a couple of Nigerian films are good while others are bad both for internal consumption and for export. He emphasizes on both the artistic and technical blunders that destroy Nigerian films. He also points to the bad techniques of writing and acting that he observes in most Yoruba films. Using the films, Living in Bondage and Glamour Girls by Kenneth Nnebue, as examples, he notes that,

…these films have nothing to show about Nigerian culture. Mixed with bastardised form of foreign culture from the west, the films do not really represent us as we are today. The costumes are not Nigeria, neither are the decorations and adornments. The tops “show it all.” Adding that “several Nollywood films are guilty of these criticisms… there are several films that do not take cognizance of our cultural diplomacy and so should not, under any circumstance, qualify to be exported outside this country (12).

Hyginus Ekwuazi, on his own part, sets out to discuss why Nollywood has failed generally. His criticism touches on all aspects of the theatre production from script writing to the final production. He, therefore, discusses some points to prove this: the creation of unnecessary long plots caused by excessive display of obscene scenes of murder, sex, witchcraft and so on; wrong use of camera; poor editing and the re-cycling syndrome whereby old mistakes are repeated, and at times compounding old mistakes with new ones (134). Gloria Fifiolu, after observing the good side of this coin, also notes that, “it will be wrong to assume that Nollywood is perfect as regards cultural diplomacy,” whereas, “it is still a far cry from being perfect.” So, she feels “there is the need to look into such areas with necessary recommendation for improvement.” She goes further to note that, “to some extent, Nollywood has portrayed the unfair aspect of Nigerian culture to the international community” (23). To this and all such criticisms Pete Edochie’s reaction is tense and emphatic. This is apparent in the dialogue below:

Question: Sir, do you think that negative presentations by Nollywood have any effect on national cultural diplomacy, especially now that there is a call for a national re-branding?

Pete: You see, we have a problem in the country. A lot of us are hypocrites and I think you are one of them based on your questions. What we talk about is what we know is inimical to the success of every society. We cannot pretend we don’t have ills within our society. We have witches, we have wizards. There are people who concentrate on diabolical activities and these diabolical activities we must not hail, we must not extol. We are compelled to condemn, and we do that, right! There are women who engage in prostitution or extra-marital affairs. There are men who go beyond family to philandering. We feature most of these. The idea is for people to learn. So when you talk about these, and we produce such films, we are not supposed to go and enter the cracks of cracking wall because of our failure. For you to be great and be considered a patriot, you must have to point out all of the problems that you have so that corrections can be made. Ok? (Oral interview).

In the same vein, Mercy Akayank said,

... do they expect us to say that something is white when to the korokoro eyes that thing is black? It is what we see that we portray. We present the issue the way they are and those that are not good are brought out and corrected at the resolution. You see, it is all part of our culture. Our culture shuns evil and encourages virtue” (Oral interview).

These examples will serve to throw light on the opinions of these critics. Let us examine some basic issues which they raised.

Themes: Thematically, Nollywood productions address issues that cover Nigeria’s socio-political, economic, and legislative down to religious matters. In doing this, a lot of things are ex-rayed which may not be to the nation’s good image. In handling this matter, let us also not overlook the fact that a theatre artist is a committed writer, “a watchdog” for the society. In the very words of Yetunde Akorede, “the relevance of a dramatist is determined by the useful role he plays in the portrayal of his society and it falls on him to make his people aware of the social, economic, and political problems and the causes and possible cure of such problems” (57). One thing a committed playwright shuns is to lie, or pretend that all is well when a house is on fire. That is why our fathers in the theatre circle at one time or the other, had their works banned from being produced on the stage, like Hubert Ogunde and Femi Osofisan, to mention but two. Someone like Wole Soyinka was even detained. Still, like the cockerel that cannot be hidden in a basket, the playwright goes on writing on societal ills. So, for one to tell them not to write about certain issues is like telling Bob Marley or Fela Anikulapo Kuti not to sing about their experiences.

Language: Over the years, language has been a major issue disturbing the minds of artists, not only in Nigeria but Africa as a whole. Among Nigerians this problem springs from the fact the nation is made up of multiple ethnic groups with diversified languages. English is our lingua-franca, yet, majority of Nigerians are illiterates and cannot understand it. Pidgin English, on the other hand, is peculiar to some regions so that quite a good percentage of the masses, especially in the South-East do not understand it. Then, if we should resort to translating into the indigenous language, the barrier will still be there. This is because, first, such a translation would require the three to four major languages we have; secondly, most Nigerians can neither speak, write nor read their mother tongue. So, it seems writers are compelled to use just English language to reach to a larger audience.

Other issues based on the acting/production techniques are as a result of lack of qualified personnel in the Nollywood industry. Most of them never went for training of any sort before finding themselves in the business, either as a script writer, a director, a cameraman, or an editor. Now that they are there and “the land is fertile and full of green pastures, would any Nigerian quit such a land?

Costumes: Coming to the issue of indecent costumes used in these films, as Akinwale rightly points out, one can say that it is one of those societal problems Nigeria is faced with. This is due to the people’s disregard for God and our culture. Our culture abhors undue nudity; likewise the two major religions that dominate the country. Going by the trends in our society, one cannot discern when these actors/actresses are highlighting social-ills and when they are putting on their normal daily attires. This is bad and should be checked. Having discussed Nollywood so far, let us also take a brief look on the concept of culture.

The Concept of Culture: An Overview of its Definition, Forms and Values

Culture is a recurrent concept with different meanings according to the numerous fields of knowledge, be it in the sciences, social sciences, arts and education. But it is from the artist’s perspective that this paper reviews culture. The Cultural Policy of Nigeria states that, “culture is the totality of the ways of life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenges of living in their environment…” (5). Le’vi Strauss, citing E.B. Taylor, notes that culture is: “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, act, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of a society” (516). Culture is also referred to as the “integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviour that is both a result of an integral to humankind’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations” (Merriam-Webster 421). As many as these definitions could be, all simply point to the fact that culture is the sum total of the ways of life of a people which are manifested in their daily habits/attitudes: feeding, shelter, clothing, religion, philosophies, tools/utensils, arts and crafts. Cultures could be broadly classified into material and non-material cultures. Material cultures comprise of all the tangible heritages that could be seen and touched, while non-material cultures are those intangible heritages that can only be perceived and heard. They include the people’s traditional institutions like marriage and kingship systems and all the social, political, legal and economic structures that enable a people achieve their desired goals. It also includes the people philosophies, religious norms, language, folk stories, drama, songs, music/dance.

Culture is dynamic and eclectic. It keeps developing along with the society and as it is growing it borrows from others and continues to re-adapt to the positive values from other people. Its ability to borrow makes for its survival. It is not bound by age or time. Notably culture, traditions and custom are sometimes used interchangeably but here tradition is used as form of culture. When these traditions became lawful, they are referred to as customs. These explanations, so far, has thrown enough light on the concept of culture and its forms. Now let us also highlight the inherent cultural values to discern why much importance is attached to our cultures.

The Importance of Culture to Man

The role of culture in any society is unquantifiable but for this paper, we are going to discuss a couple of them.

Education: The culture of the people is the first classroom that ever existed. Once a baby is put to bed, he/she enters the cultural class. He is named, circumcised, etc., according to the cultures of his people. This form of informal education does not stop with age. It is a continuous process which stops only when a man dies. (Even at death the culture holds a rite for the dead). So, as long as man lives, he keeps learning new cultures both from within and outside his community, nationally and internationally. Culture moulds people’s characters.

Group Identification: Culture is one strong tie that holds a group together. It enables them identify themselves as one, hence, it unifies a people and creates awareness of this oneness in them. It is also capable of unifying two or more communities with like etiquettes, for as the saying goes, “birds of the same feather fly together. Plato, also, alludes to this fact when he says, “there is an element of friendship in the community of race and language, and laws, and in common temples and rites of worship” (678).

Custom Enhances Social Order: The customs of a people determine the course of their daily life. Among the Igbo, they have taboos (Nso ani); these are what they believe the mother earth abhors such as (adultery, incest, bloodshed, theft/robbery). Anyone who violates any of these taboos merits a penalty either of public assault, ostracizing or even death. So, to avoid any of these horrible penalties, people used to desist from such crimes. So culture enforces discipline at all levels.

Custom Provides Security: Traditionally, the Igbo man is free and entertains no fear or danger being that in every community they organize the vigilante group who see to the security of lives and property of the members of that community. While discussing culture and national security, Anikwe makes it clear that, “our culture abhors such militarization and militant behaviour but our leaders do not pay enough respect tour own elders.” He further explains, “if you come to any community and you want to terminate the insurgence, all you do is to empower the traditional ruler… they know those who are not their children” (Oral interview).

Custom Fashions National Constitutions: Customary laws have great influence on the Constitution of any country. Plato discusses this in detail when he says:

…all the matters which we are now describing are commonly called by the general name of unwritten customs, and what we termed the laws of our ancestors are all similar in nature… for they are the bonds of the whole state, and come in between the written laws which are or are hereafter to be laid down; they are just ancestral customs of antiquity, which if they are rightly ordered and made habitual, shield and preserve the previously existing law… (716).

So custom forms as well as fashions the people’s constitutions in-respective of the country.

Customs/Traditions are Used in Conflict Resolution:

Culture generally determines a lot of factors in a man’s life – socially, economically, politically and so on. Lucy Ekwueme while discussing the various aspects of culture and their importance in the society notes that myths, folktales, masquerade performances, oral poetry, proverbs age-grade systems music, song and dance were used to reform the Society, effect Social control, maintain law and order, promote right behaviour, communicate peace and unity, resolve conflicts, instil norms and values and correct social ills among the Igbo (26-27). In the same vein, Anikwe explains that “there is African method of resolving conflicts, including capital offenses … in a manner that at the end of the day you end the conflict through a key of palm wine and may be a meal of pounded yam” (Oral interview).

Culture communicates not only peace but also politics and all other aspects of human life/affair that involve communication, be it in agriculture, science technology/economy and so on and so forth. That is why cultural diplomacy of any nation is of primary importance in national policy. Richard Okafor and Lawrence Emeka rightly note that “Culture is also a very good instrument of diplomacy… the grounds watered by culture sprout trade, good relations, political understanding and even defence linkages. Culture is a proven avenue to the heart, of an individual as well as to peoples and between peoples” (36).

Generally, the impact of culture on the society is better summed up in the words of Le’vi Strauss where he observes that, “Customs, beliefs, and institutions are then seen as techniques, though no doubt more purely intellectual techniques, promoting social life and making social life possible, just as the techniques of agriculture makes it possible to satisfy man’s need for food, or those of cloth-making to protect him from the rigors of the weather” (516). From these analyses, it is apparent that culture is an indispensable factor in a man’s struggle for survival. Let us now go into a discourse on cultural re-orientation.

Cultural Re-Orientation: A discussion of cultural re-orientation is imperative at this point so as to answer some key questions emanating from this subject.

  • What is cultural re-orientation?
  • Why is there need for cultural re-orientation?
  • When does the need for cultural re-orientation arise?
  • Who needs cultural re-orientation?

Cultural re-orientation implies correcting, by means of teaching and examples, the wrong notions people already have about our culture. It is all about getting the masses informed about the true features and natures of our culture, other than what they knew about it or what they take it to be, thereby restoring our lost cultural values and reviving our dying cultural identity.

The need for a cultural re-orientation arises when the masses, out of ignorance, and/or, negligence, deviate from the cultural tracks, and also when a people mis-read and misinterpreted an alien culture. Cultural re-orientation therefore, has two aspects to it viz: national and international. A national cultural re-orientation is done by the people for the people of a given nation while an international cultural re-orientation is done by a nation’s cultural ambassadors to foreign countries. So, cultural re-orientation could be nationally or internationally. In the case of Nigeria all effort is geared towards the external cultural re-orientation; but this paper is designed to find out whether there is need for a national cultural re-orientation or not. The subsequent sub-section will unfold the answer.

National Cultural Re-Orientation: The Nigerian Factor?

It is imperative to re-assess Nigerians’ attitude to our cultures for us to know “where this rain started beating us.” Before proceeding, it is worthy to note here that cultural re-orientation demands cultural discipline. For one to be culturally disciplined is for one to be culture-conscious, to be conversant with one’s culture, to love one’s culture and to live by one’s culture day by day, moment by moment. Many people feel that Nigerians are culture-conscious, that they are proud of our cultures and uphold our cultures any time anywhere. While discussing this, Anikwe maintains that “all over Africa, Nigerians are seen as foremost in showing their cultures.” He goes further to give examples when he explained:

… when I went to Johannesburg, even when I was in Addis Ababa last year, I was putting on Nigerian dress. Some other member states were putting on suites, particularly those from Francophone countries.

And he concludes by saying:

We love our cultures, we show it. If you go to Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon or any other African country, you see that Nigeria is number one in representing our culture and we also use our language… every Nigerian appears proud of our cultures (Oral interview).

Pete Edochie, on the other hand, is of the view that, “Nigerians are culture - conscious even though their consciousness wines up in ethnicity… that culture-consciousness at the expense of our neighbour.” He therefore advises that it will be better if “…that cultural-consciousness can be cultivated in such a manner that it can accommodate your neighbours” (Oral interview).

These assertions might be true, but let us not forget the fact that UNESCO had made a clarion call for safeguarding our cultures that are going into extinction. And NICO follows suite by embarking on language teaching programmes for the adults. Going by the societal waves, one can say that Nigerians are merely giving their cultures “a window dressing”, where one witnesses a mass drift away from our traditions/customs to a mass adoption of alien cultures. Among the South-Easterners of Nigerian, predominantly occupied by the Igbo, their current cultural manifestations prove them a group that is ashamed of being what they are. This is because, if, as stated above, culture comprises of speech, food, cloth, and so on then the Igbo is lost because majority of them seem to lack these cultures. To begin with, Igbo custom forbids thefts in all its ramification; bloodshed especially of a kinsman; adultery and many other abominable acts collectively known as “nso ani” (taboo), as stated above. These, among us today, are obsolete and could be violated with impunity. Hence, a man can kill his brother over a piece of land and goes free. Such killings are common, ranging from killings over serious political post down to chieftaincy titles and even chairmanship of a market union. Again Igbo philosophy holds that “nne di nso” (mother is sacred). “Mother” here refers to all female beings, so a woman is sacred and should be upheld as such. Today most Igbo women go about half-naked. They put on sagging trousers and short tops, open-tops and hot-mini, then skin-jeans or leggings. What used to be the bed room wears are today used for going to the schools (as in tertiary institutions), the markets, offices and even some churches. Today our women don’t have time to cook our traditional dishes. Indomie is the short-cut. Considering these and other examples from other geo-political zones, one might conclude that Nigerians first and foremost need cultural re-orientation first being that one cannot give what one does not have.

Pete Edochie blames this neglect of our cultures on colonialism and western traditions which has infiltrated into and out-weighed ours. Citing the use of Kola-nut he said:

Today most of the young people when they want to get married they remove breaking of kola-nuts from their programme. Now there is no way you can do without kola-nut in Igbo land because of what it symbolizes. If one does not give you kola-nut it means you are not welcome, but if he offers kola, it means you are welcome, let is partake of this. It is oneness, it is love, it is acceptance which is why in any part of Igbo land you go… before any ceremony begins, the kola-nut is used for prayer. You talk to God to bless whatever you intend to do. They pray for five things: Anyi na-ayo udo, ifunanya, aruike, ogologo ndu, aku na uba and they echo “ise” at intervals. This “ise” means the five things we usually ask from God. Today, most youngsters don’t do this (Oral interview).

Now shall we go on blaming colonialism when we have our fate in our very palms? Apportioning blame on the colonial masters is not helping us. Let us try and solve our problems. Perhaps, these have shed enough light on the attitude of Nigerians on our culture. Let us get into a discussion of Nollywood as a medium for cultural re-orientation.

Nollywood: A Medium for Cultural Re-Orientation:

This section discusses theatres features, so as to ascertain why we should adopt Nollywood for efficient cultural re-orientation. The role of drama/theatre in information dissemination can never be over emphasized. Drama, as a distinguished art form, is mimetic, synthetic and discursive. Therefore, it is the most influential of all the arts forms.

Drama is Mimetic:  

Aristotle postulates that, tragedy is “an imitation of an action” (681-699). This imitation is peculiar to all the dramatic genres. Hence, John K. Djisenu views drama both as “a presentational” and “a representational art” (59). Drama interprets life and represents life actions; but not all actions must be presented hence, the concept of “verisimilitude,” according to Castelvetro. Again, Shakespeare informs us that, “play acting …was and is, to hold, ….the mirror up to nature” (119).

Drama is Synthetic:

Drama as a synthetic art, is a conglomeration of all other arts - history, music, song and dance, fine and applied arts, architecture etc. It is, therefore, sensuous, appeals to the audience audio/visual organs and emotions.

Drama is a Communicative Art:

Drama is a discursive art form. It is embedded on communication using both verbal and non-verbal means. Moreover unlike in other arts where communication flows from the artist direct to the audience, communication in drama passes through a human medium to reach the audience. Through this means, “the theatre approximates life as it is lived and felt moment by moment” (Brockett 3).

Drama, therefore, is the most objective and the most influential of all the art forms. Other inherent values in the use of Nollywood are the socio-economic and political advantages which are obtainable by the use of home videos. First and foremost,

  • Nollywood uses characters from all social strata, irrespective of age or class.
  • Home videos check hazards of accidents and others which one might encounter going to the theatre hall.
  • More importantly, it can cover a vast area to reach the audience both nationally and internationally with a short period.
  • It saves cost. Instead of going to the theatre to pay exorbitant gate fees, one can easily pick a video tape at a cheaper rate or even hire one for a little token and watch it at home.
  • It also offers great comfort to the audience. One can relax in his cushion or lie on bed and watch films instead of sitting in the theatre after the day’s work.
  • With all these and other examples not mentioned here, one can confidently conclude that Nollywood is, so far, the best medium for cultural re-orientation.


This paper has traced the history Nollywood from the pre-literate Nigeria with the local chiefs courts’ entertainment, through the travelling troupes of Ogunde to the professional theatre of Soyinka, the television dramas and finally to individual productions which gave rise to the name Nollywood. Today, Nollywood is accused of certain practices/traditions which do not portray a positive image of Nigerians. From the study carried out, a lot of things contributed to this: First, a general disregard for our traditions and customs. From the analysis made above, Nigerians have sacrificed their cultures at the altar of alien cultures. Secondly, the field of the theatre arts is not safeguarded. Unlike in other fields, like medicine, where one cannot just wake up and start practicing, the theatre in Nigeria has been such an loose profession, (since the 1980s), in that everybody is now a writer, an actor, a director and all that, and the once you can afford the cost, you become a producer.

            It is from these two major problems that other problems of Nollywood keep cropping up unless it is put in check. Before concluding this paper finally, let us bear in mind that Nigerians need cultural re-orientation first before they can re-orient the outside world. Most of these modern film-makers know nothing about their cultures. In 2014 during a production of the play, “Ako na Uche,” for NICO’s one year anniversary in Enugu a wine –tapper in the cast stubbornly appeared on stage putting on a BYC white singlet and a hollandaise wrapper with a taping rope, knives and calabashes. When I questioned him during the post production meeting, he tried to defend his costumes as being traditional. To my greatest surprise, he claimed to be is a theatre graduate. Now, if he knows the traditions, as an Igbo youth, he ought to have accepted his faults, for one, a man does not tie a wrapper to climb a tree and for the same reason, a traditional Igbo woman does not climb trees at all. Again our modernism has not reached the level of using a clean BYC singlet to tap palm-wine. So, our problems are due to ignorance and disobedience.

Training programmes is very important for the Nollywood workers. Had it been they are knowledgeable in theatre, the theories of the theatre would guide them in all they do, be it in writing, acting and so on.

All cultural sectors should come together and streamline their duties. They should decide who does what best. Is NICO best in cultural decision-making or NCAC? Who does best in teaching culture and who does best in preserving culture? I think more could be achieved by doing so.

Finally, let us not forget that our traditions and customs carry a very strong aura of dignity about them. They mould character, they protect, they teach, and they extol. Nollywood also has the most wonderful potentials for education and entertainment. What we need is to marry the two and use them effectively for the transformation of Nigerians, so as to attain a perfect, admirable cultural diplomacy, universally.

From all indications, Nigerians are lost by detaching themselves from their roots (cultures). Even the Europeans they are imitating developed from their roots. So a retreat of our faltering steps will correct all that have gone wrong in the Nollywood circle as in all other fields. Banning them from producing films on certain socio/political problems may not help matters because they could easily be smuggled out of our country.

Conclusively, our culture for now is imprisoned in the galleries and museums. It enjoys occasional outings on the stage at dancing sessions and the likes. No wonder this poet’s lamentations:

Even though I reach out in my bid to meet you,

You’re to me just like a mirage,

That disappears an inches interval,

From the observer’s longing views,

And in flames his curiosity the more.

Oh! Take me home,

Take me home to mother Igbo!

(“Nostalgia” stanza v).

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