All Articles Tagged "Nigeria"
On Thursday, March 21, Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, or Chinua Achebe, as he was known to book lovers worldwide, died in Boston. He was 82.
In 1958 Achebe published Things Fall Apart (Anchor), which charts the the rise and fall of Ibo farmer Okokonkwo set against the backdrop of rising 19th century British colonial rule and culture clashes in Nigeria. Today, Things Fall Apart has been translated into 45 languages and sold more than 10 million copies. The novel, and Achebe’s subsequent works transformed international publishing and the ways in which we viewed literature. True, there had been other Nigerian writers before Achebe including Amos Tutuola and Cyprian Ekwensi. But Things Fall Apart connected with readers in ways readers hadn’t experienced African narratives.
You can check out the rest of the moving tribute and more about Achebe on on Essence.
Speaking of diversity in the realm of black romantic comedies, Shadow & Act is reporting on Contract, a highly anticipated Ghanaian film starring Ghanaian actress Yvonne Okoro, South African actor Hlomla Dandala, and Nigerien actor Joseph Benjamins, which is scheduled to open in Nigerian cinema this Friday.
According to Shadow & Act, expect this to happen in the plot:
“Successful Businessman Peter Popolampo is the ultimate alpha male. He is 40 years old, rich, and a staunch bachelor. Despite his mother’s persistent attempt to find him a woman, Peter sticks to his rule of non-committal casual dates, freedom and controlling his life until a yearning to have a child arises. In his quest to find the woman who will take his money, have his child and disappear, Peter begins a roller coaster, contracted relationship with Abena Boateng, a crude but clever local girl who is anything but impressed with Peter’s affluence.”
Check out the trailer below:
Based on the trailer alone, the film looks very promising; definitely a visual and stylistic upgrade from films, which we normally associate with this region. Also, how cool is it that in addition to Nollywood, we now have Ghollywood to look forward to? Well almost. According to Shadow & Act while the film has already debuted in both native Accra, Ghana and London to “impressive audiences,”the prospects of seeing this film stateside are largely doubtful. So why are we talking about a film, you will most likely never get a chance to see? Glad you asked…
The plot. More specifically, when was the last time – if ever – you heard of a film centered around a black man, grappling with the urges from his biological clock (who knew men even had biological clocks?), on the intentional search to become a single parent? This is some ground-breaking black filmmaking right here; it’s a shame we have to go all the way back to the motherland just to see it. Nevertheless, a film, which takes an interesting angle on the successful single woman meme is worth noting and exploring.
In most films of similar plots, it is women, who are mostly choosing to go into parenthood alone. Of course, that plot has been reconfigured as of late to include the gay, white man or men; but traditionally speaking, single parenthood is mostly viewed through the lens of the fairer sex. Of course, there are some variations in this single mother movie troupe, most visible when race is injected into the character. For the single white mother, the setup usually goes like this: She usually hails from an upper middle class; is currently established professional; with oodles of disposable income but can’t seem to find that perfect partner to conceive with. Therefore she decides to head on down to the nearest fertility clinic for a little turkey baster potion or pays someone to be knocked up for her. The joke isn’t that the decision to get pregnant is always a choice and always her choice. The jokes, instead, revolve around the pregnancy itself – because as we all already know, morning sickness, dating (because they still are allowed to be seen as beautiful and datable) and finally labor is chocked full of slapstick and drollery. While the premise of these films still rely on sexist sentiments, our white single mom is still able to overcome her situation and in most of the times, our single woman heroine meets and marries a man, who ultimately provides her – and most importantly her child – legitimacy.
On the flip side of that, let’s take a similar plot setup but instead of a single white woman, let’s add a single successful black woman. Like her white counterpart, she is and established professional who mostly maintains an middle to upper middle class lifestyle. Also like her white counterpart, despite having education and oodles of income at her disposable, she too has a trouble finding a suitable suitor. But despite their matching profiles, unlike her white counterpart, our black single woman is not anticipating pregnancy. In most of the films revolving around single black woman parenthood, more than likely, her pregnancy is unplanned. The result of some late night bumping and grinding with some lame dude, who will either abandon her for the streets, prison or another woman (another man if you are Tyler Perry). We spend the next half of the film, pondering whether she should keep it [also known as the baby] or not; all the social implications this illegitimate spawn will have on society; and how she is destined to a life of poverty, bitterness and singlehood. Basically, the struggle. Nothing about this character is inspiring or aspirational. Instead the single black mother troupe is usually treated as a cautionary tale, meant to be fixed and empowered.
Like his black woman counterpart, single parenthood is usually hoisted upon our typical black male character, however what appears to be different here, at least in terms of movie setup, is that Contract looks as if it might give our black male character the redemption of legitimacy, which is rarely offered to black women in film or even in television. Although I am also curious of this spin on the “no available” suitor idea. That too would make an interesting topic for discussion. Of course, there is no way of knowing for sure until I see the film. And that’s why I’m hoping that one of our West African readers might actually have the hookup. Wink.
Social Media Week, the twice-annual international digital conference, will be taking place in Africa for the first time in its four-year history.
Social Media Week events take place in major cities around the world during the same five-day time frame. The first Social Media Week of 2013 will take place February 18 through 22. Through a series of presentations, discussions, and other events, the conference seeks to “[explore] the social, cultural and economic impact of social media,” the conference website says.
Among the cities participating in next month’s SMW is Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is the seventh fastest-growing city in the world according to a press release we received with the news. The other cities will be: Copenhagen, New York, Hamburg, Miami, Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, and Washington DC. Among the 24 events that will be taking place in Lagos are “Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age” and a keynote address from Billboard magazine’s deputy editor Yinka Adegoke.
If you’re going to be staying Stateside and would like to attend a Social Media Week event here, the schedules for New York, DC, and Los Angeles are also available.
We’re going to be checking out the event. What about you?
When I saw the alternative version to Rick Ross’ Hold Me Back video, which was shot in Nigeria, my mouth dropped. Literally, my jaw was hanging open. I think I swallowed a fly.
The blog, Africa is a Country, was one of the first blogs I’d seen post the video, which they say was shot in Obalende, a poor section of Lagos, Nigeria. The original video for the song was shot in the slums of New Orleans but was quickly banned by BET from its airwaves. However, there’s no telling how BET or any other station will receive this new installment, which features a shirtless (of course) Ross rapping his obscenity-laced lyrics, including his most reflective chorus to date: “Dese N***as/Hoes tryin’ hold me back,” on top of black and white images of free roaming goats, half-dressed Nigerian children playing in a heap of garbage and Ross and crew, fully encrusted in diamonds and platinum, riding around in luxury boats and cars through the slums.
The Internet response to the video has been mixed; from folks issuing genuine concern about the message of this video to flat out admiration from others, who feel Ross has exposed the real Lagos, where between 60 to 80 percent live well below the poverty line. However, I am befuddled about the message we, the viewers, are supposed to get from this video. Like, who exactly are these n***as and h**s attempting to hold Ross back? The woman washing clothes in the river? Maybe it’s the men in mosques making salaat? Or maybe it’s the goats trying to hold him baaaaaa….It’s hard to tell exactly what the point of the video, which opens with news footage of a Nigerian general speaking about the 1960 Biafra War and closes with the Nigerian soccer team, is trying to make other than being inflammatory. Maybe that’s the point.
Spin Magazine recently called Rick Ross, whose moniker was swiped from real life crack dealer Freeway Ricky Ross, the “master of someone else’s reality.” Born William Leonard Roberts II, Ross can best be described as a manufactured studio gangster rapper. Unlike the fearsome drug kingpin-in-charge persona that he has taken in his music, Ross’s roots are a little more on the straight and narrow than what he has presented. From his small Christian high school to public school, where he starred on the football team, Ross would graduate and go on to do a couple of semesters of criminal justice at the historically black college, Albany State University, in Albany, Ga. Afterward, the 36-year-old rapper would attend DOC training academy, and upon successfully completing that program, he would be assigned to the South Florida Reception Center in Dade County.
Ross was on his second studio album of personal narratives derived from his so-called underworld, dealing at the helm of his drug empire, when a photograph surfaced online showing the Florida native, rocking a correction officer’s uniform, shaking hands and receiving an award with then-head of the South Florida Reception Center. Ross quickly and adamantly denied it was him in the picture, citing Photoshop-savvy “online hackers” as the culprits. However, the website Smoking Gun, would uncover an old payroll record revealing that Ross had earned about $25,000 a year as a correction officer between December 1995 and June 1997. In fact, Ross had pretty much a clear police record for most of his life, until after his rap career started. Then the narrative changed from “Haters gonna hate” to “Well, my best friend (who really was in prison)’s pop told me to go get a job, so I did.”
This should have killed Ross’s career, much like it did the perpetrators before him (i.e. Vanilla Ice and Boss) – or at the very least inspired a shift in character (i.e. Dr. Dre and Ice Cube). But as Andreas Hale, editor of The Well Versed aptly wrote in his first paragraph about Ross’ identity crisis, “This isn’t as much about Rick Ross as it is about the culture that praises his method of entertaining the masses. Without there being a trace of dope boy authenticity in his music, Rick Ross has pulled off the greatest feat in the history of hip hop. He singlehandedly changed hip-hop’s motto from “Keep It Real” to “It’s Just Entertainment.”
And the beat plays on.
Questions of authenticity aside, what’s most troubling about Ross’s persona, and subsequently the music he champions, is that this reality is an option for him. He had a choice, much like many of us who graduate high school, do the college thing and end up gainfully employed. This was not a lowly teen who came from a life of serious struggle. There are no tragic back stories, which suggest that drug peddling, and eventually drug music, were the only escape he had from glaring poverty. And there is no remorse and self-reflection within his lyrics. In Ross’s world of drugs, violence, designer labels and fast women, he stays winning. Thus walking through the slums of Nigeria, or New Orleans for that matter, screaming about cooking crack and how these imaginary foes are trying to hold you back, just seems like another way in which Ross is exploiting the conditions of people, who really have very little choice in the matter – or at least the same choice of perception that he does.
Sean Jacobs, writer with Africa is a Country, has a different view of the video:
“The negative reaction against Ross is understandable, though misplaced (and boring). It’s like the cottage industry calling for “positive” news about “Africa” in Western media. But equally problematic are those praising Ross for “exposing” poor conditions in Lagos when Ross is merely using Nigeria as a backdrop to make him look hard: “We’re so hard we throw dollar bills off boats to poor kids in Nigeria.” And the references to the Biafra war and old soccer games are baffling. If he was trying to show how Nigerians are struggling with poverty or resisting their conditions, why not use more recent/relevant images like Occupy Nigeria?”
Usually this kind of poverty in videos is reserved for late night infomercials featuring Sally Struthers and her Christian children organization comrades. These celebrities would rely on our myopic views of third-world countries to illicit sympathy and make us feel good about purchasing some product, which they tell us will help some poverty-stricken persons in need. In the video, we have a well-fed guy, with enough wealth around his neck that could probably feed the parts of impoverished Nigeria, rapping, mean-mugging and flexing next to barefoot kids, who have next to nothing. What this video proves is that the old tried and true effort of leveraging images of poverty, disease and famine still has its financial appeal. And Ross, who has no problem pimping out the plight of the truly disenfranchised (much in the same way he did Trayvon Martin and Malcolm X), among other rappers, who rely on the stories of the downtrodden, will continue to be the sole beneficiary to this “authenticity” that his fantasy life will afford him.
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If you watched HBO’s hit drama, Oz, you will no doubt remember Adebisi, the tough as nails African prisoner who intimidated almost everyone at least once, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Well, the England raised actor recently did an interview with The Guardian in which he discussed his new project, Farming, a movie based on his own life. Sounds a bit much for an actor and perhaps even a little cocky? You might not think so when you hear this.
Although he was born in Nigeria, Adewale’s parents gave him to a white family in a practice called farming which is defined as informal fostering. His foster parents who sometimes housed up to 10 African children at a time were what he called “ignorant” because they didn’t understand how to take care of them. They also appeared to harbor certain racist views which lent to their ignorance. Adewale grew up wanting to be accepted in a neighborhood full of Skinheads who beat up anyone who even remotely looked non-white.
So in an attempt to avoid those beatings and also a way to let out his own anger about his birth and foster parents as a confused teen, Adewale became a member of the Skinheads. He hated the fact that he was Black because not only did he not fit in to his “European” world, but he also did not fit in to the “African” world since he hadn’t grown up there. Adewale took on the racist views (and the bald head) of the Skinhead group and participated in various crimes. As he put it:
“When a child wants to be accepted,” he explains, “he’ll do anything. And if it means you’re getting a certain amount of notoriety from a fight, that’s what you’ll do. If all you’ve known is racism, abuse and persecution, then all of a sudden you’re getting some recognition, that’s your new drug. That’s what you want. By the time I was 16 I was someone to reckon with. I was so eager to repudiate any connection with any immigrant race I would go above and beyond. I was desperate to belong to something. That was my drive as a teenager.”
Wow. The story is absolutely compelling and continues to dig deeper about how he got out of that life and the roles both sets of parents played in his life, if any, as he got older. I’ve heard some pretty radical things over the years but it would have never crossed my mind to think that someone could hate themselves so much that they’d join a gang to hurt the very people who look like him.
Please make sure you read the article right here.
So I am a bit of a cinephile. What’s that you ask?
Well according to Wiki, I am a person who has “a passionate interest in cinema.” In other words, I not only like watching films but I also like dissecting the plot elements and the cinematography. But occasionally I do…ahem…lower my high cinematic principles and indulge in the trivial and lowly.
I will admit to liking the SyFy network Mega Dinosaur versus Giant Crocodile movies of the week. And yes, I have tuned in to once or twice, okay several times for one of those Black gospel plays starring Vivica Fox or Ralph Tresvant or some other d-list celebrities. I admit that I really enjoy the rom-coms about the successful female journalist/bookstore owner/fashion magazine intern falling for the hot yet womanizing/self-absorbed/underemployed male, who doesn’t know that he is in love with the protagonist until a misunderstanding/breakup/seeing her without her eyeglasses and in a beautiful dress for the first time forces him to realize that he loves her too.
Oh did I mention that I absolutely love – with a capital “L” – those direct to video movies from Nigeria? Nollywood? Are you serious? Yes, very.
Yes I know, the clumsy and very low budget cinematography, almost as if it was filmed on a flip camera, the shoddy editing which looks like it was done on Windows Move Maker and the overly dramatic and exaggerated acting and facial expressions is enough to warrant me to lose whatever credibility I have as a person who claims to have discerning taste, especially in films. And while I might never be accused of being next the Siskel and Ebert, I do know what entertains me. And there is nothing better than curling up in a blanket on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, watching the tantalizing tomfoolery that is Nollywood films.
If you never seen a Nollywood production, imagine a BET movie of the week meets a Daytime soap opera – American, Spanish or otherwise. I’m talking about intrigue, plot twists, bad singing, car chases, gangsters, casual sex and juju, wrapped up into four of the most entertaining hours you will ever spend in front of the television. Yes, I said four hours because that is the average length of a Nollywood production. So grab plenty of popcorn because you are going to be there for a while.
Over the weekend, I found a YouTube channel called Nollywood Love, which host dozens of fairly recent films, mostly English-language films, from Nigeria. I started on late Friday night watching a movie called Beyonce and Rihanna,” a film about two singing rivals fighting each other over a chance at stardom – and a dude name Jay. You couldn’t make this up if you tried; however Nollywood can and did.
By Sunday morning I realized that I had spent the entire Easter Holiday weekend on films like African Queen, BlackBerry Babes, the Return of BlackBerry Babes, Jenifa, White Hunters and my personal favorite: The Return of White Hunters, a comedy about gold diggers on the hunt for white husbands, which features probably the most political incorrect theme songs ever made in history.
While the films might be classified as amateurish at best, these Nigerian directors have managed to take only a few thousand dollars, a digital camera, and a couple of local actresses and turn it into a film industry worth an estimated $236 million. In fact, Nigeria has the world’s second-largest film industry second only to Bollywood (India’s film industry). Yes that’s right, Nollywood produces more films than Hollywood in a single year. And with audiences growing beyond the continent of Africa into places like Europe, the Caribbean and the United States, the potential for growth might be enough to push Nollywood to the number one spot in terms of content creation.
Earlier this week The New York based hedge fund group Tiger Global, who is also an early investor in Facebook, has announced that it is investing in iROKO TV, a Nigerian version of Netflix, which has the largest licensee of Nollywood movies, with more than 3,000 titles in its library. It is YouTube’s largest African partner contributing content under its Nollywood Love account. While quality of film remains a concern, not everything coming out of Nollywood is low budget. Recently the New York Times profiled the Nigerian film industry and focused on a film called “The Figurine,” which they describe as an “aesthetic leap,” from what we normally associate with Nollywood films. In fact, critics have praised the film, which actually made it to theaters and is said to hold its own on the international arena of quality filmmaking.
While it is too early in Nollywood film history to declare the second coming of an Ousmane Sembene-type filmmaker coming out of Nigeria, the stories being produced right now provide the type of escapism from the heavier African tales of war and famine we regularly see of Hollywood. This ability to portray a more human and universal image of folks with dark skin – regardless of criticism over quality – might mean that the Black Hollywood that we longed to see in America has already been created and flourishing in the motherland.
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Nigeria’s Nollywood is the third largest film industry worldwide right behind Hollywood in the US and India’s Bollywood. Its filmmakers have mastered the art of producing entertaining popular media with low production costs and high revenue gains. According to Black Enterprise, Nollywood produces more than 2000 moves each year and brings in $250 million in profit. But exactly how does Nollywood work?
As with Tyler Perry’s films, Nollywood filmmakers can produce a film for around $15,000. In return, they often see 10 times that amount in profit. Nollywood started in the late 1980s, and has since been producing movies that display the everyday life and dilemmas of Africans covering religious to moral, romantic and political themes.
With an increasing number of African American actors jumping on board, Nollywood has been able to reach an even greater audience, and has fans from across Africa, the Caribbean and the United States. But Nollywood offers the black community more than just a means of entertainment.
“Nollywood films allow Black people to shine,” Ebbe Bassey, the Bronx-born, Nigeria-raised actress said to Black Enterprise. “[Unlike in Hollywood], we’re not being killed at the end of the first scene. We’re not gangbanging or on drugs,” she says. “We can be doctors, lawyers and whatever else we want to be. Nollywood films allow Black people to choose roles that fully express their humanity.”
Bassey recently played in the award winning Ghanaian film “Ties That Bind,” starring African American actress Kimberly Elise.
Nollywood also offers less bureaucracy than Hollywood.
“You don’t have to worry about filing much paperwork here,” Bassey said. “If you’re [a producer] shooting in the States, you’re using union actors and directors so you have to file with the Screen Actors Guild, and that’s a nightmare,” she continues. “As a filmmaker, you also spend far less money on licenses and have a lot less input [from the government] on how to run your company. If you wanted to pull out your camera and start shooting in the street, it’d be okay.”
Bassey also relates that actor Danny Glover has visited Nigeria several times to discuss potential projects. But producing films in Nollywood also has its negative aspects. Equipment can be hard to find, as well as quality technicians to work the equipment, which leaves room for poorer film quality. In addition, Nigeria is plagued with power outages.
“[In Nigeria], you can be shooting and the lights will go off and suddenly you’re dealing with a blackout. Now you have to go get a generator, which is not cheap, and then deal with the noise of a generator, which can ruin your sound quality,” she said to Black Enterprise.
For Nigerian actors, making a lucrative business from acting can be difficult. Those that are not in unions face minimal pay with no additional incentive for overtime. In addition there are often no food carts and they also find they must do their own stunts with no insurance to cover accidents.
But many Nollywood supporters find that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. “We’re telling stories that have purpose,” Osas Ighodaro, actress and Miss Black USA 2010 said. Ighodaro is set to play in the upcoming documentary film “Black November,” which tells the story of the destruction of Nigeria’s oil spills.
The oil spills [across Nigeria] have been much more damaging than the 2010 [BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexíco], yet no one’s talking about them,” she said to Black Enterprise. “We’re educating people about what’s happening in our homeland; what we’re dealing with here.”
If you don’t want to dance, why did you come to the club?
As my friend and I like to make clear to men, it’s not that I don’t want to dance. In fact, I want to dance the night away! Just not with you…
I’d also like to make it clear from jump that I’m not the type of chick you’ll find in the club every weekend, dressed up in the tightest wannabe Herve Leger dress and in heels so high that I can do nothing but two step while I sip my drink. Actually, I’m the type who will wear something bright with lots of jewelry (that will fling off me when I dougie), and will be the tacky chick in the corner trying to take off wedge heels so I can act a fool in the flats I brought with no pain or trouble. After a busy couple of weeks of work, I’ll make my way out, ready to hear some eclectic and popular music and have a good time dancing with my homey-omey (my friend). Should be fun, right?
Or maybe not, because I’ve been noticing a ratchet trend: What’s up with the overly aggressive and thirsty guys in some clubs nowadays trying to low-key assault you when you just came to have a good time? This past Saturday, all in one place, I had a guy try to forcefully turn me around to dance on his lap after I basically ignored his signals to “juke” on him (even though I was dancing with him face to face for like two minutes…), as well as another who kept dancing up behind me though I was standing up straight and not moving. I literally had to step out of the way from his freakiness. I don’t mind dancing on a guy from time to time, especially if he’s hot, but seriously, that can’t be me on every song every time I go out.
Then, I saw another trifling guy harass a woman around the place as she tried to get away from him after he touched her backside twice when they were dancing together. She was so shaken up that it pissed ME off. The same guy got in my friend’s face and yelled at her when she said she didn’t want to dance. When he got too close and a little too aggressive, I pushed him like he stole something. I’m pretty much known not to make the best decisions in heated moments (remember that whole domestic violence situation I jumped in?), but luckily, whether he was drunk or just crazy, the look on my face (and the fact that we were the same height) kept this fool from trying anything else. After that incident, it was clear that it was time to go home before someone caught a black eye and I caught a case (or that black eye).
Police have confirmed that the person who jumped off of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge on Dec. 9 was Tosin Oyelowo, a 25-year-old resident at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
Oyelowo had been reported missing when she did not show up for work at MUSC on Dec. 12. Although police still have not recovered the body of the jumper, eyewitness accounts place Oyelowo at the scene. According to an incident report, police also found Oyelowo’s car parked at a Shell gas station near the bridge; her purse and keys were also found at the top of the bridge near where she had been seen around 3:40 p.m on the 9th.
Oyelowo came from Lagos, Nigeria, but her family moved to Raleigh, NC, where she studied at the University of Charleston (West Virginia) School of Pharmacy. At the time of her death, she was a first-year pharmacy resident at MUSC.
Police say they are still looking for her body with the help of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Coast Guard, and Charleston County Rescue Squad.
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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It’s often a shock to many of my American friends who have never been to countries in Africa when they hear about African women getting relaxers or wearing weaves. Afterall, to them Africa is the motherland of everything natural and pure. A friend has even challenged my “Africanness” because I choose to relax my hair— Um, pretty shallow if you ask me since there’s more to being African than hair!
Believe it or not, African women do face similar struggles with natural hair as women in the diaspora mainly because they are uneducated about their hair. In Nigeria for instance, natural hair is associated with your economic status. The poorer you are, the more likely it is for you to have natural hair; or as it’s sometimes referred to, “village hair.”
“No rich man will marry a girl with village [unstraightened] hair,” declared Esther, 18, a rural migrant to the capital, Abuja. [full story here]
I was in Nigeria over the summer and I must say there is a lot of work to be done regarding the way natural hair is perceived over there. Every girl I saw was either weaved up, wigged up or braided up. However, I am optimistic as more educated individuals spread the word on the beauty of natural hair (natural hair meet up in Nigeria). I sense a revolution in the making and I like it!
What are your thoughts on this issue in Africa? Shocked? Saddened? Neutral?
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