The focus of this proposal is to explore the impact of the cinema on postcolonial periods in West Africa, in particular, Nigeria and Senegal. The paper highlights the film industry in the two countries and demonstrates its impact and influence on the African culture, politics, generic stories and social tension. The proposal will focus on two publications: Cinema and development in West Africa by James E. Genova and Nollywood by Jonathon Haynes. According to Genova, Film is a powerful aspect of entertainment that conveys the cultural values, traditions, norms, and values of a particular community. Genova reckons that community including the governing institutions seldom cares about morality but is rather egocentric. The essence of the film industry is to bring into perspective the conflict between the traditional values and the power of capital. On the other hand, the publication Nollywood by Jonathon Haynes reiterates that conflict between the Africans and the Westerners while interpreting the films produced locally may form the basis of marginalizing the black people. However, Nollywwod film industry is the most noteworthy cinema spectacle to have occurred in the African continent since the decolonization period. The Nigerian film industry is deeply embedded in the cultural traditions and social scripts that explore the life of people in Nigeria. Most of the films are produced using the African idioms, truisms, dress codes, artworks, cultural images, and imageries. In the same manner, the Senegalese movies have also become prevalent in the African content. The film’ Hyena(1992) clearly affirms that the African traditions have been ruined since the human beings are enslaved by their circumstances and the customs that may help in stabilizing their situations have been termed imperfect. Clearly, filmmakers like Mambety have unknowingly exposed the problems and challenges experienced by the Africans to the Western Society with the intention of making money. However, the message conveyed to the western world is that Africans are poverty-stricken people who would even sell their identity for a better life.
Film industry in Nigeria and Senegal
The film is a strong model of entertainment and the conveyance of cultural values. In this paper, the Nigerian movie industry, in particular, Nollywood is perceived through a significant framework that is deeply anchored in the Nigerian cultural traditions, social texts and a wide-ranging method that centers on the interventions between the social life and representation. Culture is something that is learned and not inherent. The bond of cinemas and television has established a novel reality known as video film. Nigerian and Senegalese film production has moved from celluloid to video film taking into account the political, cultural and economic explanations. Film production helps in determining the variances and changes that have transpired in the two West African countries. Nigeria is indeed one of the few nations where the locally-created movies take over the local viewing. Indeed, the advent of the video film industry,” Nollywood” can be perceived as a cultural spectacle since most of the film content represents the culture of the community. Owo Blow is a Nigerian movie that narrates about a young man who ends up in the streets to escape predicaments of a family. The young man, Wole runs away from his home and vows never to return back. The realities that he faces in the cruel world make him desperate and hopeless in life. The essence of this movie is to explore the degree at which circumstances in life have resulted in ruining the values, customs, and traditions of the Africans. During the pre-colonial era, the community lived in harmony and cared about each other. However, the image painted by the film industry is that the society has already lost its values and traditions. Although the locally produced movies are intended to fit with the cultural aspects of a given community, the interpretation by the western world may differ.
Today, representation is a concept that has elicited intense debate in postcolonial studies, academic world and in the larger cultural setting. Representation can take diverse forms. It can assume material replicas, performance and also simulations. It can also be perceived as the act of articulating facts with the intention of influencing the behavior or conducts of other persons. In the same vein, the world is full of political connotations. The same way politicians represent their constituency or certain regions, representation also has a semiotic undertone in that something is representing something else. There are numerous, but similar definitions that are taken into account in the public discourse about representation. As such representation may occur in different forms, for example, films, TV programs, adverts, sculptor and painting among other types of popular culture. Furthermore, literature and academic texts, novels, and other editorial pieces are essential types of representation. However, representations require proper interrogation to ascertain their accuracy before utilizing them. Some may present inaccurate or make erroneous depictions. For example, the Western has for several decades represented the Africans as marginalized. For many generations, the African continent has been observed through a web of allegory. Most of the myths are very superficial in that understanding the Africans becomes a double task.
The first task entails explaining the myth and the second task involves disclosing the truth behind the truth. As unveiled by Genova (n.d.) the African identity will remain a fairy tale until the moment researchers will incorporate accuracy and diligence in the study of any African issue. Undeniably, the representations of Africa are somewhat limited, and those representing the African continent are very few and, therefore, perceived to represent the rest of the marginalized persons. Furthermore, the several images are usually perceived to be distinctive; therefore, an assumption is made that a dark complexioned person can actually represent the entire continent of dark-colored men. The assertion by Genova (n.d.) is appropriate in illustrating the degree upon which the European media has misrepresented the African continent. Also, his assertion emphasizes the significance of conducting a thorough assessment and re-orientation in re-invigorating the identity of the Africans. Representation can affect the attitude that a certain group of people has on other people. Although the Africans may blame the western media for misrepresenting the issues affecting the African content, evidently the Africans have largely contributed to misrepresenting their identity globally. The same problems experienced during the pre-colonial periods are still eminent today. Nigeria, for example, is a postcolonial country that has faced similar challenges just like any other nation. With the advent of the Nollywood industry, Nigeria has become a famous nation both in the African continent and the Western world. However, the interpretation of the film content differs between the Africans and the Westerners.
Arguably, Nollywwod film industry is the most noteworthy cinema spectacle to have occurred in the African continent since the decolonization period. The Nigerian film industry is deeply embedded in the cultural traditions and social scripts that explore the life of people in Nigeria. Most of the films are produced using the African idioms, truisms, dress codes, artworks, cultural images, and imageries. According to Genova (n.d.), the media including films, movies, and literature text can all be classified as art, whose primary purpose is to elevate the perception of men to infinite levels.
Indeed, the experience encountered by the Senegalese filmmaker, Djibril Diop Mambety as depicted in the film Hyenas (1992). The film narrates the story of an old rich woman with an artificial leg made of Gold. The Woman makes a comeback to her village. The village is poverty-stricken. The rumors about her return to the village are received with great appreciation and happiness by the villagers. They are certain that the woman would revive their lives. However, contrary to their expectation, the woman makes some demands that the villagers must accomplish before enjoying the abundant wealth. She begins by narrating about her disappearance from the village and the predicaments she went through to attain her wealth. She reveals to them how the village shopkeeper defiled and disowned her. Therefore, her affluence is from the prostitution business. The villagers were first hesitant to agree to her terms of killing the shopkeeper since the culture does not permit. Later on, the villagers accepted to murder the shopkeeper and sought a better way of killing him.
In the Senegalese culture, hyena symbolizes evil. In this film, hyena denotes using money and resources to corrupt the minds of innocent persons. But, there is more than what meets the eye in this film. At a glance, one might condemn the old rich woman for ordering the death of the shopkeeper. But, what of the injustices that the woman experienced when denied her rights as a teenage girl. One might actually blame the shopkeeper for the kind of life that the old woman has led during her entire lifetime. The woman has been traumatized throughput her lifespan. Another thing that is perceptible in this film and which is reflected in most of the African nations is the morality of the community and the authorities. The community including the governing institutions seldom cares about morality but is rather egocentric. It is very obvious for people to critique the influence of transnational capitalism and European neocolonialism, but no one wants to accept the blame of contributing to the perpetuation of such social evils. The film attempts to bring into perspective the conflict between the traditional values and the power of capital. If the contemporary society values money and resources that life, then it means that even that morality and governing institutions have already decayed. As mentioned earlier, African identity has already been misrepresented.
Although the filmmaker, Mambety may have purposed to demonstrate the ability of the money to corrupt morality and acquire anything without any restrictions, the film also seems to condemn the customs and deals of the Africans which were corrupted by poverty and the influence of money. Objectively, Mambéty has affirmed that the African traditions have been ruined since human beings are enslaved by their circumstances and the customs that may help in stabilizing their situations have been termed imperfect. Clearly, filmmakers like Mambety have unknowingly exposed the problems and challenges experienced by the Africans to the Western Society with the intention of making money. However, the message conveyed to the western world is that Africans are poverty-stricken people who would even sell their identity for a better life. The same message is echoed by James Genova in his publication “Cinema and Development in West Africa”. Genova (2014) intends to comprehend the relationship between postcolonial African cinemas with the film produced during the colonial epoch.
The focus of this proposal was to examine the effect of the film industry on postcolonial periods in West Africa, in particular, Nigeria and Senegal. The paper has demonstrated its impact and influence of the film on the African culture. As discussed, representation is a concept that has triggered an intense debate in postcolonial studies, academic world and in the larger cultural setting. Representation can take diverse forms. It can assume material replicas, performance and also simulations. It can also be perceived as the act of articulating facts with the intention of influencing the behavior or conducts of other persons. In the same vein, the world is full of political connotations. African nations, in particular, the West African countries have made a noteworthy endeavor to uphold African culture in the Western nations as well as promote awareness to the Africans living abroad in order to maintain the African heritage. This paper suggests that movies or rather films have the ability to influence certain behaviors and conducts in the lives of people. Considering the tremendous influence that the film industry, such as Nollywood has created on the African culture, such impact is strengthened by a huge consumption of the movies produced in Africa. Findings from this proposal have affirmed that Africans love watching locally produced films that demonstrate their lifestyle but are oblivious of the impact caused to the outside world.