Nollywood and Africans Telling their Own Stories

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Growing up in Southern Africa in the 80s and 90s, movies were synonymous with Hollywood only. In most cases when we saw movies made in Europe or Australia they always seemed to lack the luster and high budget fame of Hollywood. We did not dream of Africans creating their own movies and consuming them in large numbers. Nigerian Actors and Actresses like Rita Dominic, Tonto Dikeh, Mercy Johnson, Desmond Elliott and Ramsey Nouah have become household names. Many are quick to point to the sometimes low quality graphics and sound but the BIGGER picture is that Africans are telling their own stories. Nigerians are helping in some instances to dispel myths about Africans swinging from trees and always begging for aid. What makes this more exciting is that Nigerians did not allow themselves to be sucked into the stigma of making low budget movies and their perseverance is paying off.
These mostly authentic Nigerian stories depict the wealthy ‘Chiefs’, middle, working class and even the poor in the village. Great story telling by Nigerians is translating into millions of dollars in revenues and countless jobs which all helps to alleviate poverty. Whats great about Nollywood movies is the positive messages derived from these movies in contrast to the mindless gang banging and crime movies from South Africa that garner support in the West. To date Nollywood is the third largest film industry in the World and the largest in Africa. Just as Africans write novels and tell folktales, movies should become a daily part of our story telling.
Franco Sacchi documented his experience while visiting Nollywood and gives an informative talk at TED Arusha in 2007.
The expansion of the Nigerian Film Industry has been aided by the advances in technology which have drastically reduced the cost of production. In addition online streaming on websites like YouTube offer an expanded viewing base. As a fellow African I feel like I know more about Nigeria and Africans as a whole because of watching these movies. Just a few weeks ago I met a Nigerian Actress whose films I was able to watch on YouTube and we quickly struck a chord because we had some similar experiences. Thank you Nollywood for helping to spread the good news about Africa. It is our hope that more Africans will continue to support Nollywood in our quest to tell our own history.
Article Courtesy of Samantha Dhlamini 2011
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