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Researching and Redefining Depictions of Women in Nollywood Movies

Researching and Redefining Depictions of Women in Nollywood Movies

Long-time readers of this blog will be familiar with publisher/editor of the NOLLYWOOD MIRROR SERIES and other books, Michael Chima Ekenyerengozi’s columns published on S&A, on Nollywood and Nigerian cinema overall – something of a Nollywood sidebar, which helps put one of the world’s top film producing industries (in terms of output – alongside Hollywood and Bollywood) into some context.

Given how significant a presence it is on the global film landscape, I’d love to cover Nollywood cinema even more comprehensively; alas, I don’t have the resources to do so. It’s something that will be rectified in time.

For now, continue to read Michael’s pieces as they are published, to stay connected to our brethren filmmakers in Nigeria who face similar *struggles* as we do, specifically in terms of sources of friction (like funding and representation) that we discuss/debate often here on this blog.

In this case, over at the African Women in Cinema blog, I stumbled upon an interview with Agatha Ukata, a professor at the American University of Nigeria, who has written significantly on the topic of gender and Nollywood, and who completed her PhD thesis titled “The Images(s) of Women in Nigerian (Nollywood) Videos.” Ukata’s dissertation, as the blog notes, examines female representation in Nigerian cinema.

In her own words: 

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“What informed my interest in the study was borne on the fact that the depiction of women in one of the first Nollywood videos that I watched which was ‘Glamour Girls,’ typified women in very outrageous ways that tried to feed on the stereotypes of women in Nigeria and by extension African societies. It seemed as though women have nothing good to contribute to the society other than destroying moral values, which I strongly have a problem with. With such a portrayal I began to interrogate the rationale behind such representations of women. 

[…]

The study among other issues, interrogated the following: How women are represented in Nigerian home videos; What the implication of such representations are; How representations affect the larger society of Nigeria and beyond; The extents to which visual aesthetics and cultural codes are used in the films of study to either portray women in negative or positive angles.”

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Now, just to be clear, when she talks about Nollywood “videos,” she’s talking about the films themselves, not music videos.

Before I launched this site several years ago, to be frank, I had watched quite a few Nollywood movies over the years, but I found it easy to dismiss them for a variety of reasons, and rarely ever took them entirely seriously enough to want to really invest the time required to fully digest, think and write critically about the output as a whole – until very recently anyway. 

There’s a cadre of Nigerian filmmakers (many we’ve profiled and continue to follow on this blog) who have voiced their intent to change the face of Nollywood on the international cinema stage – a notion that not every Nollywood fan has embraced, with many preferring to uphold the specificity of Nollywood cinema, which distinguishes it from other global brands; and understandably so. 

I plan to get my hands on Agatha’s thesis, since she unfortunately doesn’t reveal a lot in the interview published on the African Women in Cinema blog, to add to my research stash. I couldn’t immediately find it online, but I’ve made an inquiry and will share when I have something.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor and read the full interview with Ms. Ukata on the African Women in Cinema blog) here.

And while you’re at it, you should also check out an earlier piece Agatha Ukata wrote titled “Conflicting Framings of Women in Nollywood Videos” (PDF).

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