Arts & Culture
Toyin Falola: Mapping Multidisciplinary Networks, Scholarly And Creative Traditions
By Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju
The description of the goal of the forthcoming conference on Toyin Falola’s soon to be published book Farooq Kperogi, the Digital Age and US-African Diaspora Diplomacy reminds me of the great but also controversial achievement of regrettably late Nigerian-Canadian scholar Pius Adesanmi, for whom the verbal and visual enablements of social media were a primary, if not his primary expressive and dialogical space, even though he was also a multiple award winning writer, in poetry and prose, in print media, and was a very successful academic, highly trained in the more conventional expressive and pedagogical forms represented by academia, as Kperogi also is.
The description of the logic of the book and conference on Kperogi’s work is conceptually beautiful and rhetorically tight. It provides a very rich framework for the study of the general field of social media, and of influential figures in social media, such as Adesanmi and Bisi Silva, the great art curator in Nigeria, whose Facebook wall, complementing her myriad offline engagements, is a striking legacy of her engagements.
These exploratory possibilities may be extended to the study of such a figure as the great, internationally influential figure, though relatively unknown in his native country Nigeria, the Western based art curator Okwui Enwezor, perhaps the first Black person to operate at the stratospheric levels he worked at in the Western centred, global art establishment, a prolific author in the field, his works brought out by prestigious publishers, and a professor of art though his only degree was a BA in Political Science, visibility and opportunities he gained partly through founding NKA, perhaps the first and certainly one of the most prestigious scholarly journals focusing on post-classical African art.
Textualization, formal and informal, scholarly and general, journals and books to social media, as a means of breaking from the margins to the mainstream, may be seen as unifying these figures, if I may take this chance to correlate through the inspiration of the Falola text I am responding to, influential figures and ideas I have been thinking of.
Falola’s unfolding stream of publications remain inspiring in their creative transparency, the visibility of his methods of creating unified knowledge out of disparate material, available to all but requiring particular sensitivity and drive to synthesise and interpret, particularly in the expository and analytical scope represented by the definitive form of a book, Falola’s primary expressive mode as a person committed to breadth of exploration of ideas and to the culture of the book as a means of permanently shaping knowledge, a quintessential academic in the critical rigour and specialised depth represented by academia, but one who has mastered the culture of achieving multiple specialisations, operating fluidly in terms of the disciplinary languages and techniques of various fields of knowledge in the social sciences and humanities, history to literature- as imaginative writer and scholar-to religion to the visual arts to communications and media theory and practice and more.
Falola’s work also demonstrates a fact about scholarship that might need better appreciation by Africanist scholars, scholars who work on Africa, in my interpretation of the term.
Scholarly and cultural traditions grow through inter-referentiality, through scholars and cultural creators explicitly referencing, critically engaging each other’s ideas and studying each other’s work and lives as creative journeys giving something new to the world.
Such intereferentiality is foundational to the gargantuan achievement of the globally dominant Western scholarly and cultural tradition, an orientation perhaps hyperbolically suggested by A.N.Whitehead’s description of Western philosophy as a series of footnotes to Plato, suggesting the continually unfolding sequence of ideas, of agreements and disagreements, represented by what another scholar refers to as ” the great conversation”, a ceaselessly unfolding dialogue between culture bearers operating in terms of related points of reference.
Academia, the world’s highest concentrations of scholars, may be seen by some as emphasising focus on one’s own ideas, even though in dialogue with the ideas of others. How else, it may be thought, can one’s originality be demonstrated?
But academia and readers generally also recognize and reward studying and foregrounding the achievements of other people, in relation to the individuality of those others, not only as subsumed within a network of knowledge, but as demonstrations of islands of possibility correlated through inter-human resonance, in appreciation of the fact that knowledge and other engagements with reality are constructed by individual human beings, as well as by groups of people, at the intersection of self and society, even as these constructs shape people and societies as they are processed by human cognitive abilities.
Studying the work of creatives in various fields is critical to understanding how those fields of knowledge grow, how those social configurations develop, in terms of society as a knowledge distilling and generating agent.
Falola’s books and perhaps his essays-the latter being significant productions he does not publicize-on other scholars and cultural creatives, such as his sole written, co-authored and edited books on the scholar of religion Ogbu Kalu, the visual artist Victor Ekpuk, the writer and activist Wole Soyinka, the philosopher, theologian and economist Nimi Wariboko, the cultural activist Isaac Delano, the collection of celebratory essays and poetry In Praise of Greatness- a powerful but incomplete collection of his work in that genre in which he is continuously active-his study of various people’s memoirs, Memories of Africa: Home and Abroad in the United States, and now this book centred on Kperogi, among perhaps other texts unknown to me, would represent a very significant and perhaps even a great, multidisciplinary achievement from a scholar.
Yet this same scholar is perennially active in other genres of scholarship and writing, sowing seeds of knowledge contributing to configuring the entire field of African humanities and social sciences, helping to construct the field as one that feeds on its own insights, its own idea networks developed from dialogue between contemporary African, classical African and Africanist thought and thought from beyond those configurations, generating a globally cosmopolitan, pluriversalistic vision, regionally grounded but universally integrative and resonant.
To what degree do Africanists write about each other’s work and about particular African creative figures, exploring their individual creativities, in relation to those of others within particular networks ?
The canonical figures in the Western intellectual and creative traditions, from Plato to Wittgenstein, Leonardo da Vinci to Henry Moore, Pythagoras to Einstein and more, are continually studied, projected and foregrounded in essays, books and book series, as individuals, as peaks of achievement shaping the creative dynamism of a culture, inspiring others in learning about how a person may invoke and cultivate individual creative powers, navigating various possibilities of self and society as they contribute to restructuring the world from their own dynamic centre of gravity.
It would be great reading more of that about Africans and those who study Africa, facilitating the creation of maps of achievement, of individual creativity within social configurations, on the continent and within those who explore that continent.
Arts & Culture
BREAKING: After Subsidy Removal, NNPC Increases Petrol Price To Over N500
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) on Wednesday adjusted the pump price of petrol by over 100% to between N488 and N557.
The development followed the announcement by President Bola Tinubu during his inaugural address on Monday that fuel subsidy was ‘gone’.
However, it was learnt that the president will meet with organised labour from 2pm Thursday (today) afternoon.
The prices have now been adjusted upward from between N189 to N194 to N537 per litre in Abuja and other North-central States.
For Lagos and other South-west states, a litre of fuel now sells for between N488 and N500 per litre.
In the South-east, the price will range from N515 to N520, while in the North-west, the price of the product was raised to N540. In the North-east, it moved from N199 to N557 per litre.
For the South-south, it is now from N511 to N525 per litre. Nigeria’s subsidy budget of N3.6 trillion for this year, expires in June, 2023.
Arts & Culture
From The Mouth Of The Authoritative Bystander: Steve Ayorinde’s Commentary On The 30 Years Of The New Nigerian Cinema
By Toyin Falola
Anyone can choose to be an observer. Any observer can choose to document and publish their observations. However, what stands Steve Ayorinde’s recently published documentation of observations out is authority — hence my decision to title this piece “From the Mouth of the Authoritative Bystander.” Authority is earned: in Ayorinde’s case, he has earned the authority to comment on the emergence and growth of the new Nigerian cinema because he is unarguably one of Nigeria’s best and most celebrated film and art critics.
Expertise and experience breed authority, and for Ayorinde, both have been in play in his life. Ayorinde has spent decades as a journalist, media critic, film judge, and international commentator whose takes have often been sought both within and outside the country. Furthermore, he has served Nigeria’s biggest economic state — Lagos State — as a Commissioner for Tourism, Arts, and Culture. All these, among many other achievements and strides, point to Ayorinde’s qualification to embark on the journey to document the evolution and growth of Nigeria’s Nollywood in the past 30 years, a movie and film industry that’s been adjudged as one of the world’s fastest-growing movie industries.
Ayorinde is not new to Nigeria’s movie industry. In his foreword, Prof. Jonathan Haynes takes us back to 1996 — where Ayorinde and Okafor’s media piece introduced and critiqued the nascent Nollywood industry. For Ayorinde, watching this new Nigerian cinema start and grow from his earliest predictions must bring some fulfilment. And while it is still expected to grow in leaps and bounds, writing this book at this point is crucial — as crucial as the newspaper piece of 1996 — for it will serve as a means of taking stock, looking back, gauging achievements, measuring success, and highlighting aspects that need improvement.
In 185 pages, Ayorinde serves his authoritative verdict on the altar of six sub-parts, focusing on feature films, directors, actors, actresses, and landmark events. Through this breakdown, we can quickly examine the evolution through Ayorinde’s parameters.
Ayorinde’s bystander’s verdict opens with a seemingly chronological strip-down of in-depth commentaries on 30 of the most era-defining movies and films produced by the Nollywood industry. These 30 works of art, grouped under the sub-section titled Feature Films, include movies from the days of the early cinema and the VHS cassette player to the days of the VCD to the days of the new cinema and online streaming platforms like Netflix. Ayorinde’s expository commentaries on the films of the first decade of the new Nigerian cinema featured Awada Kerikeri’s Asewo To Re Mecca, NEK Video Films’ Living in Bondage, Mainframe Film and Television Prodcutions’ Ti Oluwa Nile, NEK Video Films’ Glamour Girls, Andy Amenechi’s Mortal Inheritance, Gab Okoye’s Battle of Musanga, Zeb Ejiro’s Domitilla, Cinekraft’s Owo Blow series, Femi Lasode’s Sango, Amaka Igwe’s Forever, Rainmaker 70’s King of My Country, and Andy Amenechi’s Igodo. Through these twelve films, Ayorinde shows us the birth and earliest developmental traits of the Nollywood industry. These films also serve as proof that literature mirrors life and society, as the themes of these movies and many like them that were made in the 1990s reflect the preoccupations of the then Nigerian society — kidnapping, ritualism, prostitution, education as the means to livelihood, the migration to greener pastures in the city, among many other concepts.
Kingsley Ogoro’s Osuofia in London, Jeta Amata’s The Amazing Grace, Niji Akanni’s Aramotu, and Chineze Anyaene’s Ije were Ayorinde’s selected films for the expository commentaries on the new Nigerian cinema’s second decade. Through his commentaries on these feature films, Ayorinde makes us understand that the early 2000s to 2010 marked the era during which Nollywood started to gain global traction and attention. During this period, filmmakers in the industry began to tap into collaborations with foreign producers. Similarly, this period marked an increase in the involvement of female directors and producers in Nigeria’s fast-rising Nollywood industry, as well as the game-changing effects of newer technological equipment to help shoot and project more glossy and flashy films.
Kenneth Gyang’s Blood and Henna, Obi Emelonye’s Last Flight to Abuja, Biyi Bandele’s Half of A Yellow Sun, Kunle Afolayan’s October 1, Ayo Makun’s 30 Days in Atlanta, Izu Okukwu’s ‘76, Steve Guka’s 93 Days, Kemi Adetiba’s Wedding Party and King of Boys, GDN Studios’ Eyimofe, Hassan Giggs’ Sadauki, Funke Akindele’s Omo Ghetto: The Saga, Desmond Ovbiagele’s The Milkmaid, and Izu Ojukwu’s Amina serve as the feature films spotlighted by Ayorinde for the third decade of the new Nigerian cinema. Through these films, Ayorinde showcases the evident changes in the evolutionary trajectory of the Nollywood industry, including massive advertising and influencer marketing made easily through social media platforms and the gross followers industry stars have amassed on social media platforms; collaboration with streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Showmax, and increasing national and international award nominations.
In reviewing the feature films spotlighted by Ayorinde in the first part of his verdict, one would notice recurrent categories such as comedy, epic, thriller, and drama — enough to posit that these are the most defining and popular film categories that have yet existed in the Nigerian Nollywood space for the past three decades.
In the second part of the book dedicated to directors, Ayorinde profiles 30 of Nigeria’s most iconic film directors — 32 if one chooses to consider two couples separately — a pattern that doesn’t fail to drive home the point that the selection is continued deference to the symbolism of 30, being the number of years for which the new Nigerian cinema has existed. Ayorinde’s profiling ramps up directors from the contemporary to the pioneer directors of the new Nigerian cinema — from Tunde Kelani to Kunle Afolayan, to Okwo Mildred, to Ojukwu Izu, Obi-Rapu Chris, Kenneth Gyang, Kemi Adetiba, Steve Gukas, Obi Emelonye, Ishaya Bako, and Andy Amenechi, among other prolific directors that have worked to place Nigeria’s films on the global map. The profiling includes the directors’ filmography, nominations and awards, the education of these directors and how their education has shaped their work.
In profiling actors, Ayorinde’s selection cuts across several sides of the Nollywood industry (indigenous-language and English films) and different generations of contemporary and pioneer actors. This selection spotlights 30 actors, including Abdullahi Sani Musa, Femi Adebayo, Odunlade Adekola, Gabriel Afolayan, Fred Amata, Ekpeyong Keppy Bassey, Sam Dede, Pete Edochie, Desmond Elliot, Timini Egbuson, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Jideo Kosoko, Olu Jacobs, Osita Iheme, and Chinedu Ikedieze. Like the profiling of directors, this also includes the filmography, industry experience, awards and nominations of each of these actors, and how their work and accolades have shaped the industry and strengthened its relevance.
Trail-blazing Toyin Abraham, Sandra Achums, Taiwo Lycett-Ajai, Funke Akindele, Halima Atete, Hilda Dokubo, Rita Dominic, Adesua Etomi, Kate Henshaw, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Patience Ozokwor, Genevieve Nnaji, Joke Silva, Sola Sobowale, and Mercy Johnson, among other prolific Nigerian actresses, have the spotlight for the third part of the authoritative bystander’s tales. The commentaries on these actresses cut across their filmography, education, work experience, entry into the industry, awards, and influence on the overall Nollywood industry. If not anything, Ayorinde’s careful selection of 30 actresses in a way that diversely and inclusively represents the three decades and the evolutionary milestones of the industry while highlighting the growth and development of these actresses — especially those that have been around since the earliest years — is worthy of applause.
The creative industry burns bright with stars and talents. In the same vein, uneasy lies the heads that wear the crown, and the industry is also the abode of some of the most troubled people. In the fourth chapter of his book, “The Unforgettable Thirty,” Ayorinde pays tribute to some of the best minds and most influential people who have shaped Nigeria’s new cinema — albeit they are no longer alive. Among these “Unforgettable 30” are legendary Hubert Ogunde, Moses Olaiya Adejumo, Adeyemi Afolayan, Sam Loco Efeeimwonkiyeke, Francis Agu, Biyi Bandele, Felicia Mayford. Sadiq Daba, Nura Mustapha Waye, and Chico Ejiro. Given that Africa is a place where we don’t speak ill of the dead and hardly even speak of the dead at all, Ayorinde’s recognition of the “Unforgettable 30” is a bold and commendable act — especially as these actors, actresses, directors, and producers immensely contributed to the birth and growth of the industry.
In “Landmark Events,” the last part of the book, Ayorinde maps out stand-out events that primarily affected the growth of the new Nigerian cinema. These events, which he categorized into three — Decade 1 (1990 – 1999), Decade 2 (2000 – 2009), and Decade 3 (2010 – 2019) include film festivals, conferences, major acquisitions, collaborations in the industry, the exposure of Nollywood to global audiences, the growth and expansion of Nollywood, awards, the birth of the African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, and the selection of Nigerians as Academy voters, among other landmark events that have come to prove how far the Nollywood industry has grown and the influence stakeholders in the industry and the industry as an entity has amassed so far.
In the opening paragraph of this piece, I defined authority and the parameters through which I adjudged Ayorinde as an authority on the new Nigerian cinema. If there were to be any doubt about the authoritativeness of this book — and if the sheer amount would not clear those doubts of information shared in the expository profiling of the first four chapters — the “Landmark Events” chapter is a solid proof of how close Ayorinde has been to the source, how closely he has followed and monitored the growth of the industry, and how deeply invested he is in it.
This book is a gift whose value and worth will appreciate as generations pass — it is a goldmine of information that will shape how future generations of researchers, scholars, and critics will view, understand, study, and critique the Nigerian film and movie industry. A product of passion and dedication, the book will remain of considerable value in the decades ahead and will surely become a treasure to behold in our understanding of Nigerian cinemas.
Arts & Culture
Review Of Idaniloju Sotunsa’s POIGNANT TALES
By Toyin Falola
Human beings are plagued with many challenges in various forms and magnitudes. Life will not always be rosy; it can be tough today and easy tomorrow, depressing today but joyful tomorrow. Some have food but cannot eat, while some can eat but have no food: that is life, e no balance. Until recently, people kept their problems to themselves, even after they might have surmounted those issues, to avoid stigma or misunderstanding from society. This has resulted in people remaining stuck and clueless in similar experiences with other persons who could have shared their story and how they got out of such situations, while some others who did not go through such challenges may be able to understand and help people. After all, experience, they say, is the best teacher. This is what Poignant Tales is set to achieve.
Poignant Tales touches on life’s challenges ranging from loss, grief, marriage, pregnancy and career. It recounts real-life stories of actual people who have been kept anonymous. Each individual in this book tells their story, the challenges life has thrown at them and how they navigated the course of their lives and emerged successful.
I must commend the author, Idaniloju Sotunsa, a first-year student of Mass Communication at Babcock University, for her brilliance and creativity in putting this work together, particularly in bringing to light certain issues which are mostly ignored, such as the part on “Trauma: Main Care Giver”. Her writing style in the form of a talk show is captivating and keeps the reader hooked till the end.
The book opens with a social menace in which several discussions have been advanced, but victims avoid talking about Rape. Many people never recover from it; the memories torment them even years after the incident. It leaves a scar that may never heal. As traumatizing as rape is, rape survivors are forced to keep silent about it; directly by the predators or their parents, indirectly by a society which will place a tag on the survivor. It is important to state that women can be rapists too. There are stories of female domestic staff who have sexually molested their boss’ son. In Nigeria, it is easier to believe that a dog was raped than to believe that a man was raped. Hence, it is extremely difficult for people to come out to share their experiences, and when they do, they choose to be faceless to avoid the stigma and backlash that may follow. It is highly commendable that a survivor would share her story, despite the unbearable way it happened. It helps other survivors relate to her story and gives them hope.
It takes divine help, perseverance, diligence and hard work for a child from a wretched home to become successful. The odds will, a lot of times, not be in his favour. No matter how strong-willed he is, Ms. Sotunsa has shown that he will need God to take him out of poverty. Poverty is a very terrible thing. There are a lot of children all over the world who want a better life for themselves and are struggling and working hard daily to break free from poverty. But there are days when it is just too tough, and thoughts of giving up weaken the soul. On days like these, thoughts of “if Lagbaja, the son of nobody, can make it, I will make it too” strengthen his resolve and push him to get through another day. This is what the story in Chapter Two offers. Do not give up; there is hope. It is possible to become something out of nothing. Hard work still pays.
Loss is an inevitable part of human life, but as inevitable as it is, we are never prepared for it. Loss of a spouse, a child, a parent or a loved one, the pain of one is not lesser than the other. It is still a loss. Navigating through life despite the vacuum that such loss leaves is devastating; many are left helpless and broken while well-meaning people give various pieces of advice. The common one is “to be strong for the children.” As well-meaning as that may sound, it is not what a grieving person needs now. After the condolence follows prying eyes, wanting to know the bereaved’s every movement, particularly if they are widowed. It is appalling to know that society does not always expect the widowed, especially a widow, to remarry. They are considered selfish and not thinking about their children or that they do not love their late spouse enough. They fail to realize that for some, companionship is what they need, while some others cannot easily bear the load originally meant for two now solely become theirs. In Chapter Three, a widower shares her challenges after she lost her husband, Chapters six, eight and twelve recount the loss of a wife, parent and child, respectively. These touching stories will make you realize how fickle life is and how you should love and treat people well while they are here.
Chapters Four and Seven share stories on teenage pregnancy and single parenting. These two issues are a huge blow and can be major life disruptors for women. Low self-esteem and shame can be a constant battle. For many women, their lives spiral downward; they lose a grip of their own lives and dreams to cater for a child brought into the world by two people, only for the other party to bail out suddenly. Many women do not get support from their friends and families, making it hard for them to sometimes get back on track. One mistake mars their lives forever. The stories in these chapters show how empathy, support, love, forgiveness and understanding can help people get their lives back. A child is not a disease; although it can be tough initially, it is not a death sentence or the end of your life and dreams. You can move on to be everything you dream of and more. The experiences of these women will guide you and assure you that your mistakes do not define you, but whatever you make out of that mistake is your choice. If you are not in these situations, you will learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating them.
As stated earlier, this life no balance. While some women are ridiculed for having a child out of wedlock, others are scorned for not having a child in their marriage. TTC (“Trying To Conceive”) women have a lot of ‘horror’ stories to tell about what they face in their homes, from their spouses, in-laws, neighbours, and even from their parents and families. Delayed pregnancy in marriage comes with taunts, mockery, snide comments, awful advice and suggestions, a lot of monetary expenses, tons of medical tests and checkups, emotional and psychological stress, hope, despair, prayers and tears. Society focuses on the woman and tags her as ‘barren’, forgetting that only God gives children and that it takes two to make a baby, and the man could be infertile. TTC women become desperate for solutions to their inability to conceive; some will go the extra mile just to have a child. Chapter Five tells the story of a woman who waited sixteen years after marriage before she conceived and gave birth to triplets! She shares how her in-laws constantly maltreated her and how this challenge took a toll on her and her home. Her story is inspiring; through it, one is assured that God makes everything beautiful in His time.
In different chapters, the book also touches on having a personal vision and the lack of it. Two individuals share their experiences and how they became successful despite having a personal vision or lacking one.
Domestic Violence, another silent killer, is not left unvisited in this book. Abuse does not have to be physical; emotional and verbal abuse can sometimes be worse than physical assault. Here, a woman narrates how she suffered abuse from her husband for years until she summoned the courage to leave. This story teaches women that enduring an abusive marriage is not the best. Fear of what people will say is not enough reason. Whether you leave to live or stay to die, people will talk and move on to the next gossip quickly. Marriage should be enjoyed, not endured.
In all, Poignant Tales is a must-read as a work of literature and a motivational tool. While a young teenager, the voices are mature, and the pieces of advice are solid. The book reveals the intricacies of life: life truly is not a bed of roses. From this book, you will learn about compassion, kindness and humanity. You will know about people’s struggles and let empathy, not judgment, be your watchword. Through the pages of this book, you will learn, unlearn and relearn. This book will help you learn from people’s stories and avoid the mistakes they have made. Poignant Tales is a reminder to be grateful for the life you have. Idaniloju is a writer, a motivational author, and the princess of sermons.
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