A Review of Paul Ugor’s Critical Work:  Nollywood: Popular Culture and Narratives of Youth Struggles in Nigeria | Tunde Onikoyi

Title:         Nollywood: Popular Culture and Narratives of Youth Struggles in Nigeria

Author:               Paul Ugor

Publisher:          Carolina Academic Press

Year:                    2016

Pages:                  Xii + 174

ISBN:                   9781611637779 paper

Genre:                 Film Criticism

Reviewer:           Tunde Onikoyi

Paul Ugor’s Nollywood: Popular Culture and Narratives of Youth Struggles in Nigeria engages the reader with the various discourses of youth problems, through measured and sustained criticism of Nigerian video films, as they creatively illustrate the prevailing challenges these youths are confronted with in a post-colony. There has been a persistent mandate to interrogate narrative structure in order to develop new strategies for genuine thoughts and fresh innovative conversations, to gain access into the African as well as global public domains. Connor Ryan has stressed that “scholarly discourse on African cinema have expanded considerably,” and that there is a superb list of bibliographies of attempts,

“into unconsidered critical terrain, and considerations for new filmic experiences, largely in a reflection of the dramatic, and the thematic diversification and productivity in African screen media today”. (167)

The book resonates deeply with the responses “by youthful people in the midst of tough economic conditions; and therefore – Nollywood, began, as a desperate generational move” to make creative sense of a veritable conundrum- “a postcolonial modernity that squelched young people’s aspirations, and leaving them with very little or no options.” (3) In his approach to stress youth issues in Nollywood films, Paul Ugor manages to achieve some crucial objectives among others:

(1)    He traces the historical development of the Nigerian film industry, not just diachronically, but also stressing the many spaces uncovered about that history-explaining emphatically how the youths contributed to that history especially towards a sustained and sustainable industry, after the premature demise of celluloid filmmaking.

(2)    He discusses Nollywood’s growth and reputation through the paradigm of popular arts, as inspired by Karin Barber, as the best approach for reading the creative undertakings of the Nigerian youths.

(3)    He attempts to distill majorly, the classics and giving them fresh readings and new interpretations- such that they resonate accurately with how youthful desires, quagmires, antipathies, challenges, and anxieties, – as they negotiate the everyday episteme of the Nigerian postcolonial contradictions.

In five main chapters, Paul Ugor demonstrates that Nollywood is not just a popular cinema that engages only in the practices of transforming social realities into discourses, but also that Nollywood has stamped its global presence, among a comity of other vibrant film industries in Africa, and playing an active and unique part, in disseminating stories based on residual knowledge of the past events, and also engaging in active knowledge of the present, especially in an age of all sort civil unrest/violence, gross maltreatment of the citizenry, the perpetuation of inimical capitalist notions, wanton injustices, menacing infestation of the Boko Haram sect, the  onslaught of sectional militant groups, occult practices and so on. Instances of these can be gleaned from chapter one “Remaking Violence: Crumbled Postcolonial, The Militarization of Youth, and the Crisis of Citizenship in Issakaba 1-5”, Chapter 2 “The Urbanization of Injustice and youth Identity Politics in Nigeria: Social Struggle in Maroko” and Chapter 4. African Cities, youth, and the politics of the Occult.”

In chapter 3, “Nollywood and Postmodernity: Youth, Fashion and Urban Identity Politics in Face of Africa,” there is a sense in which Paul Ugor, systematically engages the reader with what Camerla Garritano has referred to on video movies “as shifting and historically contingent discursive field marked by myriad ideologies, anxieties, discourses and desires” (20) of youth in Africa. The author in this chapter pursues a project that underlies how the restless youths negotiate toughness and insidious framework in a postmodern world, a clamour for recognition and survival, in spite of the precarious predicaments created by the profligate leaders in Nigeria-and how they are able to forge ahead.

In the final chapter, “Nollywood, Transnational Sex Rings and Postcolonial Collateral Causalities” the female victim and her body are depicted in case-study films. The author addresses her character as the subject/object of ‘sex’ and ‘commodity of sex and pleasure’ who exits astride and within the interstices of societies where such demeaning trades prevail, and where the subject of such post-colonizing predicaments is compelled to live a life of demeaning encounters as directed and enforced by global predators. The iniquities of diaspora life permeate this chapter a great deal.

The book essentially reminds the reader that the falsehood of leadership in Nigeria is a major problem that compels youths, who have not benefitted from any agenda they set out to pursue. Therefore, these affected and deprived youth engage in what would make their voices heard, when their complaints are gestured towards leaders in power. What seems to be even more ignored is the fact that our colonial heritage and political governance inheritance, has always been that of the colonial structure, and it is still with us till date. What Paul Ugor’s book does is to remind us that, the structure of Nigeria’s postcolonial governance and leadership is one whose umbilical cord is surreptitiously tied to the colonial heritage. However, for the change we desire will not be hasty, except those structures are pulled down and subverted.

The book is also a testimony to Achille Mbembe’s idea that Necropolitics – in some ways, define the idea of sovereignty in some corrupt African countries where leaders exist and whose practices are (against the notions of true democracy) to decide “who” among the citizenry “may live and who must die”. (11) It is first-rate, groundbreaking, and fresh in its style and approach. It has at the edges of its pages new templates recommended for future works, and has created an entry that is novel, and occasioned a shift from cliché discourses which has permeated the entire history of film theory and criticism in Africa.

Works Cited

Garritano, Carmela. African Video Movies and Global Desires. Ohio University Press, 2013.

Mbembe, Achille. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture, 15:1, 2003, pp.11-40.

Ryan, Connor. “Critical Approaches to African Cinema Discourse. Ed. By Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike: Review” Cinema Journal, 54:2, 2015, pp.167-171.

Ugor, Paul. Nollywood: Popular Culture and Narratives of Youth Struggles. Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press, 2016

Short Bio

Tunde Onikoyi teaches African Cinema/Screen Media and Postcolonial Studies in Department of Languages and Literary Studies, Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State Nigeria, and had earlier taught in Kwara State University and Elizade University. He was appointed Member of Jury, for the African International Film Festival in 2018. He is a prodigious scholar, with several publications in book chapters and journals including, Journal of Pan African Studies, Black Camera, African Theatre, African Studies Review, Journal of African Cinemas and Journal Media Communication Research. He is currently working on a book project on African Literatures for Movies. tundeonikoyi@gmail.com