Yes, the African writer is cursed indeed to complain forever. Soyinka puts it well when he refers to us as the Lost Generation. At home there is a social war on the citizen by rogue governments; abroad we are hounded by xenophobes and racists. The result is that we are truly lost and homeless. Was it Nurudin Farah, who at some point had no passport whether of his Native Somali or any other country? There is a poem by Pius Adesanmi, an imaginary conversation between an exile and someone located at home, where the latter warns the former not to come home since it is not yet fit for human habitation. When you want to go home and cannot for whatever reason, that's when the nomadic condition of exile hits you. We are lost. Rejected by home and exile.
NA: You speak of Christian anti-Christs, and also in the poem "The Crescent and The Cross" these lines '…kiss and smile / and lush bush-beard / of death sheathed in prayer /…' swipe at duplicity in Islam as well. Do I detect a rejection by you of non-traditional African religions, or at least some disgust with them?
AE: I do not reject non-traditional religion. I have been a born-again Christian in my teens and a Moslem as a child, and then we also worshipped traditionally. That's my Yoruba heritage of pantheism. The Yoruba culture is tolerant, very tolerant.
What I am against is the bigotry of Christianity and Islam, especially fundamentalist religiosity, wrong indoctrination, and intolerance of other religions by both Christianity and Islam's messianic pose. It is emotional violence to call African religion 'paganism'. In my mother's language, Yoruba, there is no word for 'pagan'. I can pray in the church or mosque. I have also been a Hindu Monk for some time in Lagos. I believe there must be as many and as varied roads to God as there are different personalities and levels of spiritual development in the individual.
Islam and Christianity are against any kind of competition. And both have been agents of colonialism, of slavery and conqueror-ship, especially in Africa. So why should I trust a religion that allowed itself to be subverted for evil uses so easily. What should we think of the pedophilic sins of the Roman Catholic Church? I would rather worship in the shrine of Esu, the Yoruba divinity and trickster-God- that's my patron saint. And he is no devil as translated by Christians.
We are still very much colonised inside our heads. It works because we do not know we are colonised. I do not preach what Soyinka has called neo-tarzanism. But we give Tarzan a bad name if we question his choice of being Tarzan. Many societies in Africa, Nigeria included, are a 'post-traditional' society as opposed to a post-modern West. Hybridity is the hallmark of that post-traditionalism. Take the new wave called Nollywood. It uses a modern medium of film to tell traditional stories. And it is radically different from the standards, which the west would have loved to impose on it.
NA: Talking about Nollywood, why is it called Nollywood to ghost Hollywood and Bollywood? I don't think that the west criticises the stories Nollywood tells, but process of telling those stories, the attitude of the major players there. I have worked with some of the players at Nollywood including Charles Novia (Igbinovia) and Bob-Manuel Udokwu, although it was in the theatre, and I remember them to be artists. Do you honestly think that the guys at Nollywood having embraced the medium of film, and mirrored their domain on Hollywood - as good as the form gets, would not like to achieve dramaturgical and cinematographic excellence? If we want to be hybrid, then we must stand up to the demands and standards of the alien influences we assimilate, don't you agree?
AE: I suspect that the term Nollywood, is only conforming to a morphological pattern in 'high cinema' where you describe a new phenomena by adding a Consonant to the root '-ollywood' (derived from Hollywood). Bombay was or is the seat of Indian movie effort, so you have Bollywood. Ditto Nigeria and Nollywood.
As for the west criticizing how Nollywood tells its stories, we have to remember that the centre (i.e. Hollywood) and the periphery (i.e. Nigeria) have different resources and social conditions surrounding filmic practice. It is like having writers in the continent being forced to become bedroom publishers because the publishing industry does not absorb all of their works. So the West should actually be restrained in its criticisms.
But don't you think that the fact that such criticism is loud and issuing from those quarters suggest that that there is a revolution going on in the Nigerian film industry? What is it that arouses the interest of a BBC producer so strongly that he must go to Nigeria to film how a Nigerian movie gets 'filmed'? Continue>>
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