SENTINEL POETRY #16          MARCH 2004          ISSN 1479-425X

I am sure the artists working in Film in Nigeria do want cinematographic excellence but it all depends on the resources at hand and the socio-political atmosphere out there. Nollywood has its own dynamics, I am sure. It can only get better and better. It is an unfolding narrative.

          One thing with hybridity is that you cannot predict the end-result. Think of an Amos Tutuola Novel, especially coming at the time it did. It had the form of the English Novel and the spirit of an impassioned traditional Yoruba storyteller, with the syntactic patterns of Yoruba and its tonality imposed on the English tongue. I am sure the Queen must have blanched if she had had the opportunity to read what Dylan Thomas described as a 'tall story'. Now compare a Tutuola to a Soyinka. I am sure it will be the same story with Nollywood. The sophistication will be progressive - especially as existential conditions improve. And there is no clear choice about being hybrid, it is just a condition that creeps on you depending on the meanderings of history; it is dynamic.

NA: Perhaps I am alone in this, but do you know that while a lot of people found a problem with the Nick Moran Nollywood experiment, I saw opportunity? The international filmmaking community is taking notice of Nigerian film industry. Whilst we applaud Nollywood, we must acknowledge that the industry is under-financed, under-equipped, under-skilled, under-organised and under-restrained in its developmental speed risking a glut or expansion Chernobyl. Instead of complaining about the criticism, a different handling could usher in symbiosis, perhaps western money and technical expertise meets Nigerian talent, stories and effervescence. It happened in Britain where the film industry was dying until lottery money threw a lifeline, but the films that really flew were bankrolled by Hollywood studios (Universal, Warner Bros. MGM etc.). Yes, Hollywood injected money and style in films such as The English Patient, Billy Elliot, Calendar Girls and Harry Potter. Do you agree that this can be the case with Nollywood, or must it be left alone to find its own way?

AE: Oh, Of course there was opportunity in Nick Moran's experiment in terms of international exposure for Nollywood. I was simply trying to say that it is the power of the Nollywood phenomenon that drew him; and in the same way it will draw others with time - financiers and sponsors. We are both agreeing that there are certain socio-political and economic 'limiters' surrounding Nollywood. This is why I said it has its own dynamics and has to develop at its own pace.

          Of course there will be encounters like the Nick Moran one that will make a difference one way or the other with time. Just as with our literature. The first wave of African writers was mostly promoted from abroad or by expatriates. Don't forget the importance of the Mbari Club, based in Ibadan, to modern (using that term loosely) Nigerian writers - Soyinka, Achebe, and Okigbo and so on. That was the golden period of Nigerian writing and it was championed by expatriates led by Ulli Bier, Austrian-German. I remember meeting him in Bayreuth, Germany in 1995/6. He was still immersed in promoting African Art (mostly visual this time) under the Aegis of the "Iwalewa House".

          Lottery in the West sponsors a lot of Art/literary foundations and promotes artists. In Nigeria or Africa generally we are still busy trying to solve rudimentary problems like that of leadership. Corruption is a normal way of life and you do not expect the government to put money meant to warm private bank accounts into arts.

          How come Africa has not one prestigious literary prize, funded independently or by several countries? The Caine Prize has been severally described as the most important prize for African writing. This should not be so. Heinemann International publishers, under the imprint of the African Writers Series (with Chinua Achebe as its first editor) promoted African writing. What are Nigerian publishers doing? I worked in the industry; it is seek ye first the bread and every other thing shall be added unto you.

          But then it will be simplistic to just lay the blame at the door of the publisher. The Nigerian government does not subsidise any kind of publishing that I know about. Production costs are inflated because of the scarcity of paper for one thing. They do have an OAU. It has changed its name now. What is it but a cabal of tyrants? Look at the shame that is Togo. How can one man, Eyadema, rule a country for upwards of thirty years? I was a child when he visited Sapele with that clown, Gowon, on a state visit. We primary school kids were supposed to line the streets and wave the Nigerian flag at the motorcade and sirens. I promptly fell ill under the burning sun and was removed. I am grateful I never waved the flag at a terrible dictator like that one. Continue>>

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My E-conversation with Amatoritsero Ede
Contd from previous page

"...the trigger was suffering, as it was for Hemingway, who once said all you needed to be a writer was a bad childhood. I was a sensitive child, a curious child and a fool with a book in the handů"
Amatoritsero Ede