Reading Nollywood: An International Symposium, March 23-25, 2011 at the University of Lagos, Nigeria

full name / name of organization: 
Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Nigeria

*Conveners: Professor Duro Oni (University of Lagos),
Professor Onookome Okome (University of Alberta/Pan African University,
Bic Leu (US Fulbright Fellow/University of Lagos)
*Venue: University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria
*Dates: Wednesday, March 23–Friday, March 25, 2011
*Deadline for abstracts and proposals: February 21, 2011 to
*Further information:

Everyone in Nigeria has an opinion on and about Nollywood. This is also true of Africans and those in the African Diaspora. Opinion expressed by each respondent depends on a number of factors, some of which may have little or nothing to do with the content of Nollywood films or the industry itself. This is partly because Nollywood can no longer be ignored and partly because even for those who wish the industry a bad turn, all such predictions have failed.

For those who referred to this cinematic practice as a "peddler's trade," the reality now is that this "trade" has taken on the narrative of the Nigerian nation as a cultural and political entity. The narrative machine that it has generated has permeated all aspects of the Nigeria world, making the skeptics of its narrative focus and style furious at it for creating what some of them call "false culture". Comments about what Nollywood presents to the public are therefore not always salutary. If anything, they are often acerbic. In fact, these comments cast doubt on both the narrative practices, the content of the narratives as social documents and the very industry itself.

Among the intellectual class in Nigeria, Nollywood films are more or less street art, one which should have no social import. One argument is that the makers of Nollywood are often seduced by quick financial turn over, and for this reason the content of Nollywood films is often secondary to ideologies and other cultural matters. Seduced by the allure of exaggerated earning reported for the industry, government cultural agencies have embraced Nollywood with care and some caution as they fight to have some of the benefits accruing to the industry. For operators of these agencies, the bottom line is expressed in the entrepreneurial sprits of workers in the industry, something that is lacking in the larger Nigerian society. Elsewhere in Africa, and in the African Diaspora, Nollywood has not been very well received either. Francophone filmmakers derided the style of this cinematic tradition until recently, and only began to rethink this visual practice when it became part and parcel of M-Net screening schedule, a feat which the Francophone film industry has yet to achieve. Even then the suspicions about the industry are still rife.

At the heart of the matter is, to repeat this point, that Nollywood is amateurish, crude in part and stylistically reminiscent of the pre-silent film era. Yet, not even the most avid critic denies the popularity of these films. Indeed, it is this popularity that has given critics and other cultural enthusiasts the steam and energy to think of this media as a viable medium of narrating contemporary Nigeria while at the same time denying it of the very social presence it commands among it teeming clientele.

This symposium is designed to investigate two crucial issues of negation-the perception and reading of Nollywood as a cultural practice. It will ask questions such as: How do we read Nollywood as culture and as an industry that produces culture? Even if it is intellectually justifiable to read Nollywood side by side other cinematic practices such as Hollywood and Bollywood, can such pairing bring out what Nollywood really represents to those for whom the films are made? Is it possible to read Nollywood outside the framework of popular culture? As popular culture, what critical category do we need to read it as an urban African art?

The conveners solicit proposals and abstracts from a broad spectrum dealing with the debate around "reading Nollywood". Although not exclusive to the interests of the conveners, proposals and abstracts dealing with these themes are especially welcomed: the sociality of the art of Nollywood, Nollywood films and contemporary Nigerian culture; Nollywood and the art of the popular in Africa; Nollywood and the African cinema; the art of story-telling in Nollywood; genre and the Nollywood film; Nollywood in the city and the city in Nollywood; Nollywood and the economy of the occult; Nollywood abroad; politics and governance in Nollywood films; women behind the camera and in Nollywood films; and towards an epistemic framework for "reading" narrativity and locality in Nollywood films.

Proposal and abstracts should be sent not later than February 21, 2011 to: Ms: Bic Leu, US Fulbright Fellow, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria,