In a world where media and entertainment play a pivotal role in shaping perceptions and stereotypes about nations, it is crucial to consider the power of storytelling. The US for example, benefits hugely from the positive press Hollywood generates. Nigeria on the other hand, a nation rich in culture, diversity, and history, has often been misunderstood and misrepresented in the global arena. Foreigners, influenced by the narratives portrayed in commercial films, have sometimes labeled Nigeria as a “juju country,” perpetuating negative stereotypes. However, this narrative is far from the reality of Nigeria, and it is high time to change this perception.
A few months ago, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Burundi, Elijah Onyeagba, paid a courtesy visit to the office of Inside Nollywood, an influential player in Nigeria’s film and entertainment industry, was not just a formal visit but a call to action. Ambassador Onyeagba recognized the need to change the narrative surrounding Nigeria and encouraged those in the industry to export positive stories that reflect the true virtues of the country.
“What you show people is what you are,” Ambassador Onyeagba emphasized during his visit. These words hold immense significance in the context of Nigeria’s portrayal in the global media landscape. The stories and images projected by the country’s commercial filmmakers have a profound impact on how Nigeria is perceived abroad.
Of course, Ambassador Onyeagba is a robustly educated and well traveled man, and his interactions with people from numerous nations and classes influenced the alacrity with which he asked that filmmakers changed their storytelling.
It is essential to acknowledge that Nigeria, like any other nation, faces its own set of challenges and problems. However, reducing Nigeria to a single, negative stereotype based on certain aspects of its culture or history is not only unfair but also harmful. Commercial filmmakers, in their pursuit of profit and audience engagement, have sometimes resorted to sensationalism and exaggeration, reinforcing harmful stereotypes about juju practices, crime, and corruption.
For example, stories of missing penises sadly frequently feature in Nollywood movies. Also, tales of a young lady used for rituals by her young rich Yahoo boy boyfriend is also a mainstay in the industry. We also find tales of jilted lovers angrily leaving the village for the city, where they link up with an old friend who is a member of a ritual killing cult.
These narratives not only misrepresent Nigeria but also overshadow its rich cultural heritage, its vibrant arts, its resilient and enterprising people, and its contributions to various fields on the global stage. The time has come to shed light on the positive aspects of Nigeria and its people.
To change the narrative about Nigeria, it is imperative to start promoting the true virtues of the country. Nigeria is a nation of diversity, with over 250 ethnic groups and languages, each with its unique traditions and contributions to the national fabric. It is a country of innovation, with a thriving tech industry and a burgeoning creative sector. It is a nation of resilience, where people overcome challenges daily and make strides toward progress.
Nollywood is one of the largest film industries globally, producing a wide range of movies each year. By crafting narratives that reflect the true essence of Nigeria, Nollywood can reshape the country’s image on the global stage.
Changing the narrative about Nigeria is not an overnight process; it requires dedication and effort from both the entertainment industry and society at large. It involves a shift from sensationalism to storytelling that captures the complexities of the nation’s identity. It means showcasing the stories of ordinary Nigerians who contribute to their communities and the world in extraordinary ways.
It also involves engaging with international audiences, promoting cultural exchange, and fostering mutual understanding. Platforms like Inside Nollywood can serve as bridges between Nigeria and the global community, enabling the sharing of stories that transcend stereotypes and promote unity.
It is essential to acknowledge that Nigeria, like any other industry, faces challenges. These challenges should not be ignored but approached with a constructive mindset. By addressing issues piracy, lack of research into lost or subdued cultural practices and increased funding corruption, Nigeria and Nollywood can demonstrate its commitment to progress and development.
Furthermore, initiatives that highlight the nation’s cultural diversity, invest in education of the populace, and empower its youth can pave the way for a brighter future. The positive narratives emerging from these efforts can counteract negative stereotypes and highlight Nigeria’s potential as a global movie powerhouse.
Ambassador Elijah Onyeagba, thanked Inside Nollywood for what we do in the industry, and prayed for strength for us to continue our campaign. Changing the narrative is a collective responsibility, one that Inside Nollywood and others in the industry can champion to help Nigeria shed the shadows of misrepresentation and emerge as a truly valued and appreciated nation on the global stage.