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The culture of misrepresentation of African spirituality in Nollywood

The culture of misrepresentation of African spirituality in Nollywood

Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, is one of the most prolific and popular in the world. It produces thousands of movies every year, reaching millions of viewers across Africa and beyond. However, Nollywood has also been criticized for its portrayal of African spirituality, which often depicts it as dark, evil, and primitive.

Nollywood is Nigeria’s $3 billion film industry that produces thousands of movies every year. It is also a powerful medium for shaping the perceptions and identities of Africans both at home and abroad. However, Nollywood has often been criticized for its negative and distorted portrayal of African spirituality, especially the indigenous traditions of the Yoruba people. The Orishas, the group of spirits that work under the supreme creator Olodumare, are frequently depicted as evil, demonic and violent forces that cause harm and misfortune to humans. These representations are influenced by colonial and Christian biases that demonize African religions as primitive and inferior. They also ignore the rich and complex history, philosophy and ethics of the Orishas and their devotees. By misrepresenting African spirituality, Nollywood not only reinforces stereotypes and prejudices, but also erases the diversity and beauty of African cultures and worldviews.

What is African spirituality?

African spirituality is a diverse and complex phenomenon that encompasses various beliefs, practices, and traditions of different ethnic groups and regions. It is not a monolithic or static entity, but rather a dynamic and evolving one that interacts with other religions and cultures. African spirituality is also a source of identity, values, and aesthetics for many Africans, both on the continent and in the diaspora.

How does Nollywood portray African spirituality?

However, Nollywood films tend to reduce African spirituality to a caricature of witchcraft, curses, juju, and occultism. These films often show African spirituality as a cause of misfortune, conflict, and violence, or as a tool for manipulation, greed, and revenge. They also contrast African spirituality with Christianity or Islam, implying that the former is backward and inferior, while the latter is modern and superior.

The Culture of Misrepresentation of African Spirituality in Nollywood
The Culture of Misrepresentation of African Spirituality in Nollywood

What are the consequences of this misrepresentation?

This misrepresentation of African spirituality in Nollywood has several negative consequences. First, it reinforces the colonial and racist stereotypes of Africa as a dark continent full of savages and superstitions. Second, it alienates and stigmatizes many Africans who practice or respect African spirituality as part of their heritage and culture. Third, it erases the diversity and richness of African spirituality, which has many positive aspects such as healing, harmony, wisdom, and creativity.

What can be done to improve this portrayal?

Therefore, there is a need for Nollywood filmmakers to rethink their portrayal of African spirituality in their movies. They should avoid sensationalizing or demonizing African spirituality for cheap entertainment or profit. They should also research and consult with experts and practitioners of African spirituality to ensure accuracy and authenticity. Moreover, they should explore the various dimensions and expressions of African spirituality that reflect its beauty, complexity, and relevance in contemporary Africa.

Benefits of Right Representation

African spirituality is a rich and diverse tradition that encompasses various beliefs, practices and rituals. It is often misunderstood or misrepresented in mainstream media, especially in film. This can have negative effects on the self-esteem, identity and culture of African people and their descendants.

However, when African spirituality is portrayed accurately and respectfully in film, it can have many benefits. It can educate and inspire audiences, both within and outside the African diaspora, about the history, diversity and beauty of African spirituality. It can also challenge stereotypes and prejudices, and promote intercultural dialogue and understanding. Furthermore, it can empower and celebrate African people and their spiritual heritage, and foster a sense of pride and belonging.

Therefore, it is important to support and encourage films that depict African spirituality in a positive and authentic way. Such films can contribute to the preservation and appreciation of African spirituality, as well as to the social and cultural development of African communities around the world.

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'PELUMI A. Pelumi-Folarin

OLUWANBEPELUMI Adiv Pelumi-Folarin is a filmmaker with experience in project and organizational management. He studied creative production at the highly prestigious EbonyLife Creative Academy. He also did directing and post-production at the Africa Film Academy. PLM, as he's fondly called, has a professional credential in screenwriting from the University of Cambridge. He is the founder of Shining Africans Testimony, a registered NGO that has consistently and effectively lived by its tenet for more than a decade: "Changing Africans' mindset positively." Pelumi is the CEO of Shining AfriTest Studios. PLM is passionate about the emancipation of Africa and its people.

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