Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

A Critical Study of History and Nationalist Discourse in Nollywood Narratives: Tunde Kelani's Saworo Ide and Agogo ÈèWò

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

A Critical Study of History and Nationalist Discourse in Nollywood Narratives: Tunde Kelani's Saworo Ide and Agogo ÈèWò

Article excerpt


Most literary critics of African Nationalism focus more on canonical texts and literatures written in languages of ex-colonizers, - English, French, or Portuguese - and overlook the rich works of literature in African languages such as Hausa, Igbo, Twi, Yorúbá etc. Following Saworo Ide (1999) and Agogo Èèwo (2002), films that are encoded in the rich culture of Yorúbá language, I address the contribution of the Nollywood cinema to nationalist criticism within the framework of the socio-political history of Nigeria. According to Christopher Miller African literature (by implication Nollywood cinema) addresses the question of the nation; thereby contributing to a national discourse that enriches an emergent 'universe of discourse' that is specific to postindependent African/Nigerian society (147).

Using Miller's and other nationalist theories, I apply hermeneutics and historical perspectives to study nationalistic concepts in the above films. I contend that these works register the voices of common people as a weapon for fighting against African authoritarianism which impedes the building of an egalitarian society and nation.

Kelani, a frontline internationally sought-after Nollywood director, is one of the most prolific African directors with an average of one film per year between the periods of 1993-2010 (Adesokan 2011 82). Even though Kelani maintains that his works cannot be categorized under the rubric of Nollywood, his themes and the historical timeline of production of video films (from 1990s to the present) fall in line with the era of serious structural transformations that witnessed "the emergence of some self-consciously political directors... whose orientation reflects the fragmentation of social and political choices during and after the military era" in Nigeria (Adesokan 2009 2). The discursive negotiation of nationalism in Nollywood that emanates from the structural transformation in Nigerian politics, especially from the 1960s, forms my main focus in this essay. Although reference is made to other African countries, my analysis of the two films draws most specifically on the Nigerian socio-political situation. The purpose is to elucidate how Kelani weaves political and socio-cultural discourses in Saworo Ide and Agogo Èèwo in response to nationalist and historical events in Nigeria and indirectly some African nations.


The survival of a nation underpins the foundation of nationalism, for there is the need for a nation or its anticipation before one can talk about nationalism. With this in mind, Benedict Anderson conceives of a nation as "an imagined political community" (124). First the idea of a nation1 is a space occupied by a group of people, making a nation communally based, limited and also sovereign in nature. The limitation is caused by the fact that no nation can solely encompass all the members of a particular human race. Yet, similar races exist in different nations across the continents due to different kinds of displacement (planned or accidental); for example the world-wide Jewish Diaspora and the presence of the Black race dispersed beyond Africa. Second, a nation is considered sovereign due to its formation from specifically sociohistorical communities in which its members enjoy freedom. Sovereignty as a concept has diverse interpretations but in our argument a sovereign state, devoid of individualism, has the responsibility of making meaningful decisions and choices in the total interest of the land and the people. Anderson's third stipulation is that a nation as a community considers itself to have a deep horizontal comradeship2 in spite of the diverse social strata within such a community. Regardless of social class, nationalists tend to demonstrate strong commitment to the survival of their nation. Such nationals are activists who clamor for improvement in the affairs of their nation. Their discourse is a nationalist one that interrogates the administration of their nations in a meaningful manner. …

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