When it comes to the films and series coming out of Nigeria these days, they often feature one or two ‘Omo Briticos’ (Nigerians raised in the British diaspora), who are specially imported with an attitude problem (shout out to Beverly Naya). To be honest, it’s good that we’ve managed to move past the ‘gangstas’ that found their way back to Lagos fromYankee (the USA), because the accents were diabolical.
But beyond the glamorous houses, cars and clothes that give space to momentarily escape our own realities, the reason these stories resonate with me the most is because their existence alone and personalities portrayed reflect so many I know but rarely saw on other screens. The availability of these stories and images, no matter how farfetched or ludicrous, impact our understanding of ourselves and as a result our identity.
When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie beautifully articulated ‘The danger of a single story‘ she was talking to all of us. So even when watch Nigerian films and series, we’re working on undoing some stereotypes – read poverty and corruption – while building up others that counter the first but can be equally limiting. What we want either way is a multitude of stories that we can dip in and out of as we please.
Looking at experiences in the diaspora, the stories are still somewhat limited. These stories of Nigerians abroad are told far more on stage than on screen, but their messages are powerful. Kinglsey Ogoro’s Osuofia in London tells the story of a man who left the village to claim an inheritance and although making a ‘fool’ of himself, outsmarts the superior and better cultured Brits and returns home triumphant.
Bola Agbaje & Destiny Ekharaga’s Gone too Far (Netflix and Amazon) speak to a second generation diaspora experience, in the diaspora and looks at the cultural disconnect between the domestic and the diaspora. Of course we’re now operating in a time where the corridors between where we live and where we call ‘home’ are no longer only physical and digital which makes gives more flavour to the stories we have access to, but the disconnects still exist. How far have we come in terms of shaping our identities in terms of what we do and the stories we consume will continue to differ for us all.
YouTube has always been the place for me to access content from the continent, then we got iROKO and the rest, and now Amazon Prime and Netflix Naija are on the wave. My question is how storytelling about experiences in the diaspora fit into the future of this storytelling that many of us know, and plenty of us love so much? We too have stories to tell, and not only is the stage still an elite space, but the beauty of having media online is simple – one piece, worldwide audience.