How Nigeria’s creative class has helped the nation smile through the pain

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Nigerian-American singer, songwriter, and record producer Davido

Record-breaking artist, Davido recently took to his Twitter account to make a short yet impactful statement to his 9.4 million followers regarding the Nigerian entertainment industry.

You will rarely meet a Nigerian shy about expressing their pride of nationality and heritage, but you cannot deny that the poverty, corruption, terrorism, and mass unemployment have put a major damper on the dazzling demeanor of the nation’s people. Access to authentic Nigerian entertainment has helped soothe the Nigerian population from the stresses and grim realities of life in the country.

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Musician and Activist: Fela Kuti

Legendary artists like the late Fela Kuti were constantly beaten and arrested for writing lyrics that questioned the actions of the Nigerian government and raised political awareness. Fela, among others, used entertainment as a creative form of activism, encouraging solidarity and inspiring Africans worldwide to take their destiny into their own hands.

The revolution of Nigerian media and the global appreciation of Afrobeat music in the last half-decade has developed into an impressive new golden age of acts and personalities that are shedding light on the tenacity of the Nigerian people. The meteoric rise of artists like WizKid, Tiwa Savage, and Burna Boy, the first Nigerian solo artist to win a Grammy, has solidified the West African country as a potential goldmine for successful entertainers.

Exercising their ambition, creativity and bold characters to enact change in their lives and their communities in the face of adversity. Now more than ever, African music artists are adopting new ways to showcase their talents. Emerging production studios, marketers, promoters, managers, and distributors are blazing new trails, providing Nigeria with a promising, sustainable industry.

Over the years, entertainment and culture have become intrinsically linked. Especially with the introduction of digital/social media, it’s harder to ignore the world’s social issues since they get sent directly to your phone. As diversity in the creative landscape grows, it has allowed making a global impact from behind a screen possible. Incidents such as the northeast Boko Haram conflict and the #ENDSARS movement would not have gained as much global traction without Nigerian artists using their songs and platforms to raise awareness.

Davido – FEM
(unofficial #ENDSARS protest anthem)

“People know me for being that guy – the life of the scene – but we’re in mad times. You can’t be happy with how things are going.”

DAVIDO

On the other side of the coin, “Nollywood” is currently the second-largest film producer in the world, producing roughly 2,500 movies a year. Success in this sector has significantly improved job employment in the industry, creating around one million jobs and generating well over $7 billion (USD) for the economy. Although the range in production quality varies, the strong sense of identity in Nigerian film has established an intercontinental connection that is enjoyed throughout Africa and by Africans around the globe.

Rich stories and the unintentional comedic nature in Nollywood films have also gained more traction online by sharing clips and gifs on social media platforms. Actor Osite Iheme (PawPaw), a popular Nollywood Actor, has gone viral on numerous occasions from videos of his funniest acting moments shared online.

Source: Double Mama (2013)

These Nollywood productions seem small scale in comparison to what the general public is used to, yet these stories play an essential role in connecting us with realities that look different from our own. There may still be a lot of work to do when it comes to representation in media but Nollywood is an early demonstration of what black cinema can be without relying on bare-minimum diversity and tokenism. Thankfully, Nigeria has led the way in creating a thriving industry that is providing business opportunities like the opening of cinemas in underserved cities, use of technological platforms to enhance distribution e.g. Iroko TV and Netflix, training and capacity building for cinematography, scriptwriting, directing and movie production equipment.

In the wake of this success, the Nigerian government is taking the opportunity to grow the media and entertainment industry by:

  • Improving Fibre Optic deployment (enhance digital streaming of entertainment content in the country)
  • Better internet penetration rate (Nigerian Communications established laws and guidelines in order to heighten Internet access for the people of Nigeria which hampers the digitization of business)
  • Creation of the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (efforts to boost job creation in Nigeria, particularly among the youth. Fashion, Music, Movie, and Information Technology businesses can get a loan of up to N30m)
  • Collaboration with global film producers for film festivals and media tourism
  • Training facilities that engage in animations, visual effects other technical skills development

Ultimately, Davido is right. The entertainment industry has breathed new life into the Nigerian economy and its continuing success is actively raising the morale of not just Nigerians, but African people worldwide. Besides Nollywood and musicians, comedians, writers, artists, and dancers are all playing their part in paving new ways, using their creative talents to become the change they wish to see in the world. Life is tough, but Nigeria’s prolific entertainment industry is proving people are tougher.