You can now trust Nigerians

Recently advertising and the movies in the West have have been hard on Nigerians. Even when they mean well.

Bus stop Lagos, Nigeria. Image credit Ebun Akinbo for the IMF via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

I haven’t had time to blog much recently, but had to put this up. While watching a “60 Minutes” insert focused on director James Cameron’s latest expensive movie, “Avatar” (which is expected to crush all box office records when it comes out next year), I saw a TV commercial for the identity protection company, Identity Guard. The commercial – which looks like it was shot in South Africa – riffs on the so-called 419 identity theft scam, which has the reputations of Nigerians and Nigeria. Identity scams have no nationality, but tell that to people who assume only Nigerians are doing it. In the commercial, a white women, presumably in the U.S., orders shoes online. The transaction triggers a series of actions on the streets of Lagos. But it turns out it is not identity theft. She did order the shoes from Lagos.  A few people have pointed out that despite the surprise ending, the ad reinforces viewers’ racist conceptions of Nigerians. It doesn’t help that recently, advertising and the movies have been hard on Nigerians. Just to take one example: the sci fi movie, District 9, in which Nigerians, instead of the aliens, are “the true Others.”

Talk of Nigerians. A friend in London reports about attending a conference on “African Film in the Digital Era” at which the big subject was the film “The Figurine,” what attendees referred to as a “quality Nollywood movie.” By which they mean excellent sound quality, good acting, high quality editing, etcetera, things you don’t usually see in Nollywood films. More than this, she wanted to talk about the film’s premiere’s in London. Her: “I somehow missed it but … nearly 3,000 people turned up at the London premiere … I really don’t know whether 3,000 might have been exaggerated figure but it’s quite extraordinary. Apparently, the organizers managed to get a second screen so that they did not have to turn away people. They even tried to get a third one but they failed. The director, Kunle Afolayan, also attended the event [Sunday] …” Based on the promo video for the London premiere night, my friend’s account sounds real.

Apparently this song is all the rage in Naijaland now.

The National, based in Abu Dhabi, has a profile on “the South African giant of contemporary literature” JM Coetzee in which, unsurprisingly, other people does all the talking.  It also rehashes all the familiar controversies of the last few years around the elusive Coetzee (including his lack of overt political involvement during the struggle against Apartheid; the reaction to his novel “Disgrace” inside South Africa; his emigration to Australia, etcetera, etcetera).  Which leads the reporter to an unsatisfying (for me at least) conclusion: “… There can, it seems, be no simple answers about Coetzee. Even as we approach him he slips away from us, into a hall of mirrors of his own making. Perhaps we must come to accept, then, that the many attempts to look beyond Coetzee’s writing to the man himself are misguided, that the most authentic Coetzee available to us is the one revealed ironically, hesitantly, and obliquely in his novels.”  If you still want to read it.

Africa Knows is a stock photo site run by experienced Kenyan bloggers, Sheila Ochugboju and Joshua Wanyama. They claim to know Africa “.. and its own people more than any international media agency can ever know” and about creating “a new identity” for the continent.

Around this time of the year “The Economist” magazine publishes its annual “The World in …” The 2010 edition just came out. The issue usually includes the award of titles like “the world’s worst country.” The prize is not something to be proud of. This year’s prize, surprise, goes to an African country: It is Somalia. The Economist claims it has good reasons for its choice: “… Calling Somalia a country is a stretch. It has a president, prime minister and parliament, but with little influence outside a few strongholds in the capital, Mogadishu. What passes for a government is protected by an African Union peacekeeping force guarding the presidential palace. Most of the country is controlled by two armed, radical Islamist factions … Poor countries are often defined by their weak health, education and income measures, but conditions in Somalia are mostly too wretched to record … ”

Music Breaks:

Magic Systeme and Khaled’s “Même Pas Fatigué,” is the kind of collabo between the various strands of France’s African population. Franck Ribery, the French national football team winger (married to a Moroccan), joins for a cameo in the football themed video. By the way, the relationship between French musicians and French footballers is interesting. See also, for example, Youssoupha connecting with Claude Makalelele (the Congolese connection) and Sami Traore.

Summertime by BLK JKS.

Watch this great little video of Jimi Tenor and Tony Allen talking about their collaboration. I like the sound of this.

At my old blog, I heavily promoted the Nigerian-German singer, Nneka. She is now making a splash in the US among the neo-Soul masses. It helped that Questlove, drummer of The Roots and a sort of godfather of the genre, has conferred his blessings. This is the US version of her video for the song, “The Uncomfortable Truth.”

Further Reading

Beyond the headlines

Recent violence across the Eritrean diaspora is being instrumentalized by populists. But the violence is a desperate cry for attention and requires the Eritrean opposition to seize the moment for regime change.

Action required

Held in Nairobi this month, the inaugural Africa Climate Summit is an important step for the continent’s response to climate change. Still, the disasters in Libya and Morocco underscore that rhetoric and declarations are not enough.

The strange non-death of Bantustans

That South African political parties across the spectrum were quick to venerate the politician and Zulu prince Mangosutho Buthelezi, who died last week, demonstrates that the country is still attached to Bantustan ideology.

Shifting the guilt

Even though Israeli novelist Agur Schiff’s latest book is meant to be a satirical reflection on the legacy of slavery and stereotypes about Africa, it ends up reinforcing them.

Banana Republics

Western leftists are arguing among themselves about whether there will be bananas under socialism. In Africa, however, bananas do not necessarily represent the vagaries of capitalism.