Category Archives: Nigerian film

Charles Etubiebi’s one man performance of Africa Ukoh’s play 54 Silhouettes at the United Solo Festival in New York, 20 November 2019

2019 United Solo-54 Silhouettes-poster

This Wednesday, November 20, 2019, Charles Etubiebi will perform a one man show adaptation of Africa Ukoh’s play 54 Silhouettes at the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York. (You can buy tickets here).  54 Silhouettes is the first Nigerian play to feature at the the world’s largest solo theatre festival, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. [UPDATE: And the play was honoured with Best International Show at the festival.]

The satirical 54 Silhouettes explores with both hilarity and gut-punching conviction the double bind of an actor, Victor Chimezie, who hopes to break through to a major role in Hollywood but finds himself cast in yet another poorly written stereotypical film about Africa. The play is a sly critique of Hollywood but also a self-reflexive examination of African performers who enable such representations.

To attend the event, here are the basics:

Date: November 20.
Time: 7:30pm.
Location: 410 West 42nd street, New York, NY 10036.

I reviewed the premiere stage performance of 54 Silhouettes in 2013 for the Daily Trust.

 

Original 54 Silhouettes poster 2013

Courtesy of Africa Ukoh (photographs by Victor Audu)

The play was originally produced for radio on BBC after coming first runner up in the 2011 BBC African Performance competition, and being awarded a Stratford East/30 Nigeria House grant.  I didn’t know anything about the play before I showed up at the Alliance Francaise in Jos where I had seen it advertised in November 2013, but I was blown away by it. I had seen very little Nigerian theatre set in the contemporary moment, and this was fresh and urgent and original. In particular in my review, I highlighted the performance of Charles Etubiebi who played the part of the British-born actor Kayode Adetoba.

Sparks also fly between Chimezie and Kayode Adetoba (brilliantly played by Charles Etubiebi), the Brighton-born British-Nigerian actor whom everyone calls Tobi. He speaks with a South London accent, mispronounces Chimezie’s name just as Larry and Flynn do, and when he plays a warlord speaks with what internet critics call a “generic African accent.”

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Kayode Adetoba (Charles Etubiebi) and Victor Chimezie (Promise Ebichi) during the Jos premiere, 16 November 2013. (c) Carmen McCain

It seems appropriate, therefore, that Charles Etubiebi, whose performance I so admired in the original stage play,  is the actor to play all five parts in the solo adaptation, and who often refers to the importance of accent in interviews about the play, as does the playwright Africa Ukoh, whom I recently interviewed for Brittle Paper. Etubiebi explains to Noah Tsika in this fantastic interview for Africa is a Country how after being invited to the NEAP Fest theatre festival in Brazil, he asked Ukoh to adapt the play into a one man show, which he then performed in Rio de Janeiro and at several different festivals in Lagos. Here are two videos from his performances in Lagos where, Etubiebi talks about  the background to the play.

 

And on BBC pidgin:

 

Having previewed the Lagos show on YouTube, I think it is the tightest and best version of the play that I’ve encountered. It is a really an outstanding performance that speaks to the creative synergy between Charles Etubiebi, as a performer, and Africa Ukoh, as a writer and director.

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LADIES AND GENTLEMEN ITS HERE!!!! On stage this Saturday and Sunday in Lagos, in the one-man adaptation of Africa Ukoh's 54 SILHOUETTES, Charles Etubiebi is: Victor Chimezie! Sonny Chuks! Larry Singer! Howard Flynn! and Kayode Adetoba! What happens when your ambitions clash with your ideals? What path will you take? When a struggling Nigerian actor in Hollywood gets his shot at fame and fortune it seems his life's work is finally paying off, but then he discovers this dream job is exactly what he swore to never do: one of those "war in Africa" films. Come have a great night out at the theatre! Date: 18 and 19 May, 2019. Venue: Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos Island. Time: 7pm. Tickets: N3000.

A post shared by Charles Etubiebi (@charlesetubiebi) on

In the interview with Noah Tsika, Etubiebi describes his working relationship with Ukoh:

We got accepted to the Lagos Theatre Festival, which is run by the British Council. We performed [54 Silhouettes] there, and this time Africa came to Lagos and directed it himself. And this is when I most enjoyed the performance, because when you work with someone who actually created the thing … Working with Africa, we have a special dynamic. We ate the play, we talked the play, and when we did it in Lagos, at the festival, I genuinely enjoyed being this character, and telling this story. It was absolutely amazing.

As an actor, I know that I’m supposed to cry on demand, but I don’t do that easily. But the last rehearsal we had [in Lagos] … there’s a scene where the main actor gives this monologue about how we as Africans have to confront stereotypes of Africans—what people see from far off. They say, “Let’s just put them in a box and leave them there.” No, we’re more than that. We’re like every other person. Before you can get to know us—who we really are—you have to really look. Don’t just chalk us up as “black Africans”—first of all, in Nigeria, we have many languages. Let’s just start there, first of all. So we’re a lot more than you see. Africa’s a big continent. Those lines [in 54 Silhouettes], about how we need to educate and reeducate the world about who we really are—at the last rehearsal, I got emotional. And Africa said, “You’re ready.”

Since Etubiebi began to perform the one-man version of the play, the play has also been picked up for other dramatic readings, presented by Etubiebi’s Theatre Emissary partner Taiwo Afolabi at the Puente Theatre for the Spark Festival in Victoria, British Columbia and an African Voices event at the Roundhouse Theatre in London. London-based reviewer Nick Awde writes that 54 Silhouettes offers an “incisive slice of Nigeria while simultaneously channeling David Mamet.”

The United Solo Festival will be the first opportunity for American audiences to see this striking performance put together by two of the most exciting members of a creative cohort of artists that are revolutionizing Nigerian cinema and theatre. Africa Ukoh and Charles Etubiebi both have prestigious film credentials—Ukoh having written two critically acclaimed films making rounds on the recent film festival circuit, Abba Makama’s films Green White Green (available on Netflix) and The Lost Okoroshi, and Etubiebi having acted in films like Steve Gukas’s compelling 93 Days (available on Netflix and on Amazon Prime) and Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys (also on Netflix). But this feels like an exciting moment for Nigerian theatre as well, where Nigeria’s film industry invigorates and gives new life to Nigeria’s theatre tradition. 54 Silhouettes comments on Hollywood portrayals of Africa, but also reaches back and alludes to the dilemma of Wole Soyinka’s tragic hero Elesin in Death and the King’s Horseman. As I wrote in my review of the stage performance,

In Soyinka’s play, a patronizing colonial district officer Pilkings denounces as savage the tradition of ritual suicide by the oba’s companion after an oba’s death, but in “saving” Elesin he contributes to the death of Elesin’s son Olunde, who takes his father’s place. Chimezie and Larry recite dialogue from the scene where Elesin tells Pilkings, “You have shattered the peace of the world forever. There is no sleep in the world tonight.”

This symbolic tribute to Soyinka’s play resonates throughout 54 Silhouettes: Chimezie, like Elesin, faces great temptation to betray his people for a good life, and the well-meaning Larry, like Pilkings, is so blinded by his prejudices that he undermines (through his writing) the cultures he tries to represent.

Yet, in Chimezie’s turn away from the Hollywood stereotypes of Africa and, perhaps, a turn towards Nigeria’s new wave of theatre and cinema(?), is this the birth of the the unborn left at the end of Soyinka’s play?

If you are in New York, by all means go to the United Solo performance on Wednesday, 20 November, (tickets available here). Charles Etubiebi is already in New York for his performance in a few days.

If you are in Nigeria, hopefully there will be other performances soon, but, in the meantime, you may want to check out the published version of Africa Ukoh’s play, which can be purchased at the following bookshops:

Jos:

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  • Achison Bookshop, Rwang Pam Street
  • Modern Bookshop, Rwang Pam Street
  • Waltricks Bookstore, Adjacent UBA, Rwang Pam Street
  • Coal Bookstore, DSTV Plaza, Shop No. 8, Adjacent Mchez Eatery, Yingi Rayfield

Abuja:

  • Adam’s Pages, Machima Plaza, No. 2 Mambolo Close, Off Sultan Abubakar Way, Wuze Zone 2
  • The Booksellers, Ground Floor, City Plaza, Ahmadu Bello Way, Garki II
  • Salamander Cafe, 5 Buumbura Street, Wuse 2

Lagos:

  • Glendora Booktore in the Ikeja City Mall;
  • Parresia Bookstore, Ibiola Nelson House, Allen Avenue, Ikeja
  • Terra Kulture, 1376 Tiamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island), Abuja, and Jos

As I’ve also mentioned elsewhere on this blog, Ukoh’s unpublished play Token Dead White Guy was shortlisted for the 2018 BBC International Playwriting Competition. You can read more about it in our conversation on Brittle Paper. Hopefully, this performance of 54 Silhouettes will only be the first of many of his plays to hit theatres in Nigeria and beyond. In the meantime, check out some of the recent films Ukoh has written scripts for: Green White Green (on Netflix), The Three Thieves, and The Lost Okoroshi. I’ve only been able to watch Green White Green so far, but the trailers promise more of what I’ve come to expect from him: smart, funny, and real:

 

 

Abba Makama’s new film The Lost Okoroshi (screenplay by Africa Ukoh) to premiere at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival

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Creative duo director Abba Makama and screenwriter Africa Ukoh strike again. For the second time a film collaboration between the two will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Update 5 September 2019: The film has also been selected to screen at the BFI London Film Festival in October 3 and 5. You can see information about where to see it on the BFI site here. Mike Omonua’s debut film The Man Who Cut Tattoos, which Makama produced, will premiere at BFI this year.)

The Lost Okoroshi, Makama’s second feature film, (though he also has a stable of hilarious short films and a really great documentary on Nollywood, which I teach) imagines a bored security guard whose life takes a turn when his dreams of masquerades invade the world of the living. Courtney Small writing for Cinema Axis calls it a “vibrant and wildly surreal ride.”

IndieWire describes Makama as

 one of the leading voices for Nigerian cinema today. He previously directed “Green White Green,” another TIFF selection that is now streaming on Netflix, as well as “Nollywood,” the Al Jazeera documentary about Nigeria’s film industry. He should be a presence at major festivals for years to come.

More recently, Native Magazine has interviewed him about some of the thinking behind his work.

Watch the trailer here

Green White Green, Makama’s first feature, which he also co-wrote with Africa Ukoh, has been one of my favourites since I first saw it on an Air France flight back in 2017 and have since watched it over and over again on Netflix.  Film critic Noah Tsika calls it “a hopeful, downright energizing love letter to Nigeria’s enterprising youth — to a new generation plainly capable of greatness.” As I’ve written in another blog post,

The film is a youthful takedown of the prejudices that tear Nigeria apart. It mocks Nollywood, with the good-natured ribbing of a son who follows in his father’s footsteps but laughs at his outdated affectations. It is a satire, but it is also  filled with a restless joy and a tenderness that draws me in to watch it over and over again on homesick nights.

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The Lost Okoroshi promises to be stylistically similar (the energetic jump-cuts, actors posed and staring into the camera as if for a family portrait) while pushing the conceit imagined by the young filmmakers in Green White Green a little further. In Green White Green, the young secondary school graduates shoot a metaphoric film about Nigeria, taking great delight in masquerades,  as both protective spirits and (in a fire breathing incarnation) as the “Beast of Corruption,” riffing on Fela’s “beasts of no nation.” In The Lost Okoroshi, the masquerade/s unfold into full-fledged characters, which seems to represent (as much as one can interpret a trailer) a reclamation of the ancestral masquerade not as an “evil beast” as often represented in Nollywood movies but as a way of bringing tradition into the future. And, as with Green White Green, there continues to be a sly Nollywood self-referentiality: “Forget all this Pete Edochie proverbs,” the subtitled Igbo reads, “This is not a Nollywood home video.”  Thus while building on an older tradition (incorporating, for example, the Nollywood comedian Chiwetalu Agu), Makama and Ukoh push their narratives out to the cutting edge of Nigerian cinema. This is not a Nollywood home video, no. But, it draws affectionately on Nollywood to create something exciting and new.

In its imagination of the masquerade in a 21st century city context, the film reminds me of contemporary Nigerian writers Nnedi Okorafor and Chikodili Emelumadu and the inadequacy of the sort of literary labels placed on these texts. Is this Afrofuturism? Nnedi Okorafor resists that label, preferring africanfuturism. Is this magical realism? Or what Ben Okri’s critics have called “spiritual realism“? Abba Makama recently quoted Newton Aduaka (the Nigerian filmmaker who won the FESPACO film festival’s highest prize, the Golden Stallion of Yennenga for his 2007 film Ezra):

Labels are useful but ultimately they reduce the subject. Yet, I like the idea of the hyper-real, a realism that captures not only the surface but the spirit behind it–this idea captures Nigerian life well, and the way filmmakers capture that life.

This is an exciting moment not only for Abba Makama, but also for his collaborator Africa Ukoh, whom I have featured on this blog before and interviewed for Brittle Paper. Today (I published this post a little bit too late!) Ukoh’s play 54 Silhouettes, which I reviewed back in 2013 and was published in 2018, was featured as a part of the Global Black Voices event at the Roundhouse in London. Ukoh also revised 54 Silhouettes into a remarkable one-man play, which Charles Etubiebi has been performing from Rio de Janeiro to Lagos to (forthcoming) New York. Etubiebi’s next scheduled performance of the play is at the November United Solo theatre festival in New York. You can see an interview with Etubiebi below:

 

If you’re in Toronto or Lagos or London or New York, go see the film, go see the play. And for those in Nigeria who are not in Lagos, I hope that they will both also come to a theatre near you.

P.S. One more note on Nigerian cinema. I just realized yesterday that Steve Gukas’s moving film 93 Days, also at the 2016 TIFF, which tells the story of the courageous doctors and public health officials who contained the ebola virus in Lagos, is out on Amazon Prime. Although ebola is a topic often sensationalized in Western media, Gukas handles the story sensitively, telling it from the perspective of Dr. Ada Igonoh, who survived the disease. It is a great example of Nigerians telling their own stories without making “poverty porn.” And in a direct link to the rest of the content of this post, actor Charles Etubiebi plays a significant role in the film as Bankole Cardoso.

Interview with playwright and screenwriter Africa Ukoh, whose play is currently on at the Lagos Theatre Festival

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted on this blog (to the extent that wordpress refused to let me log in for a few days), so I have much to catch up on. Most recently an interview I did last July with playwright and screenwriter Africa Ukoh has been published by Brittle Paper. His play 54 Silhouettes is currently being performed as a one-man show at the Lagos Theatre Festival.

(Update 17 July 2019: Charles Etubiebi will also be bringing the one-man performance of 54 Silhouettes to the United Solo theatre festival in New York City on November 20, 2019, and an excerpt of the play will be performed in London as part of the Global Black Voices event at The Roundhouse Theatre on 10 August 2019.)

(Update 9 August 2019: Abba Makama’s film The Lost Okoroshi, for which Africa Ukoh wrote the screenplay, will be premiering at the Toronto Film Festival this September)

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I first came across Africa’s work when I attended the November 2013 premiere of his play 54 Silhouettes in Jos, because the blurb of his play that I saw advertised at the Alliance Francaise looked interesting. The play follows a Nigerian actor who pursues his dream of acting in Hollywood but is troubled by the increasingly more disturbing “African” roles he is asked to play. It is a smart, thoughtful, passionate play. I loved it.

54 Silhouettes performance

Premiere performance of 54 Silhouettes in Jos, November 2013 (c) Carmen McCain

 

In my column in Daily Trust,reviewed 54 Silhouettes, which in its earlier incarnation had won the 30 Nigeria House prize and had been performed as a radio play after it won the the first runner up of the 2011 BBC African performance competition.  Last year, in 2018, Africa finally published the play with Parresia Press’s Origami imprint.

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It can be purchased at bookshops in Lagos, Abuja, and Jos, and online at sites like konga.com. Since its publication, he has adapted it into a one-man performance for actor Charles Etubiebi, who has performed it in Lagos and Brazil. In March, Taiwo Afolabi directed a staged reading of the play at the Puente Theatre in Victoria, Canada, at the Spark Festival. Currently, Charles Etubiebi is performing the play on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, April 12, 13, and 14 as part of the Lagos Film Festival at Esther’s Revenge, Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos Island. You can purchase tickets for N3000 online at ariiyatickets.com. (Update 9 August 2019: This Saturday, 10 August, the play will also be featured as part of the African Voices event at the Roundhouse in London.)

Aside from 54 Silhouettes, Africa’s unpublished play Token Dead White Guy was shortlisted for the 2018 BBC International Playwriting Competition.

Africa also works as a screenwriter. He co-wrote, with the director Abba Makama, the film Green White Green that premiered at Toronto Film Festival in 2016 and is currently available on Netflix. Noah Tsika calls it “a hopeful, downright energizing love letter to Nigeria’s enterprising youth — to a new generation plainly capable of greatness.”

The film is a youthful takedown of the prejudices that tear Nigeria apart. It mocks Nollywood, with the good-natured ribbing of a son who follows in his father’s footsteps but laughs at his outdated affectations. It is a satire, but it is also  filled with a restless joy and a tenderness that draws me in to watch it over and over again on homesick nights. I can’t wait to see future collaborations between Makama and Ukoh. (Update 9 August 2019: And one of those collaborations is premiering at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival: The Lost Okoroshi directed by Makama and written by Ukoh. Check it out. The trailer is on fire.)

To hear more of Africa’s thoughts on 54 Silhouettes, Token Dead White Guy, Green White Green, and the current state of theatre in Nigeria, check out our conversation on Brittle Paper,  follow him on Twitter or Instagram, or, even better, go see the play this weekend.  If you can’t get to Lagos for the performance, you can buy a copy of it online and stay tuned for future performances.

More blog posts  to come.

Photographic Memory 1: props for Blood and Henna

It has been nearly a year since I posted on this blog, in the fevered anguish so many of us felt after the election and inauguration of America’s current glorious leader. After that, I lost the heart to write and I filled my time with teaching and and social media, that succubus.

But I miss writing. I miss my column in Daily Trust. And because I have no urgent deadline, I write very little these days, at least writing for myself. I do try to eke out what academic writing I need to get the job done. But, because I am not exercising my writing muscles, what I write is creaky and awkward.

Tonight, I was looking through my photos for one such academic project. I have thousands of photos, hidden in thousands of files on my laptop. And I have often thought that I should give myself a blog assignment of posting a photo a day and to write about the memory that rushes to mind. A photo a day is probably much too ambitious, so I will merely say that I will try to post more often, and I will try to look at my photos more often, and I will let myself remember and write more often. It is 2am here, but I have determined to do this, so let’s go.

 

 

So for today’s photo I went back to 5 November 2011. Only a few months earlier I had moved from Kano to Jos to try to work full time on my PhD dissertation. But in late October I went back to Kano for the Goethe Institut premiere of Duniya Juyi Juyi, a film produced by the researcher Hannah Hoechner but written, directed, and acted in by almajirai. I see, via my photos, that this was also the first time I saw my friend Sa’adatu Baba Ahmed’s newborn daughter, who is now a big girl of seven.

While in Kano, Kenneth Gyang, one of Nigeria’s most exciting and experimental directors, got in touch with me (I believe via Nafisa) and asked if I could act a bit part as an ugly-American Pfizer researcher in his historical film Blood and Henna, which touches on the tragic 1996 Pfizer meningitis trials in Kano. I said yes. So, on my way back to Kano I detoured through Kaduna where the film was being shot. We shot the hospital scenes in a school made to look like a hospital. Here a props guy is hanging a chart of a skeleton. (More photos in my flickr album, from the first and second day of shooting)

Feeling keenly my lack of training in acting and the exaggerated American accent I had put on after years of being back in Nigeria, I actually dreaded seeing this for years. It received 6 nominations at the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Awards–the first Hausa film to be honoured as such by AMAA. I finally saw it at a screening at KABAFEST, the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival put together by Lola Shoneyin this summer, and the film blew me away. Fortunately, my part is very small, and Sadiq Sani Sadiq and Nafisa Abdullahi carry the film with their powerful understated acted.  It is a quiet, moving film about the ordinary people behind the sensational headlines that make up history. It’s not as experimental as Gyang’s film Confusion Na Wa, but it’s just as striking.

I should write more, but it is much too late, and I have more academic writing and class preparations to do to tomorrow. But let this serve as a start. I will post more.

Nowhere to Run to be screened as part of the convocation events at Kwara State University, Malete

Nowhere to Run poster-logo's added
The Centre for Nollywood and New Media in Africa (CiNNeMA) at Kwara State University, Malete, invites the university community and any interested guests to a special screening of the award-winning documentary film Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate and Environmental Crisis to be held Thursday, 12 noon prompt, in the University Auditorium, immediately before the 2pm convocation play: Professor Femi Osofisan’s Aringidin and the Night Watchmen.

 

The film, shot on Epic, produced by the ‘Yar Adua Centre and Core Productions, Lagos, and directed by Dan McCain, is narrated and presented by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr. and features Nnimo Bassey, in addition to many other Nigerian environmental activists. It introduces some of the most pressing environmental concerns facing Nigeria today: from the link between desertification and Boko Haram, to the threat rising oceans pose to Lagos, to the connection between the devastation in the Niger Delta and global climate change.

 

The film is not yet available on video or public release, so please come and invite a friend, and prepare for a double feature of film and play.

 

Thus reads my press release to the Kwara State University community. To read the other blog posts I’ve written about this film, its making, and its screening schedule, see the links below:
To see a trailer of the film, see below:

‘Nowhere to Run’ wins Grand Jury Prize at the Green Me Film Festival, Lagos (and draws further attention to the plight of the Ekuri Forest)

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Left to right: Louis Rheeder (script), Nnimo Bassey (environmentalist featured in film), Dan McCain (director, cinematographer, editor), the organizers of the event.

So delighted to report that the film Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate and Environmental Crisis has won the Grand Jury prize at the “Green Me” environmental film festival in Lagos this past weekend.

Watch the trailer here:

 

I have written previously about my work with my brother, Dan McCain, on the film.

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Dan McCain with the Grand Jury Award at the Green Me film Festival in Lagos, 3 April 2016.

The Yar Adu’a Foundation sponsored the film, which was produced by Lagos-based Core Productions, directed, shot, and partially edited by my brother, and hosted by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr. Dan travelled all over Nigeria exploring environmental issues and asking if there were any links to climate change. The research and some of the early interviews were done by  Chinelo Onwualu, I did a little more research, transcribed hours of interviews, conducted a few more, and cut together the first version of the script. Louis Rheeder finished and rewrote part of the script, sat with the editor, and turned it into  a beautifully organized story, where everything flows together and makes sense. Ken Saro Wiwa Jr., who “hosts” and narrates the documentary ties everything together. Together with Dan’s spectacular cinematography (shot on Epic), it all comes together, boom!

As I have mentioned previously, as we were working on it, “we made a point of making this a ‘Nigerian’ documentary, and the interviews in the documentary are all with people based in Nigeria.” Some of the strongest voices in the film are those of well known environmentalists Ken Saro Wiwa Jr., and Nnimo Bassey, as well as those activists and environmentalists like Ekaette UkobongMichael Uwemedimo, Godknows Boladei IgaliLiza Gadsby and Peter Jenkins and others who work at the grassroots community level to make a difference. Nnimo Bassey has been an amazing advocate for the film, speaking at multiple screenings, including #COP21 in Paris. Ken Saro Wiwa has screened it at University of California, Berkeley, and other locations. Jacqueline Farris, Nnena Ogbonnaya-Orji, Marve Michael, and others at the Yar Adu’a Foundations have been working tirelessly to organize screenings in Nigeria and beyond.

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Nimmo speaks #cop21 #Paris #nowheretorun

A post shared by Core Productions Ltd. (@core_productions_ltd) on

 

I was in Lagos for the first screening at the Green Me Film Festival Saturday with Dan, Louis, and Sabrina Coleman of Core Productions. We’ve watched it dozens of times on large screens, but it was the first time any of us had seen it in a cinema. We were all blown away. It’s amazing in the cinema, the BOOM! of the cinematography and colour grading, the detail of the sound design. The audience was chattering at the beginning but suddenly everything went quiet. Later they began talking again, but they were exclamations and responses to the film. I’m looking forward to seeing at other film festivals. The organizers encouraged Dan to come back for the awards ceremony the next night. (Sadly, I hadn’t known about this on time and already had plans to travel for a conference that night. I keep missing things!) To everyone’s delight, the film won the Grand Jury Prize.

For more information about the film and the screening schedule, please see my post about the premiere (to which I have attached a calendar of screenings) or the Yar Adu’a Foundation Facebook page.

I hope this win and the attention the film is receiving will also draw more attention to the current crisis surrounding the Ekuri Forest. We had featured the Ekuri community forest in Cross River State in the film as one of the encouraging stories about what a community can do to take initiative for conserving their own environment. In the 1980s, they had refused offers from logging communities and decided to form the Ekuri Initiative to preserve their forest. The forest is one of the few remaining rain forests (crucial as a carbon sink) in Nigeria, or West Africa as a whole.  According to The Daily Post, on 22nd January 2016, a

Public Notice of Revocation signed by the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development and published in a local newspaper on 22nd January 2016 decree[ed], among other things, that:
“all rights of occupancy existing or deemed to exist on all that piece of land or parcel of land lying and situate along the Super Highway from Esighi, Bakassi Local Government Government Area to Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State covering a distance of 260km approximately and having an offset of 200m on either side of the centre line of the road and further 10km after the span of the Super Highway, excluding Government Reserves and public institutions are hereby revoked for overriding public purpose absolutely”.

The outrageous 10 kilometres on either side of the highway, would decimate the community forest, and, as the Rainforest Rescue petition points out, in seizing this community’s ancestral lands, would render them homeless.

Although, it seems that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been done (required by law for major projects of this sort in Nigeria), in February 2016, bulldozers came to the community. While the Ekuri community protested, they have already begun to knock down trees in neighbouring communities.  The Ekuri Initiative has started a website, and there is a detailed and disturbing background on the threat against the forest accompanying this Rainforest Rescue petition.

Nnimo Bassey’s Mother Earth Foundation released this press release, pointing out that,

Observers think the project may be a cover for land grabbing, illegal logging and poaching and the destruction of habitats in the forests and reserves that are protected by law and preserved by custom. They question why a project of this nature would reportedly enjoy contributions from Nigerian banks without requisite preliminary surveys, plans and approvals.

The affected communities inform that “besides the fact that the proposed route was going to cause untold damage to the globally important park, it also demonstrated that the route had been selected without looking at a contour map, let alone having an engineering survey.”  

Nnimo Bassey protests  ““We find it unacceptable that a project of this magnitude is pursued without regard to the law and in defiance of the rights of communities.”

In the upcoming weeks/months I hope to publish some of the full interviews we had done for the documentary with members of the Ekuri Community. Consider signing the petition, or if you have influence with the government, exercise it to prevent this outrageous land grab. And if you have a chance to see Nowhere to Run, you will be able to see the beauty of this forest and the passion of the community members like Martin Egot and Chief Edwin Ogor for their land, before this threat.

For more on the film, see the Facebook page and the screening schedule.

For more about Core Productions, see their website, their Twitter page, and their Instagram page.

Kannywood Awards 2016

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Nazifi Asnanic and Ali Jita on the red carpet at the Kannywood Awards 2016, 12 March 2016.

I had the privilege to attend the 2016 Kannywood Awards held at the NAF International Conference Centre in Abuja  Saturday, 12 March 2016, the third incarnation of the awards organized by Sarari Klassique Merchandise and Halims Entertainment Galleria. (See my post on the 2013 awards.) I was impressed by the space, which was in a well-decorated and sophisticated auditorium. The red carpet TV presence included Rayuwa TV, Noma TV, Unity Entertainment, NTA, VOA, Voice of Nigeria and others.

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on the red carpet.

I dislike taking pictures in conference settings under muddy lighting, and the flash on my camera is broken. Therefore, almost all of my photos are pretty bad. I’ve seen some amazing ones on Facebook taken by photographers like Sani Maikatanga. You can see more photographs at Kannywood Scene. I’ll post a few here, mostly for people who asked for copies.

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Director of the Kano State Censorship Board, Afakallah at the Kannywood Awards, 12 March 2016. (Quite a change from Rabo…)

The awards were MC-ed by Waziri Zuaibu of NTA, and Aisha Mohammad of the EFCC (!). Memorable moments include a tribute to the late Aisha Dan Kano; a stylishly-dressed Nafisa Abdullahi’s touching speech thanking her mother after she won Best Actress for her role in Baiwar Allah, and Sadik Sani Sadik kissing the ground when he received his award for best actor in Bayan Duhu, a 20+ minute speech (I was recording) by the minister of Information, and a short and sweet speech by Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, Vice Chancellor of the Open University, following a really fantastic little 3-4 minute documentary on the beginnings of Kannywood.

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Tribute to the late Aisha Dan Kano.

I was impressed by the efforts to make this a unified Nigerian affair. Indeed the theme was “Patriotism through Entertainment.” In the musical soundtrack, I heard (pre-recorded) music by Ziriums, Sani Danja, and Jeremiah Gyang (a Christian Hausa singer.) There was an opening prayer by a Muslim and Christian, and, in addition to the various ministers and representatives of governors, there were representatives from Nollywood and even of an Ijaw youths association. Emeka Ike, the president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria gave out awards and spoke out saying that the stakeholders meeting recently held in Lagos (which invited no one from Kannywood) had been “hijacked” by outside interests. In one of the musical performances, Sarkin Waka sang “Mu Zauna lafiya, we are one,” and was joined on stage by many of the stars.

There were also performances by  Ziriums, Abbas Sadiq, and Nura Bond.

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Ziriums performs at the 2016 Kannywood Awards, 12 March 2016 (c) Carmen McCain

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Ziriums performs at the Kannywood Awards, 12 March 2016. (c) Carmen McCain

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Abbas Sadiq performs at the 2016 Kannywood Awards. (c) Carmen McCain

Three special awards were given at the beginning of the ceremony: The special Kannywood Merit Award, went to His royal Highness Malam Awwal Ibrahim, the Emir of Suleja; a Posthumous Life Achievement Award went to the late Tijjani Ibraheem; and another Kannywood Special Merit Award went to Malam Sunusi Shehu Daneji, a scriptwriter and magazine publisher who coined the term “Kannywood” in 1998.

Although certain moments like the (actually quite informative) speech by the Minister of Information dragged on, the audience kept themselves amused with photo taking,selfies, and wandering around chatting.

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photo-taking (c) Carmen McCain

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Abbas Sadiq working the aisles. (c) Carmen McCain

 

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Filmmaker, author and publisher Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino (c) Carmen McCain

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Producer and scriptwriter Nasir Gwangwazo at the end of the night (c) Carmen McCain

The winners of the awards (alongside the other nominees) are as follows:

Best Film

Hindu, produced by Garba Saleh – WON

Gwaska, produced by Falalu Dorayi

Baiwar Allah, produced by Naziru Dan Hajiya

 

Best Cultural Film

Na Hauwa, produced by Kabir Ali Mpeg – WON

Hindu, produced by Garba Saleh

Malam Zalimu, produced by Abba El Mustapha

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Na Hauwa, produced by Kabir Ali Mpeg wins Best Cultural Film. (c) Carmen McCain

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Kabir Ali Mpeg holds the award for the Best Cultural Film that he produced. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Director

Ali Gumzak, for Baiwar Allah – WON

Adam Zango, for Gwaska

Ali Nuhu for Da’iman

 

Best Script

Yakubu M. Kumo, for Bayan Duhu – WON

Yakubu M. Kumo, for Baiwar Allah

Shafiu Dauda Giwa, for Ban Gantaba

 

Best Actress

Nafisa Abdullahi, for Baiwar Allah -WON

Jamila Nagudu, for Na Hauwa

Rahama Sadau, for Halacci

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The Minister of Information presents the Best Actress Award to a teary Nafisa Abdullahi, 12 March 2016.

Best Actor

Sadik Sani Sadik, for Bayan Duhu -WON

Adam A. Zango, for Gwaska

Ali Nuhu, for Nasibi

 

Best Supporting Actress

Fati Shu’uma, for Basma -WON

Ladidi Fagge, for Da’iman

Fati Washa, for Hindu

 

Best Supporting Actor

Lawan Ahmad, for Da’iman – WON

Sadik Ahmad, for Nasibi

Ali Nuhu, for Rumfar Shehu

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Lawan Ahmad (middle) with his award for best supporting actor in the film Da’iman (c) Carmen McCain

 

Best Comedian

Sule Yahaya Bosho, for Rumfar Shehu – WON

Sule Yahaya Bosho, for Gidan Farko

Rabilu Musa (RIP), for Dangas

 

Best Villain

Haruna Talle Mai Fata, for Farmaki -WON

Adam A. Zango, for Hindu

Tanimu Akawu, for Kasata

 

Best Child Actor

Maryam Baba Hasin, for Basma  – WON

Ahmad Ali Nuhu, for Uba da Da

Shema’u Salisu, for Anisa

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At only five years of age Maryam Baba Hasin wins best Child Actor Award for her role in Basma.

 

Cinematography

Mr. D’mej, for Hindu – WON

Mr. D’mej and Ismail M. Ismail, for Gwaska

Murtala Balala, for Baiwar Allah

 

Best Editor

Ali Artwork, for Gwaska – WON

(no name), for Mulamat

Husseini Ibrahim, for Baiwar Allah

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Ali Artwork poses with his award for best editor and me.

 

Best Visual Effects

Muhammad Ali, for Hindu – WON

Musa Zee Moses and Muhammad Ali, for Anisa

Ali Musa Dan Jallo, for Bori

Best Sound

Suraj A. Ibrahim and Mustapha Auwal, for Gwaska -WON

Fahad Abubakar, for Fansa

Bello Minna and Mukhtar Dauda, for Hindu

Best Music

Umar M. Sharif, for Uba da Da – WON

Umar M. Sharif and Isa Gombe, for Gwaska

Nura M. Inuwa, for Hindu

 

Best Set Design

Tahir I. Tahir, for Hindu – WON

Muhammad Sani G., for Bakin Mulki

Saif A. Nuhu and Ishaq Ahmad Nuhu, for Halacci

 

Best Costume

Jibrin Cha, Sunusi Shamaki, and One Eye, for Hindu -WON

Umar Big Show, et al, for Gwaska

Sunusi Shamaki, for Bakin Mulki

Best Makeup

(guess which makeup artist won….? 😉 )

Alhaji Suji, for Hindu

Alhaji Suji, for Bakin Alkalami

Alhaji Suji, for Nasibi

 

 

 

Premiere (and screening schedule) of Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate and Environmental Crisis

Here is the screening schedule (to the best of my knowledge) for Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate and Environmental Crisis by location. Most recent date listed first with earlier screenings in descending order.  Check the ‘Yar Adua Centre  Facebook page for more details. Scroll down for the original post about the film and its premiere:

On 3 April 2016, Nowhere to Run won the Grand Jury Prize at the Green Me Film Festival, Lagos.

On 3 July 2016, Nowhere to Run won the award for the Best Documentary Short at The African Film Festival (TAFF), Dallas.

Nigeria

Abuja:

7 July 2016 – One Environment Conference, Thought Pyramid Art Centre, 18 Libreville Street, Wuse II, Abuja. 2:30-4:30pm. Screening and Panel Discussion.

5 July 2016 – One Environment Conference, Thought Pyramid Art Centre, 18 Libreville Street, Wuse II, Abuja. 3:30-5pm. Screening and Panel Discussion.

6 June 2016 – ‘Yar Adua Centre  (in partnership with the National Gallery of the Arts) to commemorate UN World Environment Day.

22 April 2016 – Ekiti Hall, U.S. Embassy (Earth Day)

22 April 2016 – Canadian High Commission, Abuja

1 March, 2016 – Justice Development and Peace Commission, Catholic Secretariat

28 November 2015, 6pm – Institut Francaise

17 November 2015 – Green Carpet Premiere, Yar Adu’a Centre

Adamawa:

16 March 2016 – Library Auditorium, American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola (Leadership report, This Day Report)

Bauchi:

18 April 2016 – American Corner, Bauchi

Kaduna:

Between 21 March -15 April 2016 – Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

28 April 2016 – Conference Hall A, Gusau Institute, Kaduna

Kano:

18 April 2016 – American Corner, Kano

7 March, 2016 – Bayero University, Kano

Kwara:

2 June 2016 – Kwara State University, Malete, Auditorium, 12 noon (before convocation play)

Lagos:

7 June 2016 – PEFTI Film Institute, 5/7 Joy Avenue, By UBA Bank, Off Isolo Way, Ajao Estate, Isolo, Lagos. 1pm

2-3 April 2016 – Green Me Film Festival, Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island, Ahmadu Bellow Way, 5pm, Saturday and Sunday. WON Grand Jury Prize.

Ogun:

29 March 2016 – Covenant University Chapel, Ota

15-19 November 2015 – Ake Arts and Book Festival, Arts and Culture Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta

Oyo:

11 July 2016 -IFRA-Nigeria Post Cop21 Conference “Ecological Crises in Nigeria.” Draper’s Hall, University of Ibadan, 12 noon.

21 April 2016 – American Corner, Ibadan

Plateau:

28 June 2016 – American Corner, Jos, 11 Murtala Mohammad Way (UniJos Consultancy Building) 10am prompt. RSVP: 0803-718-4414.

2 April 2016 – RURCON Conference Hall, Nigerian Bible Translation Trust

27 March 2016 – Miango Rest Home, Miango

Rivers:

28 April – Alliance Francaise, Port Harcourt, 12 noon

Overseas

France:

9-12 December 2015 – Africa Pavilian, COP21, Paris

 

United States:

California

11 February 2016 – Blum Centre for Developing Economies, University of California, Berkeley

22 February 2017 – Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA. Adams 216, 7pm

Illinois

31 August 2016- The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs sponsor a screening to be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 5pm check in, 5:30 film screening, 6:30pm Conversation with Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr., Jackie Farris, and Kole Shettima, 7pm reception. To attend sign up online.

New Jersey

8 July 2016 – Rodo African Cuisine, Linden, New Jersey. The film will screen at Rodo African Cuisine, 1600 East Saint Georges Avenue, Linden, New Jersey, Friday, 8 July, 8-10pm. Free Entry. For more information, call 347-200-2509.

Texas

2 July 2016 – The African Film Festival (TAFF), Dallas. Nowhere to Run will screen at the Angelika Film centre, Dallas, Theatre A, on Saturday, 2 July around 8:45pm. The VOA article on TAFF featured Nowhere to Run. To buy a ticket and vote on the trailer, see this site. On 3 July, Nowhere to Run won the TAFF award for best documentary short.

Washington, D.C.

7 July 2016 – Nigerian Embassy, Washington DC.Nowhere to Run will screen at the the Nigerian Embassy, 3519 International Ct. NW, Washington, DC 20008, Thursday, 5 July, 6pm. To RSVP please respond at this link.

6 July 2016 – John Hopkins University in partnership with American University, Washington DC. Nowhere to Run will screen at John Hopkins University-SAIS, 1619 Masssachusetts Avenue, NW, Rome-806, Washington, DC 20036. 5-7pm. Please RSVP to African Studies, saisafrica (at) jhu.edu or 202-663-5676

6 July 2016 –  International Republican Institute, 1225 Eye Street NW, Suite 800, Washington DC, will screen the film at 2-4pm. To register for the event, click here.

 

Original Post:

At 6pm in Abuja at the Yar’Adua Centre today, 17 November, there will be a “green carpet” premiere of the documentary film Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate and Environmental crisis. Watch the trailer here:

 

The film was sponsored by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, narrated by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr., and directed (shot, partially edited, etc) by my brother Dan McCain, who is the Managing Director of the Lagos-based Core Productions. I have also worked with Dan last year and this year on the project and came up with the first part of the title “nowhere to run,” which is a sentiment we heard over and over again in the interviews of people who talked about the effects of environmental degradation on their communities. Dan and his production team travelled all over Nigeria gathering stories about the environmental devastation in Nigeria and interviews with Nigeria-based experts and professionals such as Nnimmo Bassey, Ken Wiwa, Liza Gadsby and Peter Jenkins, Muhammad Kabir Isa, Paul Adeogun, Hannah Kabir, Saleh B. Momale, Michael Egbebike, Fatima Akilu, Joseph Hurst Croft, Alagoa Morris, Inemo Samiama, Ekaette Ukobong, Michael Uwemedimo, Godknows Boladei Igali, and others. What we came to find over the process of making the documentary is that as climate change creates global changes in the environment, many of the natural defense mechanisms that could alleviate some of the harm done by the changing environment are being destroyed through human activity.

For example, flaring is a major contributor of greenhouse gases that are contributing to global warming. Although flaring is illegal in Nigeria, oil companies continue to flare because the fines are lower than the cost of capping off the flares and redirecting the gas (and if the gas were captured, it could do a lot to contribute to Nigeria’s massive need for electricity).  The mangroves and rain forests that absorb the greenhouse gases that cause global warming are being destroyed through oil pollution, logging and construction. These same mangroves and wetlands could also help absorb and manage the sea level rise that is occurring as polar ice caps melt, and yet they are shrinking every year. So, there is ocean encroachment along the coast, massive erosion in the southeast related to heavy rains and forest clearing, and desertification in the north. Environmental crises also contribute to conflict. For example, as Mohammad Kabir Isa of Ahmadu Bello University points out in the film and in this interview, the shrinking of Lake Chad (caused both by human interventions that remove massive amounts of water for irrigation and changing rainfall patterns that no longer fill the lake as they used to) has caused massive migration into Maiduguri in the past 20 years. Once people get to Maiduguri, there were few jobs available so the social welfare provided by Boko Haram attracted members. Desertification is also pushing people further south, and the expansion of farming into migration routes formerly used by pastoralists is behind some of the conflict we are seeing between pastoralists and farmers.

This is not a simple story, but instead one of multiple diverse complications both on a global and local level that are contributing to much of the environmental and political crises in Nigeria today. We made a point of making this a “Nigerian” documentary, and the interviews in the documentary are all with people based in Nigeria.

There are some things being done to reduce dependence on oil and to better use the land, such as wind energy project in Katsina and cook stoves and ovens that reduce dependence on firewood. But much more needs to be done.

You need a ticket to get into the premiere, but you can get them for free at this link. Unfortunately, because of a family emergency, I am unable to be there, but I hope it goes well and does some work to raise awareness among those who have the power to make the kinds of infrastructural changes in Nigeria that are needed to reduce the pressure on Nigeria’s environment. Another reason to go is to see my brother’s gorgeous cinematography, which captures the environmental devastation in Nigeria as well as the great beauty that still remains. If you miss the premiere, the Yar’Adua Centre is planning to sponsor a series of screenings around the country, and I will try to post updates here.

Some Core Productions images taken during the shooting for the documentary:

 

 

Interview with Award-winning filmmaker Kenneth Gyang at the African Studies Association Conference, 2014

poster courtesy of Shadow and Act

At the African Studies Association conference in Indianapolis last November (2014), Nollywood scholar Connor Ryan asked me if I’d like to collaborate with him on an interview with filmmaker Kenneth Gyang, one of the founders of Cinema Kpatakpata. Kenneth’s film Confusion Na Wa won the awards for Best film and Best Nigerian film at the 9th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2013. (It was nominated for four)

Kenneth is a friend, whom I have known since the set of his Blood and Henna in 2011, which was also nominated for six AMAA Awards (and eventually won Best Costume Design).

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Kenneth Gyang on the set of his film Blood and Henna in Kaduna, November 5, 2011. (c) Carmen McCain

 

At the time we interviewed him (directly before the screening), I had not yet seen Confusion Na Wa! and I really wish I had, as I would have had even more questions. It is a brilliant film that, within a fractured tragi-comic plot, captures well the kinds of daily life and conversations Nigerians have. I need to see it one more time before I write a review.

In the meantime, if you are in Nigeria, Confusion Na Wa is currently back in cinemas via Filmhouse Cinemas, which has locations in Kano, Lagos, Ibadan Calabar, Port Harcourt, and Asaba. If you are in Kano, it is playing now at 10:10am Friday through Thursday. Go see it. If you are in the U.S., Kenneth Gyang has been on a tour, and I believe Confusion Na Wa will be screening at the University of Georgia on February 28, this Saturday, although I wasn’t able to find it on the UGA calender.

I didn’t project my questions very well in the video interview (only Kenneth was mic-ed), so some of my contributions got cut in the editing, but I loved Connor’s questions (he wrote one of the first and probably one of the best reviews of the film when it first came out in 2013) and Kenneth’s answers. Here is a link to some of Kenneth’s transcribed answers, and below is the video of the interview. Enjoy.

Remembering ‘Dan Ibro (tare da baturiyarsa) (Allah ya jikan ‘Dan Ibro)

This morning, I yielded to the temptation to go onto Facebook before starting my work.  I found waiting for me a private message from a friend telling me that Rabilu Musa aka ‘Dan Ibro, the most famous comedian and perhaps the most famous actor in the Hausa film industry, had just passed away.(BBC, Premium Times, RFI). He was only in his forties. Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un.

Dan Ibro praying (courtesy of Rabilu Musa DAN Ibro Facebook page)

It is a gutting loss to the industry and to millions of people all over northern Nigeria, who laughed at Ibro’s antics even as the bombs were exploding around them.

An explanation:

I’ve been gone from this blog since June, since even before then, really, as I tried to reduce distractions to a bare minimum while I pushed out the PhD. I kept up with the column at Weekly Trust until August. A week before my revisions were due, I desperately asked my editor for a month break, which he graciously granted me. I finished the PhD and then just kind of collapsed. I had been taking two days and an all nighter every week trying to write my weekly column. I had written throughout the last four years of my PhD programme, even through the defense. But with the kidnap of the Chibok girls and ever more atrocities coming out of the northeast, sometimes venturing further West, I felt like I couldn’t write about anything else. How can you write about novels and movies and walks in pretty American parks when ethnic cleansing is going on—when perhaps some of your readers have been killed in the violence? My one-month break turned into many months. I got busy applying for academic jobs and going to conferences and travelling back and forth to Nigeria. I pushed away thoughts of the column. I couldn’t handle the thought of having one more deadline every week or of having to write anything else while people were being murdered and bombs were going off.

Then ‘Dan Ibro died.

And I realized he made people laugh in the midst of all of these horrors (In October there was even a Ibro Likitan Ebola poster floating around on Twitter), and that perhaps it is this laughter, these stories, these songs, these dreams of ordinary people in ordinary and extraordinary times, that are what help us

Ibro Ebola Doctor (courtesy of Kannywood Exclusive TL: https://twitter.com/kannywoodex/status/504397310957457408 )

survive. We shouldn’t allow Boko Haram or any other threat to take laughter and story and song away from us. During the Jos crisis of 2008, dozens of people sought refuge in our house. One night, I brought out my vcd of Ibro Dan Siyasa [Ibro Politician], and everyone, all crammed into our parlour, sat there laughing. Christians in Jos laughing at the Muslim Ibro’s comedy, in the midst of a religious/ethnic/political crisis. I thought, then, that there is a bridge here, this Kannywood, this comedy, there’s something here that goes beyond the bitter statements I’d heard from Christian refugees throughout the crisis. The same people who had cursed “the Hausa” and cursed “the Muslims” were laughing at ‘Dan Ibro. His comedy was bigger than fear and hatred and politics.

So here are my own memories of Ibro.

Like any fan, I have watched dozens of his films—playing in the background on Africa Magic Hausa as I would write in my room or in the little kiosk where I bought yoghurt and bread when I lived in Kano. I’d watch short comedy sketches excerpted from his longer films that musicians and filmmakers would show me on their phones in studios. Sometimes I’d peek over the shoulders of strangers in taxis giggling at an Ibro sketch on their phone.

When a director and producer I did not know approached me on Zoo Road with the idea for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya, I laughed and agreed without too much further thought. I liked the idea. I said I would do it, if I could get an interview with Ibro. The producer agreed.

One of the vcd covers for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya (more coming once I can find my hard copies in the various boxes where they are packed)

One of the vcd covers for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya (more coming once I can find my hard copies in the various boxes where they are packed)

Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya was made in early 2009, in the midst of the Kano State Censorship crisis. Because of the crisis, we had to leave Kano to shoot the film. We met up with Rabilu Musa on the outskirts of Kano, and I rode in the back seat of his car as he drove towards Jigawa State. He was dressed in a normal white kaftan, and without the bright signature costume, the tall red cap or the comedian’s grin, he looked like an ordinary person—not one of Nigeria’s biggest stars. He was very quiet and did not say much as we drove. Even with all of my exposure to Kannywood, I remain bashful in the presence of fame. I hoped for an interview but didn’t quite know how to ask him. We stopped once on the side of the road, perhaps to buy snacks, and people passed without recognizing him until some of the children did a double take and then started chanting “Ibro, Ibro.”

We arrived at a village a little bit outside of Dutse in Jigawa, and we ate lunch before starting to shoot. I was still too shy to talk to him, as you can see from the below photo of me grinning like an idiot while Ibro eats in the background. But the director fulfilled his part of the bargain, and we had a brief 6-7 minute interview. I tried to ask him about his ordeal the year before, at the hands of the Kano State Censorship Board. He didn’t want to talk about it. I got what I could. (I’ve transcribed the Hausa, though I haven’t yet translated it, and will post it later on this blog).

Eating on set of Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya. (Ibro in white). (Me, grinning like idiot)

Eating on set of Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya. (Ibro in white). (Me, grinning like idiot)

Then it was time to act. I was led to a small, borrowed room in someone’s compound and told to change into my “Western dress”. About a minute later, before I had a chance to smooth down my hair still flattened from my headtie, I was rushed out to do the first scene where I drag (my own) suitcase into the village with Ibro, asking him why we aren’t going to Abuja as he promised me. There was no script. At least none that I was given. The director gave us a minute of instruction (I was to speak in English at first and later in broken Hausa), and we were off. Ibro is a brilliant comedian and knew exactly what to do. I just tried to keep up.

That day, Ibro had somewhere else to be. I completed my scenes with him, a few more were cut, perhaps, and he rushed off to his next film. We continued with Baba Ari, ‘Dan Auta, and the others at a more leisurely pace.

On set of Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya.  Left to right. Director Muhammad Y. Muhammad, Baba Ari, me, Dan Auta, Producer Lawal D. Funtua.

On set of Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya.
Left to right. Director Muhammad Y. Muhammad, Baba Ari, me, Dan Auta, Producer Lawal D. Funtua.

After production, I was embarrassed. I felt I had acted terribly. I felt like if produced differently it could have, perhaps, been funnier. I never mentioned the film on this blog and rarely elsewhere, because I didn’t want people to see me in it.

But on the streets, people would call out “matan Ibro,” “matan Ibro.” People would jokingly ask me how my husband Ibro was. And so it was that “matan Ibro” became part of my public persona, even though I was still too shy to talk to him.

The original vcd cover for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya.

The original vcd cover for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya.

Eventually, I was able to overcome my embarrassment enough to watch parts 1 through 3 of the Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya and to look at it with enough distance to include an analysis of it in my PhD dissertation. I realized that it didn’t matter how I acted. It wasn’t about me. The baturiya was just a symbol to be played with and mocked—some of the funniest scenes were discussions of the baturiya, where I did not appear but which were made possible by my token appearance elsewhere: the baturiyar kwantainer, Ibro could not pass off to his friend once I became a nuisance because he claimed he had gotten me from a container, which could have come from Togo or Benin, rather than America; the baturiya whom Ibro really “made suffer” as people on the street would laugh to me.

Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya was where I most connected with Rabilu Musa, but he had many more brilliant films. They weren’t usually polished, but they were usually hilarious and filled with sometimes biting political humour. The character of Ibro took on a life of his own. His voice often imitated by singers, including Sadi Sidi Sharifai, so that the character Ibro became disembodied from the actor himself. I mention him over 40 different times in my PhD thesis, and do an extended analysis of his film Kotun Ibro, a sly dig at the mobile court which persecuted so many filmmakers during the censorship crisis.

Ibro's film Kotun Ibro poked fun at the mobile court that had arrested him.

Ibro’s film Kotun Ibro poked fun at the mobile court that had arrested him.

Dan Ibro was an institution. He has become an era.

He will not act in any new films, but he will stay with us in a thousand different comedies. I heard his voice singing on the radio today, as a broadcaster mourned him. He brawls and weeps and shouts and complains and dances on a million different screens. We will keep laughing, even when, perhaps, we should be crying.

Allah ya jikansa, Allah ya sa shi huta. Yaba mu hakurin wannan babban rashi.

Postscript

As I wrote this today, I saw the news of another bomb in Kano at the Kwari cloth market. Allah ya kiyaye mu. What a horrible day Kano has had.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming to contemplate how many people from the Hausa film industry have died in the past few years. Here are my tributes to a few of them.

Actress Hauwa Ali Dodo (Biba Problem), who died 1 January 2009,

Director Zilkiflu Muhammed (Zik), who died 18 February 2010,

Actress Safiya Ahmed, who died on 26 February 2010,

Actress Amina Garba, who died on 21 November 2010,

Comedian and director Lawal Kaura, who died on 13 December 2011,

Actress Maryam Umar Aliyu, who died on 12 April 2011,

Director Muhammadu Balarabe Sango, who died on 1 December 2012