“It really is a great time for African content creators” maybe you’ve seen or heard this several times over the past few years. but is it really? Or hasn’t African content and their creators always been great, with the only thing lacking being appreciation, recognition and support for African creatives.
Seeing as today marks the 61st birthday of our dearest country Nigeria, we celebrate her resilience, struggle, hustle and her unwavering ability to produce and refine undeniably what can be described as the most entertaining creatives on this planet.
You don’t have to look so far to find examples of Nigerians’ seamless triumphs. Let’s start right before the dreadful Covid-19 pandemic, With the release of Beyonce’s album for Lion King, The album which was titled, “The Lion King: The Gift.” The album featured an array of Nigerian artists from Burna Boy to Wizkid, Tekno, Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi and Yemi Alade. This truly was just another stamp of approval that showcased the level of untapped talent and maybe what triggered the “Africa to the World” narrative. Or maybe the stand-out moment was actually in 2013, when Beyoncé spoke an excerpt from Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay around social conditioning of girls, which was the heart and center of the song “Flawless”. Any further doubts to Nigeria’s steady triumph can be erased with Tems feature in Rapper Drake’s New album.
Now let’s take it further back to showcase how in her 61 years of independence, Nigeria has remained a creative powerhouse whether in the arts, culture and literature, Just like Wole Soyinka when he became the first African laureate in1986. The Nobel Foundation described him as one of the finest poetical playwrights that have written in English.
Just like many of these moments in time, today marks not just the celebration of Nigeria, but the celebration of another Nigerian Novelist, Seffi Atta, whose Award Winning Novel Swallow, debuts on Netflix globally this independence day.
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The movie adaptation of Swallow which was produced in partnership with Nigeria’s leading Director Kunle Afolayan, follows the journeys of Tolani, a young woman living in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, and her mother, Arike, a middle-aged woman living in Makoku, a town on the outskirts of Lagos. Tolani’s decline from a secretary to a drug mule recruit, and struggles to conceive a child as a young bride, lead them to consider options they would otherwise deem unthinkable. The film reflects real-life societal pressures and stars some of Nigeria’s beloved actors including; Eniola Akinbo, Ijeoma G. Agu, Deyemi Okanlawon, Kelvin Ikeduba, Offiong Anthony, Eniola Badmus, Chioma Akpotha, Olusegun Akinremi, Joke Muyiwa, Omotunde Adebowale, amongst others
Just like this title, Swallow is one of the many feats that have been championed and realized by Africa with support from Netflix. But many might call this support, just another means for international entertainment giants to take credit for the work of African creatives. When commenting on the relationship between Nollywood and Hollywood the saying; “There’s no such thing as a free launch,” comes to mind. Which means while it’s commendable to see the likes of Netflix, Youtube, Universal and the likes of Sony revolutionizing African content, it begs to question, how much really do these international giants gain from African content?
Some might say, it’s simply the subtle exportation of content and creativity from one end of the globe to the other, with benefits to both the content creator and the content proliferator. On one end you’ve got global entertainment companies with resources, both financial and otherwise, that are thirsty for rarely explored stories in a market full of equally thirsty talented individuals on and off the screen who are gradually beginning to understand their value.
But, the definition of value to both parties are in most cases different, whilst the content creators’ definition of value could be recognition or simply cash, it could also be access to stories, culture and traditions that could make for amazing titles can can be universally relatable.
Netflix recently Announced that Award-winning media personality Peace Hyde will executively produce Netflix’s first-ever African reality TV series, Young, Famous and African. A seemingly shallow show that follows the glitzy lives and relationships of Pan African superstars, is yet another insight into the present thirst for different unexplored stories.
This also suggests that the rest of the world and Africans in diaspora are more eager to see some version of their lives reflected on screen, because really how relatable would this show be to the average Nigerian on the street, but we take our accolades where we can. The show also features some of Nigeria’s favorite music and fashion “stars” like Annie Macaulay-Idibia; 2 face idibia and celebrity fashion stylist Swanky Jerry.
Since entering the market, The entertainment company has been on a hunt for complex, simple yet unexplored stories, seeking collaborations with movie veterans and prominent industry moguls. While this is all well and good, what about the future?
On the surface, it may seem most foreign and local organisations with resources have no long term commitment to Africa as many believe this new found appreciation and value for African content is a bleep in time, hence why so many Nigerian creatives work tirelessly to get their voices heard before the gap closes. Netflix seems to prove otherwise with a recent partnership with the realness institute.
The goal of this partnership is to train 12 creatives from across Africa including Nigeria, through an Episodic Lab (EPL) where they will develop their story concepts alongside expert Story Consultants and Creative Producers. Netflix will further work with the creatives with the opportunity to pitch their incubated concept with the possibility to have their series further developed for production.
The Entertainment platform continues to foster dynamic partnerships with African movie moguls like Kunle Afolayan, Mo Abudu, and so on, and is looking to begin work on the future moguls. Following the return of Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys 2 and Netflix’s first original Nigerian series, Kunle Afolayan’s Swallow — a movie adaptation of Seffi Atta’s novel— is scheduled to hit the platform this independence day
So maybe it is a great time for Nigerian content creators but it is also a great time to be proud to be Nigerian especially today, despite the socio-political and economic imbalances, Nigerians find a way to make it to the top.