In a recent statement that has ignited widespread discussions, Aisha Lawal highlighted the substantial contribution of the Yoruba people to the inception and evolution of the Nigerian film industry, commonly known as “Nollywood.”
While the claim raised eyebrows, a closer examination of historical records and cinematic milestones indeed points to the Yoruba community’s pivotal role in shaping Nigeria’s cinematic landscape.
The roots of Nollywood trace back to the mid-20th century during the “Golden Age Era.”
This period, stretching from the 1950s to the late 1980s, saw the ascendancy of theater, stage plays, and traveling performance troupes, predominantly fueled by creative endeavors from Western Nigeria.
Iconic figures like Moses Olaiya, Jab Adu, and Isola Ogunsola emerged as early luminaries, championing the art of storytelling.
A landmark in this era was the establishment of Latola Films in 1962, which pioneered indigenous motion picture production.
Simultaneously, the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) Ibadan initiated television broadcasting in 1959, bringing the theatrical productions of these visionaries into the living rooms of the region’s residents.
The 1970s witnessed notable cinematic releases such as “Kongi’s Harvest” based on Wole Soyinka’s work and Ola Balogun’s post-civil war film “Amadi.”
However, it was Balogun’s “Ajani Ogun” in 1976 that heralded the era of commercial Nigerian cinema.
The film’s success underscored the audience’s appetite for captivating narratives.
The transition from the Golden Age to the Video Film Era in the late 1980s marked a significant shift due to the proliferation of private television sets.
In this era, the Yoruba people again took the lead.
Films like “Evil Encounter” (1983) and “Soso Meji” (1988) showcased the potential of direct-to-video releases, foreshadowing the modern on-demand streaming trend.
Fast forward to the “New Nollywood” era, characterized by a return to cinema-style production, the Yoruba community continues to spearhead innovation.
Renowned producers such as Funke Akindele, Niyi Akinmolayan, and Kemi Adetiba have orchestrated a resurgence of cinema-based storytelling, captivating audiences with compelling narratives and cutting-edge visuals.
Furthermore, the rise of on-demand streaming services has elevated Yoruba-language films to global prominence.
Titles like “Anikulapo” and “Jagun Jagun” have shattered records on internet streaming platforms, firmly establishing Yoruba cinema’s international appeal.
In light of historical and empirical data, Aisha Lawal’s assertion holds merit: the Yoruba people’s trailblazing spirit has indelibly shaped Nollywood’s trajectory, from its inception to its current global recognition.
CREDIT: THE YORUBA NATION CH