Sine Plambech, the director of the film, old this story using interview clips of Becky and re-enacted videos of her story. Becky lived in Benin city with her partner, her parents and three siblings also lived in Benin. It is almost a norm for young ladies in Benin city to aspire to travel to Italy in search of ‘greener pastures’ and Becky was one of those aspiring ladies. In her course to travel out, she was swindled. She comes to find out out that the money she paid to procure her travelling documents had gone down the drain when the official at the airport told her the documents were fake, luckily she was not arrested. Or maybe it was just God trying to dissuade her from following through with her plan.
After her first attempt failed, she decided to take another route. Through the great sea to Libya, then cross from Libya to Italy. She started making preparations to go abroad, sponsored by a certain nameless woman in Italy. Make no mistake, these girls know exactly what it is they are going to do in Italy. It is not any legal or respectable job. They know what they are in for, and going over there means going to become a sex worker. Their journey by road to Libya started out fine, but that did not last for long. On the 10th day, they ran out of food, the same day a young man travelling with them died. No longer sure of what the road held for them, they’re spirits were defeated, pleading to be taken back to Nigeria. Going back was not an option however. They finally got to Libya and had to remain there for about two months, there was fighting in Libya and it was a dangerous time so they could not cross. Finally they headed back to Nigeria after months of suffering, hunger and uncertainty for what the future held for them. On their way back to Nigeria, her pregnant friend Maureen, who was with them went into labour. She delivered her baby but did not survive.
All of these events give viewers a vivid picture of the reality of our women who believe the government and their economy has failed them. Now they are left to cater for themselves and their families, and if they cannot do that in Nigeria, they are prepared to go through harsh conditions to go abroad – sell their bodies, make money and come back home. The honesty in this documentary is touching, as Becky made it clear that she would not stop trying to find her way abroad. The only options seems to try again.
TASHA SARUMI IREP Media Team
Faaji Agba, the Award winning documentary film is a “LABOUR OF LOVE” project by filmmaker Remi Vaughn-Richards on Lagos history, culture and music from 1940 to date. She follows lives of all and the death of some seven 65 to 85 year old Yoruba musicians. It didn’t start as a grand project, but it evolved as Remi joined forces with Kunle Tejuoso of Jazzhole Records. Kunle Tejuoso started a trail to rediscovering there men who had been forgotten by the society to form the FAAJI AGBA Collection since 2009, lighting up the torch of relevance of their kind of music and keeping the legacy for generations to come; with documentation by Remi Vaughn- Richards.
The journey starts with the legendary Olayiwola Fatai Rolling Dollar; he was discovered in 1999 in a small room in the Mushin area of Lagos and given an apartment in recognition of his music, leads us to the others like Alaba Pedro, Prince Eji Oyewole, Taiye Anyowale, Samson Adegbite, Kunle Adeniran, Nureini Sunmola and Niyi Ajileye. Their music style ranged from highlife, juju to afrobeat. The story follows them to their New York performance in 2011 which took us to the end of Alaba Pedro’s (Palm wine Guitar man) chapter of the story; who died 3 hours into their flight back to Lagos from New York on the 6th of August 2011, he was buried in Ikorodu. S F Olowookere passed on 8th Aril 2012 and Olaiyiwola Fatai Rolling Dollar passed on in June 12, 2013.
While this 91 minute long film takes us through the lives of the several men, it tells us of a good number of Lagos history in music which keeps us informs the audience in an intriguing way; like the story behind the statue of Kokoro the blind minstrel and his wife at Tinubu Square, Haruna Ishola and the Apala Band, how the Saw was used in 1945/46 to make music by hunters and farmers, how in 1967 during the Biafran war parties were organized in secret by these musicians, Fatai Rolling Dollar explain Juju music to have been created by a game or musicians tossing the cymbal or tambourine at each other singing “Ju si mi, Ju si e… owa di JUJU”. The documentary also spoke of Dr Victor Olaiya whose music still rings in the minds of the Lagos youth today. The history of Lagos entertainment began in Lafiaji according to this documentary. This is the part of Lagos where Fanti Carnival held in 1937, Fatai Rolling Dollar played here in 1958.
Faaji Agba, Our Lagos story, Nigerian Heritage of the most beautiful musical legacies.
Imoh EbohIREP Media Team
Documentary film plays an important role in recording some of the most atrocious incidents deeds of white or western inhumanity to black, and more specifically to the people of the African world. This particular documentary captures the incidents leading to the invasion of an African hamlet or village. It particularly reels the wicked acts meted on an innocent but; unlucky young African man leading to his capture, sojourn to the land of the white man, the dehumanization which he experiences and his eventual death.
Made by African American studies Prof. Niyi Coker of the University of Missouri-St-Luis, Ota Benga shows the various indecencies of a clergyman Rev. Viener who is instructed to explore Africa by his own employers. Entering the village under the pretence of a religious mission, Viener eventually acts brutishly by abducting Ota Benga with brute force, and takes him to the white man’s land. Upon arriving in the U.S, Ota Benga is used as a specimen to be put on display of an exhibit, in a museum among the remains of dinosaurs and various animals. Ota Benga experiences great shock and immense psychological humiliation. He becomes an object of amusement before several white audiences who encounter a Black person from the African continent for the first time. This encounter was influenced by a racist colonial narrative, which classified races placing Black people at the bottom of the hierarchy.
Ota Benga became a tool for the exhibitionist who puts him for auction. The treatment he received at the museum and by the spectators led to damaging physiological torture. This led to a movement of people who protested for his capturing, eventually resulting in his release. However, the psychological damage became a permanent part of his spirit…He then takes his own life to escape the psychological trauma. His name changed to Ota Bingo as inscribed on the tomb.
The documentary has its strengths in that the content mixes exactly with the form, structure and techniques. Niyi Coker adopts a multimedia approach, and goes the extra mile by using facts curled from newspapers and magazines which recoded the sad ordeal of the subject. Original letters of, and from Rev Viener to his employers about his sojourn to Africa and vice versa, montage reels of 17th century America and the so called African primitive world, the cultural landscape of African civilization, cartoon illustrations of African rituals, festivals, and the various levels of invasion of Africa by white men holding guns across their shoulders, pictures of the Ota Benga himself as a happy young man. Niyi Coker also draws on real time interviews with scholars from various fields of study, and more interestingly a few relatives of Rev. Veiner, who Niyi Coker confessed were at first reluctant and hesitant to speak about the malodorous behaviours of Veiner.
These interviews helped in gathering facts about the ridicule Ota Benga experienced. There were other dramatic strategies to the documentary as Niyi Coker employed the services of actors who could intone the accent of the characters that contributed to the miserable life of Ota Benga before his untimely death. These voices were so real and had life that could almost put one in a position as to be part of the entire occurrences and happenings within the period in question. This is what Brian Larkin refers to as the “Aesthetic of Outrage”, a situation which compels the member of audience to be directly involved in the story as it occurred in real time. In this kind of story there is a tragic side and because there exists a tragic side it will be cathartic.
Niyi Coker illustrates a situation of the past to compel us to think about our own situation in the modern world, and how the African person is treated. Further, the film allows the audience to think about the cultural identity of the Black body as it crosses borders, but continues to be oppressed by the colonial structures that were historically created. The spectacle that is created out of Ota Benga in a cage shows viewers the way the history of colonialism, profit, racism and imperialism are all connected and have led to the historic and continued dehumanization of the Black body.
Tunde Onikoyi & Nayo Sasaki-Picou IREP Media Team.
I welcome you all to the 110th ART STAMPEDE of the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA).
I thank IREP for providing the platform for the first of several events of CORA’s 25th anniversary.
In June 1991, smack in the era of the great silence, some 60 artistes of various persuasions-sculptors, TV scriptwriters, TV soap producers, filmmakers, novelists, painters, essayists gathered in a courtyard in Festac Town, on the far west of Lagos, for the first QUARTERLY Art Stampede. It was the signature take off of CORA, a group of culture enthusiasts who fancy themselves as landscapists of the Nigerian culture scene.
The big idea of CORA was to wet the fields for the country’s artistic flowering.
The raison d’être for Art Stampede was to have some kind of artists parliament to throw ideas around that could help shape the economy of culture production.
The plan was that culture producers aged between 18 and 40 should have a space to air their hopes and misgivings about anything from cultural administration in the country to the quality of post -Soyinka literature.
Sitting here now, in 2016, I know some of you may be thinking: What’s the big deal?
But 1991 was 14 years after Festac 77, and although there were quite a number of things happening, they were not in relative the gush that they do now. Nollywood had not happened. The Nigerian novel was in retreat and though Poetry was a strong genre of the Literarti, the publishing industry was gasping under the strictures of the Structural Adjustment Programme. Most art exhibitions in Lagos happened inside the spaces of foreign cultural institutions.
With social media in full bloom 25 years after, everyone knows what everyone else is doing at any point in time. Back then, however, we desperately need a “hangout” to network.
Indeed, the immediate reason for starting a conversation platform where you could discuss style over kegs of palmwine and break with interludes of live performances, was that the US Information Centre shut the auditorium that young intellectuals of the time used to get together in informal meetings to banter about the facts and fiction of the time.
We like to boast that a lot of things that have happened since took physical form because our highly publicised debates put the ideas in the air: Where we lamented about lack of exhibition spaces 25 years ago, the city is now crawling with galleries, even if the standard fare is still to convert a three bedroom flat on Victoria Island to a viewing space.
Goethe Institut is now less the default exhibition venue for Nigerian painters than TerraKulture, which came to life in the 15th year of the Stampede. The French Cultural Centre has lost the title of the networking venue to Freedom Park and Bogobiri.
Where we questioned What Literature, there is now enough happening in the literary scene to support several Prize awards. Where we argued about the demise of the cinema culture and deliberated about the means to create a vibrant Nigerian Film Industry, we now have Nollywood Phase 3 and everyone agrees it is a work in progress.
Where we wondered why the Nigerian music took a back seat in the Nigerian night club, now the Nigerian hip hop is a staple of lounges and bars everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa.
Some foreign centres even started copy catting the Nigerians; the Goethe Institut now has a routine rooftop photo party, a concept we experimented with a Rooftop Garden Party at the National Theatre in 1996, with a stampede devoted to Ben Enwonwu, the late Patriarch of Contemporary art in Nigeria.
As the stampede evolved, the core competency of CORA became something like getting a structured conversation on the culture scene.
In retrospect, it’s not surprising that we are the first Nigerian –individual or institution- to win the prestigious Prince Claus Award for culture development. We won that award for the rigour of conversations on culture.
The art stampede itself has evolved over time and CORA has moved from just being a promoter of conversations to a shaper of events.
Two of CORA’s major periodic programmes of the last twenty years have been both the monthly Highlife Party, which ran for seven years and the Lagos Book and Art Festival. In the former, like what the organisers of AfroPolitan are doing today, we put the concept of revival of Nigeria’s most cosmopolitan music genre in a bar and lounge, a popular space where people would otherwise come and entertain themselves.
The Lagos Book and Art Festival has become our signature programme. The Festival took off in 1999, the year of our return to democracy. Let me be clear on this; it was several years after the lights went out on the Ife Book Fair –once the largest book fair on the continent-and the same year that the Nigerian International Book Fair was taking off.
But we didn’t want a Book Fair; as CORA is for all the arts, we wanted an Arts Festival with a high book content. The idea has blossomed since we wet the fields 17 years ago; there has been the Port Harcourt Literary Festival, the Bayelsa Book and Cultural Festival, the Ake Arts and Book Festival, Anambra Book and Creativity Festival. We haven’t got paid for the Franchise!
I thank the audience for permitting all that backgrounding to today’s event.
The Stampede today is to focus on Documentary & Creative Freedom.
This collaboration with IREP is a manifestation of our decision, eight years ago, to dedicate a conversation, every year, to the moving images. We started by running the conversation at BOBTV, a brainchild of the indefatigable Nigerian movie producer Amaka Igwe, in Abuja in 2010.
BOBTV has since been rested and we’ve berthed at IREP, naturally .
If you watch closely, IREP is hardly indistinguishable from CORA. The man who is emceeing the proceedings, Jahman Anikulapo, is 70% of all of CORA put together. And Mr. Theo Lawson, the architect and builder of this venue, is both a trustee of CORA and a director of IREP.
We have chosen the theme of Freedom, for the umpteenth time in our event because without at least a perception of freedom, our whole notion of flowering of the artistic enterprise, of a wild field of activity, will be restricted.
This is the era of Change: we ask this afternoon, what is the fate and fortune of Documentary Production and Exhibition in an Era of Change.
Documentary films are largely works of Journalism– dealing with reality and presentation of facts; and this could be antithetical to expectation and interest of the State or holders of political or economic powers. It could also create tension between the filmmaker and such officials; in some cases it could lead to cases of harassment, persecution or sometimes outright imprisonment as we have witnessed on recent times.
This is the topic we would be tackling in the Stampede.
But we want to use one slingshot to kill two birds. We will also discuss the issue of RIGHTS and DISTRIBUTION,in the context of the theme of the IREP 2016 — CHANGE –DOCUMENTARY FILM AS AGENT PROVOCATEUR.
The issues to deal with here include:
1. What rights have the documentary filmmaker, including economic rights ,and
2. What are the options for distributing the content, just in case there is a blockade of the traditional platforms such as screening in the cinema
For this, we have invited two key institutions to share their ongoing projects
1. AUDIO-VISUAL RIGHTS SOCIETY, AVRS
2. MOKOLO PROJECTS
The Stampede is also an extension of the ARTERIAL DAY celebration in Nigeria, organised by CORA/ARTERIAL NIGERIA.
Three years ago, the Arterial Network, which is a commonwealth of organisations working to promote cultural practices all over the continent, chose CORA as the partner in Nigeria. Arterial Nework is a full bodied organization itself; and it has a robust set of individuals working on its programming. We are only the warehouse of its activities in the country.
We have indeed benefitted from that partnership; having an official like Ayo Ganiyu, who himself is creator of the Yoruba Drum Festival, has enhanced CORA’s own programming capabilities, so we rub off.
Let there be a disclaimer: CORA is a mere facilitator of this conversation, the agenda setter, of this event, which is happening in the ambit of IREP’s Documentary Festival, so all complaints about this event, including the concerns about my long speech, should be directed to IREP. If there are any legal challenges; IREP should be the defendant.
For specific views expressed by participants, please tackle these persons directly.
Welcome to the 110th Art Stampede.
Very truly yours,
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THE ENTIRE CORA COLLECTIVEToyin Akinosho
The momentum of the 6th annual IREP film festival continued on day two, with the venues expanding to three different locations: Freedom Park, Afrinolly, and Nigeria Film Corp. Each venue showed films and hosted discussions that continued to explore the theme of #CHANGE through the use of documentary filmmaking. The day mostly consisted of film screenings, which led to very thought provoking conversations.
The main venue at Freedom Park hosted a rich selection of films done by notable filmmakers such as Tunde Kelani, Niyi Coker, Femi Odugbemi and Andy Jones, to name a few. This fuelled a full day of provocative thought and reflection among the audiences, which was shown throughout all of the vibrant discussions during the Q&A sessions. Films like “Ota Benga” encouraged the audience to re-imagine the African identity as not only of the continent but as a global identity. What is revealed through the story of a person of continental African descent being forcefully removed to the United States to be put on display for his Black body? In the case of “Black Market Masquerade” how does the extraction of what’s conceived as “African art” to sell in Europe, reflect a misunderstanding about the cultures of African people. The audiences were brought into the discussion of these questions and beyond through the various documentaries shown.
The films were in a fluid conversation throughout the day, offering important historical understandings of the African experience and the common misunderstandings that are used to tell the African story. Using various creative techniques, these documentaries show the international stories of African people. African, as a global identity. From the US (Ota Benga, Niyi Coker), to China (China Remix, Melissa Lekowitz & Dorian Carli-Jones), back to Senegal (Sembene, Samba Gadijigo & Jason Silverman), these films allow us to continue realizing the diverse but united African experiences across the world. The source of African unity breeding from a common historical experience of colonization that has transpired into African stories being told without the African voice.
Inspiringly, the array of films of the day reminded audiences of the cinematic creativity that can be used through the documentary format. Odugbemi’s Makoko: Young Futures Afloat is an illuminate example of using the creative eye to give the audiences striking picturesque shots, where the visuals become a guiding narrative voice. The film explores the experiences of the people of the Makoko settlement with an inherent beauty that captures the reality without reservation. This is the power of documentary filmmaking. Artists can show the cultural reality of world stories through imaginative and thoughtful cinematic techniques.
IREP continues to show the way the festival gives filmmakers a platform to creatively express these global identities and experiences, in the format of documentaries. This remains to have infinite potential, and as the festival continues, the beauty, power and potential of documentary filmmaking will guide the conversations of the people. The change happens here.
Nayo Sasaki-PicouIREP Media Team