The segregation of Yoruba film actors from mainstream Nollywood – Ayo Shonaiya

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This Day Magazine

Nollywood For All? by Ayo Shonaiya

I’ve been saying this for years, even though I’ve never liked the name “Nollywood” but I’ve since got used to it. Long before actress Mercy Aigbe Gentry’s lengthy post on Instagram yesterday, about her apparent exclusion from the cover of ThisDay Style magazine “Nollywood’s Best Dressed” at the recently held AMVCAs, this question has been hanging in the air for a while: does Nollywood, as we know it, include the Yoruba industry?

Mercy Aigbe Gentry - Yoruba Film segregation -1

Mercy Aigbe Gentry - Yoruba Film segregation -2

In fact, does Nollywood include any non-English speaking genre actually? I’ve heard of “Yoruwood” and “Igbowood” (for Yoruba and Igbo films respectively), and “Kannywood” (for Hausa films). Who came up with this stupid names anyway? Of course there’s “Ghollywood” for Ghanian films as well, but a lot of Ghanian actors showcase in many Nigerian English speaking films, so why the segregation?

Although the ThisDay Style cover was about fashion, and I couldn’t tell you who dresses better than the next person, but that cover, I believe was not an oversight. The Nollywood industry are just those actors that they put up there. The old and the new so called “Nollywood 2.0.” Yoruba film actors are not seen or accepted into that category. There is clear segregation in the industry.

Please note, I said Yoruba film actors, not Yoruba actors, before you point out that Omotola is on the cover. It’s not a tribal thing, it’s a clique thing (like a collective of Lekki residents), and Yoruba film actors like Mercy Aigbe Gentry, Iyabo Ojo, Femi Adebayo and Kunle Afod seem unwelcome to that club, not to talk of Sanyeri and Soji Taiwo (aka Omo Banke). Lol.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not making noise about tribalism, I don’t think Nollywood is tribalistic, but I believe it’s subconsciously segregated by language, even though Kunle Afolayan, who is the No.1 filmmaker in Nigeria right now, veteran actors Jide Kosoko, Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva, including fine actors Femi Jacobs and Femi Branch are all Yorubas. But does the name generally ONLY refer to English speaking films? And the representation of Nollywood (as displayed by ThisDay Style magazine) ONLY showcase English film actors? This is the question.

I may have to go with Mercy Aigbe Gentry on this one.

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