The Promotion Of Hybrid Culture Cultural Studies Essay

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One area where the influence of foreign film industries, particularly American Hollywood, has been profound is the entertainment industries of a number of African countries, who now adopt the 'wood' in their chosen names. The development is a pointer to the gale of cultural imperialism sweeping through the African filmmaking landscape. In terms of industry name, production contents, production infrastructure, language, African productions are hybridised and 'Hollywoodised'. Culture, which is said to be the sum total of a people's way of life sometimes comes under the hammer of external influence, which may be so strong that one culture 'preys' on the other. Scholars (Tunstell, 1977; Schiller, 1977; Kardy, 2005; Merrouche, 2006, & Onuzulike, 2009) agree that cultural imperialism is of a 'Northern' origin, a concomitant of globalisation, and closely allied to 'western imperialism'. The influence of this is pervasive in less economically strong nations of the 'Southern' divide, their media industries inclusive. Two hybrids - Nollywood, which is Nigeria's major film industry and its relatively new 'regional' Kano State-based Kannywood counterpart were the focus of this paper. Employing the qualitative research method, this paper looked into how the duo of Nollywood and Kannywood through their productions, are promoting the fusion of foreign and local cultures in Nigeria.

The concept of culture

Defining culture can be like a hard nut to crack. This is because the concept has attracted a coterie of definitions from various thinkers. These definitions, as captured by UNESCO (2008), range from the inclusive (see Taylor, 1871; UNECSO, 2002) to the symbolist (see Geertz, 1966; Turner, 1976; Bourdieu, 1972) and to the worldview/essentialist (see Herder, 1774). This diversity of opinions on what the term 'culture' means further explains the dynamic nature of culture.

UNESCO (2002: 1) viewed culture as the set of distinctive, spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles and ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs. Culture, as an entry in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (2000) explains, is the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organisation of a particular country or group. Thus, we can talk about an African culture, an American culture or a European culture and so on. A brief 'unpacking' of the 'package' that Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary has provided, in terms of the meaning of culture, is imperative. It comprises 'customs', 'beliefs', 'art' and 'social organisation' - as applicable to a particular country or group of people.

Customs: By 'customs', the meaning intended has nothing to do with the agency of government that collects taxes on goods brought into a country. Rather, in the context of this paper, customs refers to accepted way of behaving or doing things in a society or a community (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2000). For instance, shaking hands to for greetings between a man and a boy is acceptable in some cultures, while in others, it is disrespectful. Similarly, in some cultures, calling people by their surnames (last names) may be considered an insult, while is the practice in others.

Beliefs: This is a strong feeling that something/somebody exists or is true (ibid). Thus, believing or not believing in an afterlife is a belief expressed. Art: This is the use of imagination to express ideas of feelings, particularly in painting, drawing and sculpture (ibid). Having 'unpacked' the 'package', attention will now shift in the direction of others' positions on culture.

For the sake of what one may term 'salvation' and diversity of the world's cultures, the United Nations Economic Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) at its 31st session held on November 2, 2001 handed down the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. The goal of the Declaration is the rapprochement of cultural differences for the ultimate goal of uniting people across the cultures of the world. The existence of such a Declaration is the key to sustainable human development (UNESCO, 2001: 14). The global agency's position is a pointer to the importance of culture to humanity. However, culture, arguably, has some perceived threats and gains.

Culture and imperialism

Owing to the fact that our world is now a small village in a global era, culture, as a distinctive identity of a race, no longer exists in a vacuum. It seeks 'fellowship' with other cultures, interacting, overlapping and borrowing from those cultures. In this process inter-cultural exchange, people 'leave' the confines of their culture and venture beyond. This may be reflected in the ways they dress, the food they choose to eat, the music they listen to, and sometimes in their thinking and behavioural patterns (Merrouche, 2006: 2).

Mee Chea (1996) cited in Merrouche (2006) wrote about cultural border crossings and new borderlands springing up as individuals in cultures venture beyond the confines of their cultural domain. In the opinion of Mee Chaea, "Cultural border crossings do not necessarily mean stepping into a different culture but new cultural border lands can be formed where shared beliefs and values are developed"(p. 2). Naumann (2001) seemed to concur with Mee Chea's (1996) view by writing that cultures enrich one another, that by way of this enrichment are cultures kept alive and saved from museum-like paralysis.

However, in the process of cross-cultural interaction, crossing, overlapping and borrowing, a culture can dominate others and be dominated; a culture can 'conquer' and can be 'conquered'. This is the crux of cultural imperialism, a concept popularised by Jeremy Tunstell in 1977. Cultural imperialism, according to Tunstell, refers to a situation in which "authentic traditional, local culture ... is being battered out of existence by the indiscriminate dumping of large quantities of slick commercial and media products from the US" (Tunstell, 1977, as cited in Mensah, 2010: 1). Schiller (1976, cited in Galeota, 2004), viewed cultural imperialism as:

"The sum of the processes by which a society is brought into the modern world system, and how its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping social institutions to correspond to, or even to promote, the values and structures of the dominant center of the system." (p. 1).

Cultural imperialism as defined by O'Sullivan et al. (1994, cited in Merrouche, 2006) is both an integral part and product of a more general process of imperialism, whereby certain economically dominant nations systematically develop and extend their economic, political and cultural control over other countries […] The local cultures of developing nations become dominated and in varying degrees invaded, displaced and challenged by foreign, often western, cultures. In other words, cultural imperialism occurs when the NC (native culture) and its language are presented and deemed as 'backward' and 'incapable of modernity' (Merrouche, 2006).

Nollywood and Kannywood

The origin of the film medium in Nigeria predates the country's political independence from Britain, having, alongside Ghana and some other African entities, been its colony. Oso, Kayode, Odesanya and Adenle (2012: 1) recalled that the first film shown in Nigeria was in 1903, at Glover Hall, Lagos, while the first film shot in Nigeria was in Jos, Plateau State, in 1904. Thereafter, the Colonial Film Unit came into existence and popularized film showing through mobile cinema vans.

Although Nigerian films have been produced since the 1960s, the rise of affordable digital filming and editing technologies has stimulated Nigeria's video feature film industry, known as Nollywood, a term of uncertain origin, having been derived as a play on Hollywood in the same manner as Bollywood. The industry's 'unAfrican' appellation informed positions (Oso et al., 2012; Haynes, 2005, as cited in Onuzulike, 2009) that the post-imperialist period that followed Nigeria's independence entrenched cultural imperialism in place of the political, and that the name "Nollywood" was invented by a non-native.

The official beginning of Nollywood is generally situated in 1992, Kenneth Nnebue released the 'Igbo' film Living In Bondage. Since then, Nollywood has attracted global recognition, having 'crossed' the shores of the country, in spite of the challenges of low budget, short production time, and piracy. Haynes (2011) revealed that Nigeria now boasts a film industry that is second largest in the world in terms of number of films produced (behind India's Bollywood), and the third largest, revenue-wise (behind Hollywood and Bollywood). According to Haynes (2011), the industry has done what no film industry in Sub-Saharan Africa has come close to doing: dominating audio-visual entertainment in its own market.

For instance, it continues to attract African and international audiences, not only through the South African direct satellite television network M-Net that has three channels called Africa Magic, one devoted to English-language Nollywood and Ghanaian films, one to Yoruba films, and one to Hausa films, but also through a not-so-sophisticated distribution mechanism. Besides, the popularity of Nollywood 'exports' has begun to have visible effects on many cultures, as far away as South Africa. Similar film industries are springing up: Johannesburg now has its "Jollywood"; Tanzania has "Bongowood"; Kenya has "River Road", and so on (Haynes, 2011).

Also attesting to this phenomenal rise of Nollywood is a global cinema survey conducted in 2009 by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). According to the survey, "India remains the world's leading film producer but Nigeria is closing the gap after overtaking the United States for second place. Bollywood produced 1,091 feature-length films in 2006 compared to 872 productions (in video format) from Nigeria's film industry, which is commonly referred to as Nollywood. In contrast, the United States produced 485 major films." (p. 1).

Kannywood: Bollywood's hybrid

Relatively new, is arguably 'counter-Nollywood'. Kannywood is very different through the strong influence of Bollywood and Islam, and is driven by ideologies that differ from those of the more popular Nollywood. Its productions are modelled after Indian movies - Bollywood (Abraham, 2012). Film production in Hausa land can be traced to the 1950s when the Northern Region Authority launched Baban Larai (1955) to mobilize and inform farmers on the importance of practicing commercial farming with emphasis on the production of ground nuts and cotton. In the subsequent years, more films on various themes were produced. The films produced from 1950 to 1989 were mostly sponsored by government (either at regional or state level). The first commercial Hausa video film, Turmin Danya (produced by Tumbin Giwa) was released in 1990. Since then, the production and distribution of Hausa home video has continued to grow on large scale (Chamo, 2012).

Currently, it is estimated that there are over one thousand companies registered with Kano State Films Makers Associations alone, let alone other registered companies throughout the Northern Nigeria. The Hausa film industry is located mostly in Kano. For its scale and popularity, it has gained the name "Kannywood", representing a regional film industry within Nollywood - Nigerian film industry (Chamo, 2012).

Nigerian film industry and promotion of cultural hybridity

Nollywood videofilms, Onuzulike's (2009) study has discovered, serve as both a cultural and technological hybrid. Cultural hybridity, which is a synthesis of distinct cultural identities, is not limited to language, religion, beliefs, norms and values, and artefacts; each of these elements has multiple cultural influences. According to Kardy (2005) cited by Onuzulike (2009), hybridity is the fusion of two hitherto relatively distinct forms, styles, or identities, cross-cultural contact, which often occurs across national borders as well as across cultural boundaries. The boundaries existing between "domestic" and "foreign" cultural influences do not always have clear demarcations. Hybrid media texts reflect the existence of a variety of historical, economic, and cultural forces whose enmeshments with one another are manifested at the local, national, and regional levels as they are visible globally (Kraidy, 2005, as cited in Onuzulike, 2009). Thus, hybrid culture results from hybridisation activities in industries globally (Mishra, 2008).

African filmmaking landscape is certainly not an exception. The signs are ominous of a vogue that one may term 'Hollywoodisation' of Africa's film industries. For instance, as a cultural hybrid, Nollywood sprang from the famous Hollywood, and in turn now 'midwifing' other hybrids. What attests to this is the fact that Nigerian filmmakers are now extending their activities to other African countries to help build the film industry in these countries. African cultures are similar and distinct based on their heritage, and this creates another hybridity in videofilm. For example, there have been collaborations between Nollywood and the Ghanaian film industry. In fact, Nollywood has inspired new 'woods' (national film industries that is) to spring up in some African countries. Haynes (2011) aptly captured the scenario when he wrote:

"Their (Nollywood exports) popularity has begun to have visible effects on many cultures as far away as South Africa. Similar film industries are springing up: Johannesburg now has its "Jollywood"; Tanzania has "Bongowood"; Kenya has "River Road"; and so on. The films are wildly popular in the Caribbean, and appear to have influenced the video films coming out of Jamaica and Haiti. There are cable television channels dedicated to them in the U.K. and Houston, Texas. Many internet sites in the U.S. and Europe sell them or stream them. Within four blocks of my office in Brooklyn there are eight shops selling them, mainly to Caribbean immigrants and African Americans…" (pp. 72-73).

As a technological hybrid, Nollywood has demonstrated that shooting movies on video is an avenue to promote culture and an inexpensive medium for expression for those who cannot afford the more expensive celluloid platform, funding for which takes years to assemble (Haynes, 2011). Nigerian movies, as Onuzuike (2009) has shown, hold a very prominent place in the minds and hearts of many Africans and among a broad variety of Africans or those of African descent who have been exposed to Nigerian video films. This reveals how Nigerian video film has had an impact on African culture.

Orewere (1992) cited by Onuzulike (2009) posited that film is a powerful medium of entertainment and the transmission of cultural values. This position reflects two of the primary functions of the mass media in society. Socially, entertainment is a desideratum, and like communication, it is central to humanity. As Wright (1974) opined, entertainment - in such forms as like song, jokes and stories - serves as a 'social lubricant'. As a lubricant, entertainment helps to relax the human, especially after some moment of strenuous tasks.

Cultural hybridity and the Nigerian film industry

One area in which the influence of the Western Hollywood film industry has been profound is the entertainment industries of a number of African countries, who now adopt the 'wood' in their chosen names - as earlier stated in the paper. The developments captured in the foregoing literature serve as a pointer to the gale of cultural imperialism sweeping through the African filmmaking landscape. From 'industry christening', production contents infrastructure to language the African narratives smack of some aspects of the imperial periphery of the globalisation effects.

'Hollywoodised' film productions employ certain aspects of dominant Western culture, say the that of the United States of America or Europe, mix them with local (Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and other local languages) perspectives; this way, a hybrid culture is 'born'. Nigerians living abroad are turning to Nollywood as an alternative platform for Africans to tell their own stories, a sort of counter to Western cultural imperialism. Larkin (2000) cited by Samyn (2011) noted that Nigerian home videos…often borrow, consciously and unconsciously, from other film cultures, outside of national control.

Haynes (2007) classified Nollywood movies into two types: those that unwittingly imitate western life and those that ingeniously integrate outside influences to make true Nigerian films. Arguing that Nollywood has carved itself a niche, in terms of the extent to which it fuses western borrowed cultural aspects with local ones, Haynes (2007), quoted by Samyn (2011), wrote:

Despite an undeniable imitative element (Nollywood draws on a great number of cultural influences, domestic and foreign, Hollywood among them), Nollywood fundamentally does not resemble Hollywood-or anything else. The same is true of African popular culture, which has long been involved in acts of creative creolisation, where cultural influences from the West, the Islamic world and Asia have been incorporated into African expressive traditions and their representational power subordinated to an African aesthetic (p. 25).

Haynes' argument above echoes Tomlinson's concept of the upsurging power of local culture that offers resistance to the centrifugal force of capitalist globalization (Tomlinson, 2003: 2). While Samyn (2011) viewed Nollywood films as inherently transnational as they originated as a hybrid form full of different influences, Grish (2008) noted that hybridisation breeds hybrid culture, opening doors for transnational sharing of ideas. For instance, Onuzulike (2009) revealed that Nigerian filmmakers are now extending their activities to Sierra Leone, Kenya and other African countries in order to help build the film industry in these countries.

Nollywood videofilms - which are emulating other cultures, especially western culture - depict a hybridization of African and western culture. African immigrants use videofilm to create what the author Kolar-Panov (1997, in Kardy, 2005) cited by Onuzulike (2009: 179) calls "an iconic continuum" between native home and adopted country. An example in this regard is borrowed from a production in Samyn's study of Nollywood productions in the Diaspora. Azubuike Erinugha's production was one of them. Driven by his interest concerning Nigerian migration, Erinugha directed and co-produced The Champion Sportsman with the German artist collective InterArte. Being the first German-Nollywood co-production ever made, the film has resulted in a hybrid film that blends Nollywood 'comedy conventions' with 'European performance art' (Samyn, 2013: 100).

The film, made to appeal to both a European and an African audience, genuinely integrates a European perspective while staying true to Nollywood. It is an example of transnational diasporean Nollywood film in which we find hybrid culture: Western versus African. The uniqueness of The Champion Sportsman does not evolve out of the personal reality of Azubuike's life, but the reality of the collaboration (Samyn, 2013: 100).


This study looked at revised cultural imperialism and how the Nigerian film industry promotes hybrid culture. Examples and instances of hybrid culture have been found in studies (Onuzulike, 2009; Samyn, 2011). Moreover, the net cultural effect of Nollywood, as Haynes (2011) noted, is debatable and hotly debated. Adejumobi (2007) has warned that much as globalization and its consequences (hybrid culture amongst them) are considered in a positive light in the context of Nollywood, the devastating effects must not be overlooked.

However much the flow of cultural influence and new hybrid production may be celebrated, it must not be forgotten that "the growing invisibility of autonomous local voices linked to local publics is as much a critical consequence of globalization in its dominant manifestations as the disappearance of cultural forms considered in some way traditional" (as cited in Samyn, 2011: 13). Ndukwu (2010), cited by Ojukwu and Ezeneandu (2012), suggested that Nigerian film industry can be used as a tool for shaping the messages that Nigeria wish to project to the West. Onuzulike (2009) declared that Nollywood produces a shared African identity that helps the African diaspora hybridize cultures.