Nigeria: What About the Incredible Women of Nollywood?

5 March 2021

In commemoration of International Women's Day, Vanessa Obioha argues that African movies with leading Nollywood actresses deserve a spotlight on the M-Net pop-up channel

Recently, MultiChoice Nigeria announced that it will launch an M-Net Movies pop-up channel dedicated to women as they celebrate International Women's Day coming up on Monday, March 8. Themed 'Pretty Deadly', the pop-up channel parades a list of Hollywood female actors like Angelina Jolie, Melissa McCarthy, Brie Larson, and a host of others and will run for more than a fortnight. For a moment, I hoped and prayed that I would see a Nollywood movie in that long list but there was none. Perhaps, my wish was too tall, I scanned through again to see if there was an African movie on the list. Yet, my sore eyes couldn't find any. The list only paraded Hollywood female stars, whose roles swing from sheroes to con artists.

Could it be that the company which prides itself as the greatest storyteller in Africa didn't find any African movie worthy to share the spotlight? Are the roles of Nigerian female actresses in movies so stereotyped that their creativity deserves no accolades?

To be fair, MultiChoice has and is still a critical player in the development of the film industry. Through various interventions, the company raised the standards of filmmaking and TV production in Nigeria. Last year alone when the pandemic was biting hard, the company committed N400 million to the creative industry. It churned out different local content on its platforms DStv and GOtv to keep Nigerians entertained during the lockdown period and its successful reality TV show Big Brother Naija has catapulted many to the spotlight, including recording the first female winner, Mercy Eke, in 2019.

The company considerably has boosted the careers of female actresses. For instance, Bisola Aiyeola, an actress, singer and runner-up of the second season of Big Brother Naija has made waves in her career through that spotlight and currently hosting a lifestyle show for the company. Through its Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards (AMVCA), actresses like Ivie Okujaye, Kemi Lala Akindoju have taken home the Trailblazer Award, which helped to validate their creativity.

Even within the organisation, women are ably represented, occupying top positions.

Therefore, to see the company, not including Nigerian movies that celebrate Nollywood actresses is disappointing. There are many actresses in Nollywood, who have done the industry and the country proud. Notable among them is Genevieve Nnaji, whose career has leapt beyond the shores of Nigeria. She produced and directed her first film ' Lionheart' in 2018 and featured in the 2010 film 'Ije' alongside Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde. There is also the stunning Rita Dominic whose latest flick, 'La Femme Anjola' is due this month. She is known for her award-winning film 'The Meeting'. What about veterans like Joke Silva, known for their outstanding artistic flair both in front of the camera and on stage. The list of exceptional Nigerian female actresses is almost inexhaustible.

Beyond Nigeria, African actresses are doing incredibly well locally and internationally. South African Nomzamo Mbatha is one of those actresses who like Lupita Nyong'o is making waves in Hollywood. She starred in Eddie Murphy's 'Coming 2 America' movie launching today on Amazon Prime Video.

Of course, the M-Net Movies pop-up channel favours more Hollywood flicks but wouldn't it be relieving to see the company add a few Nollywood/African movies celebrating African actresses ahead of the channel launch on March 19? Or better still, M-Net Africa should have a pop-up channel to celebrate these iconic women.

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