Feature: Curtailing harmful anti-women cultural practices through motion pictures

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Photo: Women Affairs Minister, Pauline Tallen

Unarguably, some African cultural practices violate the rights of women and poise obstacles to access political and economic opportunities.

Some of these known cultural practices are forced or early marriages, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), preference for male-child, denial of inheritance to family land, among others.

Discussants at a colloquium organised by Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo, in honour of ace Nollywood Director, Lancelot Imasuen, to mark his 50th birthday, clamoured for discarding of the obnoxious practices.

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The theatre  experts stressed the need for artistes to use the medium of mass communication, especially films to expose the dangers of the obnoxious practices.

Prof. Irene Agunloye of the University of Jos, who spoke, noted that some cultural practices pose threats to the empowerment of women, stressing that there is need to fine tune some of them to suit logical reasoning.

Agunloye, a professor of African Drama, Gender, Women and Film Studies, described film as a powerful tool for cultural influence, adding that since culture is man-made and not God-ordained, it was amenable to change.

“Some practices, no matter the intention, pose a threat to the empowerment of women. There is abundant evidence to show this.

“Since culture is man-made, reconstructing the harmful practices such as female circumcision, forced or early marriages, short-change of women in inheritance issue will never be to destroy it, but to reinvigorate in line with new thinking and stimulate the society to become active and agent of change,” she said.

She also called on theatre practitioners in the country to work with the government in archiving their films.

While analysing Imasuen’s production titled `Wede,’ the lecturer said the Nollywood director demonstrated his commitment to women-centred issues which he projected unequivocally in the movie.

“His message in this film is that though leadership in our society is generally patriarchal, it does not imply that women are powerless, passive, silent and ineffectual.

“In challenging the repressive traditional culture of female genital mutilation (FGM), Imasuen shows that social change is inevitable in every society.

“He advocates for a constructive and contemporary use of tradition. Imasuen has shown his commitment in using film to campaign against harmful cultural practices that inhibit women from developing their full potential,” she said.

Prof. Barclays Ayakoroma of University of Africa, Toru-Orua, Bayelsa, in his presentation, also shared similar sentiments with Agunloye.

He reiterated that culture is not static, and therefore, it could be “panel beat’’ to reflect the desired social, political and cultural life for people in a given society.

He submitted that filmic statement ought to be words on marble meant to reflect the society as well as to mobilise for change of social ills.

Ayakoroma, Head, Department of Theatre Arts in the university listed Imasuen movies to include: Invasion 1897, Adesuwa, Issakaba 1-5, Private Sin, Masterstroke and Games Men Play, among others.

He said that the films of the Benin-born artiste would remain indelible as they are words on marble.

According to him, if there are 10 of Imasuen, the Nollywood will be strategically elevated and will not only be second to Bollywood in terms of production quantity, but second only to Hollywood in terms of production quality.

On her part, Ms Brandi Callum, Founder, Brandi Callum Group International, Georgia, USA, said she developed interest in Imasuen’s productions, even long before deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) traced her origin to Nigeria.

Callum, an African-American  commended Imasuen for creating dignity for African culture through his movies.

“I am happy that the celebrant is making the kind of movies I would have loved to make as a black woman; they are films that are creating dignity for the African culture,” Callum said.

Prof. Lawrence Ezemonye, the Vice-Chancellor of the Igbinedion University, said that Imasuen deserves being celebrated.

Ezemonye noted that Imasuen traversed gallantly the terrain of his chosen field of endeavour with great success.

“The Benin Film Academy under his leadership has received over 50 local and international awards including the most recent, Zuma International Film Festival Finalist Best Film, titled ‘Depression’ (2009) and Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival Finalist Best Short Film ‘Stoic’ (2020),” the vice-chancellor said.

Ezemonye, said as the premier private university in Nigeria, Igbinedion University’s commitment to academic excellence and scholarship remained unshaken.

“Nollywood Project 101, functioning under the auspices of the Benin Film Academy, in affiliation with Igbinedion University, fits into this bill and is well positioned to enhance the skill acquisition of the Theatre Arts Department of our great university, as well as others willing to carve out a career for themselves in the entertainment industry,” he said.

In his remark, the celebrant, Imasuen commended the university for the honour, pledging that he would be more committed henceforth to pursue social change through the screen.

He expressed optimism for a greater Nigeria, saying the youths are not lazy, rather they are enterprising and creative. (By Usman Aliyu, NAN).

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