Setting the Scene
Yes, you might find it a bit hard to come across the name on Google Scholar, at least not in the manner I have laid it out, but then again, that’s probably a good reason why you should read this tribute to a deserving individual irrespective of her dual baggage of foreignness and womanhood going by the African cultural construals.
I would save the details to the very end… don’t worry, you’d be glad I saved the best for last!
Let me kick this story off with its main trigger. I just received an alert from Academia.edu the online portal for academic papers published and shared freely outside the framework of “Open Access” as we in academia tend to describe it – albeit made possible through some sort of subvention that most individuals and organisations alike would be more than happy to circumvent (don’t quote me).
That article was entitled “Nollywood, Nigeria’s umbilical cord.” Yes, there are analogies and a bit of humour, both of which underlie the power of the Nigerian movie industry as a connector to Nigerians at home and in the diaspora.
Today, a significant 10% of the Nigerian diaspora live in the United Kingdom – probably the largest Nigerian community in Europe. Research carried out between January and March 2011 confirms the slow cultural erosion already reported by earlier studies and affecting Igbo and Yoruba resettled communities, with Nigerian languages on the decline. It also reveals the premium placed on communication among Nigerians, with 73.5% talking frequently to fellow Nigerians and watching Nigerian video films, massively preferred to foreign films.
Interestingly, the article seems to zero in on two of the three ethnic groups in the South (notable East & West) as follows:
This paper seeks to evaluate the impact of Nigerian video-films among resettled communities in the UK and find the reasons behind the success of these films among Nigerians, focusing on Igbo and Yoruba speakers.
Related to these geographic spaces is the identity issue and diasporic connections inferred in the title.
It investigates the potential importance of language in viewers’ motivations and practices, the role played by the cultural message of the films in identity-reinforcement within the Nigerian community, and the impact of these video-films on the revival of cultural practices among diasporic communities. It shows that these films, acting like an umbilical cord feeding ‘abroad members’ with pictures and sounds from the home country, have empowered diasporic Nigerians to cope with their situation, reclaim their culture and keep in touch with their ancestral land.
For the purpose of this study, we will adopt Safran’s definition of Diaspora (1991: 83-84), based on a six point-list describing this group – notably disperse; collective in memory; alienated/ insulated; craving to return; homeland restoration; and ethnocommunal consciousnesss:
“(1) they, or their ancestors, have been dispersed from a specific original ‘centre’ to two or more ‘peripheral’, or foreign, regions; (2) they retain a collective memory, vision, or myth about their original homeland – its physical location, history, and achievements; (3) they believe they are not – and perhaps cannot be – fully accepted by their host society and therefore feel partly alienated and insulated from it; (4) they regard their ancestral homeland as their true, ideal home and as the place to which they or their descendants would (or should) eventually return – when conditions are appropriate; (5) they believe that they should, collectively, be committed to the maintenance or restoration of their original homeland and its safety and prosperity; and (6) they continue to relate, personally or vicariously, to that homeland in one way or another, and their ethnocommunal consciousness and solidarity are importantly defined by the existence of such a relationship.”
The article (and many others related to it agree) highlight implications for Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) worldwide, which is currently structured into eight regions including NIDOA for USA and NIDOE for Europe, and recognised by the Nigerian government as the umbrella organisation for all Nigerians around the world and as a vanguard of Nigeria in the international community performing the following ambassadorial functions:
Promote Nigeria’s image abroad, encourage patriotism, networking and cooperation among Nigerians abroad, and assist in promoting Nigeria as an investment destination in Africa.
Introducing Professor Ugochukwu
Professor Françoise Ugochukwu (Igbo name: Ijeoma), habilitée à diriger des recherches, is a Chartered linguist & an Africanist with special interest in Nollywood, Nigerian and intercultural Studies. A retired Professor from the University of Nigeria, currently affiliated to the Open University (UK), Dept of Development Policy & Practice as a Research Fellow, she is also a Senior Research Fellow, IFRA (Ibadan). She lectured in Higher Education in Nigeria, France and the UK, 1972-2014. She is now a full-time researcher and PhD examiner. She also serves as an expert on the Paris-based ‘Neverforgetbiafra’ endowment fund. She is the author of the first Igbo-French dictionary (a Franco-Nigerian joint venture), of several books and more than a hundred book chapters and articles in English and in French in reputable journals worldwide; she also translated the first Igbo novel, Omenuko, into French. Her pioneering work in the field and longstanding contribution to the strengthening of cultural and educational ties between France and Nigeria awarded her the national distinction of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques in 1994.
Ugochukwu, F. (2011). Nollywood, Nigerians’ umbilical cord. African Renaissance, 8(2), 59-75.
Madichie, N. O., Ajakaiye, B. O., & Ratten, V. (2019). The Impact of New Media (Digital) and Globalisation on Nollywood. In Digital Entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 89-121). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-04924-9_5