This article opens with the suggestion that the art of world-renowned and critically acclaimed Nigerian filmmaker, Tundé Kelani, is analogous to the work of Òrìṣà Èṣù, supernatural trickster who opens the portal to the spirit realm, the past, and the future. Drawing from long-term ethnographic research with Yorùbá performing artists in Òṣun and Kwara states, this article builds on Yeku’s concept of Alter/Native narrative and Meyer’s discussion of aesthetic formation to argue that Kelani’s innovative evocations of Yorùbá traditional culture can be understood as aesthetic formations of a morality for the present and future. Kelani’s films evoke and create aesthetic formations that reimagine and recontextualize Yorùbá traditional culture into new allegories and myths for contemporary audiences. Illustrating how Kelani’s representations of Yorùbá traditional culture and morality are central to his films’ allegorical impact, moral themes in thirteen Kelani films are identified. Through Èṣù-like storytelling, Kelani’s films reimagine tradition and offer new allegories that challenge postcolonial institutions and awaken our spirit and desire to create a more balanced world.
Over the past decade, a host of studies probing into the relation between religion and media emerged in the interface of anthropology, sociology, media studies, religious studies, philosophy, and the arts. Moving beyond a view of religion and media in terms of a puzzling antagonism, in which two ontologically distinct spheres-the spiritual and the technological-collide, scholars now develop new approaches that regard media as intrinsic to religion. Rather than interpreting the at times spectacular incorporations of new media by religious groups as an entirely new phenomenon, the question raised is that of how a new medium interferes with older media that have long been part of religious practice. This understanding moves our inquiry out of the limiting field of binary oppositions, in which religion features as the Other of modernity and technology, whose eventual disappearance is presumed. The shift toward a new postsecularist vantage point from which to explore the rearticulation of religion in specific contemporary settings (Asad 2003; Taylor 2007) proves to be far more productive than debates about the decline of religion or its withdrawal from the public sphere undertaken from the paradigm of secularization. It allows us to take a fresh look at the salient appeal and public presence of diverse forms of contemporary religious expressivity (De Vries 2008).
This article celebrates and pays tribute to the work of Karin Barber by joining analyses of the history of political and economic conditions with analyses of the relationship between people's lifestyles and aesthetic forms of production. This paper analyzes a Yorùbá alárìnjó (traditional singing, dancing, drumming, and masquerade) performance and a recent Yorùbá film by Túndé Kelani to illustrate the interconnections between “lifestyle” and aesthetics (Bourdieu, Distinction). This article concludes that a local performing troupe produced an aesthetics of liminality that emerged from its immersion in local and global markets of the 1990s, while the Kelani film produces an aesthetics of ambivalence, exploring relationships between traditional and modern cultural politics in the early 2000s. Grounded in long-term fieldwork in southwestern Nigeria, this piece illustrates Barber's insight that cultural preservation requires innovation and argues further that popular culture is an important part of this process (Anthropology of Texts).
In this interview with the Nigerian filmmaker, Tunde Kelani, film scholar Tunde Onikoyi explores the universe of Kelani’s cinematic vision, particularly as it relates to Thunderbolt (2002) and Dazzling Mirage (2014). Although produced twelve years apart, what binds them is a common humanitarian narrative temperament. Onikoyi and Kelani discuss his films in broader terms, exploring literary references, Kelani’s interest in health, and how cinema convey his creative tendencies. The interlocutors investigate the effects of “magun,” male chauvinism, and patriarchal idiosyncrasies in contemporary Nigeria. Kelani shares his filmmaking vision, and reflects on the future of Nigerian cinema in framing African story-telling.
Trickster Theatre traces the changing social significance of national theatre in Ghana from its rise as an idealistic state project from the time of independence to its reinvention in recent electronic, market–oriented genres. Jesse Weaver Shipley presents portraits of many key figures in Ghanaian theatre and examines how Akan trickster tales were adapted as the basis of a modern national theatre. This performance style tied Accra’s evolving urban identity to rural origins and to Pan–African liberation politics. Contradictions emerge, however, when the ideal Ghanaian citizen is a mythic hustler who stands at the crossroads between personal desires and collective obligations. Shipley examines the interplay between on–stage action and off–stage events to show how trickster theatre shapes an evolving urban world.
This paper examines the representation of women in Tunde Kelani’s video films through an analysis of Ti Oluwa Ni Ile 1, Campus Queen, The Narrow Path, and Thunderbolt. I use Kelani’s films as a counterpoint to argue that women are not always essentialized in Nigerian video films. The paper also interrogates the revisioning of Nigeria’s colonial history and portrayal of modernity in Nigerian movies using third-world feminist and post-colonial theories. I develop an inductive typology introducing the five analytical categories of normative pre-colonial, dominant colonial, polemical post-colonial, pervasive neo-colonial, and persistent pseudo-colonial for examining the representation of women in the four video films.
The idea that gods are made by men, not men by gods, is a sociological truism. It belongs very obviously to a detached and critical tradition of thought incompatible with faith in those gods. But Yoruba traditional religion contains built into it a very similar notion, and here, far from indicating scepticism or decline of belief, it seems to be a central impulse to devotion. The òrìṣà (‘gods’) are, according to Yoruba traditional thought, maintained and kept in existence by the attention of humans. Without the collaboration of their devotees, the òrìṣà would be betrayed, exposed and reduced to nothing. This notion seems to have been intrinsic to the religion since the earliest times. How can such an awareness be part of a devotee's ‘belief’? Rather than speculate abstractly, as Rodney Needham does (Needham 1972), about whether people of other cultures can be said to ‘believe’ at all, it seems more interesting to take a concrete case like the Yorba one where there is an unexpected–even apparently paradoxical–configuration of ideas, and to ask how these ideas are constituted. Only by looking at them as part of a particular kind of society, with particular kinds of social relationships, can one see why such a configuration is so persuasive. The notion that men make gods is by no means unique to Yoruba thought. It is present to some degree in a number of traditional West African religions, and in some, such as the Kalahari one, it can be seen in an even more explicit form than in the Yoruba one. A comparison may help to show how it is the constitution of social relationships which makes such a notion not just acceptable but central to the religious thought of the society.