Meet The Cambridge Graduate Who Earned A First Class Dissertation Thanks To… Nollywood

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Meet The Cambridge Graduate Who Earned A First Class Dissertation Thanks To… Nollywood

Published: Thursday 30th July 2015 7:00AM

Updated: Monday 18th January 2016 11:00PM

Nollywood x Cambridge = a journey of self identity and 1st class thesi

Discussions on black British identity have largely centred on the experiences of Caribbean immigrants from the Windrush era and their descendants. Where conversations have included the African diaspora in Britain, it is rare that the thoughts and experiences of second and third generation British Africans are considered. However, recent Cambridge graduate, Precious Oyelade, decided to shake up this conversation by looking at British Nigerian identity through the lens of Nigeria’s thriving film industry: Nollywood.

When Precious submitted her dissertation in April, she did not expect the reception that would soon follow. Her dissertation entitled ‘Changing Representations of Nigerian Identity: An Exploration through Nollywood and its Audience,’ was awarded a high first class, and it will soon be published. The 10,000 word thesis sought to explore second generation British-based Nigerians’ perceptions of themselves, Nigeria and other Nigerians and the role Nollywood plays in shaping this.

Precious’ decision to write this dissertation was largely the consequence of her own questions about her identity as a second generation Nigerian living in Britain. Having grown up in South London, moving to Cambridge for university was a challenging experience. Precious highlighted the isolation she felt because of her South London accent and described her decision to cling to her Nigerian accent, which was ironically more acceptable in an institution with many international students. Despite being disinterested in Nollywood as a child, Precious described spending a lot of time watching Nollywood films at university, finding that it connected her to Nigeria and a part of her cultural identity.

“If Nollywood is the way I found myself to Nigeria, how has it affected the lives of other second generation Nigerians in the diaspora?”

However, answering this question proved difficult.

She adds: “A lot of the narratives I heard and a lot of the stereotypes I came up against in Cambridge were about African Americans… and even the Black British narratives were about street culture.”

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Cambridge graduate Precious Oyelade

In addition to the lack of relevant literature and supervisors in the field, there were also doubts about the credibility of the topic in the Politics, Psychology and Sociology course at the university. Precious even considered abandoning the dissertation. However, understanding the importance of Nollywood in the lives of Nigerians in the UK, Precious decided to press on.

I think it was after my first focus group I realised how relevant the questions I had been asking were to the people I was talking to,” she says.

“That really encouraged me, because this is who I am doing it for. I was not doing it for Cambridge, I was doing it for me.”

Precious’ experience of questioning her identity is something which resonates with many second and third generation immigrants.

And like many in her generation she sees her identity as hybrid of Nigerian and British.

“I identify as British Nigerian … It means I acknowledge both cultures.

“I recognise the influence of British culture on my life, but also don’t want to discount the Nigerian influences that have contributed to who I am.”

 

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While her dissertation focuses on Nigeria’s film industry, she acknowledged that this was just one influence among many, contributing to the variety of ways in which British Nigerians identify.

For example, the extent to which second generation Nigerians understand and use their parents’ mother tongue, as well as how often many travel to their parents’ country of origin contribute to the diversity in the identity of the diaspora. In addition to this, the way in which second generation Nigerians interact with other Nigerians and Africans, other Black British people, other ethnic minority groups, as well as the white British majority, can all shape our sense of self.

The music industry also plays a key role in shaping perceptions of identity. Precious praises British Ghanaian Fuse ODG’s This is New Africa (TINA) movement for contributing to the discussion on the African diaspora in Britain.

“Fuse ODG opened the conversation, but he can only do so much, we need to constantly have these conversations and the entertainment industry is a great way to do this,” she argues.

So what’s next for Precious? She hopes to work in the Nollywood industry, particularly in production.  Next year, she will be writing some commissioned pieces on Nollywood, while also volunteering with Kingsgate Community Church in Peterborough, working with young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

However, I could not conclude our interview without finding out her favourite Nollywood film!

“Favourite?!” she laughs.

“The thing is, they are just so different… If you want a classic you have to watch Osuofia In London.

“It is the archetypal Nollywood film that everybody knows and everybody should see. And I would also suggest Gone Too Far because that shows Nigerians, first of all in the diaspora, but also in relationship with other cultures.”

So there you have it, two films to add you your watchlist and one fantastic thesis to add to your reading list.

Follow Precious Oyelade on Twitter

Courtesy blackballad

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