Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Are Africans Clever Enough to Do Sci-Fi?

Should Africans do sci-fi? I always get surprised and angry when I hear or see that question. This is especially so when it comes from Africans ourselves. I’m Nigerian and my studio is based in Abuja, Nigeria so you could say my experience of this debate has mostly within the Nigerian sphere.
The Nigerian movie industry, or Nollywood, is now world famous. Last year saw the release of the sci-fi Nollywood flick Kajola. I personally was looking forward to seeing this film. I had seen the trailer and thought the visual FX seemed below the ‘amazing’ VFX the producers promised, I still wanted to go and see it to show support. But unfortunately due to the fact that the majority of audiences really hated the movie, it was pulled out of the cinemas within 1-2 weeks of release, I didn’t get a chance to see it.

Yes the acting could have been better and VFX by all accounts and based on the clips I saw was not the best,
even for Nigerian standards. But look at the majority of Nollywood films. You can’t tell me they are of high quality when it comes to technical and creative production. They are still massively popular. This brings me to one of the main reasons Kajola failed at the movies. Many people felt the science fiction theme was not rooted in black or Nigerian culture. That’s why people couldn’t relate to it. I always try hard to be objective and to see the other side of an argument but I really disagree on this one. Now there might be enough people who think that way to prove me wrong. But I still maintain that to think that science fiction is something Blacks or in my case Nigerians and Africans should not do is scary and doesn’t make sense.

For me culture is transient. It changes is many ways and is constantly fluid. For example a lot of the people who are saying would say they are devout Christians. Christianity was not part of African culture at a point in time. It was introduced by our colonial masters and missionaries. Or looking at it from another angle those same people loved watching Avatar and Iron Man when those movies came out. Avatar is a classic run of the mill sci-fi and Iron Man combines Sci-fi and comic superhero themes. So why is it so hard for them to accept a true African Sci-fi?

For me to accept that a genre that encourages futuristic and technological thought and creativity can't be explored by Africans is a dangerous road to go down. One of the the fastest growing telecoms sectors globally is in Africa. Those who have access to mobile devices are using them with gusto. In fact it’d be hard to imagine Nigeria now without mobile phones and Blackberries. Africa has a history of technology, mathematics scientists and inventors. I don’t believe that Nollywood’s output should be restricted to the usual themes of love and telenovella like soap intrigues. I know those themes are popular but I think when the right African Sci-Fi movie comes; it will take Nollywood and Africa by storm. It just has to connect with the audience. That's the key.

Congratulations to the makers of Kajola, Pumzi and others for taking bold steps. And thanks for forums like Nairaland and the Black Sciene Fiction Society for helping the cause in various ways. For our part once we finish work on our African kids cartoon Bino and Fino we'll be hoping to work on more Sci fi short films here in Nigeria.

So do I think Africans have any business making science fiction movies? Hell yeah…….. Go Voltron Force….Make it so….Engage warp….!!


  1. I think it would be a shame if we didn't. Africa is where life began on this planet and since then, it has subtly shaped the developments that were constantly regarded as the future.

    For example, the industrial revolution which turned European culture in dominant global culture would have been possible without slavery and the years of exploitation of Africa and Africans for mineral resources and man power.

    If Africans didn't try to make sci-fi or imagine the future, it's basically a detriment to the human race.



  2. I definitely agree with your article. Science fiction is and should be as much a part of African artistic expression as any other genre. Plus, Africans are among the top scientists, engineers and technologists in the world. Africans are obviously proficient in the realm of science fact. Those who say Africans shouldn't delve into science fiction are myopic.

  3. Hi Omotola and Wrathmadness. I agree with the both of you. And honestly I thought that would be the reaction of the majority of Africans I've discussed this issue with but it hasn't been.

    They tend to equate Sci Fi/fantasy to Western society. This is 'naija' (nigeria) we don't do that here. 'That's for the whites' . The funny thing is that some of these guys are engineers , doctors, acrhitects etc!

    It'll be interesting to see how things develop.