Netflix’s new alliance with Nollywood has seen the re-release of many recent hits on its platform. Along with the new attention, social media debates have resurged around the quality of the Nigerian film industry and, in particular, Nollywood’s crisis of representation.
I am listening to Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey’s ‘Edumare Soro Mi Dayo’ from the Spotify compilation Faaji Agba and it strikes me how much of a politic happiness is in Nigeria. Misery, in Nigeria, does not love company, and when Obey sings ‘Oríburúkú kìí ṣe tèmi ò, ẹ̀bẹ̀ mo bẹ̀’, it is as much a prayer as it is a warning. Nigerians will often say that we are happy people. Our happiness is energetic, cordial and able to dredge up humour even in the most abject circumstances. Ours is a communal happiness that flows from the individual to their environment and back, defiant, the very building blocks of Nigerian sociality.
The culture of happiness is the most powerful and pervasive agent in Nigeria today, and Nollywood is one of its biggest curators. In the 2007 essay ‘Nollywood in Lagos, Lagos in Nollywood Films’, Jonathan Haynes describes Nollywood as ‘an extraordinary example of coping mechanism that keeps Africa alive… constructed on the slenderest of means and without anyone’s permission’. All caveats on this overly celebratory description of Nollywood issued (see Akin Adesokan’s ‘Anticipating Nollywood’), it is interesting to trace the role of happiness in stitching Nigeria’s frayed social fabric.
THE FUNCTION OF HAPPINESS
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