Nigerian Historical Dramas?

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of movies and series set in the fictional past. I’d rather watch historical dramas than those set in the modern times. I love all sorts of dramas set in different periods and I tend not to discriminate as I enjoy European historical movies alongside wuxia dramas and such. I’ve been nursing this desire to watch a historical Nollywood movie for a while now and by chance while watching a Yoruba movie the other day I saw an advert for a movie called Apaadi. (Let it be known that I love Yoruba movies as well…the good ones!) There has been much debate with my aunts concerning what ‘apaadi‘ really means (and even how to properly pronounce the word). From watching the movie it seems that ‘apaadi‘ referst to the ‘broken pieces of a pot’. According to another aunt of mine, ‘apaadi‘ is the ‘burnt bottom of a clay pot’ so putting everything together ‘apaadi‘ means ‘broken pieces of the burnt bottom of a clay pot’ in Yoruba.

The thing about Nigerian historical movies is that most of them are not set in particular time periods. Thus there is difficulty guessing which century the drama is supposed to be set in. Usually for me the time period is marked by the presence or absence of guns. If guns are in the movie the time period is around the appearance of and increased trade with Europeans and vice versa in the absence of guns. However sometimes it is very difficult to tell if the movie is supposed to be historical or just set in a small village somewhere. That been said, Apaadi is most certainly a historical movie.

I started watching the movie on youtube and I really enjoyed it. Like most Nigerian movies, the quality is very poor and the special effects are disastrous but they don’t take from what I believe is a great plot. Basically the story revolves around a crown prince who is a big bully who does not respect the elders and goes around town wrecking havoc everywhere. He makes a mistake by killing the only daughter of an old woman and the woman, distraught curses him by throwing seven pieces of a broken pot in seven different places. It then falls on seven princesses to go and break the curse placed on the crown prince. The princesses have to leave the safe haven of the palace and venture out past the borders of the kingdom into the forbidden forest and face all sorts of mythical beings in order to free the crown prince from his curse.

As for the good points of the movie, I really like that it is about seven princesses who set out on an adventure to save the prince. Yeah the prince deserved his punishment, he was certainly guilty of his crimes but there is lots of room for repentance in Nigerian movies. Of course I did not like that they went on the journey in tears but as long as they still embarked on their journey, that is okay for me. I also liked the architecture and the interior decoration of the houses in the movie. They were very traditional and watching them gave me ideas as to how my ancestors must have lived.

I also loved the supernatural aspect of the movie. When I was younger I could not watch most Nigerian movies because there was the inevitable scary witch that would give me horrible nightmares in them however today I really do not enjoy Nigerian movies that do not have at least one visit to the babalawo (Ifa priests) and the inevitable battles in the spirit world. Yeah I enjoy them bad effects and all because they tend to give me ideas that I use when writing my speculative fiction*. Apaadi happens to have a lot of the supernatural edge that I like a lot.

In which the old woman curses the crown prince, the king and his spiritual advisor see everything on a drum (I know). My favourite quote, ‘We are not wicked but whoever steers the bee’s nest knows the implications’

Now for the bad points, excluding the bad movie quality and effects, I felt more could have been done in several areas. For example, the costumes could have been so much better. I mean have you seen pictures some avid colonialists took of African women in the 18th century? I have and though I cannot post them here I can say that several pictures of women from royal families showed them in beautiful cloth that anyone could tell was exquisite and wearing lots of gold.

Which brings me to the topic of hair! Nigerians (both women and men) are quick to point out hair that is ‘not done’ and go on (and on and on) about how in our culture women are always meant to have well-groomed hair, blah blah blah. I am really disappointed that this talk of hair was not implemented in the movie. I guess when they talk about ‘well-groomed hair’ they are talking about weaves and extensions. In Apaadi, almost all the women have cornrows. Mind you these are not cornrows that are exceptionally beautiful or anything most of the hairstyles in the movie are called in Nigeria, all-back and chuku (don’t know how to spell it). Furthermore they seem to have been done in the style that we call matting here which means they are not exactly cornrows as they are plaited in a different manner. They could have done amazing things with the hair and the costume. I’m not saying that there should not have been matted cornrows, by the way, I’m just saying they could have done more.

Also, the royal family was not entirely regal in the movie, they did not act like royalty at all. Who hears of a queen cooking dinner with the princess? The king talked about his slaves but we didn’t see them on camera. Again I thought this was strange. I know some people may say I am expecting too much from a Nigerian movie. Yet I feel the need to point these things out hopefully someone in the Nollywood industry will read this and take in my suggestions. All this regardless, I enjoyed the movie. Like all Nigerian movies, it has two parts and the main adventure starts in the second part so it is a long movie. You can watch the whole thing on youtube. That reminds me of another bad point, the movie is subtitled in English but there are spelling errors. The whole gist is understandable all the same.

*I have had fun reading Yoruba speculative fiction. One of my favourites is a short story Lagos by Matthew Johnson which is set in an alternate future, I guess, of Lagos and features a babalawo, danfo buses and so many other cultural references. It was an amazing read.

12 thoughts on “Nigerian Historical Dramas?

  1. This was an interesting post!!! I remember when I was little, we watch a Bini show called “Pot of Life”. It was about Princess Emotan and the role she played in the Bini History, it was a very interesting story but I can remember that the visuals were horrible… I will say how disappointed I am with the exclusion of accurate Nigerian history from movies and even school curricula. I watched another one on King Jaja of Opobo and it was not true to form or accurate… I’ve also seen a version of Queen Amina and the story of Sango… not that good either. I haven’t seen many yoruba dramas though. Because of your post, I think I am going to watch again. I love Nigerian history!

    1. thanks! wow i’ve never heard of Princess Emotan before this. that movie needs a series remake, people need to know more about the women who helped carve African history. i saw films based on Queen Amine and Sango which were oh-so-horrible and not true to even the legends attributed to these people.

      please watch Yoruba movies! i love them when they are not (too) crappy. i came across a movie called ‘Oduduwa: The History of the Yoruba’ on friday and would have bought it if the man selling it did not say i should pay N500!

  2. Wow, I want to watch the Oduduwa film!!! I wonder if I can find them on the internet!!!

  3. I loved the pictures of these hairstyles. I’m definitely going to look for this movie on YouTube. I’m learning so much from you!

  4. OMG! i saw this post and almost had a heart attack! all those pictures you posted… I have them (and then some), they a part of the main inspiration my senior show (sculpture) and I just cannot believe there’s someone else out there (except J.D. Ojeikere of course) who had all these pictures.

    1. Oh wow, it’s good to know that someone else has these pictures. I saw them through Sugabelly though so I can’t take any credit I commented on the wrong set of images! As for the images above, I found them via a blog I subscribe too. I still can’t take any credit 😀 I am not sure who J.D. Ojeikere is though…

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