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“Alade” Aromire: An Innovator’s Legacy

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Sola

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By Akin Adesokan

Akin Adesokan worked for many years as a journalist, beginning with The Guardian (Lagos), and the initially clandestine newsmagazine, TEMPO, for which he also wrote a weekly fiction column. He was a receipient of the PEN Freedom-to-Write Award (1998), and the Hellman/Hammett Award of the Free Expression Project of Human Rights Watch (1999). Roots in the Sky (2004), his first novel, was in manuscript form when it won the Association of Nigerian Authors' prize for Fiction in 1996. He is co-editor of the Lagos-based journal, Glendora Review. He is an assistant professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, US.
View all articles by Akin Adesokan

The death of the actor and film producer Muyideen (“Alade”) Aromire on Friday July 4, 2008, in a road accident in Lagos is a great tragedy in several respects. First, the epidemic of preventable, ghastly loss of lives through road accidents is a sad commentary on a society steadily going under, and lacking in elementary procedures of keeping its cities and populations safe. Aromire was not found to be drunk while driving, and he was not speeding. According to reports, he ran his vehicle into a stationary truck, apparently broken down and abandoned by the owner, with no Caution signs to warn other road-users. A few hours before, on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway several miles out of Ojota where Alade met his death, a petrol tanker, reportedly driving at full speed, lost control, ran into a Mercedes Benz, and spilled its contents to catch fire and incinerate three people. These things happen in Nigerian cities as routinely and casually as the explosion of the next oil-pipeline or the next airplane catching fire in mid-flight. A few high-minded newspaper headlines, countless emotive pictures, eye-witnesses accounts and official proclamations. Then silence. Life goes on, as if it’s really worth living.

Alade’s death is also tragic in the sense of being untimely—he was forty-seven, and close to the height of his career as an actor-producer, who had established a palpable presence in the explosive cinematic phenomenon called Nollywood. His family would surely miss such a remarkable figure, bread-winning or not. In the third place, the vast Nigerian artistic community has to place this tragedy next to those of the actor Francis Agu and the poet-screenwriter Ebereonwu, the latter having died last year in circumstances similar to Alade’s.

Nollywood is now a colossal entity, struggling to find its core in the unmapped explosion of ancillary technological, economic and social forms. It is easily the most extroverted of Nigeria’s urban cultural forms, particularly because of the paradoxical ways that it manages to process the country’s anarchic energies: the sheer inventiveness of a society so lucky it doesn’t really have to be this inventive, this imaginative, if only it would apply half that measure of energy in the rational planning department. But, more’s the pity. Yet this industry began quite unsurely, an orphan in austere times, and Alade was there at the beginning. He was the first person to shoot a commercial film using a video camera, in 1986, at a time such a product could only be called videodrama, as it was, disparagingly. This was the age of the Second-Tier Foreign Market, General Ibrahim Babangida’s dubious economic recovery “product”, brilliantly touted by National Planning minister, Dr. Chu SP Okongwu (“This SFEM will work”). Time when the professionals of the Yoruba traveling theater idiom, suddenly unable to manage the film medium which they had seized upon in the late 1970s without really bothering about its complexities as an artistic and technological form, were wondering how to proceed. Long before Kenneth Nnebue’s Living in Bondage (1992), or Tunde Kelani’s Ti Oluwa Nile (1993), or Amaka Igwe’s Rattlesnake (1994), Alade and several enterprising, talented but differently trained young urbanites had put the video camera to work, to make films for public attention worthy of an Ousmane Sembène or Steven Spielberg--to hold two ends of the spectrum. The sheer imaginativeness of that!

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takestyle

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wow... i had no idea he was THAT young!

nice to get some degree of detailed background on pre-Living in Bondage Yoruba videofilms, though...

(what do you say, Sola? does the info contained in this article conform to your notes?)
 

Sola

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#3
Yes. Akin is a very thorough observer and emerging historian of the "Nollywood" phenomenon. He is working on books that will be useful to all. And he was there at the beginning too reporting for the newspapers and news magazines, while writing his literary stuff.
 

takestyle

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Yes. Akin is a very thorough observer and emerging historian of the "Nollywood" phenomenon. He is working on books that will be useful to all. And he was there at the beginning too reporting for the newspapers and news magazines, while writing his literary stuff.
that's good to hear... if he ever does manage to get a book out, i'll definitely be picking it up!
 
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