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Title: The representation of women in Nollywood films : an investigation of its impact on audiences in Malawi
Author: Chimbuto, Joseph George Salijeni
ISNI:       0000 0004 5923 4979
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2015
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Since its emergence two decades ago, the Nollywood film industry is fast becoming social, cultural and economic phenomenon among Malawian audiences. Every year, Nollywood actors visit Malawi and some Malawi print media have columns dedicated to Nollywood. According to unofficial statistics carried out by this study, nine out of every ten film enthusiasts in Malawi’s rural areas are Nollywood fanatics, and at least seven out of ten people in the urban areas frequently watch Nollywood films. The films are more popular than both Hollywood and Bollywood films. It could be argued that this popularity is due to the reason that the films are cheaper to buy. Another reason is that the proliferation of free-to-air satellite dishes has made these films easily accessible for the Malawian audience. Notwithstanding these perspectives, this study reveals that unprecedented appeal to Nigerian made films is first and foremost a result of cultural identity. The study, carried out among nine communities across Malawi represented by focus groups, demonstrates that viewers enjoy watching the cultural portrayals manifested in the films by the characters which, they feel, are similar to their own real life and experiences. Taking into account the widespread patronage of Nollywood films, it is safe to assume that these films are making an impact on the local audiences. Based on focus group discussions and analysis of the six case study films by 83 participants in selected areas across Malawi between 2012 and 2013, the study findings indicate that there is a problem of power relations in Malawian society based on gender and iii sex. Men have the upperhand in decision making, access to resources and education opportunities. The study reveals that emergence of the films in Malawi is offering another perspective of gender and social relations: the films’ portrayal of women shows that it is possible for them to have equal opportunities and power relations as their male counterparts. As the case study films were representative of Nollywood films owing to the fact that they represented women/gender and gender relations similary, this study therefore suggests that the films have a potential to bring about social change in Malawian communities. Through the responses of participating audiences that encompassed both men and women, the study reveals that the cinematic portrayals, especially those of female characters, have the potential to change the social perception of women and womanhood. The study uses continentalisation ( as adapted in Omoniyi, 2014b) as a conceptual framework in interpreting and analysing audiences’ responses to female representations in Nollywood films. The study observes that both Nigerian (as depicted by the film characters) and Malawian audiences share common cultural aspects that are predominantly African. The study regards Nollywood as a vehicle of intra-continental cultural flow. For this reason, the study makes an attempt to explore the extent to which Nollywood could be effective in facilitating gender notions that are identical across African societies. The study claims that despite variations in certain elements, culturally, there are more commonalities than differences among Africans. Malawian audiences and in iv particular, female audiences could get an inspiration from the portrayals that would advance their cause in society. Arguably, the portrayals of militancy and some heroism in some female characters could go a long way to inspire the female audiences and instill confidence in them. Thus, exposure to the films for a long period could improve Malawians’ perception of women or womanhood. This thesis therefore argues that Nollywood is a vehicle for the flow of these engendered notions of power relations across the continent. Thus, these engendered notions should be identified as African approaches to gender, and with their emphasis on balanced power relations between male and female members of communities, they have the ability to/ they have a potential to deconstruct social gendered female stereotypes. This study therefore claims that Nollywood films in general offer positive, empowering representation of African women. Nollywood studies are a rather young research field, and the representation of women in those films has been poorly-studied area so far, with gender relations being largely ignored by scholars. The fact that this is the first study done on the reception of Nollywood in Malawi makes it arguably a unique and valuable contribution to knowledge.
Supervisor: Chanan, Michael ; Jermyn, Deborah ; Omoniyi, Tope Sponsor: University of Roehampton
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Nollywood ; female representation ; continentalisation ; Pan-Africanism ; audiences ; gender relations