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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Catch a fire

Monday evenings, l can usually be found at the
Silverbird Cinema with my friends Jide and Remi. I
know we make an eccentric looking trio and perhaps we
are .I was billed to do celebrity who wants to be a
millionaire last weekend but l worked as MC till the
wee hours at the girlpower unleashed concert so l
couldn’t make the show the next day. Painful because l
really like that show and Frank Edoho is a good guy,
talented, sexy (back off kathrine, (-:just looking)
and funny. If l had gone, there is only one friend l
would have called for a life line. If Jide doesn’t
know the answer? Fogedit! He is this 6 foot 3
androgynous walking wikkepedia on everything you can
think off except religion and football. Those two
doesn’t “werk”( you really must watch west Africa
idols) for him. A lawyer by training, his thing is to
fight ignorance, oppression and injustice. Thus Jide
has matched at every major demonstration in this
country in the past two decades. He was also one of
those who constantly demonstrated against Apartheid
at the South African embassy in London as a student.

So it is fitting that we decided yesterday to see
Catch A Fire. Jide had been at the premier at the SA
embassy in London with some of the key ANC leaders who
had been jailed and l missed it during SITENGI in
Capetown.

Catch A Fire is the true story of Patrick Chamsso who
had lived a relatively happy life with his family in
the township slums of apartheid south Africa, avoiding
conflicts and politics he just wanted to eek a living
and raise his family. That was all shattered when he
was accused of being an ANC terrorist and he was
systematically tortured and his wife brutalized. The
trauma lead him into the ANC training camp in Maputo
and a lot of mayhem and deaths later he is a changed
man and a freedom fighter, blowing up a power station
(oh how we cheered at that scene), betrayed and then
jailed at Robben Island. His protagonist was played by
Tim Robbins whom I’ll always admire because of Goldie
Hawn. Tims carracter was this cold, evil boer police
office who tortured, maimed and murdered with such
chilling calmness and strange charm. An accurately
told tale and well shot film, it rivals Blood Diamond
(l like BD too) and in fact makes Blood Diamond look
cosmetic. I guess the catch a fire story leaves a
white man looking cold and evil and thus may not be
digesteable in Hollywood hence the poor showing at the
bigger awards. In blood Diamonds, the white man
repents and is a hero at last so that preserves the
status quo.

Screen play was written by Shawn Slovo whose parents were
one of those rare breeds of humans, the bravest sort
white South Africans who joined forced with ANC to fight
apartheid. Joe slovo was co founder of Umthonko we Sizwe, the armed faction of ANC and his wife was murdered during the struggle.

The film stuck a deep cord with me because l was in
Robben Island in February
and all the tour guides
within the prison are ex prisoners and the stories of the struggle are
all on their faces as much as it is in the carefully
preserved cells, voice recording that play back
thought of ex prisoners, pictures and all the
paraphenelia of oppression. Apartheid was one of the
most evil systems invented by man against man. The
holocast killed more and was evil but at least it
happened over a shorter period of time, Apartheid went
on for so long killing the souls of generations whilst
preserving a beaten shell. The recovery is still only
ongoing. As a Nigerian, l have often wondered what
will be that stimuli that will turn complacency and
apathy into decisive action. What will it take for us
to look an oppressor (symbolically or in reality) in
the face and say as Patrick did that "there is nothing
more you can do to me, my life is finished but at
least when my children speak of me, they will say
their father stood up for what was right, for good,
what will your children say about you"?

I go to South Africa and l see that they still have
all sorts of issues but gradually things are changing
for the black south African and non of it would have
happened if there was not a generation brave enough to
stand up for a future they might not be a part of.

As the world struggles with terrorism and publicly denounces racism,
making the right noises about fair trade and helping
Africa. Africa will do better if Africans fight
internal oppression and their external cohorts to
entrench systems and processes of governance that
protect liberty and guarantees prosperity. Otherwise, we
will continue with the Blood Diamondsque fomular where
a white knight (plus female with high emotional
intelligence, very noughties) saves the concentious
African. A formular that is rife in Nigeria now as
every project, business and cornershop must have a
“foreign partner, face or import” and as state
governments give free certificates of occupancy and
stand as bank guarantors to foreigners whilst stifling
productivity within Nigeria. Slavery is real and
enduring, it just has a different toga.

This week l am reading and highly recommed Banker To The Poor by Nobel Laureat Muhammad Yunus.
Monday, March 26, 2007

Driving Thoughts

So, I’m driving the shrimp to school in the lemon, its usually a 10
minute drive but it had rained all night and the traffic was worse
than usual. By those lights at the Nitel junction in GRA Ikeja, which
were installed in memory of Bioye Taiwo the 24 year old, only
daughter, lawyer child of the still grieving Mrs Taiwo Taiwo who was
killed at that point a few years ago, all hell was let loose. Somehow,
everyone had decided to ignore the lights and there was a gridlock at
the junction with all manner of vehicles coming from different
directions attempting to perhaps piggy ride one another.
A police vehicle cut in front of everyone in the wrong direction and
assaulted motorists off the road. I am unemotional and deadpan as l
firmly but calmly block any offending car and do that carefully
choreographed brake and accelerator balancing, bumper to bumper
driving that only years of driving in Lagos can teach you.

25 mins later we are through and the shrimp who had been strangely
quiet through it all suddenly pips up;
S: Mummy, why were those cars hitting your car and why did that man
thump our car like that.
FI: Because they are naughty.
S: But why didn't you hit them back?
FI: Because it is unnecessary bad behaviour.
S: What mean "inecessary"?
FI: Something that you don't need.
S: But they were bad to you too.
FI: Yes but you don't have to be bad because other people are bad.

She paused for a while with a frown parting the braids falling forward
on her 5 year old brow then asked,

S: But why didn't the police irrest them, l saw a policeman there, why
didn't he irrest them mummy?

I am stumped as l hurriedly willed my brain to produce a dream
preserving answer, eventually l murmured an unconvincing, 'well
sometimes the police are not able to do their jobs well'.
She looks at me in disgust and l realized that she already knows that
the police cannot enforce or uphold the law in the city of god.

I drop her off at school and as l drive back l thought of my mother
who taught me to slap harder, bite deeper, run faster and give as good
as l get. My mother was kind and compassionate but she was a warrior,
a product of her environment. I am also a product of my environment
but have often accusingly been called "oyinbo" (westernized) in my
ways as though disorder and dysfunction is our way (or is it? perhaps
the joke is on me.). I subscribe to universal laws of humanity, good
society and human conduct. Often misinterpreted to mean "mumu"
(retard, idiot, fool, pushover, you get the drift?) behaviour here.
Once a friend questioned the wisdom of raising our children to have
values and modes of behaviour that work in a structured lawful society
when in fact they will be living in a lawless jungle and would be
better served with corresponding instincts, values and behaviour.

This has nothing to do with raising some ghastly female with
pretentious "lady" behaviour, which camouflages such manipulative and
vindictive spirit that its full force can deflate a FIFA approved
football. Just raising a human with independent thought, a happy
spirit and a deep awareness of her privileges and responsibilities to
the universe and her society, surely that's the way it should be? Is
it, my inner id asks as the crazy person who had chosen to drive
against the traffic whizzes back onto the right lane behind me and
miscalculates, ramming right into my rear. My neck jerks back and my
back groans, l know l have whiplash. He, of the badly cut suit,
clown's tie and toad like bloating gets out of his car, inspects my
car on my behalf and being judge and jury pronounced the damage
minimal, gets back in his car, waves and drives off once again going
against the traffic. At the top of the queue, there are traffic
wardens and policemen, they will not "irrest" him and he is going to
drive off convinced that the bigger your car the bigger your dick and
the world must suck it. l tell myself to breathe deeply and continue
driving on the right lane, an hour's gone by already. One day the good
will prevail just as that frigging frog will one day turn into a prince.
Thursday, March 22, 2007

And the award goes to…

Ayo Animashaun.
Somehow, Nigeria has developed an award season around about the international entertainment industry award season. No surprise there. Between February and March some of the most publicized awards show are held in Nigeria. Look l come in peace so I’ll not go into the merits of the awards conferred and the frenzy for award giving. Suffice to say l have attended most of the major awards from beginning and as they get bigger, non is more exciting than HIPHOP magazine awards. The ethical and moral dilemma of magazines as watchdogs and judge is a discourse for another day but in my opinion HIPHOP awards is the best. This year due to poor health l missed Thisday and City people awards, l don’t do AMAA awards in Bayelsa, that’s like taking the Oscars to Oklahoma.

I usually find awards tedious and long winded with everyone trying to crawl far into their own arses or worse into an influential person’s arse. The lack of attention to detail, lack of theme and real content as well as the sheer disregard for time makes these shows more of a chore than honour.

Not so hip-hop awards. The debut edition last year was smoking. The energy, the creativity, the deliberate decision to be unapologetically brilliant. I hadn’t seen anything like that in Nigeria. I expect no less of course because l feel a kindred spirit with Ayo Animashaun who publishes the magazine. His is a long painful journey to well deserved success and HIPHOP magazine is one of the few magazines in Nigeria that l’ll willingly buy of my own volition. It has its own style and language, it is creatively and professionally packaged and it is bursting with content. This is true even though l am not a great hip-hop fan.

This year was bigger and richer in resources but it lacked the innocent brilliance of last year’s edition. The show was almost 3 hours late (late year late comers were locked out) and poorly coordinated without a real central theme or well articulated content.

That said, it is still in my opinion the best awards show in Nigeria. The security was good, the yellow (MTN was sponsoring) carpet was magical and the compeers were the lovely Tana and the crazy, sexy D bang who was absolutely mad and high on his own youthful adrenalin through out the night. His exuberance was tough to contain for Tana but she held her own.

I love that the bearded one Edi Lawani who is perhaps Nigeria’s most prolific technical event producer got a long overdue award and that Weird MC won the album of the year award, she has come a long way and to be herself in an environment like ours must take some real balls. She was understandably emotional.

All in all it was a good night.

Some of the awards pictures here
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Loosing and finding myself

What can l say? 4 weeks ago, l had a major meltdown, my health failed
and my mind was following suit. I had allowed teeth grinding
frustration, the sheer amount of work to be done and the efforts of
swimming against the tide of retrogression rob me of everything. After
seeing a doctors and a barrage of tests, l rented an apartment in
London, got on a plane, shut the door, my computer, phone and my mind.

l spent the time walking around London, reading and watching mindless
television until l got my health, spirit and sense of humour back. I
somehow had come to hate Lagos and taken on the universe's
responsibility of saving the world. It took a 2-hour, one-sided
"conversation" with a highly intelligent, self-deluding, conservative,
closet narrow minded, judgemental bigot of a change activist to force
me out of my own anal canal. Where was all the joy, the good energy,
the happiness, once you appoint yourself the messiah, you bloody loose
the plot, look at Obasanjo. My job is not to change the world and lose
myself, wellbeing and joy in the process, my job is to better my
allotted space one day at a time, the universe will ensure the rest.

Then London did her usual trick, after a couple of weeks of cold
unpredictable weather, mind numbing anonymity, uncompromising order
and neurosis over pointless issues, events and activities l begin to
crave the heat, the madness, the sheer unpredictable energy of Lagos.
By end of week two my usual gastronomic excesses and the culture
overload had begun to grate, all that receiving and very little
opportunity to contribute eventually penetrated my inertia and l want
some drama, time to go home, time to continue the war. The true
stories of the many battles will one day be written but l assure you l
will win the war. To feel the energy, the first thing l did on my
return was do my hair, nails and face, wear a wicked dress and strut
unto the HIPHOP awards yellow carpet. Pictures and story from the awards
tomorrow